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FAQ ___________________________________

 

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Is there evidence of relatively advanced civilizations existing in ancient North America?

 

Answer
Most Americans have no idea that ancient cities with advanced architectures once dotted the ancient North American landscape. It is estimated that there once existed over 200,000 cities, structures and mounds across the continent.

 

Monk's Mound in the ancient site of Cahokia, across from St. Louis, has a footprint bigger than the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, and Cahokia’s population was estimated to be greater than that of London or Rome.

 

Some sites still existing, like the Newark Earthworks in Ohio, reveal a culture that was very sophisticated in its knowledge of mathematics and astronomy.

 

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If there were so many sites, were they ever documented?

 

Answer
E.G. Squier and E.H. Davis were commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution in the 1840s to explore and survey many of these sites. They published their work in the Smithsonian's first publication, Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley. The maps show structures built with mathematical precision, defensive constructions of remarkable strategic insight, and ceremonial and other works with knowledge of astronomy inherent in their design.

 

Other scientists and talented avocational archeologists documented many other sites as well as artifacts found within the sites.

 

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How common was it to find these sites and artifacts of ancient civilizations here in North America?

 

Answer
Ancient civilizations once inhabited North America, and this fact was common knowledge 200 years ago. The biggest architecture George Washington ever saw was an earthen structure built by ancient Americans. Thomas Jefferson was aware of great structures in the Ohio Valley and even bigger ones in the center of the continent. Farmers and settlers, particularly in the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys and eastward into New York and West Virginia and southward to Tennessee, frequently came upon ancient mounds and structures on the lands they were settling. The plow and the shovel regularly dug up artifacts which most often were discarded or became part of a wall, fence, or other structure.  The mounds and structures were torn down and used for landfill and construction as white settlers expanded into the continent.

 

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What artifacts suggesting relatively advanced civilizations existed here?

 

Answer
Tools and weapons made of copper and perhaps even iron, evidenced the possibility of smelting technology. Intricately carved stone pipes, effigies and containers, suggested a sophisticated art culture. The presence of materials and artifacts from distant regions confirmed wide trade networks.

 

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Was there a written language among these ancient people?

 

Answer
Ancestors of today's Native Americans have been said to have had no written language, yet some of this writing is evidenced among Native Americans today, with sacred writings on birch bark scrolls kept in copper tubes that have been handed down for generations.

Petroglyphs and other forms of pictographic writing have been found throughout North America,

The Micmac have an ancient written language of which many characters have the same or very close composition to an ancient Egyptian script called Morotic.

Thousands of artifacts have been found with writing on them, including stone tablets covered in writing, suggesting that these people had a written language. These artifacts pre-date Columbus.

 

The Ohio Historical Society wrote "No subject received more attention, or stirred more controversy among archeologists in the nineteenth century, than the authenticity and presumed meaning of the engraved stone tablets that were periodically recovered from the mounds." These stone tablets became some of the most controversial of the artifacts found, a controversy that rages on today.

  

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Do any of the sites and artifacts suggest origins?

 

Answer 
One of the great controversies surrounds the origins of artifacts and evidences and has divided the field into two camps: 1) mainstream archeologists and anthropologists who believe in a land bridge migration from Asia, Clovis people origin and, 2) a group termed as difusionists – those who claim there is ample evidence that cultures from other parts of the world both visited and lived in the Western Hemisphere prior to Columbus.

Many artifacts have been found that have Hebrew symbols and writing upon them. One of the maps recorded by Squier and Davis was of a structure which came to be known as the Hebrew mounds because the walls were constructed in the shape of an oil lamp and a nine candle menorah. Many other artifacts have Egyptian writing and pictographs and some indicate Celtic origins.

  

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Has there ever been DNA analysis of these ancient people?

 

Answer
The mitochondrial DNA was collected and analyzed from a couple of ancient "Hopewell" cemetery populations. The Hopewell culture existed approximately 300 BC to 500 AD, primarily in the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes region.

 

The mitochondrial lineages A, B, C, D, and X were the primary lineages that existed both in these "Hopewell" populations and in Native American Populations today, with the type of haplogroup X being specifically X2a, found only in the ancient Hopewell and in some current Native American populations.

 

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What happened to these sites and artifacts?

 

Answer
Some of the maps of sites that Squier and Davis surveyed are our only knowledge today that these sites ever existed.

 

Thousands of structures, mounds and other constructions were wantonly destroyed and artifacts were hidden away and discredited. Why were these sites and artifacts not preserved? The answer can be found in the 19th century doctrine of Manifest Destiny and in the then emerging conflict between evolutionary science and religion.

 

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How were these evidences tied up in a conflict between science and religion?

 

Answer
The science of the day, particularly the development by Lewis Henry Morgan of theories of cultural evolution, suggested the idea that there were superior and inferior races. These theories classified Native Americans as "savages" and some fundamentalist religious groups as "barbarians".

 

Religious groups came further into conflict with these theories when they suggested that Native Americans were as valuable as anyone and when they theorized that the sites and artifacts, which were so commonly found in the day, evidenced that Native Americans were one of the "lost tribes of Israel".

 

To suggest that the then current "savage" Native American cultures were the progeny of these cultures of the old world conflicted with the scientific theories of cultural evolution.

 

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How was Manifest Destiny aided by these views?

 

Answer
If Native Americans were seen to have a history, particularly one from the old world, or if they were linked to the relatively advanced civilizations that once existed in North America, then it would be very difficult to justify not granting them similar rights as those of other Americans.

 

The doctrine of Manifest Destiny came in direct conflict with any thought of granting the Native American such rights. Science and politics would have to unite if the westward expansion were to continue uninterrupted.

 

John Wesley Powell would be very instrumental in building this bridge as Director of U.S. Geological Surveys and later as Director of the Bureau of Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution. Under his direction, these two branches would view artifacts only through the lens of currently observable "savage Indian" culture, constructing an artificial barrier to science.

 

Thus, great pressure ensued to see the "Indians" as intellectually inferior and primitive so that Native American policies would develop that ensured their continued suppression.

 

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How did these theories and policies impact the treatment of sites and artifacts?

 

Answer
In order to legitimize the conquest of Native American lands, and their suppression and subordination, their history was de-legitimized, disrespected and disregarded. This resulted in the wanton destruction of thousands of ancient American structures, mounds, settlements and other constructions and the hiding away and discrediting of thousands of artifacts.

 

Fortunately, some of these sites and artifacts still exist, and are now the subject of renewed studies.  Perhaps this study will increase and bring new knowledge of these ancient civilizations, and result in the return of much of their history to today’s Native Americans.

 

 

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