Friday, August 07, 2009

O'Hehir, Andrew. "Sacrificial Virgins of the Mississippi." SALON BOOKS August 6, 2009.

Pauketat, Timothy R. Cahokia: Ancient America's Great City on the Mississippi. New York: Viking, 2009. Ever since the first Europeans came to North America, only to discover the puzzling fact that other people were already living here, the question of how to understand the Native American past has been both difficult and politically charged. For many years, American Indian life was viewed through a scrim of interconnected bigotry and romance, which simultaneously served to idealize the pre-contact societies of the Americas and to justify their destruction. Pre-Columbian life might be understood as savage and brutal darkness or an eco-conscious Eden where man lived in perfect harmony with nature. But it seemed to exist outside history, as if the native people of this continent were for some reason exempt from greed, cruelty, warfare and other near-universal characteristics of human society. . . . In Cahokia: Ancient America's Great City on the Mississippi, Pauketat tells the story of what we now know, or can surmise, about the intriguing and bloody civilization that built Cahokia -- which looks comparable to a Mesopotamian or Greek city-state -- and also the tragic story of why it was overlooked and misunderstood for so long. Reading his book, one constantly marvels at the hair-raising archaeological discoveries that fly in the face of conventional understandings of Native American life, and mourns for how much more that could have been discovered is now lost or destroyed. Read the rest here:

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