History

Indians and Aliens

Human beings' disturbing capacity to manufacture history to serve our own ends 

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The Mound Builder Myth: Fake History and the Hunt for a "Lost White Race," by Jason Colavito, University of Oklahoma Press, 386 pages, $24.95

It took Jason Colavito eight years to write The Mound Builder Myth, but the project seems tailor-made for 2020. It starts with multiple waves of a pandemic and ends with conspiracies, white supremacists, and a battle between science and superstition.

At the heart of the book lie the large earthen mounds that cover a vast portion of North America. The earliest of these, Colavito points out, "were standing in their solemn glory five centuries before the Egyptians raised their pyramids." They were built by Native Americans, but in the 19th century a legend took hold that a lost white race had constructed them. This manufactured myth didn't just ignore indigenous American civilizations. It fed into the theft and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous people's lands.

In this century-spanning work of U.S. intellectual history, Colavito describes how a determined few replaced the truth of who built the ancient earthen mounds in North America with a long-lasting "monumental deception" backed by many political leaders, including several U.S. presidents. The lie has now been exposed, but Colavito argues that the "constellation of ideas" that supported it persists today.

From approximately 4500 B.C. through the time of European colonization, diverse American peoples produced different kinds of mounds. The Poverty Point culture produced concentric semicircles of mounds in the lower Mississippi Valley and surrounding Gulf Coast over the course of nearly 1,000 years. The Adena and Hopewell cultures produced more than 10,000 mounds in geometric and animal forms in the Ohio Valley. The Cahokia civilization of the Mississippi Valley spread mounds from present-day Louisiana to New York, created an urban center rivaling medieval London and Paris, and built Monks Mound, with a base the size of the Great Pyramid of Egypt and height of 100 feet.

European contact proved cataclysmic for much of indigenous America. The devastating spread of infectious diseases and violence left some native nations all but wiped out and others displaced or struggling. But even with this cultural rupture between pre- and post-contact societies, Europeans did not question the fact that indigenous peoples built the mounds. As late as the 17th century, Portuguese and French explorers observed Native Americans building new mounds in the style of the old.

The mounds became a source of fascination for Thomas Jefferson. His family home of Shadwell was built on property containing a mound he dubbed "Indian Grave"—one of 13 in the region. As a child, Jefferson witnessed local Monocans making pilgrimages to the site. As an adult who wished to study it systematically, Colavito explains, Jefferson would essentially "invent a new science, anticipating by more than a century the methodology of archeology." Jefferson's excavation led him to understand better how Monocans built mounds in stages over many years, layering graves upon graves. His observations became part of the only book-length work Jefferson published in his lifetime, Notes on the State of Virginia, which appeared in several versions in the 1780s. Jefferson sought to enhance popular understanding and appreciation of the mounds through scientific inquiry, but his work restated a consensus perspective of Europeans long before him: indigenous Americans built the mounds of North America.

Despite Jefferson, despite science, despite indigenous memory and action, despite firsthand observations of European explorers, the popular narrative about the mounds soon shifted. After making the case for the earlier consensus, Colavito investigates why "educated men at the highest levels of American and European science, government, and society" chose to argue that "that the mounds of the United States were not Native American constructions at all but rather the work of ancient—and white—Europeans."

One of the books that kicked off the movement was Travels in Upper Pennsylvania and the State of New York (1801). Its French-American author, J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, put his own words (and those plagiarized from several other people) in the mouth of an almost certainly fictionalized Benjamin Franklin, styled as the author's traveling companion. As Crèvecoeur's version of Franklin waxes poetic on their surroundings, he manufactures a new history for the new nation, replacing fact with a myth of an ancient and lost white civilization that thrived in North America and left the mounds as proof. This story made the displacement of the natives a kind of full-circle homecoming for white Europeans—a just reclaiming of the continent from barbarians.

"Europe and Asia had their ancient peoples, and the United States needed people every bit their equals," Colavito writes. "'Franklin' lamented to Crèvecoeur that the New World seemed mired in 'ignorance and barbarism,' while ancient Europe had flourished with civilization for 'thousands of ages.' The 'lost race' theory solved the problem at a single stroke. It excused the existence of 'savages' as interlopers and created a history for America as old as Europe's, with people as puissant and warlike as the Romans and as architecturally ambitious as the Egyptians."

The myth grew. The soldier, physician, and banker James H. McCulloh, for example, wrote Researches on America: Being an Attempt to Settle Some Points Relative to the Aborigines of America, &c., with one version published before the War of 1812 and others afterward. In this fanciful book, Colavito writes, McCulloh took those "scattered claims of an albino or white race" and built "an entirely new prehistory for America, stretching from the foundations of most ancient India through a great race war, whereby these ancient white people were destroyed and their superior culture hijacked by swarthy people." Colavito draws a line from the race-war rhetoric of this popular narrative to the anti-indigenous violence of such U.S. leaders as William Henry Harrison and Andrew Jackson.

With a dash of Joseph Smith and Mormonism thrown in for good measure, Colavito traces the interwoven histories of the lost race story and the violence of westward expansion to what he calls a Pyrrhic victory, the scientific debunking of the white-mound-builder myth after the so-called Indian Wars of the 19th century. On the whole, Colavito paints a disturbing but compelling portrait of human nature: If the past doesn't justify one's view of one's own race as a superior breed entitled to other people's property and even lives, then one may simply manufacture a brand new history that does.

At times Colavito's analysis is more suggestive than conclusive, but this does little to detract from the book's interest. What is perhaps most unsettling is Colavito's conclusion—a variation on the theme of his 2005 book The Cult of Alien Gods: H.P. Lovecraft and Extraterrestrial Pop Culture. In short, we in the 21st century should not rest on our laurels. We may have rejected the lost-white-race theory, but many of us dismiss the achievements of Native Americans (and others) in a different way, with tales of ancient extraterrestrial influences on Earth's distant past. More broadly, Colavito points out, in "a country where anxieties about social stagnation, terrorism, diversity, and immigration have created racial and cultural tensions, the work of dissenters from historical reality" is often all too effective.

Colavito's conclusions speak to our national capacity for elevating self-deception over facts. The Mound Builder Myth is a work of history, but it is not only about the past. We are still a country turning away not just from Jefferson but from science and reason.

NEXT: The Three Dissents in Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley v. Sisolak

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  2. We may have rejected the lost-white-race theory, but many of us dismiss the achievements of Native Americans (and others) in a different way, with tales of ancient extraterrestrial influences on Earth’s distant past.

    “(and others)” is telling; a book about pre-European mounds and true historic white supremacy myths suddenly stands for all the aliens-built-the-pyramids nuts; one can practically smell the politically correct BLM influence. I was vaguely tempted to buy the book for its mounds history alone, but now I wonder how useful this review is.

    1. I was vaguely tempted to buy the book for its mounds history alone, but now I wonder how useful this review is.

      I get a distinct feeling he wrote a mounds history book that wouldn’t sell and found an angle to help the numbers.

      I grew up around the mounds in communities where at least some people that wouldn’t have hesitated to spread a white supremacist myth, I’ve never heard this assertion. The native American history classes I took in (public) school taught the mounds were built by Native Americans. They were widely regarded as such just as much as the pueblos. No one protested any of it in the least, the only myth or mystery surrounding them was the general fog of unrecorded history much like the pueblos, the pyramids, or stone henge.

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      2. It’s good to read something other than politics!

    2. Oh, the ancient astronaut theorists aren’t racist: they think the Egyptians had alien help, the Aztecs had alien help, the ancient Indians (in India) had alien help, and the builder of Stonehenge had alien help.

      Basically they think pre-modern man was primitive, even though human brain capacity hasn’t changed much in 100,000 years.

      1. Claiming it is racist is a pushback, but the fact aliens claims are applied to ancient wonders in white lands, too, speaks more to the fraud of pro-UFO bookwriters than any concerted racism rewrite.

        Coral Castle in Florida is modern, and has been given the same “In Search Of” treatment, too, because obviously, one man working alone couldn’t carve, move, and raise up multi-ton blocks by himself with just simple tools and no modern machines. Heck, there’s a many-ton pivot door you can push easily with one hand. If making that doesn’t scream aliens with psychic powers, nothing does!

        1. It also screams we’ve lost or forgotten construction techniques we once had. I’ve heard that the Incan stone works at Cuzco can’t be replicated. If man has been around for hundreds of thousands of years there’s a lot of scope for forgetting.

      2. (Sorry for being late)

        No, the ancient aliens history isn’t racist – it’s misanthropic.
        Many people, the Ron Bailey tranny types, like to think that we’re so much smarter now than we were then.
        But we’re not. Honestly, I think we’re dumber.
        But we have more information available to us.

        We’ve replaced a good bit of human imagination and ingenuity with Civilization. Maybe too much.

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  4. Amazing and Interesting things to read and learn. thanks for posting this. satta king

  5. So we can now admit that the “native americans” took the land from others that we took from them?
    Sounds like the false narrative approach was copied for the 1619 project.

    1. The 1619 narrative skips over the history of Spanish settlements in North America (much like most American History classes in school), even though they pre-date the English.

      1. And the French, general; don’t forget the French.

        1. There were even Swedes.

          1. Probably mostly Norwegians actually, possibly some Danes and Swedes, but Ericson was Norwegian.

            1. Or Icelandic of Norse descent, his father and mother were both born in Norway.

            2. I was thinking of the Delaware Valley Swedes.

  6. “Colavito’s conclusions speak to our national capacity for elevating self-deception over facts.”

    I’d say more the capacity of a few nut-cases to elevate self-deception over facts. But in the White-Americans-are-all-racists climate of today, it’ll probably sell better to the Woke if you blame the entire nation.

    1. Yeah, and they thought the mastodon tusks and bones were the skeletons of human giants. People were gullible then. (Still are.)

      1. That nonsense continues. Do a search for “mud fossils”.

    2. The indespensible book on this subject is Stephen Williams :

      Fantastic Archaeology: The Wild Side of North American Prehistory

      The landscape of the nineteenth century, Williams asserts, is dotted with fakes, frauds, and humbugs whose fantastic claims of purported findings would make even P. T. Barnum blush. In Fantastic Archaeology, Williams takes them all on with gusto–illuminating, debunking, and instructing on the modes, methods, manners, and manifestations of American archaeology through the …

      https://www.archaeologybulletin.org/articles/abstract/10.5334/bha.03105/

  7. People make up reasons to justify conquest. Go figure.

    1. People make up shit to justify everything. Ask any 3 year old.

      1. Toddlers learn that behavior form adults as soon as they learn to speak in complete sentences.

        1. By toddlers learning from adults, you mean evade from the adults that would deliver consequences. It’s not that hard to lie. Even my dog lies to get out of trouble. Dog starts heading towards where he’s not allowed (usually where dinner is made). I bust him and ask where he’s going. He immediately changes direction and heads towards his water dish.

          1. No, I don’t mean that. Toddlers learn to lie mainly from being accused of lying by adults, and to some accept from catching adults in lies. The concept of lying would be beyond them without this teaching. Eventually most kids would figure out lying without this training, but to begin lying as soon as they can talk, they need to be taught.

  8. For a more comprehensive view of the Americas before Columbus, read 1491 by Charles Mann. He presents the view that the people who live here then were more numerous and busy than the common stories, and had significantly altered their landscapes (and maybe climates) for their own benefit.

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    2. IIRC, some projected 100 million population for the Americas in 1491. I remember two interesting factoids.

      A French explorer (La Salle?) came down the Mississippi, and 100 years sooner, a Spanish explorer (Ponce de Leon?) crossed the Mississippi on his way from Florida to Texas. Concerning the area where their paths crossed, the earlier explorer had reported villages too numerous to avoid. The later explorer had reported nary a village to be seen from hilltops. His conclusion was a population bust from disease brought by the earlier explorer.

      English fishing boats knew about the great fishing areas off the New England coast by the middle 1500s, but also knew that the coast was too well occupied by hostile tribes to risk getting fresh water or careening ships for repairs. One of these ships had managed to kidnap three Indians before being driven off, and one learned enough English to finagle his way on to the Mayflower to get back home; this was Squanto. When he got back to New England, all the coastal villages had been abandoned, Squanto’s tribe had vanished, and he took up with a former enemy tribe and helped convince the Pilgrims to help them fight an even more bitter enemy tribe. Again, all this depopulation was put down to infections from the Europeans.

      By the time the first colonial history were written in the early 1700s, the tales passed down from elders and oral history were deemed fantastical because there were so few Indians anywhere near. But if you looked at all the epidemics which had killed half or 3/4 of the Indians each generation, it was easy to extrapolate a population of 100 million for the Americas in 1491.

      I know I have some of the details wrong. But it’s been a while since I read the book. I’m not even sure I still have it. Might have given it to one of those free tiny libraries.

      1. 100 million seems pretty fantastical. Current estimates peg the entire world population at around 3-4 times that number at that time.

        100 million people leaves one hell of a footprint. That is 25% larger than the population of the entire united states in `1900. In 1900 there were large cities in the USA all over the place. Ancient Egypt was only a couple of million people at the peak, and they certainly left plenty of evidence of large cities. China was the largest of the ancient populations – some 60 million strong in the second century, representing a quarter of the earth’s population. They left behind massive monuments, cities, roadways and other structures. How in the world 100 million people were living in North America (home to only 3 times that number today) without any major footprint is hard to imagine.

        1. I agree 100 mill seems high for a primarily hunter gather societies other than the mesoamericas and the Incas.

        2. His primary point was not 100 million; I probably should have said “as high as …”. What I took from it was that there were a lot of Indians before the Europeans started counting them, enough to build plenty of mounds, to trade across thousands of miles, and to have pretty well organized societies.

        3. S/he did say “the Americas”. Lot of space there. As to footprint, look, we’re still arguing about the mounds. And the almond joys.

    3. 1491 is a great book. Mann makes the case that Indians didn’t just hunt and gather in the forest, they routinely burned out the underbrush to improve their hunting odds, and genetically engineered maize from basic grasses.

      The reason wild game was so abundant when Europeans started to settle the New World wasn’t that the Indians were careful caretakers of the wild animals, it’s because Spanish smallpox wiped out 97 percent of the Indians and the animals were very lightly hunted for a century and a half.

      1. and prior to that, the “ecologically minded” Indigenous peoples of North America hunted nearly every large land mammal to extinction within 2,000 years of first visiting Alaska.

      2. A more plausible theory is these mound builders like the Pueblo moved on to escape the nomad tribes that were haranguing them until they ended up on the other side of the desert in central Mexico giving them a barrier between to halt the assaults. Similar to what happened in Europe with the Romans, the periodic waves that came out of the Steppes, or China building the Wall. Even Egypt had their issues with attaching outsiders in the form of the Hyksos in the north and the Nubians in the south.

        1. Archeological evidence suggests both the mound builders and the collection of cultures once called the Anasazi were both on the decline prior to Columbus’s voyages. A variety of hypothesis exist as to why the societies were declining, climate changes, over farming, warfare, etc. The Aztecian peoples were also waning some before Cortez’s conquest and the Mayan hay day was long since past. The Incan culture, on the other hand, appeared to be in its ascendency. Yes, Eurasian and African diseases probably hastened the end, and diminished the chances of new cultures ascending. In the book 1493, Mann makes a good argument as to strains of malaria, probably brought in from the Mediterranean and/or Africa, and yellow fever being bigger culprits than small pox in the depopulating of the Americas. Hemorrhagic fevers (other than yellow fever) and a form of hepatitis may also have played a role, with a strong possibility that the hemorrhagic fevers were native to the Americas. Many epidemiologist have pointed out that the description of the symptoms of the plague that wiped out the Aztecs, long thought to be small pox, are inconsistent with small pox and more consistent with forms of viral hemorrhagic fevers. Additionally, the symptoms described by Columbus and his brother, and subsequent governors of Hispaniola, of the disease that wiped out the natives on that island are very similar to malaria.

          1. Malaria may also have been what caused Columbus’s first colonies to fail and may have led to the disappearance of the Croatan colony and the near failure of the Jamestown colony.

      3. Which was part of why the tribes who were around in the 17th century were so willing to let English and Dutch settlers occupy land-much of that territory had been essentially empty and unused for a hundred years or more. They were willing to give up Manhattan for a handful of worthless beads because Manhattan was just as worthless for them.

        1. The beads were not worthless to them. round glass beads are like jewels. Valuable. They thought they were getting the better of the deal.

          1. Man, what if a glass Coke bottle fell out of a plane. Can you imagine?

      4. Mann’s position and claims rejected. It is easy to find many debunks of his project everywhere.

        Meanwhile, the population of N.American north of the Rio Grande in 1491 was between 800,000 and 1,500,000, and I believe that is generous.

        It was an empty continent, except where it wasn’t: along the coasts and rivers.

    4. 1491 and 1493 were excellent books. 1493 does a very good job of explaining the expansion of slavery in the Americas.

      1. “Excellent.”
        Soldiermendic, how did you validate the truth of Mann’s claims? They have been thoroughly thrashed so many times, seems you would have noticed, and at least countered the debunks.

  9. So, a significant number of people, including “leaders”, are retarded. And most people apply faulty reasoning to bad information. We can then add in the urge to construct realities that conform and justify preexisting biases, support deliberate agenda, and propagate narratives designed to sway people with emotional appeals.

    One more time: why is democracy a good idea?

    1. ‘Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…’

      Winston S Churchill, 11 November 1947

      1. H.L. Mencken, something about good and hard?

      2. What is good about our form of government is that it provides multiple layers of checks and balances, with the final check being the populace.

        Unfortunately, the key feature of being a government of laws and not a government of men is under serious attack in the judiciary of all places.

    2. Echo got it. Government that is democratic to a significant extent produces societies in which life is almost uniformly better than in countries where democracy is absent. Yes, the fascists make the trains run on time, but the cost of that can be horrific.

      1. Free countries do better. Democracies that heavily dabble in command and control do not, for they are little different from corruption and dictatorship on control of the economy.

  10. I don’t think the ancient mound builders were the same people we call Indians, but a previous migration from Asia. The Indians later built burial mounds by copying what they saw on the surface.

    1. You make no sense. If your first migration is not what we now call Indians, what happened to them? Even Neanderthals interbred with later humans. Your hypothetical earlier migration would have interbred with later migrations.

      And how do you separate migrations anyway? It’s not like there was one single migration, which, once fully booked, could take no more passengers. Asians were migrating to America for probably thousands of years, whether coastally or by the Beringia land route, and there was no immigration authority to turn them into Indians by stamping their passports.

      1. There were still very numerous and somewhat advanced Indian tribes on the Mississippi when de Soto explored there with his ill-fated Army of Florida in 1542. The Spaniards had to convince the locals that de Soto was a god so that they wouldn’t all be killed. The gig was up when de Soto got sick and died though, and they had to make a mad dash for Texas.

        De Soto also brought slaves with him (way before Jamestown had it’s first African indentured servants in 1619, whose indenture was later made permanent), and one of them was one of the few survivors who were rescued in Texas later.

      2. I separate them at least culturally. That is, I think for a long time the people we think of as Indians looked at those mounds and scratched their heads, such structures not having been in their tradition, and that tradition probably having little connection with their genetic line.

        Meaning a lot of the archeologic finds claimed as Indian are not. But this is not an unusual occurrence when it comes to migration and displacement of peoples.

  11. “most people apply faulty reasoning to bad information. ”
    Even today, where sources of “information” are so readily available.
    The fact is the vast majority of people are going to have to draw conclusions from what others tell them, not their own eye-witness knowledge. That’s why propaganda works. What do each of us know for a fact about, say, what’s going on in Portland? Even if we were there in person, we know a small portion of what we can see for ourselves, from whatever viewpoint we command. Someone could dig up a space ship from one of the Indian mounds and some would accept it immediately, others would say it was planted, or produced in a studio like the moon landing.
    No wonder it takes the human race a long time to make progress.

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  13. The Europeans that came to North and South America were not the original Europeans, who were displaced thousands of years before. The Indians in America were not the original inhabitants who were displaced in waves of migration from Asia. In happened in nearly every place multiple times. Just like slavery was once widespread everywhere and now prevails only in a few places, there isn’t much movement or displacement with the advance of technology. Well except for the Chinese communists who insist on depriving locals of their property and rights and insisting they were always part of China.

      1. Claiming your ideas are older than the other guy’s, and so more valid, is an ancient technique.

        “In the beginning was The Word”…even Christianity did it to bump their ancient status.

  14. I have seriously never heard of this theory that it wasn’t the Indians that built the mounds or that there was some sort of ancient white civilization in America long before Columbus. Are you sure you’re not just making this shit up?

    1. I’ve heard it before, but never thought it was particularly widespread or lasted very long. On the other hand, Marxism and socialism have lasted for close to 200 years, and they have had, and continue to have, more bad examples than you can shake a stick at. I have no doubt that loony white supremacy theories could stick around for a hundred years. Heck, Mormons have some pretty goof founding theories from the same era, and Scientology was only invented by a science fiction author after WW II.

      People will believe whatever nonsense they want.

    2. Early Christians thought the Indians might be the lost tribes of Israel. Mormons thought they might be aliens. Some settlers thought there was a race of giants before the Indians (based on mastodon teeth mostly), and everyone knows giants are White.

      1. I always thought they were green. And jolly.

        1. What a corney theory.

      2. Former mormon here. The book of mormon is all about a colony of white jews who migrate to the americas, where they split into a group of white “righteous” people and darker-skinned “cursed” people. The “cursed” people eventually kill all the “righteous” people and are the people from whom native Americans descended.

    3. Was it Robby or Christian who said Southern White supremacists chose to address former slaves with ‘Brother’, ‘Uncle’, or ‘Cousin’ as slurs in order to avoid dressing them as ‘Sir’ or ‘Mister’?

    4. I wouldn’t say “making it up” but definitely over-emphasizing the acceptance of it as fact by contemporaries. It’s like pointing to Chariots of the Gods and claiming everyone believed it because it sold more copies than other books.

      Essentially the author has written a pseudo-intellectual history claiming near universal acceptance of a popular 19th century “pseudo-science”. This is definitely “not so” and anyone passingly familiar with 19th century North-American antiquarianism knows it. It’s particularly bad that reason chose to publish such a supremely “un-skeptical” review.

      1. Without having read the book, he might acknowledge that this was an idea held by only a scant few whackos. But it’s not good business to proclaim that you’re focusing upon a tiny sect of nuts who didn’t have much impact.

        I likewise had never heard this story of white people building Indian mounds, but I’ll acknowledge I never paid much attention to scholarship on the pre-colonization America. Even the good historians who get into that field are constrained by the politics of it.

        1. Think of the “lost race” moundbuilder books as paperback UFO, Bigfoot, Atlantis, ESP or “ancient astronaut” books from the early 1970s. They sold in huge volume, made big $ for authors and publishers and offered entertainment to the reader. Sure, lots of the public took them seriously but it’s not like “everyone believed that shit”.

    5. I first heard about this from Peter Lamborne Wilson at one of the Libertarian Book Club’s Anarchist Forums.

  15. There’s a bunch of burial mounds about 15 minutes south of my town; I remember visiting them & learning about them when I was in grade-school. I have never heard of this theory described in the article. Is this just something that like, 6 people believed but now the author is extrapolating out to make it sound like a bigger deal than it ever was? Like a strawman argument?

    1. Is this just something that like, 6 people believed but now the author is extrapolating out to make it sound like a bigger deal than it ever was? Like a strawman argument sales gimmick?

      FIFY

  16. You’re supposed to capitalize “Indigenous” now. Even though they immigrated from Siberia themselves.

  17. I wonder if the progressive author would argue that most African-Americans believe…

    During the 20th century, certain sects affiliated with the Black nationalist Moorish Science philosophy theorized an association with the Mound Builders. They argue that the Mound Builders were an ancient advanced Black civilization that developed the legendary continents of Atlantis and Mu, as well as ancient Egypt and Mesoamerica. These Black groups claim that the American Indians were too primitive to have developed the sophisticated societies and the technology believed necessary to build the mounds

    1. Making a really big pile of dirt requires sophisticated technology?

      1. They look like a big pile of dirt now. It’s the rubble and ruins of what once was there. The two eagle mounds at Poverty Point look like hills now. They used to be well-formed eagle effigies’ depicted flying west yet only would have been so visible from the air.

  18. Thomas Jefferson’s pioneering archaeology concluded that the earthen mounds were the work of Native Americans. In the 1894 report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Cyrus Thomas concurred, drawing on two decades of research. But in the century in between, the lie took hold, with Presidents Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, and Abraham Lincoln adding their approval and the Mormon Church among those benefiting.

    While America’s own racist military dictator, Abraham Lincoln, may have believed the preposterous popular theory that the moundbuilders were a “lost white race”, perhaps to justify his ethnic cleansing of Native Americans, the view was far from accepted (much less universal) “in the century in between” among men both learned and lay.

    Compare to Confederate antiquarian Charles C. Jones Jr.’s Monumental Remains of Georgia which clearly identifies the ancient American mound builders as Indians with no suggestion there is any dispute to or controversy over this fact.

    1. The blockquote above is from the Amazon review linked in Reason‘s review.

      Monumental Remains of Georgia is a monograph Confederate imprint from 1861. The author later published Antiquities of the Southern Indians, Particularly of the Georgia tribes (1878).
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Colcock_Jones_Jr.

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  20. You’re absolutely right: Amerindian burial mounts weren’t built by “white people”, they were built by migrants from Asia whose culture was as backwards as that of Europeans a few thousand years ago and stagnated on a pre-Bronze Age level. That’s why you can find the same kinds of mounds of dirt and bones all over pre-Christian Europe. And like all such cultures, it was eventually conquered by Bronze Age and Iron Age civilizations. That’s how civilizations progress.

    The mythology and irrational belief you should be concerned with isn’t the irrelevant fringe belief that Europeans somehow built those mounds, but the increasingly mainstream European belief that the pre-contact Amerindian cultures are somehow exceptional, distinct, worth preserving, or entitled to the land they used to exist on.

    1. “pre-contact Amerindian cultures are somehow exceptional, distinct, worth preserving, or entitled to the land they used to exist on.”

      SCOTUS had something to say about that recently. How many acres in eastern Oklahoma?

      There’s treaty after treaty and legal document after legal document which both provide the legal foundation of the United States and the legal foundation of American Indian legal status and claims.

      That is distinct in my mind from the “guilty white people need to give everything back” ideology. The latter is used to provoke and deflect.

      The former is a very large legal history and very relevant to contemporary society. American Indian law is literally hardly ever taught and usually only tribal lawyers and tribal members are interested. But it should be taught and learned. There is a huge difference between the legal foundations of current American Indian nations and society, and the way some people describe it (carelessly) to try to make an overheated point.

      1. The former is a very large legal history and very relevant to contemporary society. American Indian law is literally hardly ever taught

        And what does the current legal status of Amerindians have to do with preserving “pre-contact Amerindian cultures”? Pre-contact Amerindian cultures ceased to exist centuries ago and they are never coming back.

        Delusions about Amerindian culture are similar to neo-Nazi delusions about pre-Christian Germanic cultures, which shouldn’t be surprising since both have been promoted by outgrowths of the progressive movement and its infatuation with Noble Savages.

        There is a huge difference between the legal foundations of current American Indian nations and society, and the way some people describe it (carelessly) to try to make an overheated point.

        The current legal framework produced the current social and economic outcomes for Amerindians: poverty, alcoholism, hopelessness. That’s because the current legal framework is progressive, racist, authoritarian, and collectivist.

        Yes, SCOTUS has upheld this legal framework, and progressives keep pushing it. But like so many progressive programs, it hurts the people it ostensibly helps.

        Distinctions in legal status based on race, ethnicity, or ancestry are incompatible with how a free society functions. Amerindian lands should either be given full autonomy outside the US and treated as foreign nations, with all the rights and obligations that implies, or they should be fully incorporated into the US, with no distinctions based on race or ancestry.

  21. Like so much modern re-telling of the past, there is a kernel of truth to these claims but it is told in an incomplete way to cater to today’s fixation with white guilt.

    It is true that there were claims of an albino white species that pre-dated the Native Americans, but it is disingenuous to write off these claims as being the speculation purely of white colonials. It was the Native American tribes themselves who propogated many of these myths, and their belief in them had massive impacts on their behaviors and actual logistical consequences for historical timelines.

    For example, the Shawnee tribes of southern Ohio refused to occupy what they called Cantuckee south of the Ohio river because they believed that their ancestors had once slaughtered the ancient white peoples who once lived there. They would travel there to hunt, but not to live, because they believed the land to be haunted by the ghosts of these slain whites.

    1. Pre Columbian contact has always been controversial. Hell, even a decade after discovering L’Anse aux Meadow’s, many archeologist still refused to accept the evidence of a Viking Settlement. This despite the fact that the oral histories were clear about it and that Scandinavians had a functioning colony in Greenland for centuries. When Mann wrote 1491, most mainstream archeologist rejected the idea of a Pre-Clovis society. Today multiple sites have been discovered indicating that the Americas may have been populated since at least 30,000 years (one just recently in Mexico and Canada). But mainstream archeology insists the sites have been misidentified and the Americas only people’s for 14,000 years. Partially this is because DNA evidence suggests that modern American Indians only diverged from the Siberian brethren 14,000 years ago. They preclude the hypothesis that an earlier people could have settled in the Americas but died out, leaving only trace evidence. Of the sciences, archeology tends to be one of the most hide bound. Were these hypothetical people European? Not at least in the Modern sense. The Indo-European peoples that conquered most of Europe were just starting their migration. It is also not likely they were related to Modern Siberians and American Indians, because they were not really inhabiting the area adjacent to Beringia at the time either. Another possibility is that they were not even Homo Sapiens, but rather another closely related Hominids. The lack of evidence of interbreeding does not discount this possibilty, as there is plenty of evidence in South East Asia and Pacifica of different Hominids that we’re still inhabiting the region when early Homo Sapiens arrived, but little evidence of any interbreeding. Hell, until about a decade ago there was little evidence that proto-Europeand and Neanderthals interbred. Or the evidence exists but we don’t recognize it. This is also a current theory, that Hominids interbred often, but we don’t recognize the DNA markers, especially as DNA from early humans in Africa is nearly impossible to recover because it degrades in the African climate. Mathmetical models suggest that interbreeding may have been very common but difficult to prove using current DNA analysis and evidence.

  22. Both the Scandinavians and the Irish had stories about explorers who reached lands to the west before Columbus. Stories of blue eyed mummies etc were not uncommon, but at least some of these came from the American Indians themselves. Jefferson did task Lewis and Clark with finding any evidence of a lost white tribe, he also tasked them with finding evidence mammoths or mastedons still inhabited the west (as their were rumors that both persisted in the Rockies). However, the idea that European colonist widely believed that the Indian cultural artifacts were the result of European lost tribes was not widely held.

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  28. Interesting he doesn’t mention the 1619 Project, the most comprehensive politically driven historical fraud in modern history.

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  30. I hope the book does a better job of supplying hard science than this review. On and on and on, with claims of debunk, but no reference to any dating, no report of what is inside the mounds, no logic to show how the claim of a European source for the mounds was factually refuted.

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