Skip to main content

View Diary: America, the artifact (211 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  I'm confused (8+ / 0-)

    What were the natives dying FROM? Was there a local Black Death epidemic that was wiping people away across the entire American bi-continent? Something that the visiting Europeans were immune to? Or was it something like diseases that came with Columbus that spread quickly and killed everybody off between conquests? Or were there simultaneous plagues? Can you clarify?

    Guilt should never be decided by anyone who sells rope.

    by pucklady on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:17:04 AM PST

    •  good question (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LuLu, Jimdotz, mkor7, HylasBrook, yaque, MichaelNY

      I am also curious about this.  Did the European diseases spread that quickly and effectively?

      To bring it into modern times, try to imagine 90% of this country dying of disease in a matter of a a decade or so.  Upheaval is a mid term for the effect on our society. is America's Blog of Record

      by WI Deadhead on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:26:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  If Eurasia-based diseases so efficiently... (5+ / 0-)

        decimated Native American populations after first contact with Europeans, wasn't the demise of their civilizations, tragically, inevitable?

        On some day, at some time, from some source, Native Americans would have encountered these diseases and fallen to them regardless of the sometimes-nefarious intentions of the explorers/conquerors/colonists who did happen to bring them?

        Human understanding of the disease process is insufficient to stop such epidemics now, let alone at any other time in the past five centuries.

        There are two political aisles: Center-Left and Center-Right. It's impossible to cross them both. Republicans know this and govern accordingly; Democrats don't.

        by Jimdotz on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:07:24 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The Only Reason the Mayflower Pilgrims Had a Spot (5+ / 0-)

          to inhabit was that disease from passing trading fishermen had wiped out the local tribe.

          As I understand the situation, you're right certainly about the past. It'd be very tricky making a first contact even today.

          We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

          by Gooserock on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:11:58 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  It's "herd immunity" (9+ / 0-)

          A person growing up with people that have survived smallpox, measles, other diseases will have built up some immunity to the disease.

          When they come in contact with an isolated population who have had no prior contact with the disease, it overwhelms the population and kills most of them.

          We're most aware of this because of the devestation caused by European explorers in the New World, but it also happened periodically to Icelanders because their population was essentially isolated.  There were several measles epidemics that wiped out a signficant portion of the Icelandic population several times.

          Missionaries who came to Labrador Canada brought TB with them and killed more natives than they saved with medicines & Christianity.

          HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

          by HylasBrook on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:32:31 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Introduced diseases (22+ / 0-)

      European diseases spread very quickly from the first points of contacts -- points that were more numerous than the named expeditions.  Smallpox and measles were likely the two biggest killers (based mostly on the symptoms) but other diseases, including flu, certainly played a role.

      Jared Diamond's very popular book Guns, Germs, and Steel does a good job of explaining not just the diseases, but the factors that caused the vector of infection to be so lopsided.

      •  So, Mark - this Spaniard was not the first (0+ / 0-)

        there? You say,

        natives at the first fishing village they entered seemed friendly enough, but disappeared after the initial meeting, taking their food with them. The next village might have made more time for the visitors, but the people there were already deeply engaged in dying when the expedition arrived

        Who had been there first? And why didn't he get the governorship or title to the land?

      •  let me offer that IIRC the indigenous peoples (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        brein, Oh Mary Oh, MichaelNY

        of the Americas, pre-contact, had their own waves of plagues as indicated in the forensic archeology/ physical anthropology. When I studies this I was more interested in the 19th Century imperialist myths of the lost civilizations that had to explain the advances of the indigenous cultures just like Hiram Bingham may have assumed that Latin Americans might never have legal counsel.

        Präsidentenelf-maßschach;Warning-Some Snark Above;Cascadia Lives

        by annieli on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:10:36 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well Contemporary Flu Often Comes From Asia (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Jim J, KenBee, HylasBrook, annieli, MichaelNY

          via migrating birds, don't they?, and there would've been vastly more bird migration 500+ years ago. Were Asians already raising pigs and birds together in close quarters by then? I'd guess so. That's the incubator I always seem to see mentioned for the source of the flus.

          It'd be interesting to try to discover when Asian influenzas began hitting native Americans. Could've been a long time ago, and the results could've been severe.

          We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

          by Gooserock on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:14:48 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I bet there were a fair number of Europeans (6+ / 0-)

            that washed up along America's shores before Columbus - they just never made it back.

            The Basques were killing and processing whales for oil 50 years before Columbus in Labrador.

            Like many things in history, a specific 'point' is deemed to be a first historical event.  Gutenberg wasn't the first European to invent the printing press - other men were experimenting with it too, but his was more successful.  So, in school we're taught that Gutenberg invented the printing press.  Forget that the Chinese had invented it about 400-500 years before Gutenberg did.

            So there would have been earlier European contact than Columbus'.  

            Was it likely that there became a tipping point?  A contact with a few ship wrecked sailors may not have made a difference, but as the amount of contact grew, the disease germs started spreading.

            HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

            by HylasBrook on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:39:12 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  and the Chinese were here earlier (0+ / 0-)

              if the premise of '1421' can be believed.

              What I can believe however is that people have traversed the Atlantic for a long dam time before somebody came back, claimed anything ("Now we can make Tortillas"..firesign theater) and was listened to.

              People have crossed in rowboats, canoes, kayaks, and when the water was 300' lower, crossing along the Artic ice edge from both Asia and Europe is so likely it's silly to even argue against it. From Asia it's almost a pond inside the kelp, a kelp highway, as anyone who kayaks knows.

              The Aleutian people went far out to sea in skin boats to hunt and fish.

              And people would have brought their bugs with them.

              Responsible people leave neither loaded guns nor paranoid, eliminationist ideologies laying around for the mentally ill to play with.

              by KenBee on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 02:05:26 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  The claim about China can't be believed (0+ / 0-)

                From Wikipedia, but please note the extensive footnoting:

                Within the academic world, the book (and Menzies "1421 hypothesis") is dismissed by sinologists and professional historians.[19][20][21] In 2004, historian Robert Finlay severely criticized Menzies in the Journal of World History for his "reckless manner of dealing with evidence" that led him to propose hypotheses "without a shred of proof".[5] Finlay wrote:

                   Unfortunately, this reckless manner of dealing with evidence is typical of 1421, vitiating all its extraordinary claims: the voyages it describes never took place, Chinese information never reached Prince Henry and Columbus, and there is no evidence of the Ming fleets in newly discovered lands. The fundamental assumption of the book—that Zhu Di dispatched the Ming fleets because he had a "grand plan", a vision of charting the world and creating a maritime empire spanning the oceans—is simply asserted by Menzies without a shred of proof ... The reasoning of 1421 is inexorably circular, its evidence spurious, its research derisory, its borrowings unacknowledged, its citations slipshod, and its assertions preposterous ... Examination of the book's central claims reveals they are uniformly without substance.[22]

                A group of scholars and navigators, Su Ming Yang of the United States, Jin Guo-Ping of Portugal, Philip Rivers of Malaysia, Malhão Pereira and Geoff Wade of Singapore questioned Menzies' methods and findings in a joint message:[23]

                   His book 1421: The Year China Discovered the World, is a work of sheer fiction presented as revisionist history. Not a single document or artifact has been found to support his new claims on the supposed Ming naval expeditions beyond Africa...Menzies' numerous claims and the hundreds of pieces of "evidence" he has assembled have been thoroughly and entirely discredited by historians, maritime experts and oceanographers from China, the U.S., Europe and elsewhere.[23]

                In a later review, Wade also pointed out Menzies had a propensity for making claims of dramatic, forthcoming evidence that never arrived.[15]

            •  Can you offer more specifics (0+ / 0-)

              or documentation on your points? I'm not contesting them; I'd just like to know more.

      •  There's also a book called 1491 (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        la urracca

        that attempts to describe the state of the American civilizations before the arrival of the Europeans. Lots of stuff I never learned in school.

    •  Generally thought that.... (18+ / 0-)

      the diseases were European in origin and moved faster than the conquistadors, e.g, small pox, venereal diseases, measles, plague. Once the Spaniard conquistadors and priests/monks actually arrived, then they finished them off by making them work on farms or produce tribute like serfs. Many were herded into living compounds that heled spread disease even more.

      Population estimates are derived from tribute lists in archives in Sevilla, Spain. These estimates show that the population of Mexico may have been around 30 million in 1520 and declined to 1 million by 1620.

      This has been known since the 1960s and as the diary suggests, is largely forgotten....

    •  Small Pox (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jimdotz, Oh Mary Oh, HylasBrook, MichaelNY

      Small pox came with the conquistadores but as a virus could spread quickly in advance ot the Spaniards as the runners spreading the new of first contact spread the contact of the Small Pox virus well ahead of the advancing troops to a population who had no resistance. at 1:31:20

      by TexMex on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:54:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  which diseases and why they spread (13+ / 0-)

      Smallpox, measles and influenza.  They were far more devastating to the Americans than they were to Europe (and they were plenty devastating in Europe) for two big reasons:

      1. The shock of the new.  Europe had lived through waves of all three diseases, plus the Black Plague.  So if you or your ancestors had lived through all that, you had a pretty toughened immune system.  The New World hadn't seen any similar plagues, because the natives had far superior hygiene to Europeans, and didn't domesticate animals, who are big spreaders of disease.  The average European lived on a farm and probably had dogs, cats, and even pigs and sheep in his house.  For a variety of reasons, Americans hunted animals, but didn't generally keep them around the house.  So Americans were far, far less exposed to diseases, and didn't have anywhere near the immunities Europeans had.
      1. Lack of genetic diversity.  The entire population of the Americas - tens of millions of people - were all descended from a group of maybe 10 to 20 thousand people who came across the land bridge from Asia, only a few milenia before.  Whereas Europeans had a much larger gene pool, which had been evolving and diversifying since the first people came over from Africa millions of years earlier.  So while the Plague wiped out half the population, there were also plenty of folks who either got the disease and survived, or were unaffected.  The Americas didn't have that kind of diverse reaction to disease - if it killed somebody, it killed everybody.

      You can't compromise with someone whose only aim is to destroy you.

      by schroeder on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 06:54:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  They Might've Been Getting Asian Flu Centuries (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HylasBrook, MichaelNY

        before though, via migrating birds as we get them today.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:16:50 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  It's more isolation than lack of genetic (6+ / 0-)

        diversity - with no exposure to disease there's no chance to develop immunity.

        That's why the possibility of the small amounts of the smallpox virus would be so devastating to the world.   The only people that have a chance of immunity were the children vacinated against it in the 40's and 50's.  No one is sure that even that still carries immunity (or some degree of resistance) having been administered so long ago.

        The world population is incredibly diverse, but smallpox OR a virulent virus would spread and kill rapidly.

        HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

        by HylasBrook on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 07:44:27 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  measles, smallpox, plague, typhus, influenza (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Oh Mary Oh, yaque, MichaelNY

      the list is long.

      Measles to first contact peoples could kill off an entire village. It is not the benign childhood illness that we think.

      fact does not require fiction for balance (proudly a DFH)

      by mollyd on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 08:15:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site