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From: (Henry Spencer)
Subject: Re: New-age NASA?
Date: Tue, 22 Feb 2000 14:40:35 GMT

In article <>,
David Buchner <> wrote:
>This would be more relevant if the Indians had actually lived in long
>term balance by design. Small groups of hunter-gatherers on a vast
>continent really don't have much to worry about...

Bear in mind that not all Indians *were* small groups of hunter-gatherers.
In the southeastern US, in particular, when the first Europeans arrived,
Indians lived in large city-states with central government, large-scale
agriculture, and organized religion.  They were the country cousins of the
Aztecs, not primitives living in huts.  A few centuries earlier, the
Indian city of Cahokia, in Illinois, probably had a larger population than
Philadelphia did in 1776.

Mind you, all this was gone and forgotten by the time serious European
settlement of the interior began, but there is enough evidence from
archeology and reports of early explorers to be sure it did exist.  The
reason for the abrupt decline may never be known with certainty, but
European epidemic disease is a good guess.

Even in more primitive areas, some of the things we think of as the
"original" way the Indians lived, weren't.  In particular, any culture
involving horses dates from after European contact, since there were no
horses in the Americas before that (and their arrival definitely had quite
large effects on the way the Indians lived; some tribes are known to have
begun agriculture and then abandoned it when horses revolutionized their

>It's easy to reach that
>sort of "balance" -- where you don't poo up your environment to the
>point you can't live on it -- if you keep your population small because
>a pretty constant number of your kids get eaten up by leopards.

Melodramatically stated, but basically correct.  Hunter-gatherer cultures
have to keep their numbers small *somehow*, because otherwise they exceed
the carrying capacity of the land and they starve.

But reaching that balance can still be a bit hard on the environment.
Most of the large animal species of the Americas became extinct quite
suddenly at about the time when humans arrived there.  This pattern has
been seen in several other regions too.
Computer disaster in February?  Oh, you |  Henry Spencer
must mean the release of Windows 2000.  |      (aka

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