• christian2017
    1.4k
    I read about half of the book "1491" which argues for one that the americas had a population somewhere between 20 million to 100 million just in North America prior to Columbus. That being said do you guys think that the Americas didn't produce large ships due to their being only a large population (according to some scientists there being a large population supposedly) on for a short period of time in the Americas. The Americas were populated later than the old world as far as i know.

    What are the causes that the Americas never produced large ships that would travel the world.
  • I like sushi
    2.4k
    Probably for a number of reasons. Logistics were not so big over there with the lack of horses. Perhaps that fact that these civilizations were effectively stone age civilizations played a part too (although I don’t see how exactly?).

    There is some sparse evidence of large population kingdoms along the Amazon which would be the most obvious place to develop seaworthy vessels - but again, that said there is a big difference between river worthy vessels and sea worthy vessels.

    If they had another 500-1000 years (or less) they would’ve likely grown enough to extend their reach. I think the lack of horses and infrastructure within kingdoms meant there was never an inclination to look much further afield than necessary.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.8k
    Perhaps that fact that these civilizations were effectively stone age civilizations played a part tooI like sushi

    They weren't stone age civilizations. While it is true that most of their tools were stone, or other hard materials...

    a) they built large cities
    b) they built large temples (the better to cut hearts out with)
    c) they used astronomy (in the sense of observing the skies, and calculating time)
    d) they developed several crops from primitive plants: corn, peanuts, pineapple, potatoes, chocolate, tomatoes, avocado, amaranth, papaya, several beans, quinoa, squash sun flowers, sweet potato, and tomatillo.
    e. Some indigenous people had writing systems (sort of like hieroglyphics)
    f. They used irrigation systems

    All of this exceeds what one thinks of as "stone age people".

    But there has to be a reason to build large boats. England, Spain, Portugal, Holland, and Italian city states didn't build large boats and then look for a purpose. They had been trading and fighting around their coasts and in the Mediterranean for a long time, and as trade grew, their boats got bigger, and they developed sea-faring skills. So did the Vikings. So did the Chinese.

    Indigenous Americans traded with each other, but mostly within a few hundred miles. For inland trade, small boats are the way to go. (But canoes were built that could carry quite a bit of stuff.)

    Europe and Asian traders had a different mind-set than western hemispheric peoples -- not better or worse, just different. Their economies were different.

    Not having traction animals was a limitation, but it doesn't seem to have been a huge limitation. Had Indians along the future New England or Washington/Oregon shore wanted to build big boats, there were big trees right handy. But again, one has to have a reason to build a big boat.
  • I like sushi
    2.4k
    Technically speaking they were stone age peoples (I was talking in archeological terms).That doesn’t demean or belittle the advances they made at all. The very fact fact that most of there tools were stone tools means they were a stone age people. If they’d used bronze for tools they’d be bronze age people - I think the Inca did smelt the most bronze but not for use in weaponry or tools? I do remember that Iron was introduced by the Spanish.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.8k
    The Americas were populated later than the old world as far as i know.christian2017

    Well, sure -- the old world was populated first. But it wasn't stably populated. There was quite a bit of turbulence in Eurasian population movements--maybe in Africa too, but I'm less familiar with Africa.

    The first people arrived in northern North America around 13,000 - 14,000 years ago. They were as "developed" as the rest of the world's peoples -- in other words, ready, willing, and able to explore, innovate, and invent.

    They didn't develop the wheel because they didn't have a traction animal to pull carts. Cart pulling is something that buffalo would not put up with. Not having wheeled carts was something of a limitation when it came to moving stuff around. On the other hand, it limited warfare to what one could do on foot.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.8k
    All right, if using stone tools makes one stone age, OK. But the stone age people of Eurasia (up to about 10,000 years ago) didn't domesticate plants or build cities while they were using their stone tools. They remained hunter gatherers until... 8,000 BCE. Then they started getting more complicated.

    Domesticating the horse, and making metal tools was a big deal -- no doubt about that. The guy who was found in the Swiss glacier who died 5,000 years earlier had a copper knife on him -- but his bows were, I believe, stone tipped. If I remember, he was killed by a stone tipped arrow. (There's nothing primitive about stone arrow heads that can kill you.)

    In many ways we're all troglodytes; we just have fancier tools.
  • I like sushi
    2.4k
    I never suggested they weren’t technologically advanced and stated so in my last post.

    I said this for a reason:

    Perhaps that fact that these civilizations were effectively stone age civilizations played a part too (although I don’t see how exactly?).

    Just because they were stone age peoples I don’t see why, or how, that would factor into an inability to build seafaring vessels. I’ll stick to no practical logistical use - although some more adventurous fellows likely did go to sea (hence the colonization of many pacific islands).
  • christian2017
    1.4k


    the funny thing about alot of these people is they would make metal jewelry but they wouldn't necessarily or in every case make metal weaponry as the old world would make metal weaponry.
  • I like sushi
    2.4k
    I don’t believe they had ready access to deposits. The middle east and europe had access to rich deposits and time on their side.

    It is also interesting to see that the southern part of Africa remained metal free too. Natural geological obstacles no doubt factor into the distribution of knowledge too.
  • christian2017
    1.4k
    according to the book "1491" they did smelt some metals such as gold and i think silver and you could technically make weapons and tools out of gold and silver. I wouldn't be surprised if they used copper too. Why they never used these metals for killing and plowing is probably because the stone tools were good enough and they didn't have to compete against alot of other societies. That being said there were more than one societies in the americas.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    One of the reasons is probably that there wasn't anything equivalent to the Mediterranean Sea, the English Channel, the Irish Sea, the North Sea, the Black Sea, etc. separating large, independent resources (including cultures) that are worth making the effort to regularly traverse.

    The Americas are a huge, resource-varied area that can be land-traversed, where most of it can not be sea-traversed just as easily--only the coasts work for that outside of the Great Lakes, which were often difficult to cross due to ice. The Great Lakes can be just as easily dealt with by land travel.

    The closest thing to relatively manageable seas in the Americas are the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, but you can get around the Gulf of Mexico on land instead, and the Caribbean mostly leads to small islands that have the same resources as nearby mainland--there was no big payoff to building big ships to regularly travel to Caribbean islands. Heading further out into the Atlantic or Pacific would have required traveling huge, world-circumnavigating distances to get to anything worth regularly traveling to--at least aside from heading out from the more extreme northern and southern areas, but both of those were very treacherous due to ice.

    That's not the only reason for it, but surely these facts contributed to it.
  • christian2017
    1.4k


    In early navigation in the old world ships very often hugged (without being too close) the coasts due to its easier to navigate that way and there is less weather closer to shore. In ancient times traveling by sea or boat was almost always faster than traveling by land. I think you are wrong on this post.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    In early navigation in the old world ships very often hugged (without being too close) the coasts due to its easier to navigate that way and there is less weather closer to shore. In ancient times traveling by sea or boat was almost always faster than traveling by land. I think you are wrong on this post.christian2017

    Right. So what seas were North American natives going to traverse, and to where/for what purpose?
  • christian2017
    1.4k


    Amazon river can manage big boats and if you hug the coasts anybody of water could be used for travel in a large boat. The Vikings initially traveled the Atlantic by hugging the coasts as much as possible.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k


    Wait, so which sea was that?
  • christian2017
    1.4k


    "Amazon river can manage big boats and if you hug the coasts anybody of water could be used for travel in a large boat. The Vikings initially traveled the Atlantic by hugging the coasts as much as possible. " -me

    As you well know you don't need a sea (you can use a boat/ship in the ocean) to use a boat and if you hug the coasts you don't need a sea to somewhat safely travel by boat. With any action there is always some risk and using boats on the ocean next to a coast does have more risk than using a boat on a sea (out in the open) in some cases.
  • unenlightened
    5.1k
    You can cut down a tree with a bronze or flint axe, and shape a plank with a adze. Planks on the scale of a big ship are unthinkable without a saw, though. And saws in bronze don't work even on soft wood. Iron has an age to itself because it makes possible things that were not possible. Tools that keep an edge yet can be shaped like clay - iron is the stuff of gods.

    Here's some stuff about Viking iron production. Who knew bog iron was a thing?
  • Bitter Crank
    8.8k
    I wouldn't be surprised if they used copperchristian2017

    Amerindian people, like people elsewhere, used copper when it was available on the surface in malleable form. For instance, Isle Royale in Lake Superior was a source of comparatively ready-to-use copper for Indians which they used in small amounts.

    Why they never used these metals for killing and plowingchristian2017

    They are too soft. Gold has to be alloyed to be strong; pure gold in dental work, for instance, would deform pretty quickly. Silver is fairly soft in pure form too. They didn't have any traction animals (horse, oxen) to pull a plough for one thing, so they used stone choppers (hoes, picks) to break up the soil -- which worked just fine.
  • christian2017
    1.4k


    Yeah the fact that you would have to mix the gold or silver i didn't think about that. I need to rewatch that series on "Guns, Germs and Steel" because i think they talked about what your saying. I didn't like the book because the subject didn't interest me that much and i felt the tv series did a decent job of explaining the book.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.8k
    . In ancient times traveling by sea or boat was almost always faster than traveling by land. I think you are wrong on this post.christian2017

    Yes and no. It depends... If you have 100 tons of grain in Egypt that you want to get to Rome, boats are the way to go. If you have good roads on land (the Romans did) marching the legions for relatively short distances (like from Italy to Britain) land worked just as well. And it was worthwhile to cart silk from China to the western empires on the backs of camels.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.8k
    Guns, Germs & Steel does cover some very useful material. I read the book and didn't see the program. The BBC and PBS have done some interesting programs on various ancient history matters. The series "Connections" with James Burke is on YouTube (but then, what isn't on YouTube). This series was done in the 1970s or 80s... it's good stuff.
  • I like sushi
    2.4k
    If you’re really interested check out prominent university courses on the subject and look at their reading lists.

    I cannot honestly say I know a great deal about the americas. If you like I could ask someone on another site who I know is a professional archeologist in the US?
  • christian2017
    1.4k


    Please do if it is not too much trouble.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k


    What would have been be the utility of a large ship on the Amazon?
  • christian2017
    1.4k


    What would have been be the utility of a large ship on the Amazon?Terrapin Station

    Thats true. I will say this though a larger ship allows more cargo and technologies very often lead to "better" technology.
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