Subject: one more thought about
Actually, your question is a very good one that
relates to the tendencies of cultures to develop in different directions.
It is true that Native Americans in both North
and South America were still using largely stone tools and weapons until
their contacts with Europeans. However, they
did know how to use naturally occurring copper, and smelt gold and silver.
an excerpt from a web site, on traditional Native American crafts.
In North America, in the upper Midwest, copper
had been beaten into knives, awls, and other tools in the Late Archaic
(around 2000 BC), and since that time it had
been used for small tools and ornaments. The use of copper in this region,
was not true metallurgy, because the metal was
hammered from pure deposits rather than smelted from ore.
The earliest metallurgy in the Americas was practiced
in Peru about 900 BC, and this technology spread into Mesoamerica,
probably from South America, after about AD 900.
Over the intervening centuries a variety of techniques
developed, among them alloying, gilding, casting, the lost-wax process,
soldering, and filigree work. Iron was never
smelted, but bronze came into use after about AD 1000. Thus, copper and,
bronze were the metals used when metal tools
were made; more effort, however, was put into developing the working of
metals-gold and silver-than into making tools.
The best-known recent Native American metalwork
is that of Navajo and Hopi silversmiths; their craft began when they adopted
Mexican silver-working techniques in the mid-19th
century." (Me again.) The production of bronze is especially interesting,
bronze is an alloy of copper and tin. This seems
to indicate that Native Americans had achieved, through independent invention,
"bronze age" status, as the ancient peoples around
the Mediterranean had done three millennia before. Had they continued undisturbed,
instead of being overwhelmed and decimated by
the European invasions starting in the 16th century, they would no doubt
a true "iron age" as other peoples, from China
through the Middle East and Europe had done earlier as an outgrowth of
Even with their so-called "primitive" (I prefer
"neolithic") tools, the Native Americans of both North and South America
of astounding feats of architecture and art (cf.
Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, or the Mesoamerican pyramid builders). One
buildings at Chaco, for example, was the largest
man-made structure extant in North America right up until the end of the
Here endeth the (anthropology) lesson!
Ann in Philly
a.k.a. The Original Ninjalibrarian
Back to Bartcop.com
to Bart | Discuss
it on The BartCop Forum | Comment
on it at the BartBlog