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Subject: one more thought about Native Americans

Hi, Bart,

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. 
Here's an excerpt from a web site, on traditional Native American crafts. 

"5. Metalworking

In North America, in the upper Midwest, copper had been beaten into knives, awls, and other tools in the Late Archaic period 
(around 2000 BC), and since that time it had been used for small tools and ornaments. The use of copper in this region, however, 
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, much later, 
bronze were the metals used when metal tools were made; more effort, however, was put into developing the working of precious 
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, because 
bronze is an alloy of copper and tin. This seems to indicate that Native Americans had achieved, through independent invention, a true 
"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 have achieved 
a true "iron age" as other peoples, from China through the Middle East and Europe had done earlier as an outgrowth of bronze metallurgy.

Even with their so-called "primitive" (I prefer "neolithic") tools, the Native Americans of both North and South America were capable 
of astounding feats of architecture and art (cf. Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, or the Mesoamerican pyramid builders). One of the 
buildings at Chaco, for example, was the largest man-made structure extant in North America right up until the end of the 19th century.

Here endeth the (anthropology) lesson!

Ann in Philly
a.k.a. The Original Ninjalibrarian

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