Babylon Is Everywhere: The City as Man's Fate

By Wolf Schneider; Ingeborg Sammet et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
THE BABYLONIAN TOWERS OF NEW YORK

ABOUT 1500, when the Spaniards invaded the New World, on that continent existed two cities that were, for those days, tremendous -- Tenochtitlán and Cuzco. And in 1800 only one metropolis could be found in the entire Western Hemisphere -- Potosí, a city that very few people today have ever heard of.

Human beings have inhabited the Old World for approximately 600,000 years, the New World for only 25,000. Mongolian tribesmen crossed the narrow strip of land which bridged Siberia and Alaska at that time, and wandered off into the empty, endless continent. After many thousands of years of migratory living, they reached the continent's southern tip, Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. The early beginnings of their culture and their ways of building cities were quite similar to those of the Old World.

The oldest highly developed cultures in America, so far as can be determined, developed somewhere between 1,500 and 1,900 years ago on the southern shore of Lake Titicaca in today's Bolivia (as evidenced by the temple ruins of Tiahuanaco) and in what are now Guatemala and Honduras, both in Central America, where the Mayas lived. The Mayas had much in common with the Babylonians and Egyptians -- artificial irrigation, building of cities, highly developed temple architecture, pictorial writing, and astonishing accomplishments in astronomy, mathematics, and computing calendars.

The Mayas did not live on wheat and dates as the Babylonians did, but on corn, beans, and potatoes, and they also grew pepper, cacao, and tobacco. As in the Euphrates and Nile countries, the Maya priests were also the temporal rulers of their city-states, of which the so-called Old Empire of the Mayas consisted, and even the cities' symbol was the same: the step pyramid.

The most magnificent sites of ruins from the early period of Maya culture are named today Copán, Palenque, and Tikal. We do not know their names as living cities any more than we know Mohenjo-Daro's original name. They have fallen into ruins and the jungle has taken over -- nobody ever destroyed them. Research findings suggest that these rich cities were abandoned in perfect condition between A.D. 600 and 900, that they did not deteriorate

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