Lost Cities of the Ancient Southeast

Lost Cities of the Ancient Southeast

Lost Cities of the Ancient Southeast

Lost Cities of the Ancient Southeast


When Columbus arrived on the shores of Hispaniola, a rich and complex civilization already existed that forms the core of American cultural history. Exploring ancient southeastern Indian sites from the metropolis of Cahokia (near present-day St. Louis), ancient capital of the American heartland, to the Island stronghold of Calos, king of the Florida Calusa, Mallory O'Connor examines the significance of these prehistoric cultures. Bringing together scholarship from classics in architecture, archaeology, and iconography, she discusses twenty sites of Mississippian culture, describing the religious patterns of the inhabitants and the sophisticated art works that supported their sacred practices. She also addresses the controversial topic of repatriation of Indian artifacts and the continuing problem of archeological "looting" of Indian sites and ceremonial centers. Lavishly illustrated with maps, site plans, and photographs of the ruins of ancient ceremonial centers along with sculpture, ceramics and other artifacts, Lost Cities of the Ancient Southeast captures the timeless beauty and technical sophistication of the art and architecture of pre-Columbian America.


America wasn't discovered in 1492. It was discovered instead more than 20,000 years ago when Siberian hunters crossed the land bridge between Asia and Alaska and followed a path southward between the ancient glaciers into the heart of North America. These hardy immigrants were not searching for gold or seeking profitable trade. They were nomads, big game hunters, and over the centuries they pushed ever southward, following the herds. As their numbers increased they fanned out over the great expanse of virgin land and developed dozens of distinctive ways of living in their new environment. When the Europeans arrived in the "New World," some 20,000 years after the First Americans, they found the land populated by millions of inhabitants. in America north of the Rio Grande there were at least fourteen cultural groups speaking hundreds of languages. Throughout the eastern half of North America they found impressive commercial and religious centers, a vast array of beautiful objects created by skilled artisans, and an extensive trade network, which at one time covered an area larger than Western Europe. Agriculture, art, architecture, astronomy, commerce, religion--the Indians of the precontact era evidenced a sophisticated knowledge of each of these components of civilization.

Yet early European settlers arriving in North America believed that the land contained no civilization, and so they saw none. Upon visiting the fledgling United States in the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that North America was inhabited only by wandering tribes who had no thought of profiting by the natural riches of the soil and that the vast country was still, properly speaking, "an empty continent, a desert land awaiting its inhabitants" (de Tocqueville 1945).

De Tocqueville was wrong, yet his mistake is understandable. in the eastern half of the country especially, by the early 1800s, the great and mysterious civilizations of precontact times had vanished almost entirely, and the descendants of those great cultures, decimated and dislocated by three centuries of disease and warfare, were reduced to bands of refugees struggling to survive the onslaught of European colonization.

It has been over a century since the symbolic end of Indian resistance--

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