Savagism elucidated human origins and explained contemporary peoples, who, by remaining attached to the simple existence of the primal age, failed to replicate the European mode of life, but it left open the nature of that presocial condition. Savages might be either noble or ignoble, either the guardians of pristine virtue or the agents of violent disorder.
-- Bernard W. Sheehan, Savagism and Civility: Indians and Englishmen in Colonial Virginia
One of the most fundamental problems posed by the Discovery grew directly out of Milton's biblical source. According to the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve were the original ancestors of the entire human race, yet the New World was populated by men and women who were separated from the Old by a vast ocean, and who could not, it therefore appeared, have been descended from the first pair. As a result, the relationship of the American Indians to the men and women of Europe was deeply problematical. As John Rastell put it in 1520:
But how the people first began
In that country, or whence they came
For clerks it is a question. 1
The question did not go unanswered for long. In the same year one well-known "clerk," Paracelsus, hypothesized: "No one will easily believe that [the inhabitants of America] are of the posterity of Adam and Eve, for the sons of Adam by no means departed into out-of-the- way islands. It is most probable that they are descended from another Adam. For no one will easily prove that they are allied to us by flesh and blood." 2