There were dozens of language families, each the equivalent of the Indo-European family, before 1492. This map is a "simplified" one. In today's California, for instance, languages that are spoken by neighboring tribes are as different as French and Chinese.
Why did the Americas develop such linguistic diversity? Many linguists suspect that at least some of these separate families date back to separate migrations of different tribes from Asia who originally spoke unrelated languages. Linguistic and archaeological data hint at more than one migration from Asia into the Americas, all of them through Alaska.
Extra Fun Fact: see “Eskimo-Aleut” in northern North America? It is not colored because there is no evidence those languages are related to any other indigenous American languages!
Taino Woman's DNA Yields Clues About Modern Caribbean Peoples
Researchers mapped the genome of an ancient Taino woman using DNA from one of her teeth. She was buried 1,000 years ago at a site called Preacher’s Cave on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. She is most closely related to present-day Arawakan speakers in northern South America, where her ancestors likely originated. But the study revealed that she is also partly related to some modern Puerto Ricans. The findings support some continuity in the western Caribbean between the modern population and their pre-Columbus ancestors.
American Rock Art May Record Ancient Solar Eclipse
A pair of astronomers say that an obscure piece of rock art in New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon may depict a solar eclipse event that took place 920 years ago. The glyph shows a a circle bursting with curved tendrils and curlicues. Just like the curls and whorls that appear to come from the sun, when it is hidden behind the moon in a full eclipse. Furthermore, we know a solar eclipse did happen on July 11, 1097, and the path of the eclipse would have crossed directly over the Chaco Canyon area. At the time, a people we know as the Ancestral Pueblo was emerging. They lived in Chaco Canyon at the right time to have seen the solar eclipse, and wanted to record it.
The Imperial Tomb of Western Xia Empire Are Surprisingly Un-Imperial
The tomb are called "the pyramids of China" by locals. But anyone who has seen pictures of ancient Egypt's pyramids would be underwhelmed. About 30 kilometers (18.5 miles) to the west of the modern city of Yinchuan, lies the enormous burial complex of the Western Xia dynasty. The burial complex is quite large, with the tombs taking up 40 square kilometers, or 25 square miles. The sheer size of the complex is a testament to the power of its long-ago empire.
The Western Xia dynasty existed from the 1000s to the 1200s. Then it was annihilated by the up-and-coming conqueror, Genghis Khan, because the Western Xia refused to aid Genghis Khan in his conquest of Khwarezm (on the far left of the map in the image gallery). Genghis Khan systematically destroyed Western Xia cities, slaughtering its population, destroying all its written records, and razing its architecture and cultural artifacts for good measure. He did his job well: until the 1900s, historians were unaware that Western Xia had existed! When put into context the imperial tombs become impressive simply for surviving.
When first built, the tombs were more slightly more imposing. They were surrounded by two layers of walls, with watchtowers, pavilions, and halls for sacrifices. The mounds themselves had five or seven stories tall, and each story was covered with colorful glazed tiles. But the buildings are unrecognizable now. And with the tiles lost to time, the tombs' inner earth is exposed to the elements. The last survivors of an empire wiped from the map, slowly fading over the centuries, until they, too, are gone.
Hawaii Has A Protected Valley, Where Its Ancient Plants Are Preserved
For the past 1,500 years, Limahuli Valley on Kauai has been a green haven, a wilderness preserved to exist just as the native Hawaiians experienced it. It is home to plant life unlike anything found in the rest of the world, with many endangered plants thriving in the valley.
Before the arrival of Europeans, “log jams” formed by the accumulation of fallen trees and driftwood on rivers and streams were a common phenomenon across North America.
The most famous, and largest, was the Red River. At its peak, this log jam — known as the Great Raft — extended between 130 and 160 miles, clogging the lower part of the river in what is now Northwest Louisiana and Northeast Texas. It formed sometime around 1000 CE. Its great size made it a natural dam, forcing water over the banks of the Red River and into the valley, creating numerous large and deep lakes. A few even remain today, two centuries after European steam boats removed the Great Raft to allow boats to navigate the river.
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By Lillian Audette
This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!