Could the Mississippi-Missouri river system have become a cradle of civilization?

Rather than believe that we can recreate a say a Neolithic China or Egypt its much more appropriate that we look at Ensete cultivating Ethiopia as example of what can be.

Both regions are horticultural vegetable based societies that have some of the densest rural populations on earth.

Extensive town networks and trade systems around towns for trade.

Civilizations don’t have to occur with dictators or godkings, it’s much more

@Gwyain

Zizania does not function like wild oryza, I get that you want it to but the fact that zizania has 5-8’ y’all stems and lead blades and is a perennial grain means it’s not competitive or as advantageous as medium and short height oryza. Nor can it benefit from nursery beds and early plantings. Nor does it benefit from a host of other characteristics that separate it from oryza.
 
@Gwyain

Zizania does not function like wild oryza, I get that you want it to but the fact that zizania has 5-8’ y’all stems and lead blades and is a perennial grain means it’s not competitive or as advantageous as medium and short height oryza. Nor can it benefit from nursery beds and early plantings. Nor does it benefit from a host of other characteristics that separate it from oryza.
I don't know that we're talking about the same Zizania species. Both Zizania palustris and Zizania aquatica are annuals and not perennials. Zizania latifolia native to Asia is indeed perennial, but that's a different matter from the two North American species. We're also talking about a domesticated crop vs. a still mostly wild crop here, of course Oryza is more easily cultivatable.
 
Note how all three civilizations built massive mounds, pyramids, ziggerats to keep grain silos above flood waters.
Actually, grain storage is a fairly basic concept, that was developed in the Neolithic era before the first true civilizations, and the mounds, pyramids, and ziggurats were the stuff that came after the birth of civilization, as white elephants aimed at increasing the power of the elite.
 
Of course. I was simply extending the timeline of the discussion.

In several other comments, I discussed how a powerful Mississippian civilization would effectively dominate the surrounding areas due to its massive population, expanse, fertile land, navigability, and therefore greater ease of achieving unity. It would effectively be the China of the New World, probably holding about a third of the population. Also, unlike the Andeans who were limited by their geography and distance, the Mississippians would come in contact with the Mesoamericans.

Although to add to that, I imagine the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean would effectively be the Mediterranean and South China Sea rolled into one. Mississippia would likely navigate primarily by river, so would be good at building boats, a skill which may translate into voyaging the intracoastal waterway. Mississippian merchants would come into contact with the Mesoamericans (as well as the Caribbeans), connecting the two civilizations. This would also make the Mesoamericans (and probably especially the Mayans of the Yucatan Peninsula) greater seafarers, as well. Overall, I imagine they would become much more technologically advanced than the OTL Mesoamericans due to the larger population and range of environments to innovate from.

As for domesticates, I don't think they are necessary, but if you were to give the Mississippians mountain goats, bighorn sheep, peccaries, bison, and horses (shameless Tahkoxia plug), they would probably become at least as populous and advanced as the contemporary Chinese civilizations.

EDIT: Also to respond to @Gwyain, while I think Zizania/manoomin/wild rice would be an excellent crop particularly around wetlands, I don’t think it would play the same role as traditional rice, given that the latter has a much higher caloric yield per acre (albeit not as high as maize, potatoes, or sweet potatoes).

As for the elk/wapiti, I would also include the caribou/reindeer, since we actually have a precedent of semidomestication for them.

Even though I’ve included moose for the purpose of zizania farming in my own TL, I think moose is complicated. If it were domesticated, it would have to be with serious effort and in an untraditional way. Obviously less-social creatures like cats and foxes have been domesticated before, but it would have to be a special and deliberate effort (less like the cats and more like the foxes). I think a way fo achieve this would be for wealthy individuals to keep moose as pets and over time selectively breed them.
Actually considering that perhaps have been known to ride reindeer I could see them filling a similar niche to oxen and horse. Mix that in with iron working from the Northwest and you could see the Mississippians facing some nasty invasions at the hands of reindeer riders, in a Mongols-China parallel. Considering that copper based metallurgy was pretty common for a while perhaps we could see the alt-Mississippians being more of a bronze age civilization with the occasion piece of iron working by the time of contact with the old world.
 
Actually, grain storage is a fairly basic concept, that was developed in the Neolithic era before the first true civilizations, and the mounds, pyramids, and ziggurats were the stuff that came after the birth of civilization, as white elephants aimed at increasing the power of the elite.
I mean, there were the moundbuilder societies of North America, in the exact region we are discussing...
 
There were some highly sophisticated Neolithic and early Bronze Age societies in the Danube and Dniester basins that built very large settlements. The main difficulty from my reading seems to have been that the rise of horse-riding steppe societies made these untenable, because they could simply extract more resources from steppe lands than farmers could, and so we don't know enough about them to understand how they worked.
True, but you'll note that these cultures never kicked on - we don't talk about the Danube as a cradle of civilization the way we do Egypt or Mesopotamia. And while the horse-riders may have been an issue I doubt they can be the whole story - the Yellow River is also close to the steppe, and while invasions by steppe nomads were a feature of Chinese history for millennia, they never came close to killing off Chinese culture.

In general, if a piece of land can be farmed it will support more agriculturalists than pastoralists, so population density wins out and the peasants displace the nomads (even if the ruling class ends up being ex-nomads who won the battles even as their culture was losing the war). The horse-nomad-herder package works best on true steppe territory which is too dry for large-scale agriculture, which isn't true of most of the land around the Danube.

I'd agree that much of the US Great Plains are perfect horse-nomad territory (and indeed developed a horse-nomad culture OTL after the introduction of the horse).
Heck, that's what happened IOTL, except they did have major urban centres and tighter political organizations.
How much do we know about the overall political organization of the Moundbuilder/Mississippian cultures OTL? The impression I get (but I'm no expert) is that above the village/town level they had a rather loose, consensual structure and that the large centres were only inhabited for a few generations before they exhausted the local resources and the various groups migrated off. But I may be dead wrong.
 
I'd agree that much of the US Great Plains are perfect horse-nomad territory (and indeed developed a horse-nomad culture OTL after the introduction of the horse).
My one caveat to this is that the resulting overhunting of bison combined with different grazing patterns of horses will likely cause some sort of environmental damage.
 
The peccary were in-fact bred and raised in mesoamerica and there is evidence for that.

A potentially fat and protein rich food source that produced large amounts of manure that werent as flighty as deer and much more versatile and adaptable than moose or elk seems worthwhile in exploring.


https://www.pnas.org/content/115/14/3605
Can you expand on that? If I read it right the quote supports human management of the animals in terms of feeding, maybe. "Bred" is a significant step beyond that in the history of domestication. Did I miss something?

I also advocate for oppossum and peccary raising in agro-forestry food systems supplemented by the adoption of sweet potatoes along the Southeast of the Mississippi valley from West Texas to South Carolina north to Oklahoma and Maryland.

Oh and finally if a mutant Osage Orange is able to be more carb rich and like bread fruit it’ll change the entire game from the south to southern Canada.
How do you see oppossums working? Why the osage orange?
 
Oh and finally if a mutant Osage Orange is able to be more carb rich and like bread fruit it’ll change the entire game from the south to southern Canada.
As a side benefit, it works as feed for silkworms, which could precipitate their domestication and leave a unique stamp on these alt-Mississippians.
 
The 1930s drought also affected the Ukraine where millions starved to death
There was enough, but Uncle Joe wanted it for other uses, not feeding Ukrainians. It was a man-made famine to eliminate the Kulaks. When they didn't meet the quotas for grain production, so took everything, including seeds for next season, leaving them to eat leaves, bark, and each other
 
Even though moose aren't particularly social, they're not anti-social or particularly territorial
In north Minnesota, you can yell at Black bears all day long to get to to go away, but a Moose? They are as likely to retreat as they are to come over and stomp you flat, if it's a Bull in Rut, or a Cow with Calf in the area.
Nationwide, Moose attack people more, 3 to 5 times as often as Black Bears.
 
In north Minnesota, you can yell at Black bears all day long to get to to go away, but a Moose? They are as likely to retreat as they are to come over and stomp you flat, if it's a Bull in Rut, or a Cow with Calf in the area.
Nationwide, Moose attack people more, 3 to 5 times as often as Black Bears.
I'm wasn't talking about their interactions with people, I'm was referring to their interactions with each other (which I thought was pretty clear given the context of the post). Moose tolerate the prescence of other Moose to a pretty high degree. What they do towards people that antagonize them doesn't have any baring on that, nor does it towards their ability to be domesticated either - that's what wild animals do.
 
quite a few of the answers in this thread boil down to 'domesticate XXX earlier'. Which might be answered by 'get people to the Americas faster'. Just when humans arrived in the New World is wide open to debate, but if it was a LOT earlier, they might have had time to do some of this stuff....
 
I'm was referring to their interactions with each other (which I thought was pretty clear given the context of the post). Moose tolerate the prescence of other Moose to a pretty high degree.
They are solitary animals, except during mating season, when Bulls will fight each other and get a Harem of Cows together.
The USSR tried Moose Domestication in the '30s. It could be done, but keeping them in pens did not work well as more dispersed ranching

of interest:

But then there is the whole problem of lactose tolerance that squashes that benefit in North America for most of the folks who lived where Moose roamed
 
They are solitary animals, except during mating season, when Bulls will fight each other and get a Harem of Cows together.
The USSR tried Moose Domestication in the '30s. It could be done, but keeping them in pens did not work well as more dispersed ranching

of interest:

But then there is the whole problem of lactose tolerance that squashes that benefit in North America for most of the folks who lived where Moose roamed
Not at all.
Lactose tolerance developed AFTER pastoralism, in every case.
If people are making Moose yogurt and cheese, and feeding the milk to their kids, a couple of famine years will quickly spread any tolerance mutation.
 
Not at all.
Lactose tolerance developed AFTER pastoralism, in every case.
If people are making Moose yogurt and cheese, and feeding the milk to their kids, a couple of famine years will quickly spread any tolerance mutation.
1602858554136.png

Mongolians eat a lot of Dairy, yet many are are actually lactose intolerant, despite thousands of years of herding and milkng.
Seems they got around it by fermentation
 
Has anyone considered that paradoxically the Mississippi-Missouri may have been a little too hospitable to be the cradle of a civilization. After all, in the Old World no indigenous civilizations appeared along the Rhine, Danube, Dnieper or Volga rivers, even though they flow through very farmable territory and the people there have access to the full range of Eurasian domesticates.

Civilizations as generally understood (i.e. urbanism, literacy, monumental construction, large-scale political organization) seem to appear where there is a sharp distinction between fertile and infertile land, and a need for some large-scale labour-intensive activity (e.g. irrigation in Mesopotamia, flood control on the Yellow River) to drive large-scale organization. Likewise in the Americas, the Mesoamerican civilizations were based around terracing and raised-bed agriculture -productive but labour-intensive and once you've cut your terraces, moving becomes a major hassle.

If you have a farming complex that works pretty much anywhere in the Mississippi Valley, it's possible that the area will end up like pre-Roman Gaul - lots of farming villages but no major urban centres and only loose political organisations. It's hard to build an empire when the lower orders respond to your tax demands by simply moving to the next valley over and farming there instead. So what could drive population concentration and large-scale organization in the Mississippi valley? Flood control?
Perhaps instead the Colorado River could be a cradle of civilization in North America with them domesticating Distichlis palmeri as a staple crop?
 
quite a few of the answers in this thread boil down to 'domesticate XXX earlier'. Which might be answered by 'get people to the Americas faster'. Just when humans arrived in the New World is wide open to debate, but if it was a LOT earlier, they might have had time to do some of this stuff....
It doesn't explain why certain areas in Sub-Saharan Africa, fell behind Eurasia eventually despite it being the origin of our species
 
They are solitary animals, except during mating season, when Bulls will fight each other and get a Harem of Cows together.
The USSR tried Moose Domestication in the '30s. It could be done, but keeping them in pens did not work well as more dispersed ranching

of interest:

But then there is the whole problem of lactose tolerance that squashes that benefit in North America for most of the folks who lived where Moose roamed
And thats a huge problem as before a lot of modern technology you need to pen an animal inorder for domestication to work before modern times.
And thats the problem that every animal looked at for domestication has in this thread, all of them have one or more issues that keep them form being domesticated before modern times. The requirements for domestication are so specific that its frankly crazy we had the bakers dozen in OTL, and non of thos live in North America. Deer are way to sitish and will brake there own nekes if put in a pin, mose will quite frankly murder anybody that trys to pin them and bears aren't werth it do to thermal dynamics even if they could be pined, which they can't.
 
Top