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

Even if it wasn't, horseback riding isn't the most intuitive thing and came relatively late so it's likely that given the small size of reindeer it's one of those ideas that never really takes off.
That's not entirely clear. There's some evidence that horseback riding came relatively early and it was chariots that came late. In any case, given that most domestic draft animals aren't ridden widely, and it really seems to be mostly horses (and camels, and to a certain extent donkeys) that were ridden, odds are that no one will ride reindeers, either. But reindeer-pulled sleds or wagons could play a similar role to wagons and chariots in Eurasia, and that was quite enough for a long time.
 
Bolding mine.

Has there been no point at all in, say, the last 10,000 years when the Mississippi area might have gone through an extended period of scarcity? We know that Egypt, for example, has had periods when the whole area - not just the Nile River Valley - has been pretty lush with heavy rainfall. Could the opposite not be true of the Mississippi? I'm not saying it was briefly a desert, but more asking if there was a time when it wasn't quite as lush and that could've supported/spurred the necessary innovation.

I have tried looking this up on Google, but information about North American climate 5,000 to 10,000 years ago is much more basic than that regarding the Middle East.

Northstar
Unfortunately you'll find that is a common occurrence with much of anything in the pre-Columbian Americas. The scholarship is very limited across the board. Its a little better from 1000 BC on, but before that can often be extremely difficult.
I was doing some Googling about the EAC last night and I came across this article that insinuated that, while the plants of the EAC were fully domesticated, the strategy in which they were utilized wasn’t really that of fully sedentary agriculture, instead it was horticulture that was used as a supplement to a highly successful semi-nomadic foraging lifestyle focuses on the hickory nut. To wit, apparently the hickory trees would cyclically produce periods of plenty and then periods of few nuts in a strategy to cause boom-bust cycles in populations of nucivorous animals such as squirrels. During these lean times, the foraging strategy of the natives would switch to walnuts, which have some inherent disadvantages relative to hickory nuts. The seed crops of the EAC also grew well in the places that walnuts grew, which led to the natives gathering them along with the nuts, and eventually intentionally planting them, leading to their domestication.

This potentially helps explain why the EAC crops mostly disappeared when the Three Sisters arrived: it wasn’t just new crops that were coming in, but an entirely different way of life, that of sedentary agriculture.

In light of that, what I would propose would be not to focus on changes in rainfall to create the scarcity necessary for cultivation to intensify, but instead I would envision a scenario where at first, preferably the earlier the better, there be a relative abundance of hickory nuts during the fat years that drives up population density, leading to the domestication of the EAC crops to deal with the lack of nuts in the lean years, then, once the EAC is fully domestic, an epochal calamity like a blight to befall the hickory tree population and kneecap the nut-foraging strategy entirely for a period of say a thousand years or so, forcing the natives to subsist on the crops, and then around the same time for @Revachah ’s mutant Osage orange to appear, making agriculture that much more productive.
 
blight to befall the hickory tree population and kneecap the nut-foraging strategy entirely for a period of say a thousand years
Does the hickory strategy have to be foraging, or could they get the idea of intentionally planting them once they've started domestication with EAC crops?

Though I'd imagine it would take a long time to break the trees boom/bust cycle and turn them into reliable producers, but intentionally planting them means you'd have a lot more so the boom times will be bigger and the bust times not so lean just from the numbers.
 
Does the hickory strategy have to be foraging, or could they get the idea of intentionally planting them once they've started domestication with EAC crops?

Though I'd imagine it would take a long time to break the trees boom/bust cycle and turn them into reliable producers, but intentionally planting them means you'd have a lot more so the boom times will be bigger and the bust times not so lean just from the numbers.
They could get the idea of intentionally planting hickory groves, but first the relative profitability of foraging wild nuts and supplementing with low-scale horticulture would have to be lessened. Perhaps some time into the blight they start intentionally cutting down or burning stands of blighted trees and intentionally planting ones that have developed blight resistance.
 
I mean why did areas of Eurasia fall behind other parts of Eurasia?
Exactly, even though some areas were populated relatively recently in the prehistoric timescale. The thousands of years it took humanity IOTL to spread through the Earth and colonize the area on a hunter-gatherer basis helped to grow populations and eventually allowed relatively advanced material cultures and hunter-gathering techniques that allow for a pathway to eventual domestication. But if you didn't develop it natively, then you need to modify the one you had previously for the environment and learn the ecology of the area, but it takes less time than building up a material culture from scratch or over time, which is what happened in our hunter-gatherer stages. But once true domestication starts, the chain reaction leading to higher populations and more organized political structures doesn't take that long in comparison. That's why I'm not convinced more time will help. Australia had 60,000 years and they didn't develop civilization, because their ecosystem did not have the luck of facilitating pathways through which domestication could be achieved , and certain Polynesian islands were settled relatively recently, some in the AD era, but they had higher populations than other areas. Why? They took their material culture with them, which also included agriculture and domesticated animals, they had already developed one from scratch earlier. The populations from Siberia migrating into the Americas had a Siberian toolkit, but certain parts of it could be modified to suit respective environment. Since it takes less time, and the pathway from advanced gathering to first domestication is even shorter, then we don't need to significantly alter the timetable. As for actually answering the question, it is quite a complicated one with no clear answers, but human presence and timetable seems to either coexist or be somewhat lesser in comparison to others, and one we could've changed with the right PODs. That's why were in this forum in the first place. Anyway, I am done with my post, I must leave now.
 
I was doing some Googling about the EAC last night and I came across this article that insinuated that, while the plants of the EAC were fully domesticated, the strategy in which they were utilized wasn’t really that of fully sedentary agriculture, instead it was horticulture that was used as a supplement to a highly successful semi-nomadic foraging lifestyle focuses on the hickory nut. To wit, apparently the hickory trees would cyclically produce periods of plenty and then periods of few nuts in a strategy to cause boom-bust cycles in populations of nucivorous animals such as squirrels. During these lean times, the foraging strategy of the natives would switch to walnuts, which have some inherent disadvantages relative to hickory nuts. The seed crops of the EAC also grew well in the places that walnuts grew, which led to the natives gathering them along with the nuts, and eventually intentionally planting them, leading to their domestication.

This potentially helps explain why the EAC crops mostly disappeared when the Three Sisters arrived: it wasn’t just new crops that were coming in, but an entirely different way of life, that of sedentary agriculture.

In light of that, what I would propose would be not to focus on changes in rainfall to create the scarcity necessary for cultivation to intensify, but instead I would envision a scenario where at first, preferably the earlier the better, there be a relative abundance of hickory nuts during the fat years that drives up population density, leading to the domestication of the EAC crops to deal with the lack of nuts in the lean years, then, once the EAC is fully domestic, an epochal calamity like a blight to befall the hickory tree population and kneecap the nut-foraging strategy entirely for a period of say a thousand years or so, forcing the natives to subsist on the crops, and then around the same time for @Revachah ’s mutant Osage orange to appear, making agriculture that much more productive.
Earlier someone mentioned the possibility that several North American species managing to survive the ice age die off 10,000 years ago. Perhaps the Camelops survived and was domesticated as a beast of burden for emerging American civilizations.
That's not entirely clear. There's some evidence that horseback riding came relatively early and it was chariots that came late. In any case, given that most domestic draft animals aren't ridden widely, and it really seems to be mostly horses (and camels, and to a certain extent donkeys) that were ridden, odds are that no one will ride reindeers, either. But reindeer-pulled sleds or wagons could play a similar role to wagons and chariots in Eurasia, and that was quite enough for a long time.
They'd be a major boom to native American civilizations at the very least.
 
Earlier someone mentioned the possibility that several North American species managing to survive the ice age die off 10,000 years ago. Perhaps the Camelops survived and was domesticated as a beast of burden for emerging American civilizations.

They'd be a major boom to native American civilizations at the very least.
Meh, as others have stated extra potential animal domesticates aren’t really necessary, and I’d prefer to avoid resorting to preserving extinct animals. Besides, the Eastern Woodlands are better suited for browsing animals like deer/elk than grazers.
 
Looking at how the North Pacific and Alaskan native Americans developed iron working from Japanese ship wrecks and meteoric iron. Perhaps the New World's first major encounters with the Old is with East Asia instead of Europe. With Japanese sailors encountering the cross timeline cousins of the inuit, who developed an oceanic raiding culture similar to the vikings. Who started trading Alaskan gold for Japanese iron and various luxury goods from East Asia (via Japanese intermediaries). Could have them suffering an equivalent to the bronze age collapse with the Mississippian civilization experiencing widespread agricultural collapse, while iron age, elk riding tribes start pressing in from the north.
 
Meh, as others have stated extra potential animal domesticates aren’t really necessary, and I’d prefer to avoid resorting to preserving extinct animals. Besides, the Eastern Woodlands are better suited for browsing animals like deer/elk than grazers.
Elk are actually primary grazers. They will browse if there isn't much to graze on and they can survive doing so, but the bulk of their diet is grazing. For which I think makes them particularly well suited for use as a draft or even riding animal as I brought up in a past thread.

On the topic of ironworking, one has to remember that the Nortwest and Arctic used coldworking techniques and not hotworking. The difference between which is fairly substantial and generally not transferable. Coldworking iron cannot be done to iron ore, which significantly limits its application.
 
Looking at how the North Pacific and Alaskan native Americans developed iron working from Japanese ship wrecks and meteoric iron. Perhaps the New World's first major encounters with the Old is with East Asia instead of Europe. With Japanese sailors encountering the cross timeline cousins of the inuit, who developed an oceanic raiding culture similar to the vikings. Who started trading Alaskan gold for Japanese iron and various luxury goods from East Asia (via Japanese intermediaries). Could have them suffering an equivalent to the bronze age collapse with the Mississippian civilization experiencing widespread agricultural collapse, while iron age, elk riding tribes start pressing in from the north.
The PNW natives and the Inuit technically did not develop iron working since they merely reshaped iron scavenged from shipwrecks along with whatever else they could get their hands on using the same techniques they used for copper working. None of those groups forged iron the same way Old World cultures did.

That said, it would be quite possible that in a more developed New World that if said developments reach the Northwest Coast (at the very least more advanced maritime tech/navigation skills) then they'd be the ones finding Asia. Iron goods would definitely be a major trade good at least until they learned to make their own and if any civilisation had iron working they'd probably learn it in time. The PNW has plenty of iron for them to work with.
Those are the Haida, in British Columbia.

A part of Alaska already had a mature copper culture, and an 'Ice and Mice' post had a good discussion about how easy it would have been to invent bronze.
Copper working (not really smelting however) was pretty common throughout North America given copper working routinely appears throughout the Northwest Coast and also appears in Mississippian culture. It seems to always be associated with magic and religious uses.

The United States and Canada are somewhat poor on tin although there are sources. For the Mississippians, the easiest to access sources (here's Mindat for cassiterite) would be in Alabama between Birmingham and Montgomery and to a lesser degree those sources a bit west of Charlotte along the North Carolina/South Carolina border. This is part of why I think a place like the Muscle Shoals/Florence area in Alabama would be perfectly suited to emerging as a major center given that the geography of the Tennessee River in the area makes it a natural trading center (it was in Mississippian times although perhaps not as much as Moundville to the south) and regionally it's well suited to be a link between the Ohio Valley and the Gulf.
 
Those are the Haida, in British Columbia.
The Haida are a bit far away for the Japanese. I think we're talking more western Alaska. That being said, I do think that you could potentially get some Haida or a related group to settle in western Alaska as a sort of colony, which could then act as a mid-point.
 
The PNW natives and the Inuit technically did not develop iron working since they merely reshaped iron scavenged from shipwrecks along with whatever else they could get their hands on using the same techniques they used for copper working. None of those groups forged iron the same way Old World cultures did.

That said, it would be quite possible that in a more developed New World that if said developments reach the Northwest Coast (at the very least more advanced maritime tech/navigation skills) then they'd be the ones finding Asia. Iron goods would definitely be a major trade good at least until they learned to make their own and if any civilisation had iron working they'd probably learn it in time. The PNW has plenty of iron for them to work with.

Copper working (not really smelting however) was pretty common throughout North America given copper working routinely appears throughout the Northwest Coast and also appears in Mississippian culture. It seems to always be associated with magic and religious uses.

The United States and Canada are somewhat poor on tin although there are sources. For the Mississippians, the easiest to access sources (here's Mindat for cassiterite) would be in Alabama between Birmingham and Montgomery and to a lesser degree those sources a bit west of Charlotte along the North Carolina/South Carolina border. This is part of why I think a place like the Muscle Shoals/Florence area in Alabama would be perfectly suited to emerging as a major center given that the geography of the Tennessee River in the area makes it a natural trading center (it was in Mississippian times although perhaps not as much as Moundville to the south) and regionally it's well suited to be a link between the Ohio Valley and the Gulf.
The emergence of trade with East Asia could be a good explanation for the American civilizations gaining access to Old World crops, lifestyle and technology. Starting with the Northwest befall spreadsheet to the rest of the Americas. Of course it would be a pretty slow process by modern standards do to the travel limitations of local transportation (Llama or caribou carts). Maybe the Mississippians end up facing an invasions of horse nomads from the Great plains.

How plausible would wooden armor be?
 
The Haida are a bit far away for the Japanese. I think we're talking more western Alaska. That being said, I do think that you could potentially get some Haida or a related group to settle in western Alaska as a sort of colony, which could then act as a mid-point.
The Tlingit periodically raided Kodiak Island and the Kenai Peninsula OTL (in addition to trade) so they'd be the most plausible group although the POD is so early there might not be a recognizable Tlingit group.

But all of those groups are far away. You need a long distance indigenous trading network first, and something with far greater volume and scale than OTL trading networks in North America and in particular a maritime one. The Tlingit have an interesting position since they're on the border between Subarctic, Northwest, and Arctic climate zones. OTL they prized goods like walrus ivory which required long-distance trade (IIRC trade with Athabaskans who themselves got it from Yupiks and Aleuts who actually hunted walrus). If bronzeworking is a thing then they could do something similar with the tin in the Alaska and Seward Peninsula which gets them quite close to Siberia. The Bering Strait OTL was not much of a barrier to trade and communication by the peoples on either side of it (until the 20th century that is).
The emergence of trade with East Asia could be a good explanation for the American civilizations gaining access to Old World crops, lifestyle and technology. Starting with the Northwest befall spreadsheet to the rest of the Americas. Of course it would be a pretty slow process by modern standards do to the travel limitations of local transportation (Llama or caribou carts). Maybe the Mississippians end up facing an invasions of horse nomads from the Great plains.

How plausible would wooden armor be?
I think the problem with that is any POD which lets the PNW peoples act as middlemen between East Asia and the rest of North America is that it severely limits the useful innovations that East Asia has to offer because the natives already have something similar or better. Building a ship and training a crew able to consistently navigate from Sitka to Tokyo or even Kodiak to Hokkaido means the native Alaskan group who built it must be significantly better off than OTL which implies most every other Northwest Coast group is too (in terms of what they have available to them). A more developed civilization there or in the Mississippi Basin would be much more integrated/connected to each other and to places like Mesoamerica.

The spread of crops West-East is a bit of a pain too since the arid Great Basin and frigid High Plains are right in the way with radically different climate than the West Coast (this is part of why OTL indigenous agriculture never spread to the Northwest--it was too risky and not productive enough compared to what existed). Plus there's the whole barrier that not much grows in Alaska even if the Mississippians would rather like to grow rice in the Lower Mississippi. One crop that probably works well is buckwheat--it's grown in Siberia and Hokkaido and would do well in the better parts of Alaska or the High Plains.

What technology gets transferred depends on the date and how advanced the Amerindian civilization in question is. A series of trading missions likely means a relatively advanced civilization, like medieval Scandinavia+northwestern Russia/Novgorod (doesn't need to be united, could just be a collection of city-states, fishing villages, and "khanates" of pastoralists). The sort of agriculture, shipbuilding, and no doubt skill at urban planning would likely be everywhere on the continent and when applied to a much more productive place than Alaska you get a civilization that doesn't need to borrow much.

A lot of variables though, like it's possible iron is barely used in favor of bronze throughout North America and it really does take enough fine Asian iron tools and weapons to spur the development of native ironworking. When you get to the "lower end" of contact with East Asia, like an intrepid trader every decade or so, you probably won't see much technology transferred.

One slightly lesser scenario would be contact with the Ainu since they had the wheel, iron working, and plenty of Japanese and Chinese goods. But it's likely that even semi-regular contact with the Ainu would direct our Amerindian sailors south to the Oshima Peninsula where they would encounter the Japanese.

As you mentioned, the biggest innovation would be domestic animals, especially the horse.
 
I was doing some Googling about the EAC last night and I came across this article that insinuated that, while the plants of the EAC were fully domesticated, the strategy in which they were utilized wasn’t really that of fully sedentary agriculture, instead it was horticulture that was used as a supplement to a highly successful semi-nomadic foraging lifestyle focuses on the hickory nut. To wit, apparently the hickory trees would cyclically produce periods of plenty and then periods of few nuts in a strategy to cause boom-bust cycles in populations of nucivorous animals such as squirrels. During these lean times, the foraging strategy of the natives would switch to walnuts, which have some inherent disadvantages relative to hickory nuts. The seed crops of the EAC also grew well in the places that walnuts grew, which led to the natives gathering them along with the nuts, and eventually intentionally planting them, leading to their domestication.

This potentially helps explain why the EAC crops mostly disappeared when the Three Sisters arrived: it wasn’t just new crops that were coming in, but an entirely different way of life, that of sedentary agriculture.

In light of that, what I would propose would be not to focus on changes in rainfall to create the scarcity necessary for cultivation to intensify, but instead I would envision a scenario where at first, preferably the earlier the better, there be a relative abundance of hickory nuts during the fat years that drives up population density, leading to the domestication of the EAC crops to deal with the lack of nuts in the lean years, then, once the EAC is fully domestic, an epochal calamity like a blight to befall the hickory tree population and kneecap the nut-foraging strategy entirely for a period of say a thousand years or so, forcing the natives to subsist on the crops, and then around the same time for @Revachah ’s mutant Osage orange to appear, making agriculture that much more productive.
Good find.
 
I've enjoyed reading this and want to restimulate the conversation. I'm going to do this by talking/asking about guinea pigs and gophers and groundhogs.

In the Andes, guinea pigs were domesticated 5,000 years ago so they could be eaten for their meat: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guinea_pig#History

In North America, there are a lot of different variations of gophers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mammals_of_North_America#Rodents

The guinea pig and gopher are quite comparable: http://findvs.com/gopher-vs-guinea-pig.html

So would the gopher be a good candidate for domestication by native North American cultures?

There's that or the groundhog: http://findvs.com/groundhog-vs-guinea-pig.html

The groundhog is slightly larger, lives longer and has larger litters, so could also be a good/better candidate.

Thoughts on these being domesticated?

Northstar
 
I've enjoyed reading this and want to restimulate the conversation. I'm going to do this by talking/asking about guinea pigs and gophers and groundhogs.

In the Andes, guinea pigs were domesticated 5,000 years ago so they could be eaten for their meat: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guinea_pig#History

In North America, there are a lot of different variations of gophers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mammals_of_North_America#Rodents

The guinea pig and gopher are quite comparable: http://findvs.com/gopher-vs-guinea-pig.html

So would the gopher be a good candidate for domestication by native North American cultures?

There's that or the groundhog: http://findvs.com/groundhog-vs-guinea-pig.html

The groundhog is slightly larger, lives longer and has larger litters, so could also be a good/better candidate.

Thoughts on these being domesticated?

Northstar
I think that rabbits/hares are just about a no-brainer domestication for North America in an intensive agriculture scenario like this.
 
Weren't there equines in North America around the time the first humans arrived? Weren't wooly mammoths possibly hunted to extinction by humans? Without going ASB, North Americans could have used some existing animal stocks differently.
 
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