St. Louis Area Civilization Crop Package and Domesticated Animals

Dont worry about the sweet potato. Its central american cultivation can be find as early as 5000 years ago. It can appear not long after the initial crops. Tomato is the only odd one out.
If they can get potatoes too later it would add up too.
From what I've been told, the Sweet Potato is a Tropical crop, though I don't know if the same can be said for the Potato. Maybe they can breed a Cold Resistant species and add it to the crop package with Potatoes coming around 1000 BCE due to trade or something (I have no idea if a Mississippi Civilization would lead to civilizations along the Colorado, Columbia, Rio Grande, Coco, Orinoco, and Amazon Rivers (latter three being at the mouths of the river instead of its interior). No idea how things like Pineapples and Potatoes would reach those trade routes.

As for my North America becoming like China assessment, what do you think of it?
 
I was unaware some of these crops originated in South America. Which two (with Wild Mississippi Rice being the grain crop) grown in North America would be best for the Crop Package?
Tomatoes, Maize, Sweet Potatoes, and Peppers all have their origins in Mesoamerica (as well as Northern South American in some cases). Maize in particular took a long time in its journey north, only arriving in the Upper Mississippi/Great Lakes reason around 2000 BP, Squash around 3000 BP, while Sweet Potato, Tomatoes, and Peppers never did until the Columbian Exchange. Now we can probably contrive a way to get them to Upper Mississippi before their arrival OTL, but frankly that's not necessary, because the Eastern Agrcultural Complex already has its origins in the Upper Mississippi (a bit later than your proposed time period, but the crops are already there). If you combine some of the EAC crops (goosefoot, sunflower, sumpweed, little barley, maygrass, and erect knotweed) with Wild Rice you've got a solid suite of Neolithic Founder Crops to work with, especially if a legume or two are domesticated as well. I'm particularly fond of the American Groundnut - Apios Americana, the Thicket Bean (the only member of the bean genus found natively in the Midwest and Northeast), and American Vetch myself. If you're wanting more tubers, you still don't really need Potatoes/Sweet Potatos, but can instead look to the Jerusalem Artichoke or the already mentioned groundnut. Interestingly, there's also several species of flax which grow in the Missouri River Basin, most notably Linum lewisii, which could serve a similar role to here to what flax did in the fertile crescent - namely as an oil seed and fiber plant (and likely replacing sumpweed in the former role).
 
I honestly asked bc I wasn't sure. Was talking from memory so I may be wrong, let me check.
Sweet potato is plausible.
Maize too.
Tomato is probably the one I was thinking about. Its wild ancestor is from western southamerica and it seems it didn't appear as a crop in mesoamerica until 500 BC. But the 1994 source wikipedia uses said it already was cultivated by 500 BC so it may have started earlier. Maybe you can find a newer source that iluminates on that.
Peppers are again from mexico and ancient enough for the proposed pod. Good.
Sunflowers are good too. From Mexico and domestication started 2600 BC and was finished by 1000 BC.
Pumpkin is perfect. From northamerica and as early as 7000 BC.
Squash is excellent again. From mexico and as early as 8000 BC.
Same with beans but from 4000 years later.
Blueberries and walnuts seem correct too.

Turns out I was wrong. This package is absolutely plausible, you can make tomato domestication start earlier if you want to with little problem I think.
Maize wasn't widely grown north of the Gulf until the 6th century AD or so, and only reached productive levels in many places about a thousand years ago. It took time to make it more cold tolerant.
I did suggest the Scimitar Cat being domesticated. However, if they are too big to be domesticated, then maybe Wildcats travel across the Bering Land Bridge with Early Native Americans and are slowly domesticated alongside them. True, it may not be the Norse, but the Natives would probably create their own unique breeds for different purposes.
Dogs would probably be bred smaller (like terriers) in order to catch mice. I think that was one of the roles of the smaller Mesoamerican dogs anyway. The other option would be mustelids like the various weasels, ermines, stoats, etc. which are more than capable of killing mice (and rabbits too, another pest).

Homotherium was the size of a lion and a direct competitor with early humans for mammoths and other vital game. That's not something you want to domesticate, that's something you want to kill before it kills you, your tribe, and all the mammoths.
To add to this, with the massive River system that the Mississippi is, could one culture/ethnic group effectively Han Chinese it over time and become the dominant group in between the mountains, swamps, deserts, and tundra? I don't know which ethnic group this would be, but I'm thinking it'd be either the Eastern Sioux, Lakota, or Ojibwe. I'd ask how big the population of this civilization could get when considering the crop package, but I think this is enough for one post in and of itself (I did read an interesting thread that discussed a China size civilization in NA).
That's more of a cultural thing than something you could predict. The Mississippi basin has a lot of diverse terrain, and the Plains aren't really good for farming outside of river valleys (which lack fuel once you cut down the trees) because of the very hard soil, frequent drought, and unpredictable weather. That leaves the rest of the region which includes lots of dense forest and rugged hills like the Ozarks and Cumberland Plateau. The Gulf is of course mostly a swamp.

At such an early POD, the Lakota and Ojibwe didn't really exist although a lot of the eastern US was Siouan of various sorts. Some groups associated with the OTL Mississippian culture like the Natchez, Yuchi, Tunica, etc. speak language isolates and probably represent remnants of earlier language families. Evidence is the relatively recent spread of Muskogean languages (mostly as a trade language/resulting from tribes merging after being wiped out by colonization and disease in the 16th century onward) and Siouan languages. The earliest European explorers described a huge number of languages from Virginia to Louisiana, many of which appear to be unrelated to each other and other languages. And then there's the matter of Florida whose pre-colonial languages are also language isolates and whom culturally are (except for the northern area of the state) rather distinct from the rest of the South.

It's incredibly difficult tracking languages and their speakers back 500-1000 years, let alone 5000-10,000.
From what I've been told, the Sweet Potato is a Tropical crop, though I don't know if the same can be said for the Potato. Maybe they can breed a Cold Resistant species and add it to the crop package with Potatoes coming around 1000 BCE due to trade or something (I have no idea if a Mississippi Civilization would lead to civilizations along the Colorado, Columbia, Rio Grande, Coco, Orinoco, and Amazon Rivers (latter three being at the mouths of the river instead of its interior). No idea how things like Pineapples and Potatoes would reach those trade routes.
Sweet potatoes are commonly grown in places with shorter growing seasons because of early/late frosts like the Upper South, so not really tropical.
 
Here's what was canon or semi-canon in North America.................
Muscovy duck, ocellated turkey, grey fox and coyote. Mesoamericans kept melipona or stingless bees, iguanas and and possibly peccaries. For cats, I'm unsure except that ocelots used to range as far north as Arkansas and jaguarundis might have a more northern range if those would be easier to tame than the bobcat. Now camels originated in the Americas much like the horse and got big, so those are a potential as well as shrub-ox/wood-ox. Also look into some of the mammoths as a few of them lasted well into pre-Columbian times. Mind you, I doubt they can be domesticated, but maybe tamed. As for the horse, well when horses and donkeys were domesticated in the Old World they were smaller but were made larger through selective breeding. Same can be applied for the American horse.
As for founder crops well, there's wild rice, cattails and the whole Eastern Agricultural Complex that was independent of Mesoamerica. Plenty of root crops as well.
 
Sweet potatoes are commonly grown in places with shorter growing seasons because of early/late frosts like the Upper South, so not really tropical.
Sweet potatoes are definitely of tropical origin, but summers in much of the United States are warm enough for successful cultivation.
Interestingly though, there is a native edible tuberous Ipomoea species, I. pandurata, that grows as far north as Ontario. With minimal selection (mostly to decrease toxin levels), it could be an additional domesticate.
True. I didn't take into account cold resistance. Which would mean those crops reaching mississippi earlier depends on civilization in mesoamerica developing earlier?
It wasn't so much cold resistance as needing to select for shorter maturation time and day-length insensitivity. Tropical maize typically needs a longer growing season to mature and often doesn't flower until days are 12 hours in length or shorter, which doesn't give a lot of time for the seeds to ripen before frost in temperate climates. Same goes for potatoes and the vast majority of Andean root crops. Quinoa too.
 
@TheDoofusUser for some reason I skipped over your proposed domestication list and honestly thats a far bigger pod in terms of game changing then the crop list. The ramifications of a northamerican camel, horse and ox are massive. But first I am gonna talk about the simpler ones.
Regarding the cat niche some here have suggested just breeding smaller dogs to to catch mice and that seems simpler then domesticating a bigger feline. Not all animals have the correct temperament for domestication. And we already established they had dogs so the wolves, coyote and foxes are unnecessary (there is only one example I know of fox domestication and that is in 20th century USSR, I think they are used in a small number but only as mascots, dunno what use they could have assuming this could be done millennia ago).
Regarding the Mylohyus while extinct their wider family https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peccary is still alive in central and south america and this is what wikipedia says about their domestication
Peccaries bear a superficial resemblance to pigs and are in the same suborder Suina as swine, and have been present in South America since prehistoric times.[28] The earliest scientific description of peccaries in the New World is in Brazil in 1547 and referred to them as "wild pigs".[29]

It has been documented that peccaries were tamed, penned, and raised for food and ritual purposes in the Yucatan, Panama, the southern Caribbean, and Colombia at the time of the Conquest.[30] Archaeological remains of peccaries have been found in Mesoamerica from the Preclassic (or Formative) period up until immediately before Spanish contact.[31] Specifically, peccary remains have been found at Early Formative Olmec civilization sites.[32]

The peccary is not readily suitable for modern captive breeding, lacking suitable characteristics for intensive or semi-intensive systems. Peccaries require a higher age before they are able to give birth (parturition) and have a tendency towards infanticide.[33]
So it could be ok but I dont know.
You mentioned mastodons too right? My guess if they can create an american elephant they would probably be used for 3 things: prestige pet of rulers, war elephants and execution method (death by elephant is no joke), dunno if elephants in the old world had any economic use.
Now the giving ancient americans camels, horses and oxes completely changes the history of the whole continent. I cant imagine their use not spreading to mesoamerican and southamerica eventually. This shortens distances massively. Makes animal powered agriculture, transportation and travel possible. This removes one of the 2 biggest different between the old world and new world: their lack of big pack animals, the other being their isolation of old world pandemics.
The butterflies of that one are way too big. At first I was thinking "but why wasnt the western horse domesticated in otl?" when you mentioned it was as big as a Mustang I worried it may be too big to domesticate as I had the vague impression ancient domestic horses were smaller and that may had something to do with domestication potencial. But apparently it doesnt seem to be a problem https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/9re4r8 . So this is one problem solved.
The shrub-ox is a very interesting idea. You mentioned china as a possible comparison to a dense mississippi civilization and the ox was one of china's earliest domestications and a massive advance for their agriculture. I cannot address how big this is for the americas, probably the only region in the world at the time of european contact to mainly use human labour for agriculture, logistics and travel to a much larger degree then animal labour. A continent where people plowed the land by themselves, carried their load by themselves to the point of needing well paid professional goods carriers and where messages where as fast as professional runners. Everything costier as much more difficult.
The camels completely change the face of Aridoamerica and Oasisamerica much the same way horses change life for all steppe and plain nomads in the continent. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aridoamerica . This would empower nomads in the area making them as powerful traders and raiders as the old world central asian, arab and berber nomads. Hell I wouldnt be surprised if dependency of the animal lead for people in the area to develop form of dress and life similar of those in northafrica. Spanish and portuguese explorers would probably call them moros or even berbers much like how they named filipino muslims moros or some southeast asian ethnic groups "negritos" (little blacks, as in africans). French would probably call them moors too or saracens. I can imagine ttl wikipedia having pages like "berbers may refer to: the northafrican ethnic group or an unrelated group of native north american peoples". Oasisamerica, california and maybe even the pacific nowrthwest would be connected to mesoamerica and the mississippi by trade. This would increase the development of civilizations in areas as far as canada and southamerica.
Speaking of canada I wouldnt put the domestication of the muskox out of reach: that animal can only be used as a critical emergency resource as it was done before european colonization or as a domesticated animal. Horses would allow american peoples to hunt them much easily and in general the alt domestications would rise their populations. Is quite possible if one of the nomads is driven further north, as it happened to the turkic sakha in siberia, they could be forced to domesticate the animal to survive. https://www.cambridge.org/core/jour...omestication/D25629479CEEAF65226A10282A6617B2
Not to mention with cow milk, mare milk https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mare_milk and camel milk https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camel_milk now available this adds another source of protein for both settled and nomadic peoples. This is important bc in otl there only llama milk but it was hardly ever consumed https://www.dairymoos.com/milk-in-pre-columbian-america/ since while it is nutricious is scarcer then other doemstic mammals, making it unpractical. I once read an antropological work about milk consumption among andean peasants that say they generally saw taking the llama milk as stealing from her offsprings. My guess it wasnt possible to produce milk without risking the feeding of the offsprings. In this timeline lactose intolerance would be a lot less common in the americas, specially among nomads.
This empowers the nomadic groups that were a pain in the ass for european empires all the way into the 19th century. One has to think they were much weaker during the times of aztecs and incas bc nomads didnt have horses agaist this settled empires. My guess is any mesoamerican empire would constantly be under threat of raids or even conquest from northern aridoamerican nomads much like mississippian empires will be threaten by them from the west. My guess mesoamerican empires would be in contact by sea with the mississippians and bond a little about their mutual hatred for desert nomads :p.
Speaking of sea contact before I recommended having a caribbean people discover the sail to connect the continent by sea. Every Grass in Java had the Taino discover it in the 10th century and that had massive ramifications for his timeline, bringing the caribbean and mississippi to the same level as mesoamerica and the 3 overall higher then otl even if still behind the old world.
But in ttl with a more developed and connected continent I cant see the sail not being discovered and much earlier. The caribbean cant remain as isolated and underpopulated as it was. Hell places as far as otl Río de la Plata could see big changes.
By the time Columbus arrives he may be more justified in thinking he is in china or india. Probably less people would doubt him.

Finally regarding empires in the mississippi I imagine this would be a central part of their organization https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydraulic_empire
 
Sweet potatoes are definitely of tropical origin, but summers in much of the United States are warm enough for successful cultivation.
Interestingly though, there is a native edible tuberous Ipomoea species, I. pandurata, that grows as far north as Ontario. With minimal selection (mostly to decrease toxin levels), it could be an additional domesticate.
Oh that's a new one for me. Needless to say, North America certainly isn't lacking in tubers between that, Apios Americana, Wapatos, and Jerusalem Artichoke (the latter of which was domesticated OTL as it was).

Quinoa too.
Although its close relative Chenopodium Berlandieri (Goosefoot) was semi-domesticated in the Mississippi valley OTL.
 
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Sweet potatoes are definitely of tropical origin, but summers in much of the United States are warm enough for successful cultivation.
Interestingly though, there is a native edible tuberous Ipomoea species, I. pandurata, that grows as far north as Ontario. With minimal selection (mostly to decrease toxin levels), it could be an additional domesticate.

It wasn't so much cold resistance as needing to select for shorter maturation time and day-length insensitivity. Tropical maize typically needs a longer growing season to mature and often doesn't flower until days are 12 hours in length or shorter, which doesn't give a lot of time for the seeds to ripen before frost in temperate climates. Same goes for potatoes and the vast majority of Andean root crops. Quinoa too.
So anything south of yucatan would take a long time to become useful for the mississipians before they could use it. So it cant be founder crops.
 
Tomatoes, Maize, Sweet Potatoes, and Peppers all have their origins in Mesoamerica (as well as Northern South American in some cases). Maize in particular took a long time in its journey north, only arriving in the Upper Mississippi/Great Lakes reason around 2000 BP, Squash around 3000 BP, while Sweet Potato, Tomatoes, and Peppers never did until the Columbian Exchange. Now we can probably contrive a way to get them to Upper Mississippi before their arrival OTL, but frankly that's not necessary, because the Eastern Agrcultural Complex already has its origins in the Upper Mississippi (a bit later than your proposed time period, but the crops are already there). If you combine some of the EAC crops (goosefoot, sunflower, sumpweed, little barley, maygrass, and erect knotweed) with Wild Rice you've got a solid suite of Neolithic Founder Crops to work with, especially if a legume or two are domesticated as well. I'm particularly fond of the American Groundnut - Apios Americana, the Thicket Bean (the only member of the bean genus found natively in the Midwest and Northeast), and American Vetch myself. If you're wanting more tubers, you still don't really need Potatoes/Sweet Potatos, but can instead look to the Jerusalem Artichoke or the already mentioned groundnut. Interestingly, there's also several species of flax which grow in the Missouri River Basin, most notably Linum lewisii, which could serve a similar role to here to what flax did in the fertile crescent - namely as an oil seed and fiber plant (and likely replacing sumpweed in the former role).

All interesting things and plants to take note of. Many thanks for expanding on the ideas.

Have you read the Where the River Flows TL? It's excellent.


I haven't as of yet, but I will try to read it ASAP. Thank you!

Maize wasn't widely grown north of the Gulf until the 6th century AD or so, and only reached productive levels in many places about a thousand years ago. It took time to make it more cold tolerant.

Dogs would probably be bred smaller (like terriers) in order to catch mice. I think that was one of the roles of the smaller Mesoamerican dogs anyway. The other option would be mustelids like the various weasels, ermines, stoats, etc. which are more than capable of killing mice (and rabbits too, another pest).

Homotherium was the size of a lion and a direct competitor with early humans for mammoths and other vital game. That's not something you want to domesticate, that's something you want to kill before it kills you, your tribe, and all the mammoths.

That's more of a cultural thing than something you could predict. The Mississippi basin has a lot of diverse terrain, and the Plains aren't really good for farming outside of river valleys (which lack fuel once you cut down the trees) because of the very hard soil, frequent drought, and unpredictable weather. That leaves the rest of the region which includes lots of dense forest and rugged hills like the Ozarks and Cumberland Plateau. The Gulf is of course mostly a swamp.

At such an early POD, the Lakota and Ojibwe didn't really exist although a lot of the eastern US was Siouan of various sorts. Some groups associated with the OTL Mississippian culture like the Natchez, Yuchi, Tunica, etc. speak language isolates and probably represent remnants of earlier language families. Evidence is the relatively recent spread of Muskogean languages (mostly as a trade language/resulting from tribes merging after being wiped out by colonization and disease in the 16th century onward) and Siouan languages. The earliest European explorers described a huge number of languages from Virginia to Louisiana, many of which appear to be unrelated to each other and other languages. And then there's the matter of Florida whose pre-colonial languages are also language isolates and whom culturally are (except for the northern area of the state) rather distinct from the rest of the South.

It's incredibly difficult tracking languages and their speakers back 500-1000 years, let alone 5000-10,000.

Sweet potatoes are commonly grown in places with shorter growing seasons because of early/late frosts like the Upper South, so not really tropical.

Alright, so Maize is a no go for a while, thank you for clearing this up for me.

Is it even possible to domesticate mustelids? I don't personally know if it is, but if so, then yeah, I could see that happening. Would be interesting to see Europeans react to Otters doing what Cats do in the Old World. And no Homotherium, got it.

Could a vast canal/irrigation system help in the plains for some time? Also, from what I've read, the source of the Mississippi River (and likely it's entire river system) is Lake Itasca in Central MN. Maybe you could explain how the forests could fuel the rivers and what would happen to them once cut down?

Also, thanks for clearing up the cultural thing. SO it's one of the three groups you mentioned earlier or Siouan. I'll just need to find a good english to that language dictionary to translate everything effectively.

Thanks for telling me this. So would it be possible for Sweet Potato to grow in the upper south once they arrive after several centuries then?

Why didn't OP include north American llamas as one of his domesticates? I think that would be a good choice.

I did include Camelops, which was the North American Camel. It was just later on and not in my original post for the thread.

Here's what was canon or semi-canon in North America.................
Muscovy duck, ocellated turkey, grey fox and coyote. Mesoamericans kept melipona or stingless bees, iguanas and and possibly peccaries. For cats, I'm unsure except that ocelots used to range as far north as Arkansas and jaguarundis might have a more northern range if those would be easier to tame than the bobcat. Now camels originated in the Americas much like the horse and got big, so those are a potential as well as shrub-ox/wood-ox. Also look into some of the mammoths as a few of them lasted well into pre-Columbian times. Mind you, I doubt they can be domesticated, but maybe tamed. As for the horse, well when horses and donkeys were domesticated in the Old World they were smaller but were made larger through selective breeding. Same can be applied for the American horse.
As for founder crops well, there's wild rice, cattails and the whole Eastern Agricultural Complex that was independent of Mesoamerica. Plenty of root crops as well.

I don't know if Mammoths/Mastodons could survive the end of the Ice Age even if they were bread to be pets, but if they did survive, they would defintely prove an interesting tool for Native Americans when warring, especially when two groups are fighting one another. Could see if be used as a sign of being beloved by the Gods and the strength of an Empire.

Thanks for telling me about Ocelots and Jaguarundis. Both would provide good cat species to tame/domesticate if mustelids prove impossible to do the same.

Finally, thanks for reminding me of the EAC. I had honestly forgotten about that for some time, so maybe the starting package can be Mississippi Rice, Sunflowers, and Calabash and it grows to include more crops overtime.

Sweet potatoes are definitely of tropical origin, but summers in much of the United States are warm enough for successful cultivation.
Interestingly though, there is a native edible tuberous Ipomoea species, I. pandurata, that grows as far north as Ontario. With minimal selection (mostly to decrease toxin levels), it could be an additional domesticate.

It wasn't so much cold resistance as needing to select for shorter maturation time and day-length insensitivity. Tropical maize typically needs a longer growing season to mature and often doesn't flower until days are 12 hours in length or shorter, which doesn't give a lot of time for the seeds to ripen before frost in temperate climates. Same goes for potatoes and the vast majority of Andean root crops. Quinoa too.

Thanks for the information. Will gladly put this knowledge to good use eventually. If not me, maybe someone else will.
@TheDoofusUser for some reason I skipped over your proposed domestication list and honestly thats a far bigger pod in terms of game changing then the crop list. The ramifications of a northamerican camel, horse and ox are massive. But first I am gonna talk about the simpler ones.
Regarding the cat niche some here have suggested just breeding smaller dogs to to catch mice and that seems simpler then domesticating a bigger feline. Not all animals have the correct temperament for domestication. And we already established they had dogs so the wolves, coyote and foxes are unnecessary (there is only one example I know of fox domestication and that is in 20th century USSR, I think they are used in a small number but only as mascots, dunno what use they could have assuming this could be done millennia ago).
Regarding the Mylohyus while extinct their wider family https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peccary is still alive in central and south america and this is what wikipedia says about their domestication

So it could be ok but I dont know.
You mentioned mastodons too right? My guess if they can create an american elephant they would probably be used for 3 things: prestige pet of rulers, war elephants and execution method (death by elephant is no joke), dunno if elephants in the old world had any economic use.
Now the giving ancient americans camels, horses and oxes completely changes the history of the whole continent. I cant imagine their use not spreading to mesoamerican and southamerica eventually. This shortens distances massively. Makes animal powered agriculture, transportation and travel possible. This removes one of the 2 biggest different between the old world and new world: their lack of big pack animals, the other being their isolation of old world pandemics.
The butterflies of that one are way too big. At first I was thinking "but why wasnt the western horse domesticated in otl?" when you mentioned it was as big as a Mustang I worried it may be too big to domesticate as I had the vague impression ancient domestic horses were smaller and that may had something to do with domestication potencial. But apparently it doesnt seem to be a problem https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/9re4r8 . So this is one problem solved.
The shrub-ox is a very interesting idea. You mentioned china as a possible comparison to a dense mississippi civilization and the ox was one of china's earliest domestications and a massive advance for their agriculture. I cannot address how big this is for the americas, probably the only region in the world at the time of european contact to mainly use human labour for agriculture, logistics and travel to a much larger degree then animal labour. A continent where people plowed the land by themselves, carried their load by themselves to the point of needing well paid professional goods carriers and where messages where as fast as professional runners. Everything costier as much more difficult.
The camels completely change the face of Aridoamerica and Oasisamerica much the same way horses change life for all steppe and plain nomads in the continent. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aridoamerica . This would empower nomads in the area making them as powerful traders and raiders as the old world central asian, arab and berber nomads. Hell I wouldnt be surprised if dependency of the animal lead for people in the area to develop form of dress and life similar of those in northafrica. Spanish and portuguese explorers would probably call them moros or even berbers much like how they named filipino muslims moros or some southeast asian ethnic groups "negritos" (little blacks, as in africans). French would probably call them moors too or saracens. I can imagine ttl wikipedia having pages like "berbers may refer to: the northafrican ethnic group or an unrelated group of native north american peoples". Oasisamerica, california and maybe even the pacific nowrthwest would be connected to mesoamerica and the mississippi by trade. This would increase the development of civilizations in areas as far as canada and southamerica.
Speaking of canada I wouldnt put the domestication of the muskox out of reach: that animal can only be used as a critical emergency resource as it was done before european colonization or as a domesticated animal. Horses would allow american peoples to hunt them much easily and in general the alt domestications would rise their populations. Is quite possible if one of the nomads is driven further north, as it happened to the turkic sakha in siberia, they could be forced to domesticate the animal to survive. https://www.cambridge.org/core/jour...omestication/D25629479CEEAF65226A10282A6617B2
Not to mention with cow milk, mare milk https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mare_milk and camel milk https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camel_milk now available this adds another source of protein for both settled and nomadic peoples. This is important bc in otl there only llama milk but it was hardly ever consumed https://www.dairymoos.com/milk-in-pre-columbian-america/ since while it is nutricious is scarcer then other doemstic mammals, making it unpractical. I once read an antropological work about milk consumption among andean peasants that say they generally saw taking the llama milk as stealing from her offsprings. My guess it wasnt possible to produce milk without risking the feeding of the offsprings. In this timeline lactose intolerance would be a lot less common in the americas, specially among nomads.
This empowers the nomadic groups that were a pain in the ass for european empires all the way into the 19th century. One has to think they were much weaker during the times of aztecs and incas bc nomads didnt have horses agaist this settled empires. My guess is any mesoamerican empire would constantly be under threat of raids or even conquest from northern aridoamerican nomads much like mississippian empires will be threaten by them from the west. My guess mesoamerican empires would be in contact by sea with the mississippians and bond a little about their mutual hatred for desert nomads :p.
Speaking of sea contact before I recommended having a caribbean people discover the sail to connect the continent by sea. Every Grass in Java had the Taino discover it in the 10th century and that had massive ramifications for his timeline, bringing the caribbean and mississippi to the same level as mesoamerica and the 3 overall higher then otl even if still behind the old world.
But in ttl with a more developed and connected continent I cant see the sail not being discovered and much earlier. The caribbean cant remain as isolated and underpopulated as it was. Hell places as far as otl Río de la Plata could see big changes.
By the time Columbus arrives he may be more justified in thinking he is in china or india. Probably less people would doubt him.

Finally regarding empires in the mississippi I imagine this would be a central part of their organization https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydraulic_empire

Oh boy, a gigantic post. Alright, time to respond to each statement.

So, we've been discussing between Ocelots, Mustelids, and Jaguarundis to possibly have the same niche as cats and if all those are impossible, then Small Dogs are likely are best bet.

As for Mylohyus, each of the species that has been mentioned thus far went extinct in s specific timeframe.

Euceratherium (Shrub-ox) - 9,500 years ago

Western Horse - 10,000 years ago

Camelops - 8,000 years ago

American Mastodon - 8,500 years ago

Mylohyus - 9,000 years ago

reasonably speaking, since all five species went extinct in a 2000 year timeframe and the Clovis People arrived 11,500-11,000 years ago, meaning that with enough time and a good roll of the dice, the five species can survive longer and north america and eventually be domesticated. This leaves out Harlan's Muskox (Bootherium) [extinct 11,000 years ago, around the time of Clovis people arriving], so that species might be gone, but the Western Horse and everyone else has 1500-3,000 years before they die out.

I didn't mention Mastodons earlier, but now that if they can be tamed, then I guess they would indeed be possible. Also, one thing I noticed, with greater civilization, wouldn't old world diseases hit worse than OTL? It devastated the Native populations just like OTL, but it wasn't as bad as it could've been because the tribes were all seperate and not interconnected. However, if they're all crammed into cities, then one person could be unknowingly infected with smallpox or yellow fever or some other really bad plague and be a messenger to a city. They arrive to that city and suddenly one becomes five which then becomes 10 then 20 then 40 then 80 and so on and so forth. So civilization might be a double edged sword for Native Americans in that it would give the New World an entirely different archelogical and cultural history than OTL but it would lead to a much worse plague era for them to suffer through.

Also, something I realized. The Natives would've had longer contact with Horses than the Old World, so wouldn't it be possible that Native Americans are the first to domesticate horses in the New World as the Old World slowly struggles to catch up on that front? I think it might be an interesting point.

Very interesting point. We could maybe see some type of Aridoamerican or Oasisamerican Nomadic invasions into Mesoamerica and the Missississippi river valley, bringing their beliefs and cultures with them in a similar way to the Nomadic invasions of the Old World, which might lead to the constructions of great walled cities and great walls themselves to keep the Nomads out. I can only imagine Europeans mapping out the Americas only to find ruins of a massive wall in their path, which would probably lead them to suggest dozens of crazy theories about it.

on Carribbean People, while in OTL, they weren't settled until the 800s iirc by the Arawak/Taino people, here we could see early settlement of the islands by Mississippian and Eastern American peoples, leading to them becoming like the Sea Peoples/Vikings of the Old World that raided, pillaged, and conquered before creating their own kingdoms. I wonder if we could see the entire eastern and maybe western coasts of the Americas become centers of civilization thanks to rivers and the crops and animals. I doubt much of the interior would be settled, but European reactions to massive coastal civilizations would be interesting reads as they describe cities as large as Venice filled with Water and people dressed in gold and such all on the beach instead of inland.

I wonder if the population of any North American Civilization could reach circa 1500 Ming China Population, though maybe slightly higher due to lack of plague killing everybody every couple centuries.

On your final point, yeah, I could see that emerging, but that empire would probably start at or near Lake Itasca and use the threat of cutting people off from water or rapidly flooding a city to slowly conquer people and create an empire without needing to raise a sword, which is scary in its own right. If you're interested in helping me map out details, I can dm you my discord information and you can contact me so we can hammer it out more.

I just realized something: is there any animal to fill the donkey niche? I cant find info on extinct american asses.

Would Donkeys even be needed in this TL? I assume Native Americans would just breed smaller horses into existence to fill their niche rather than trying to find another animal.

This was the list I used - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_North_American_animals_extinct_in_the_Holocene

Thanks for participating in this thread everyone. I honestly didn't expect it to get so big considering this topic has already been discussed to death.
 
Oh that's a new one for me. Needless to say, North America certainly isn't lacking in tubers between that, Apios Americana, Wapatos, and Jerusalem Artichoke (the latter of which was domesticated OTL as it was).
True. There's a huge variety of plants with edible bulbs, roots, and tubers native to North America.
Although its close relative Chenopodium Berlandieri (Goosefoot) was semi-domesticated in the Mississippi valley OTL.
There's a number of Chenopodium species that have been partially or wholly domesticated around the world. It really is quite a useful genus.
So anything south of yucatan would take a long time to become useful for the mississipians before they could use it. So it cant be founder crops.
It depends on the crop, but yes, it took a few thousand years after domestication for some Mesoamerican crops to reach more northerly parts of the US. Some never made it, for one reason or another. For example, four bean species were domesticated in Mexico, but only the common bean, Phaseolus vulgaris, was widespread in North America prior to European colonization. While the domestication of the Cucurbita pepo species of squash/pumpkin in Mexico predates that of maize by at least a thousand years, the people of the eastern US appeared to have independently domesticated C. pepo.
 
Oh boy, a gigantic post. Alright, time to respond to each statement.
haha yeah, got a little carried away. The pod is quite interesting. Alt domestications are OP as hell.

Also, one thing I noticed, with greater civilization, wouldn't old world diseases hit worse than OTL? It devastated the Native populations just like OTL, but it wasn't as bad as it could've been because the tribes were all seperate and not interconnected. However, if they're all crammed into cities, then one person could be unknowingly infected with smallpox or yellow fever or some other really bad plague and be a messenger to a city. They arrive to that city and suddenly one becomes five which then becomes 10 then 20 then 40 then 80 and so on and so forth. So civilization might be a double edged sword for Native Americans in that it would give the New World an entirely different archelogical and cultural history than OTL but it would lead to a much worse plague era for them to suffer through.
Absolutely. Lots of peoples that scaped their effects in otl early on and fought europeans for centuries will be affected in the first half of the XVI century. The interconnectness of the continent means diseases will travel as fast as in eurasia. In otl the Inca Empire was at its zenith and was plunged into civil war by european diseases BEFORE they even made direct contact with europeans. I can see in just half a century diseases spreading as far as california, Río de la Plata (probably called Guazuguay, Great River, by a guarani civilization), the northamerican east coast and maybe even the amazon river.
Of course this means a few things
1) Europeans are more likely to just put themselves on top of existing hierarchies and keep using a modified version of local exploitation methods, like they did in otl. Since its easier to use existing societies then to build a new one on the frontier to make fast returns. This probably means a faster conquest of the continent in some areas. Altho ttl nomads would probably be even better at resisting european encroachment, already possessing horses, camels and probably even iron (with increased trade and war I am assuming ttl american metallurgy is more advanced, with all the mayor centers of civilization in both North amd South America dominating iron by the time of european encounter). Also with every single group in the americas being more numerous. Look at otl, mesoamerica and the andes have the greatest % and concentration of native american population. In a lot of cases even when mestizos are the majority they are genetically mostly indigenous or more indigenous then european. Indicating more assimilation the demographical change. This could be true for most of northamerica in ttl as well. The second area of high % of indigenous population are frontier areas that had both skilled nomadic peoples and climates and geography challenging for european settlers. This areas are the amazon rainforest, Northern Canada and Patagonia. Add the far west in ttl as natives will be more advanced and numerous. So alot of ttl northamerican far west will probably resemble russian ruled central asia more then the american desert states. After european conquest in the 19th century that is. Assuming euros are still there.
2) with more surviving indigenous people they are likely to remain a majority or a plurality in regions like the Mississippi, Andes, Mesoamerica and (MAYBE, depends of what happens in ttl, in the Rio de la Plata, Orinoco plains, east of the Appalachians, and maybe even in the pacific coast of northamerica). Lots of places could go mestizo but this is certainly a continent where there is gonna be a lot more mestizos and indigenous peoples and less white settlers. And even less black people.
3) A larger native american population to exploit means a significantly smaller need for black slaves. Just like how in otl spaniards exploited mostly indigenous peoples in the mines of Alto Peru bc black slaves couldn't adapt to back breaking labour thousands of km above the sea level. The local population while died by the millions in the mines handled the highs much better. Black slavery probably becomes more associated with specific industries like sugar which was an inhuman meat grinder that constantly needed new slaves fresh from africa. Basically black populations would be smaller just like in otl México and Perú.
3) even outside of spanish colonies the social order will resemble colonial Perú: on top Castilian nobles and burocrats born in Spain, followed by american born europeans and native nobility and finally the peasant indigenous masses followed lastly by a minority of black slaves.
4) while european conquest of native empires is likely even tho there is millions more natives thanks to the social collapse caused by diseases, I would argue geography makes the Mississippians more vulnerable then the Incas were in otl, simple bc of geography. While the Incas IMO always have some chance of survival given their geography, the Mississippians are wide open plain covered by river highways everywhere. The spaniards wont even be their first rodea with a foreign dynasty. Even if its the most dramatic one.
5) now that I know a lot of the crops I though andean are actually mesoamerican, I was thinking when will the mesoamerica/Mississippian crops reach the andes? The Mississippian rice will probably work well with andean terrace farming. Same with the northamerican pack animals. Andeans will probably favour some sort of mountain pony mostly for communications and logistics, oxes and cows will be popular too but the most drastic changes are for the plain nomads of the southern cone. Proto mapuches with horses will upgrade from nuisance for andean empires to nightmare. This will likely happen much sooner https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Araucanization_of_Patagonia . With proto mapuches invading paragonia and pampas probably all the way to the Paraná river. Spreading crops and animals from the andes and northamerica to the southamerican Mesopotamia. To the benefit of charruas, guaranis, tupis, querendies and others. Ok most likely the peoples who were there before them so whoever that is. Civilization is coming to the Río de La Plata basin.
6) I think ttl Caribbean will resemble more the old world mediterranean as a sea that connects those around its shores. My guess is mesoamerican and Mississippian peoples will first populate the Caribbean and probably settle a bit the venezuelan coast, and like that enter into contact with the proto arawak (the tainos were an arawak people for example) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arawakan_languages . I would guess mesoamerican civilization will mix with proto arawaks in the orinoco plains.
7) there was something we could call an amazonian civilization in otl. But it worked a lot different from mesoamerican or andean civilizations. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/...e-ancient-population-satellite-computer-model . I think this may resemble some societies in the Congo Basin. Those close to andean societies or to the Orinoco would probably trade exotic woods and animal furs for metal tools and the like but the region isolation and limited agriculture would probably put a hard limit to their expansion. Not to mention I dunno how viable mining is the amazon rainforest with pre industrial methods. I think they wont differ that much from otl.
8) I think indepence from european empires will be protagonized by indigenous groups and come either much sooner or later then in otl. Things like 17th-18th century peruvian indigenous revolts will happen all around the continent and while much of the population will be restless the local white elite will be too afraid of native revolts to make their own revolutions unlike otl. So whst happens when western Europe is getting into continent wide wars like the 30y, 7y or napoleonic wars is anyones guess.
OTOH having massive mand empires with millions of peasants at hand could actually tempt ttl conquerors a lot more with feudalizing the land and try to carb their own kingdoms at expense of their european metropolis.

I wonder if the population of any North American Civilization could reach circa 1500 Ming China Population, though maybe slightly higher due to lack of plague killing everybody every couple centuries
Its strange to imagine this many people in this continent but honestly I cant see why not. Again even if 90% of everyone dies in the first century since spanish arrival the millions remaining will be enough to make it impossible to change the demographics significantly. I would add that the otl cradles of civilization in mesoamerica and andes would be a lot more populated thaks to the pack animals and Mississippian rice. Probably.


God. I was gonna say a couple things then I rambled for an hour.

If you're interested in helping me map out details, I can dm you my discord information and you can contact me so we can hammer it out more
Sure thing. DM me whenever you want.
Would Donkeys even be needed in this TL? I assume Native Americans would just breed smaller horses into existence to fill their niche rather than trying to find another animal.
You are most likely correct.
 
With the native Americans having their own livestock from way back, the likelihood is that they've acquired some zoonotic diseases of their own that are seriously harmful to European settlers.
 
haha yeah, got a little carried away. The pod is quite interesting. Alt domestications are OP as hell.


Absolutely. Lots of peoples that scaped their effects in otl early on and fought europeans for centuries will be affected in the first half of the XVI century. The interconnectness of the continent means diseases will travel as fast as in eurasia. In otl the Inca Empire was at its zenith and was plunged into civil war by european diseases BEFORE they even made direct contact with europeans. I can see in just half a century diseases spreading as far as california, Río de la Plata (probably called Guazuguay, Great River, by a guarani civilization), the northamerican east coast and maybe even the amazon river.
Of course this means a few things
1) Europeans are more likely to just put themselves on top of existing hierarchies and keep using a modified version of local exploitation methods, like they did in otl. Since its easier to use existing societies then to build a new one on the frontier to make fast returns. This probably means a faster conquest of the continent in some areas. Altho ttl nomads would probably be even better at resisting european encroachment, already possessing horses, camels and probably even iron (with increased trade and war I am assuming ttl american metallurgy is more advanced, with all the mayor centers of civilization in both North amd South America dominating iron by the time of european encounter). Also with every single group in the americas being more numerous. Look at otl, mesoamerica and the andes have the greatest % and concentration of native american population. In a lot of cases even when mestizos are the majority they are genetically mostly indigenous or more indigenous then european. Indicating more assimilation the demographical change. This could be true for most of northamerica in ttl as well. The second area of high % of indigenous population are frontier areas that had both skilled nomadic peoples and climates and geography challenging for european settlers. This areas are the amazon rainforest, Northern Canada and Patagonia. Add the far west in ttl as natives will be more advanced and numerous. So alot of ttl northamerican far west will probably resemble russian ruled central asia more then the american desert states. After european conquest in the 19th century that is. Assuming euros are still there.
2) with more surviving indigenous people they are likely to remain a majority or a plurality in regions like the Mississippi, Andes, Mesoamerica and (MAYBE, depends of what happens in ttl, in the Rio de la Plata, Orinoco plains, east of the Appalachians, and maybe even in the pacific coast of northamerica). Lots of places could go mestizo but this is certainly a continent where there is gonna be a lot more mestizos and indigenous peoples and less white settlers. And even less black people.
3) A larger native american population to exploit means a significantly smaller need for black slaves. Just like how in otl spaniards exploited mostly indigenous peoples in the mines of Alto Peru bc black slaves couldn't adapt to back breaking labour thousands of km above the sea level. The local population while died by the millions in the mines handled the highs much better. Black slavery probably becomes more associated with specific industries like sugar which was an inhuman meat grinder that constantly needed new slaves fresh from africa. Basically black populations would be smaller just like in otl México and Perú.
3) even outside of spanish colonies the social order will resemble colonial Perú: on top Castilian nobles and burocrats born in Spain, followed by american born europeans and native nobility and finally the peasant indigenous masses followed lastly by a minority of black slaves.
4) while european conquest of native empires is likely even tho there is millions more natives thanks to the social collapse caused by diseases, I would argue geography makes the Mississippians more vulnerable then the Incas were in otl, simple bc of geography. While the Incas IMO always have some chance of survival given their geography, the Mississippians are wide open plain covered by river highways everywhere. The spaniards wont even be their first rodea with a foreign dynasty. Even if its the most dramatic one.
5) now that I know a lot of the crops I though andean are actually mesoamerican, I was thinking when will the mesoamerica/Mississippian crops reach the andes? The Mississippian rice will probably work well with andean terrace farming. Same with the northamerican pack animals. Andeans will probably favour some sort of mountain pony mostly for communications and logistics, oxes and cows will be popular too but the most drastic changes are for the plain nomads of the southern cone. Proto mapuches with horses will upgrade from nuisance for andean empires to nightmare. This will likely happen much sooner https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Araucanization_of_Patagonia . With proto mapuches invading paragonia and pampas probably all the way to the Paraná river. Spreading crops and animals from the andes and northamerica to the southamerican Mesopotamia. To the benefit of charruas, guaranis, tupis, querendies and others. Ok most likely the peoples who were there before them so whoever that is. Civilization is coming to the Río de La Plata basin.
6) I think ttl Caribbean will resemble more the old world mediterranean as a sea that connects those around its shores. My guess is mesoamerican and Mississippian peoples will first populate the Caribbean and probably settle a bit the venezuelan coast, and like that enter into contact with the proto arawak (the tainos were an arawak people for example) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arawakan_languages . I would guess mesoamerican civilization will mix with proto arawaks in the orinoco plains.
7) there was something we could call an amazonian civilization in otl. But it worked a lot different from mesoamerican or andean civilizations. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/...e-ancient-population-satellite-computer-model . I think this may resemble some societies in the Congo Basin. Those close to andean societies or to the Orinoco would probably trade exotic woods and animal furs for metal tools and the like but the region isolation and limited agriculture would probably put a hard limit to their expansion. Not to mention I dunno how viable mining is the amazon rainforest with pre industrial methods. I think they wont differ that much from otl.
8) I think indepence from european empires will be protagonized by indigenous groups and come either much sooner or later then in otl. Things like 17th-18th century peruvian indigenous revolts will happen all around the continent and while much of the population will be restless the local white elite will be too afraid of native revolts to make their own revolutions unlike otl. So whst happens when western Europe is getting into continent wide wars like the 30y, 7y or napoleonic wars is anyones guess.
OTOH having massive mand empires with millions of peasants at hand could actually tempt ttl conquerors a lot more with feudalizing the land and try to carb their own kingdoms at expense of their european metropolis.


Its strange to imagine this many people in this continent but honestly I cant see why not. Again even if 90% of everyone dies in the first century since spanish arrival the millions remaining will be enough to make it impossible to change the demographics significantly. I would add that the otl cradles of civilization in mesoamerica and andes would be a lot more populated thaks to the pack animals and Mississippian rice. Probably.


God. I was gonna say a couple things then I rambled for an hour.


Sure thing. DM me whenever you want.

You are most likely correct.
Well, it's more complex than donkeys being smaller than horses. Donkeys are also stronger, more surefooted, greater endurance, steadier, more tolerant of extreme conditions plus able to eat plants horses can't. Horses are flashier and faster but there's a reason why the mule is as old as domesticated horses, you had the best of both worlds.
 
The native American horses might be as closely related to Donkeys as to Old World Horses, anyway: IIRC all of the Old World Equids (Horses, Donkeys, Wild Asses, Zebras) are supposed to have diverged from a single species that crossed over the Bering land-bridge.
 
Is it even possible to domesticate mustelids? I don't personally know if it is, but if so, then yeah, I could see that happening. Would be interesting to see Europeans react to Otters doing what Cats do in the Old World. And no Homotherium, got it.
Yes, ferrets, minks, etc. are essentially domesticated.
Could a vast canal/irrigation system help in the plains for some time? Also, from what I've read, the source of the Mississippi River (and likely it's entire river system) is Lake Itasca in Central MN. Maybe you could explain how the forests could fuel the rivers and what would happen to them once cut down?
In general I think the steppe is a poor environment for farmers. You'd pretty much end up with OTL's synthesis of farming villages that hug the rivers who traded with more nomadic peoples who traded them game and animal goods (i.e. bone and antler for tools)--OTL this accelerated once horses were introduced and the local farmers were mostly subjugated by the Lakota, Comanche, and other powers. The Great Plains OTL mirror other places with that dynamic too like Arabia (nomadic Bedouins and settled oasis dwellers) and Central Asia.

We can assume that if you have any major domesticate, than farming just won't be a good lifestyle. It will be marginal, deficient in nutrients, and prone to periodic failure (the Dust Bowl was pretty mild compared to some periods of drought on the Plains) compared to the more nomadic peoples who can get enough from gathered wild plants and endless meat/possibly milk from their animals. The nomads are more mobile since their animals double as pack animals (if they have riding animals, then the mobility is even greater). This means they're stronger, about as numerous, and more mobile meaning they'll pretty much always win in a conflict. They won't have any real need or desire to put more resources into farming and canal building, since the slaves could be doing other things and the tools needed could be made into weapons to take more things from other people (or protect from livestock rustling).

That doesn't mean there can't be cities which may very well have canals, it's just they'll be at the mercy of the nomads much like in Central Asia. The Plains were always a trade route, and there is attested trade between Oasisamerica on one end and the cultures of the Plains on the other, as well as other evidence like shells from the Salish Sea found in IIRC Montana or Wyoming.

As for the forests, this causes erosion making the rivers silty, difficult to navigate with canoe, and unpleasant to drink. It gets rid of shelter for animals and windbreaks that moderate the harsh climate and protect crops and increases the probability of severe floods. And of course, it gets rid of a vital source of fuel of which alternative sources like dung fuel or certain plants like sagebrush have additional labor costs (more processing, and you can't use dung fuel if you don't have the animals to produce it, unless you use human waste which carries health risks). All of this happened OTL and it's part of what drove the later phase of the Indian Wars since deforestation on the Plains by wagon trains brought hardship to American Indians there, many of whom decided the government's promises weren't worth a thing as a result.
Also, thanks for clearing up the cultural thing. SO it's one of the three groups you mentioned earlier or Siouan. I'll just need to find a good english to that language dictionary to translate everything effectively.

Thanks for telling me this. So would it be possible for Sweet Potato to grow in the upper south once they arrive after several centuries then?
Not necessarily, but it's very possible the languages these people spoke are related to languages once spoken over a much wider area, similar to how languages related to Basque existed as late as Roman times before the people shifted to Latin. A paper worth checking out is Goddard's "Indigenous Languages of the Southeast" which discusses what little is known about these languages. In regards to Siouan, that would be the broader language family. It's a hugely diverse language family, and some branches are poorly known. Odds are there's entire branches of Siouan which will remain unknown because they went extinct centuries earlier.
reasonably speaking, since all five species went extinct in a 2000 year timeframe and the Clovis People arrived 11,500-11,000 years ago, meaning that with enough time and a good roll of the dice, the five species can survive longer and north america and eventually be domesticated. This leaves out Harlan's Muskox (Bootherium) [extinct 11,000 years ago, around the time of Clovis people arriving], so that species might be gone, but the Western Horse and everyone else has 1500-3,000 years before they die out.
I think reasonable evidence suggests the Clovis people were not the first inhabitants of the New World, there were likely people there for thousands of years priors.
I didn't mention Mastodons earlier, but now that if they can be tamed, then I guess they would indeed be possible. Also, one thing I noticed, with greater civilization, wouldn't old world diseases hit worse than OTL? It devastated the Native populations just like OTL, but it wasn't as bad as it could've been because the tribes were all seperate and not interconnected. However, if they're all crammed into cities, then one person could be unknowingly infected with smallpox or yellow fever or some other really bad plague and be a messenger to a city. They arrive to that city and suddenly one becomes five which then becomes 10 then 20 then 40 then 80 and so on and so forth. So civilization might be a double edged sword for Native Americans in that it would give the New World an entirely different archelogical and cultural history than OTL but it would lead to a much worse plague era for them to suffer through.
All it did was slow down the spread of smallpox to where it took 250 years for smallpox to reach areas like California or the Pacific Northwest. Smallpox spreads equally fast in crowded lodges as was common throughout the Americas and the scenario you described is literally what happened. Urban civilisation would actually be a huge benefit since if the regional population is dense enough, the disease never burns out meaning there's a certain level of immunity that gets established in the population (much like Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa).
On your final point, yeah, I could see that emerging, but that empire would probably start at or near Lake Itasca and use the threat of cutting people off from water or rapidly flooding a city to slowly conquer people and create an empire without needing to raise a sword, which is scary in its own right. If you're interested in helping me map out details, I can dm you my discord information and you can contact me so we can hammer it out more.
Why Lake Itasca? That area is pretty much a swampy forest, fairly poor for farming. Just in case you had a brain fart, no, you can't cut people off from the Mississippi River by controlling the headwaters of it.
Its strange to imagine this many people in this continent but honestly I cant see why not. Again even if 90% of everyone dies in the first century since spanish arrival the millions remaining will be enough to make it impossible to change the demographics significantly. I would add that the otl cradles of civilization in mesoamerica and andes would be a lot more populated thaks to the pack animals and Mississippian rice. Probably.
I'm not sure Mississippian rice could spread that far south. What niche does it have that native crops don't, and would they bother devoting the additional labour to it? Can the different growing season including shorter summer days? There's no clear path south since the Gulf Coast gets incredibly dry by the time you reach South Texas (hence why there were no farmers there OTL, just the poorly known Coahuiltecan peoples) before it gets wetter again in Central Mexico. Agriculture (especially aquaculture which is more resource intensive) fits that area poorly because of the frequent drought, harsh climate, and common hurricanes--they'd be outcompeted by pastoralists. I'm not saying it's impossible for pre-colonial farming to occur in that area, but there's some real hurdles.
 
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