Native America - Prehistory and Survival

Nicholas James audits the societies and civilisations decimated by the arrival of Europeans - and tells how, against the odds, elements from them have survived.

Among the various Native American ways of life that the conquistadors described, anthropologists recognise successive types of social and economic organisation through which civilisation had developed. Review of archaeologists', historians' and ethnographers' findings reveals the diversity of traditions disrupted after 1492. Prehistory also accounts for the Native Americans' fatal susceptibility to the new arrivals. Our aim here, then, is to range beyond the Aztecs, discussed in the previous article, in search of the broader patterns of Native American history, both prior to contact and since.

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