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Starwatcher162536
06-04-2009, 02:41 PM
What are the Native Americans/African cultures scientific contributions pre 1700?

You hear alot about the contributions of Europeans, and a bit about Arabs and Asians contributions, but other then a little about the Mayans, you hear almost nothing about contributions that came from the Americas or Afraica.

Why is this? Were there contributions accredited to oters because of racism? Or did those cultures just not produce very much?

pampl
06-04-2009, 03:30 PM
They didn't have much contact with the West until the West had far outpaced them. The Mayans may have been better astronomers at one time, but by the time Europeans met them and translated their astronomy it wasn't that special.

JonIrenicus
06-04-2009, 06:27 PM
What are the Native Americans/African cultures scientific contributions pre 1700?

You hear alot about the contributions of Europeans, and a bit about Arabs and Asians contributions, but other then a little about the Mayans, you hear almost nothing about contributions that came from the Americas or Afraica.

Why is this? Were there contributions accredited to oters because of racism? Or did those cultures just not produce very much?

One of the things I wondered was how the course of certain ancient mayan/incan civilizations would have developed absent western contact. I would have hoped the Incans prevailed as they were FAR less blod thirsty and murderous than the Aztec civilization that swallowed the Mayans.


As for why western civilization had so many breakthroughs and why many natives in the Americas and Africas did not, I have no definitive idea.

But part of the explanation may have to do with a subject NO one likes to discuss. And part of it may have been forged in conflict and war and strife.


Perhaps there was a cultural reason. It matters.The intellectual culture of the ancient greeks seemed of a higher order than ancient Rome.

But this question is like asking why did a storm follow a certain pattern this day. The question has a definitive answer, but can we ever know the full truth of it? Especially when it involves chaos where infinitesimal fluctuations eons ago effect the reality today.


So my answer is an amalgamation. Partly cultural, partly genetic, partly circumstantial, partly based on conflicts and competition, partly-pure-chance.

popcorn_karate
06-04-2009, 07:44 PM
check out jared diamond's - guns, germs, and steel. it pretty much answers your question.

Lyle
06-04-2009, 09:01 PM
I second this. No North or South American culture had even developed the wheel, which the Sumerians or ancient Mesopotamians developed way back when.

Other than the advanced civilizations in Peru and Meso-America, no native American culture had writing. Of course they discovered and used native plants and animals for all kinds of things, but at a level of community where it could never be exploited on a mass level.

pampl
06-05-2009, 12:25 AM
I second this. No North or South American culture had even developed the wheel, which the Sumerians or ancient Mesopotamians developed way back when.

Other than the advanced civilizations in Peru and Meso-America, no native American culture had writing. Of course they discovered and used native plants and animals for all kinds of things, but at a level of community where it could never be exploited on a mass level.

The wheel is only really useful with flat land, lots of trade, and domesticated beasts of burden. Incans had domesticated llamas I think, but their empire was on hills and mountains. The Aztecs had cities big enough that wheeling goods in would be worthwhile but IIRC no domesticated animals. So on.

The problem with stuff like writing and the wheel is that they were already discovered independently and known to Europe by the time of contact so even if it had been discovered it wouldn't have been a contribution. To add to the total body of knowledge it'd have to be the kind of knowledge with no pre-requisites, like information about local plants and animals, or be the result of relatively lopsided development, like the Mayan calendar (which still wasn't lopsided enough to stay cutting edge for millenia until contact)

Stapler Malone
06-05-2009, 02:25 PM
The wheel is only really useful with flat land, lots of trade, and domesticated beasts of burden. Incans had domesticated llamas I think, but their empire was on hills and mountains. The Aztecs had cities big enough that wheeling goods in would be worthwhile but IIRC no domesticated animals. So on.

America actually did have the wheel in pre-colombian times (it has been found on children's toys from then), but it wasn't used in its large scale variety for exactly the reason you say: it just wouldn't have been all that useful given the terrain.

This and lots of other answers to this threads question can be found in Bob's Nonzero (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0679758941/sr=1-1/ref=sc_b_1/002-1365697-5093628), fwiw.

Lyle
06-05-2009, 04:43 PM
Well, the Meso-americans had children's toys with wheels. Maybe the Incans had it as well. North America (the United Stats part) would have been a great place for the wheel, and the Native Americans there didn't have it.

I'll have to get the Nonzero book though. I haven't read it.

Jyminee
06-05-2009, 08:12 PM
Check out Jared Diamond's book "Guns, Germs, and Steel." He discusses at length why the different societies grew at different rates.

My memory is a bit foggy, but a lot of it has to do with what native grains were able to be planted in large-scale agriculture and which animals were available for domestication. Without agriculture you can't have the basis for a civilization that could do science.

kezboard
06-07-2009, 04:30 AM
They didn't have any horses or anything to pull wheeled carriages with, either, so wheels wouldn't have been nearly as useful to them as they were to the Europeans.

Lyle
06-07-2009, 05:25 AM
Yeah, that's true.