In her book, Native American History, Judith Nies attempts to portray American history as it unfolded from the arrival of the first humans in the lands of the western hemisphere instead of from the arrival of Columbus in 1492. Because few have written about the pre-Columbian Americas and the people who inhabited them seldom had the written word, she has had to rely on other factors. Thus, she states:
The colonists from Mexico migrated along the Gulf Coast and throughout the river systems of the Mississippi watershed. They left thousands of temple mounds in the form of truncated pyramids and a system of terraced farmlands similar to those found in Mexico. They built with earth rather than stone and grew maize, beans and squash as well as a variety of other agricultural products. American scholars have rejected the idea of Mexican colonization on the basis that Mexican civilization was not powerful enough to generate such an expansion.
She is able to back that up with a record of a verbal history of the Natchez Indians rendered shortly before the Natchez Indians were destroyed in a war with France in Louisiana.
According to the National Park Service’ Archeology Program the earthworks of the lower Mississippi, WONDERS OF GEOMETRIC PRECISION, "were centers of life long before the Europeans arrived in America. As was the river itself. The alluvial soil of its banks yielded a bounty of beans, squash, and corn to foster burgeoning communities. Over the Mississippi’s waters, from near and far, came prized pearls, copper, and mica."
"Today, most of the moundbuilders’ legacy is gone. Many of their earthworks have been plowed, pilfered, eroded and built over. Yet evidence of the culture remains."
As the National Park Service states in Life Along the River, " The moundbuilders -among the first intensive farmers of the continent’s eastern woodlands-thrived because of what they called the Three Sisters-corn, beans and squash. The population exploded between 800 and 1400 AD; towns and cities crowded the Mississippi and its tributaries.
With survival’s burden lightened, arts and crafts blossomed. Interaction among communities became more formal and complex.
Political systems and alliances arose , along with elaborate customs and religious rites. The social structure was that of chiefdom, allied communities were governed by an elite whose positions were inherited or earned by outstanding accomplishments.
The Southeastern Ceremonial Complex, also known as the Southern Cult, dominated peoples’ beliefs. Often symbolized in arts and crafts, the cult became more intricate as the culture evolved, with religion increasingly the means for rulers to assert authority.
Civic and ceremonial mound centers became more ambitious. Towns usually had anywhere from one to twenty flat-topped temple mounds, which served as platforms for temples or other important structures, such as the houses of the elite. Centers of power such as Cahokia in Illinois- where the most impressive earthworks were built-hosted important festivals and ceremonies.
The archeological evidence paints a picture of bustling centers, with houses of thatch and mud plaster stretching far among cultivated fields. The rivers brought traders from afar, with not only basic items but luxury goods such as copper, mica, alligator teeth, and conch shells.
Though rich soil may have been plentiful, people still competed for land, induced, perhaps, by their increasing numbers. War seems to have become a more frequent means of control as time went on. Villages were enclosed in wooden palisades; the study of artifacts shows an increase in martial symbolism. Signs of violence on human remains underscore this development.
By about 1450 AD, the cultures had declined dramatically. Some hypothesize they may have been too successful. Competition for limited resources created tension as did the class structure. Poor sanitation in the crowded river towns may have triggered epidemics. There is evidence of mass migrations, which points to widespread turmoil. By 1500, you could travel many miles in the once- populous valley before coming upon an occupied village.
This is the world Europeans found. The shapes along the river were silent and overgrown, and centuries passed before newcomers knew of the epic that had unraveled before their arrival."