Highlights of the dark ages were the Spanish Arabs and the Byzantine. A people that were partly protected from the Germanic barbarians of the dark ages by the Byzantines was the Venitians. They'd go on to dominate the second half of the dark ages(from 1000 A.d to about 1500 A.D. Part of what happened was the Byzantine's were overrun by the Turks in the mid 1400s. Now, if you wanted to get silk and spices from the mysterious east, you needed to pay crazy amount of money or find another way. The Europeans found another way. Actually, they got their idea from Aristotle. Ever since the translation of Spanish Arab books around 1060 A.D., they had been reading and argueing over Greek texts(which is what the Spanish Arab texts are; well, there's some purely Arab and Hindu science and philosophy as well). Just one thing they found was a suggestion from Aristotle that one can get to India by going west through the ocean. This is assuming the Earth is round which was an idea first entertained by the Greeks(see my Greek Astronomy post in this blog) - reference, Aristotle, De Caelo, page 297
I've put up pictures of the Haglia Sophia before, but why not show it again?
I'll just say watch John Romer's Testament episode 6 I do believe for good video of the inside and outside of the Haglia Sophia. He goes straight up the outside doors and knocks on them . . . and opens them up! It's like something out of the 'Lord of the Rings"!
How about a Venice picture,
When the Portuguese, Spanish, English and French went west, they found a world of riches. This wealth essentially made Venice a relic of the past. A measure of the fame and former power of the Venicians was when Gasper Corte-Real found Venician swords and jewelry on some of the Natives that he captured! This was in 1501, just a few years after Chritopher Columbuses successful voyages.
Lots of things happened, lots of discoveries at this time of course. Even my writeup about rivers throughout human history doesn't cover it all! That kind of covers a good amount of the great voyages that happened back then. I can't help noting Tisquantum, Samoset and Massasoit. These three met what were called the Pilgrims around 1600 A.D.(a hundred years after lots of Spanish and Portuguese exploration had already been done). The Pilgrims first went to Denmark. But they left there because those people were too free thinking for their taste. So, they packed their bags and went all the way across the ocean to practice their Puritan religion. Their descendents went through the Salem witch trials.
Tisquantum led a remarkable life. Tisquantum met other explorers after the Puritans. A Thomas Hunt captured him. Thomas Hunt was a kind of lieutenant of a John Smith, of Pocahontus fame. Thomas Hunt took Tisquantum all the way to Europe and back where he died of plague from the Europeans.
As it turns out, plagues brought by the Europeans seem to be the major culprit for how the Europeans conquered the Americas comparatively easily. One recent remarkable revelation about this is the Native American's lack of immune system may be due to a cometary Impact tens of thousands of years ago. The impact removed lots of animals that would have carried and spread viruses.
One remarkable story of some of the great Native American empires conquered supposedly by one man army Europeans was a Spaniard Francisco Pizarro. Pizarro reportedly conquered the Inca around 1533 A.D. Maybe he did; but, he conquered a substantially weakened Inca empire. Pizarro was killed in a political assassination and power struggle. But, natives buried his remains in a Roman Catholic church that still stands to this day.
Here's the outside of the Cathedral of Lima
Today, the scientific exploration of both the great European discoveries of the America and who and how the Native Americans got there is a rapidly shifting field. There's no firm conclusions to be drawn. Everyone has a theory . . . Asians, ten lost tribes of Israel(which helped found the Christian sect of Mormons; it's in their book of Mormon), Egyptians, the people from the lost city of Atlantis. One remarkable possibility though has been the boat conjecture.
For the longest time, people assumed the Native Americans came across the Bering straight into North America. But, people argue that some of the 30,000 year old finds in South America suggest those people could not have gotten through all that wilderness in so fast a time. How could they have done it? The remarkable revelation here is by boat! Recently, I've posted about the remarkable Indonisian cave paintings to like 40,000 years ago. People would have had to boat from Asia to Indonesia, and as everyone knows, the Australians also would have had to boat to get there as well! So, the boat suggestion has plausibility, and in my opinion is a great revelation of contempory scientific understanding of Human history and of how Native Americans got to the Americas.
Remarkably, when the Europeans found the Americas, it didn't dawn on them that this was a challenge to their religion. Does the bible mention anything about the Americas and Native Americans? That they know nothing of their religion. If they knew nothing of Christianity, wouldn't that suggest something to the Europeans? It never dawned on 99.99 percent of them. They just went about trying to convert them. The technologies and science that are similar and dissimilar to one another are some of the real revelations of the discovery of the Americas(the fact that Jesus Christ was not known to the Native Americans should have been, but anyways).
Ecologists have argued that ecological diversity was of major importance of the founding of civilization. They argue that Mesopotamia was an ecologicaly diverse area. As Jared Diamond(through Charles Mann's "1491") says, "a wide ranger of altitudes and topographies within a short distance". The fertile crescent has mountains in Iran and the Dead Sea, and the lowest places on the Earth bracket the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Another place is Peru, where going from mountain to sea has 20 of the the worlds 34 major types of environment. Down there arose a variety of cultures. They ultimately led to the Inca. Another interesting diverse area was Oaxica a little bit higher in contemporary Mexico. This area originated Maize, or corn.
The area had a diversity of people who grew Maize in a great variety of colors.
Maize appears to have been a genetic engineering effort of the peoples of the Oaxica. Today's scientific thinkers would initially recoil from such an idea. They'd note that Gregory Mendel in the mid 1800s came up with the idea of genetics. But, if you learn about what he did, you might think, hey? This is a simple experiment he did; why could't some cultures thousands of years ago have done such simple things? Well yea. This is kind of like why didn't Archimedes think of the place value system for numbers? Why didn't the Greeks think to apply their deductive logic to numbers and algebra like they did to Geometry? This really comes to show that the cultural upbringing of a person influences what he innovates, and that every theorem is a precious thing because people innovate based on what's in their heads at a given time. It also suggests that taking the general viewpoint, philosophicaly/spiritiually is valuable for figuring out nature(everything in it, including humanity). I've struggled to say this in this blog! So, the discovery of Maize in the America was a great discovery. It spread all up and down North and South America. All Native Americans cherished Maize. They made their religion say they were made from Maize. One of the most mysterious Native American cultures were the Olmecs. They arose shortly after Maize was created.
The earliest we know of them so far is that of 1800 B.C. Within three centuries, San Lorenzo was built. San Lorenzo was destroyed around 1200 B.C. which is why all those gigantic heads are found dispersed all over the place. That's how far back in time those gigantic heads go! A La Venta and the last of the Olmecs was destroyed around 350 B.C. I'm not going to speculate too much on why the Olmecs fell. I've mentioned the reason those great heads are dispersed. Seeing those heads and realizing how far back they date is enough to suggest how great of a civilization they were. Charles Mann, in his 1491, says they figured out Venus and retrograde motion. I'm not sure how they know that.
Everyone knows the great architecture of the Aztecs, Maya, and Inca. I don't want to dwell on that. The Inca had another most remarkable science/technology in their language. It consisted of ropes and knots in them. In fact, it was a binary number language. I had suggested early on in this blog that maybe language gets its ability to swap words around by mathematics. That mathematics came first before natural language. I later tried to laugh it off; but, remarkably, the recent scientific studies of Native Americans history shows the Inca language was mathematical! Unfortunately, they were a comparative late and fleeting(two hundred years) culture. Still, it's a tantalizing piece of empirical evidence.
Another remarkable science/technology of the Native Americans was the use of fire. An ecological understanding of plants shows there's what's called 'succession plants.' Because of natural disasters, there's plants that have evolved to go into destroyed ecosystems to prepare the way for later plants to get the ecosystem going again. If there were no disasters, these plants would go extinct. Native Americans, and in particular the South American rain forest cultures(including the Maya), found that the use of fire allowed them to take advantage of this succession plants and shape the Rain forests . . . ! Instead of domesticating animals, they influenced where animals would go by the use of fire to shape ecosystems. This was done in the North Americas. In the South Americas, the use of fire was used to influence which fruiting plants they wanted to grow naturally. This is one major example of the great things we can learn about changing cultural lifestyles to be more ecologically friendly.
Another remarkable technology that still hasn't been taken advantage of much is tension architecture. Much is made of how the Native Americans never innovated the wheel. This is kind of an example of what people innovate depends on their cultureal upbringing. But, this is more geological influence. The Native Americans knew about circles and wheels, but their environment generally had no practial use for it. The science/technologies innovated by the New and Old world wasn't because one was dumber than the other.
In the old world(Europe, Africa and the Orient), the major architectural innovation was the arch.
This Roman aqueduct is in Spain
The arch and even the post/lintel are compression archtecture based. There's some small examples of arches in Maya temples, but they were not extensive; you'd have to look hard to find the small examples. What the Native Americans appear to have innovated was tension technologies. I don't know of any extant example of this. They used rope and cotton to make their boats and houses and bridges and so on. But, this made me pull out an old Scientific American and finally read an article I always meant to read! It was the January 1998 issue, and Tensigrity was the cover page article.
I don't want to get into all the biological insights that tensigrity reveals; just the definitions. Tensigrity has both tensional and compressional elements. Only the stress parts are separated from the compression components. The compression and tensional members are like dual to one another, the compressional members are compressed by the tensional members, and tensional members are pulled by the compressional members. So, if an elements is taken out, all structural members, whether compression or tensional take up the forces that former member once held. All the members feel all the forces all the others feel. All the forces are balanced out. I'm thinking this can be a new way of understanding self-organisation in both natural and technologies. How does something self-assemble when a member is taken out?
I start out my write up with examples of Tensigrity pictures . . . !
I end this with a great Native American quote!
"He goes his way singing, offering flowers.
And his words rain down
Like jade and quetzal plumes.
Is this what pleases the Giver of Life?
Is that the only truth on earth?" - Ayocuan Cuetzpaltzin
The Native Americans struggled with the same problems Plato did in understanding truth in a changing world. This piece of Native American poetry broke the philosphical problem. One can't understand it without knowing the cultural meaning of the words.
Right when Native Americans made this cultural breakthrough to valueing intellectual persuits, Christopher Columbus succeeded in finding lands west of the old world. This launched a rush of exploration from the Europeans. By historical accident, plagues affected them more than the Europeans. Well, there's still indians here.
One Native American architecture Charles Mann fails to mention in his 1491 book is a Native American Stonehenge and the Anasazi of the Arizona, New Mexico . . . Chico Canyon in general.
Well, a major new archaeological discovery of Native Americans, that Charles Mann also didn't mention in his great book are these Puquios - the Peru word for aqueducts. Seems they made spiral inward aqueducts!
I'll link to this article for image credit(it says "public domain") and more details. It even suggests the famous Nazca lines were made to point to the Puquios! article here --> Peru’s Puquios May Have Been Part of a Nazca Water System