Sunday, July 11, 2010

I love mornings. Especially mornings like this, where I manage to get up at 2AM and start the day job at 10. I should really be more productive than I am on days like this, but my downstairs neighbour let her cat out last night, and Lulu the cat demands attention!
But, hey, new post! Probably with cat keyboarding imminent.
So, American archaeologists think that Cahokia is a big deal. That's the site of multiple mounds, house excavations, garbage dumps and "mortuary sites." (Think dozens of skeletons deposited in piles. In other contexts we might call them "mass graves" instead, but, hey, let's not get all 21st Century bourgeois and judgmental about this.) Tim Pauketat keeps using phrases such as "Pax Cahokia," which inescapably implies a Cahokian Empire.
Well, fine. Andean archaeologists say that if 100000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000
--And there goes Lulu, who will not be further commemorated here, unless and until at some distant point in time I get over the big hump of learning curve and post a picture.
Anyway, fine, if it weren't for the conquistadores, an "Incan Empire" would be wild speculation, actually less well-attested in an architectural sense than a Cahokian one. On the other hand, Pauketat is engaged in trying to say something about Cahokia that doesn't implicate him in the use of inappropriate analogies from accessible ethnologies, never mind modern life.
Well, if we didn't have the Kultepe texts, we wouldn't know that there was an Assyrian business empire opeating in Anatolia in 1800BC. This is something that Polanyi and all of the Polanyists have had to deal with. If Homo economicus is a modern creation, why are Middle Bronze Age Near Easterners acting like they have economic motivations. Maybe the economic historians have a claim on a universal perspective? That is, perhaps economics is a human science? It's so crazy, it just might be true.
(I point to campus Departments of Economics, which instantiate "economist" ideologies in a lived political landscape. Can we call it mere hegemonic discourse once they constitute social reality? Not and save science without resort to a "real" reality that science is about. But then, poor naive fool that I am, I tend to go that way, anyway.)
Anyway, the point is, that once we stop avoiding words like "trade," we have an available analogy for Cahokia that is as close chronologically, climactically, and temporally as we are likely to get: the fur trade. How is Cahokia different from colonial Montreal or Philadelphia, or early post-colonial Washington, for that matter?

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