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Why Did Monongahela Indians Disappear From Western Pennsylvania?
Northern Light ^ | 10-2-2002

Posted on 10/03/2002 2:54:16 PM PDT by blam

Why Did Monongahela Indians Disappear From Western Pennsylvania? Massive Droughts May Be Answer to Mystery, Says Anthropologist at Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Story Filed: Wednesday, October 02, 2002 10:31 PM EST

PITTSBURGH, Oct 01, 2002 (ASCRIBE NEWS via COMTEX) -- For decades, anthropologists have struggled to explain why the once thriving Monongahela Indian culture disappeared from southwestern Pennsylvania by 1635 - well in advance of European settlement. Jim Richardson, Curator of Anthropology at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, believes he may finally have the answer.

In a study published in the journal Archaeology of Eastern North America, Richardson and colleagues David Anderson and Edward Cook propose that two massive droughts, one from 1587-1589 and a second from 1607-1612, drove the Monongahela Indians from southwestern Pennsylvania.

Because the Monongahela relied heavily on maize-based agriculture for subsistence, the two droughts put incredible stresses on their food supply. Richardson believes that after the first drought the Monongahela contracted to a core area in Greene County, Pennsylvania. Further weakened by the 1607-1612 drought, the Monongahela fled to the East and South by 1635 to seek better farming lands and to escape increasingly frequent raids by the Iroquois as competition increased for fur-bearing animals, which were valuable trade commodities. Southwestern Pennsylvania remained uninhabited until the 1720s, when the Delaware Indians moved into the region.

Richardson and colleagues base their study on new tree-ring data from West Virginia that provides a year-to-year climate record which can be correlated with the contraction of the Monongahela population from A.D. 1050 to 1635. By analyzing the size of the tree rings-the smaller the ring, the drier the year-Richardson, Anderson and Cook were able to determine when a drought occurred as well as its duration and severity.

These two mega-droughts not only affected the Monongahela's territory, but also many other areas of the country. In fact, anthropologist David Stahle first used tree-ring data in a 1998 Science article to show the devastating effects of the 1607-1612 drought on the Jamestown colony and argue that the 1587-1589 drought caused the disappearance of the famed "Lost Colony" of Roanoke. It was Stahle's paper that inspired Richardson to view the disappearance of the Monongahela in a different light.

"When I read Stahle's paper," said Richardson, "I thought to myself, 'This is it. This is what happened to the Monongahela.'"

The tree-ring data collected by Cook proves that the Jamestown and Roanoke droughts did indeed extend northward into the Monongahela's territory. Other data, such as sediment cores from the Chesapeake Bay, also reveal evidence of droughts correlating with the tree-ring record.

In one sense, the solution to the Monongahela's disappearance is surprising. "Nobody ever figured drought," Richardson said.

But he also points out that droughts have historically wreaked havoc with agriculturally-based societies, contributing to the collapse of the Mayan civilization and the Akkadian Empire of the Near East. In this sense, Richardson's study is another example of how drastic climate change can shape cultural change.

"Many people are now using climate data as a way of looking at the rise, spread, and collapse of cultures," he said.


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: disappear; godsgravesglyphs; indians; monongahela; pennsylvania; western

1 posted on 10/03/2002 2:54:16 PM PDT by blam
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To: blam
Cool article, but I'm certain the data will be used by the Greens for dire purposes.
2 posted on 10/03/2002 2:57:16 PM PDT by Notforprophet
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To: blam
Al Gore addressed this in "Earth in the Balance". It was global warming from the steel mills that drove them out.
3 posted on 10/03/2002 2:57:22 PM PDT by governsleastgovernsbest
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To: blam
Gosh, you mean there were factors that influenced Amerind populations besides the evil Europeans? </SARCASM>

Interesting article!

4 posted on 10/03/2002 2:59:38 PM PDT by facedown
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To: blam
I'm more prone to accept the disease theory. IIRC, it's pretty well documented that the Eastern coastal Indians died off in droves at around the time of the Pilgrims (1620). (Weren't you part of that thread a couple of weeks back?)

We know there was contact between tribes -- easy to see them being taken out by a plague, especially since we know such things happened. It's far harder to imagine a drought doing it to them, especially in a valley where the rivers did not run dry.

5 posted on 10/03/2002 3:03:13 PM PDT by r9etb
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To: blam
Wow! Pittsburgh was uninhabited altogether? Makes one wonder why the French and the Brits were fighting out there.
6 posted on 10/03/2002 3:04:29 PM PDT by RightWhale
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To: r9etb
Contagious disease is more lethal in populations under stress from other factors, notably starvation.
7 posted on 10/03/2002 3:07:54 PM PDT by Thud
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To: blam
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8 posted on 10/03/2002 3:08:14 PM PDT by justshe
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To: blam
They suddenly realized how close they were to NJ and NY...
9 posted on 10/03/2002 3:10:53 PM PDT by tracer
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To: r9etb
It's far harder to imagine a drought doing it to them, especially in a valley where the rivers did not run dry.

I agree. It wasn't like there were millions of Indians there --- maybe 10,000 at best, and it's doubtful they would be farming or even settle far from the rivers. The 'bottom land' was the only easily tillible soil in that region. Every thing else was far to rocky or clay filled for an age without horses and steel plows. Even in the times when the rivers would get very low in the summer, (before damns and reservoirs) I can't imagine the rivers that drain nearly all the land west of the Appalachians from New York state to North Carolina ever running totally dry.

10 posted on 10/03/2002 3:18:35 PM PDT by Ditto
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To: Notforprophet
Cool article, but I'm certain the data will be used by the Greens for dire purposes.

Yep. They surely won't come to their senses and follow that splinter of The Sierra Club
that was agitating to support at least a decrease in the annual migration into the USA.

Funny, only Osama's actions can cause some sanity to occur at the borders...but not enough.
11 posted on 10/03/2002 3:23:26 PM PDT by VOA
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To: blam
It was my Iroquian ancestors that drove them out - they were in the way ;0)
12 posted on 10/03/2002 3:23:39 PM PDT by Chad Fairbanks
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To: Ditto
I can't imagine the rivers that drain nearly all the land west of the Appalachians from New York state to North Carolina ever running totally dry.

The question is did they irrigate using the river? If they didn't it wouldn't matter if it were flowing or not.

a.cricket

13 posted on 10/03/2002 3:27:15 PM PDT by another cricket
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To: blam
Their leaders kept changing election rules, just before the big pow-wow.

14 posted on 10/03/2002 3:29:42 PM PDT by lawdude
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To: blam
Why Did Monongahela Indians Disappear From Western Pennsylvania?

Didn't they all go back to Wales?

</silly_comments>

15 posted on 10/03/2002 3:30:05 PM PDT by Redcloak
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To: blam
Perhaps of collateral interest was a column that Patrick Michaels of The Cato Institute
did about the drought of 1930, as well as older historical droughts.

It's over at this URL:
http://www.cato.org/research/articles/michaels-020901.html
16 posted on 10/03/2002 3:31:31 PM PDT by VOA
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To: r9etb
"I'm more prone to accept the disease theory. IIRC, it's pretty well documented that the Eastern coastal Indians died off in droves at around the time of the Pilgrims (1620). (Weren't you part of that thread a couple of weeks back?)"

Yes. The tree rings don't tell lies. Probably a combination of things.

17 posted on 10/03/2002 3:32:01 PM PDT by blam
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To: blam
Unpaid gambling debts.
18 posted on 10/03/2002 3:32:26 PM PDT by rabidralph
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To: blam
Red Flight?
19 posted on 10/03/2002 3:35:19 PM PDT by Consort
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To: Ditto
"I agree. It wasn't like there were millions of Indians there --- maybe 10,000 at best."

I have been persuaded recently that when the modern Europeans discovered South America, that there were more people there than all of Europe. N/A, don't know?

20 posted on 10/03/2002 3:41:22 PM PDT by blam
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To: Ditto
I can't imagine the rivers that drain nearly all the land west of the Appalachians from New York state to North Carolina ever running totally dry.

It only happens in years when El Niño illegally migrates to Lake Erie.

21 posted on 10/03/2002 3:44:08 PM PDT by Willie Green
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To: blam
I have been persuaded recently that when the modern Europeans discovered South America, that there were more people there than all of Europe. N/A, don't know?

If there had been millions or even 100s of thousands settled in an area the size of Western PA, they would have out of necessity build permanent settlements which would have left many more artifacts than what remain. That is what we see in Central and South America. These were hunter/gather societies who practiced agriculture on a small scale. The limitations of the land in feeding people in that type of cultures prevents their populations from growing too large.

22 posted on 10/03/2002 3:57:20 PM PDT by Ditto
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To: another cricket
The question is did they irrigate using the river? If they didn't it wouldn't matter if it were flowing or not.

These weren't corn fields like we see them today covering hundreds of acres. They were small garden type plots that could be easily irrigated or watered by hand.

23 posted on 10/03/2002 3:59:16 PM PDT by Ditto
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To: Chad Fairbanks
I think you are correct. There may or may not have been draught, but that alone would not have forced them off the land. It was always has been and remains good hunting territory which other tribes were more than willing to snatch if they could.
24 posted on 10/03/2002 4:01:40 PM PDT by Ditto
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To: blam
A few years back, all the Northeast was affected by drought except for two or three counties in the extreme southwest corner of Pennsylvania. When we think of "indigenous peoples" we forget that there were vast tracts where no one lived. And the spread of diseases decimated other "native populations."
25 posted on 10/03/2002 4:14:22 PM PDT by x
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To: blam
It was global warming and ArtAl BellGore caused it!!!
26 posted on 10/03/2002 4:16:41 PM PDT by Waco
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To: blam
For decades, anthropologists have struggled to explain why the once thriving Monongahela Indian culture disappeared from southwestern Pennsylvania by 1635 - well in advance of European settlement.

I heard that they all were moving to Las Vegas to open casinos and died on the way. Probably from smoking peace pipes. Lung cancer, you know.

27 posted on 10/03/2002 4:21:56 PM PDT by jackbill
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To: jackbill
Lung cancer, you know.

Well, I say lead poisoning. Very nasty! Nearly always fatal (assuming the sniper was a Marine.)

28 posted on 10/03/2002 4:29:22 PM PDT by toddst
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To: blam
They couldn't pay the high taxes in Allegheny County and moved on elsewhere!
29 posted on 10/03/2002 4:42:03 PM PDT by MadelineZapeezda
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To: blam
Remember when they protested a Wal-Mart on the ancient burial grounds. What ever happened to that?See here.
30 posted on 10/03/2002 4:55:08 PM PDT by MadelineZapeezda
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To: Ditto
They were small garden type plots that could be easily irrigated or watered by hand.

These were two and five year draughts. The first drought they could have survived albeit in a weakened state but not the second five year one. The first year they could have carried water to the fields although it would have been extremely labor intensive they would have stored food from last years harvest and there still would have been fair hunting and gathering. The harvest would have been much smaller as the amount of water they could carry would not equal the amount normally provided by rainfall.

The next year they would be running out of food and hunting would be poor. Lack of food would mean less energy to carry water resulting in an even smaller harvest. Throw in a few raiding parties who carried off or destroyed some of their food and killed some of their healthy tribe members. Add in the possibility of decease because of their weakened state. In the third year of drought they would not longer be numerous enough or healthy enough to hold their land. They would have moved on.

a.cricket

31 posted on 10/03/2002 5:15:59 PM PDT by another cricket
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To: another cricket
Maybe, but I have my doubts.
32 posted on 10/03/2002 5:33:45 PM PDT by Ditto
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To: blam
Most interesting.
33 posted on 10/04/2002 4:32:18 PM PDT by Beowulf
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To: blam; FairOpinion; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach
Just adding this to the GGG catalog, not sending a general distribution.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list. Thanks.
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on or off the
"Gods, Graves, Glyphs" PING list or GGG weekly digest
-- Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.
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34 posted on 10/25/2006 10:18:47 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (Dhimmicrati delenda est! https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: Chad Fairbanks
It was my Iroquian ancestors that drove them out - they were in the way ;0)
I was thinking they probably were a factor. The Six Nations back then were still pretty badass. You can ask the Erie tribe about that ... no wait they obliterated them.
35 posted on 10/26/2006 11:38:21 AM PDT by ccc_jr (Klaatu barada nikto)
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