El descobriment d'Amèrica 2/7 (America Before Columbus)

Uploaded by MIQUELENGLISH on 07.09.2011

Inca built palaces, storehouses and castles in the tall mountains.
In their realm of six million people
they rely on manpower to transport stones without animals or the wheel.
And the energy for that is provided by another amazing food source.
They are famed for their gold, but their true treasure is less glamorous.
A tuber, native to the Americas and unknown in Europe,
cultivated here some eight thousand years ago in the region around lake Titicaca,
in today's Peru and Bolivia,
twelve thousand five hundred feet up.
What his now a staple food in Europe was an American invention.
By the year 1491
the Inca grow thousands of varieties,
domesticated from wild ancestors.
Some poisonous,
some even carnivorous.
They preserve the tuber by meshing them into a substance called "chuño".
After harvest potatoes are spread on straw and left out to freeze at night.
During the day they are exposed to the sun.
Trampling them eliminates water and allows them to dry.
Chuño can be stored for ten years providing excellent insurance against possible crop failures.
The inca carved step-like terraces into the mountainsides,
to stop the soil eroding and create a flat surface for their crops.
Terraces absorb more sunlight than steep slopes
so potatoes can grow at the highest altitudes.
And all this is achieved by manpower alone.
Using wooden tools.
In North- and South-America in 1491 farmers grow corn and potatoes to feed their people.
They have none of the domesticated animals that benefit Europe.
For Inca farmers in the Andes
their chief source of meat and transporting goods is the lama.
This is the biggest domestic mammal in the Americas.
The lamas also offered dung for the soil and hides for clothes,
but they can't milk or ride them.
And the animals can't pull a plough so they are no good for farming or for travel.
But their wool is a true blessing.
It is warmer and lighter than sheep's wool.
And produces a greater yield.
The second principal domesticated animal of the Americas is much smaller.
For the Aztecs turkey is vital.
Even today for their descendants in Mexico and Guatemala the turkey is so important
that they dedicate two religious festivals to it.
Native Americans have such few domesticated animals
because the biggest native mammals in the Americas died out long ago.
At the end of the last ice age the megafauna in the Americas, the giant bison and the mastodonts
went extinct.
The reasons for that probably twofold.
First of all as the ice age was ending, the climate came much hotter and drier,
and this killed the vegetation that these original animals depended on.
Secondly the arrival of hunters into North-America crossed over the Bering Strait landbridge from Asia
coincided with the extinction of these animals and very likely these hunters
went after these large animals that were slow and had a lot of meat.
What is left in North-America were animals such as bison,
deer and antelope that are not suited to domestication.
In 1491
native American tribes hunt wild animals to survive,
but the village dwellers in the forests of the north-east and nomads on the planes
developed methods to guarantee their meat supply.
They can't domesticate these animals
so they find a way of making their prey come to them.
In the years before Columbus native Americans
noticed the grass grows better after being burned by lightning strikes.
So they start to burn the prairies and plains themselves.
Many tribes use this technique including the Sioux, Cheyenne, Comanche,
Shoshone and the Blackfeet. America in 1492 was not a pristine wilderness,
that's a romantic myth, it was in many ways a managed landscape.
Natives regularly burnt the forests and the prairie in order to attract the game.
Not only does burning create lush grasslands,
it keeps the forest open and makes hunting easier.
The new rich pastures lured and increased the numbers of herbivores,
as well as the predators that feed on them.
They domesticate the land in order to attract wild animals.
Nomadic central plain Indians are able to lure the biggest mammals in the Americas:
the bison.
Wherever they roam,
bison are the main source of food and clothing and of tools made from their bones.
But still the bison thrive.
By 1491
North-America is home to perhaps thirty million.
They reigned on the prairies from Montana to Texas,
pushed east by native Americans along a path of fire,
opening up the forest to virgin land.
The bison gained a new habitat
far beyond their original range.
Native Americans have no guns or horses.
They hunt on foot.
They dress in hides to get as close as possible
and hunt with a bow and arrow, or spears, all made of wood and leather.
bone and stone.
Hunting the bison is essential for their survival.
In Europe hunting is no longer about survival.
Noblemen hunt for sport,
for pleasure and prestige.
And only the nobles are allowed to hunt.
If ever they catch a peasant hunting he will be punished for poaching.
Unlike in America there's no room here for an abundance of wildlife,
for endless herds.
In Europe the land is man-made.
Agriculture and cities push the wildlife back.
Untamed land is now a rarity, but they have one other major food source.
Fish have long been cheap and abundant for every social class in Europe.
Christianity, the common religion all over Europe in 1491
approves of fish.
Eating meat is banned on more than one hundred days a year.
The demand for fish is huge, but intensive agriculture is damaging the fish supplies.
Once unlimited
supplies in Europe are dwindling fast.
What happened to the fish stocks in Europe?
As people started to grow crops and cut back the wildwoods
this released huge amounts of sediment into the water courses which change them
from being fast clear-flowing rivers and streams into slow turbid rivers and streams
and the freshwater fish found a problem with this, particularly migratory species
that came up from the sea to spawn in the rivers, animals like salmon and sturgeon.
There's another factor which also
cut down the supplies is that these migratory fish and that was that people
started to build dams along rivers and when that happened the migration
runs were blocked and their populations declined.
When supplies of fish dwindled in their polluted lakes and rivers,
they turned to the sea.
For the first time they set up large-scale sea fishing.
They find abundance on a scale never seen before.
And they exploit it.
Cod and herring from the North Sea are the first to be fished.
Every five years catches double.
By 1300
thousands of tons of dried fish are exported from Norway to Britain alone.
But this is 1491
Europe's rivers and lakes are now dirty and empty.
And surroundings seas are fast becoming depleted.