Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ancient maps and corn help track the migrations of indigenous people

16.06.2004


Maps are tools to show you where you are going, but they can also show you where you came from. That principle drives the work of Roberto Rodríguez and Patrisia Gonzales, who study ancient maps, oral traditions and the movement of domesticated crops to learn more about the origins of native people in the Americas.



"How do you bring memory back to a people that were told not to remember?" asks Rodríguez. As longtime scholars and syndicated columnists, Gonzales and Rodríguez explore this issue and others related to native people in the Americas. They recently entered the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences as graduate students in the life sciences communication department, and are teaching a class this summer that shows how the stories of Wisconsin’s native people fit into the larger history of the continent.

European efforts to homogenize indigenous people in the Americas destroyed much knowledge of the origins, migrations and history of different peoples, explains Rodríguez. However, some migration stories persist in oral traditions, including a central story - told in Mexico and depicted on the Mexican flag - of native people moving south from a place called Aztlán. The location of that place and the paths of movement are unclear, says Rodríguez, because people were moving around in all directions for thousands of years.


He’s trying to untangle the different paths, and trace them back to their root.

"I’m not looking for an individual answer to the question ’where did I come from,’" he adds. "Patrisia and I want to know where we as a people came from."

Rodríguez and Gonzales have pursued this question as authors, teachers, distinguished community scholars at the University of California-Los Angeles, and now as CALS graduate students. One line of inquiry has led them to study dozens of maps of what is now Central America, Mexico and the United States, created by cartographers from around the world and dating as far back as the 1500s.

"Europeans back then were fascinated with newly discovered lands and people," Rodríguez explains. Mapmakers often added notes and comments to their drawings, including references to the homelands of indigenous groups on some of the maps. One notation from the1768 Alzate map reads, "The Mexican Indians are said to have departed from the shores of this lake to found their empire," in reference to what is now the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Another shows an ancient city near the Colorado and Green rivers, also in Utah.

Rodríguez says that the maps represent a previously untapped source of information. "These maps were all in public archives," including the Wisconsin State Historical Society, says Rodríguez. "However, we could find only one other researcher that had used them, and he dealt with the topic much differently than we have. What we are pursing is not in the realm of legend or myth, but as historical fact and narrative."

Besides maps, Rodríguez and Gonzales have researched ancient chronicles, pictographs, and oral traditions. They are also studying the spread of plants-including corn and herbs-to track migration.

"I was taught to follow corn-that is who we, as a people, are," explains Rodríguez. "Looking at the story of this continent, civilization has to do with food, in this case, corn." Corn was first domesticated in southern Mexico at least 5,000 years ago, and was moved by humans across the continent, he says.

"I was drawn to Madison for grad school in part because of the name of the department, which used to be called agricultural journalism," he recalls. "The word ’agriculture’ with the journalism was a perfect fit with our ideas about corn."

Rodríguez and Gonzales have visited some of the sites indicated on the maps and have found intriguing possibilities, but no firm evidence of a single migration point, though many of the maps allude to the Salt Lake region. "What is clear," says Rodríguez, "is that the people of this region, from the Utes, Paiutes, Shoshones, Hopis and Yaquis, on south to Mexico and Central America, spoke a common language and were related. But many other people were also related via maize and trade."


Rodríguez and Gonzales recently organized a UCLA symposium (http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/chavez/Aztlanahuac/index.htm) examining the migrations and origins of native people, and displayed 40 of the ancient maps they have studied. They also spoke at a UW-Madison conference called "Who Owns America," sponsored by the Land Tenure Center.

Roberto Rodríguez | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/chavez/Aztlanahuac/index.htm
http://www.wisc.edu/

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Atmospheric scientists reveal the effect of sea-ice loss on Arctic warming
11.03.2019 | Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences

nachricht Sensing shakes
11.03.2019 | University of Tokyo

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Magnetic micro-boats

Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.

The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...

Im Focus: Self-healing coating made of corn starch makes small scratches disappear through heat

Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.

Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

Im Focus: Revealing the secret of the vacuum for the first time

New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum

For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

To proliferate or not to proliferate

21.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Magnetic micro-boats

21.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Motorless pumps and self-regulating valves made from ultrathin film

21.03.2019 | HANNOVER MESSE

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>