Interesting looking new book (“Before the Revolution: America’s Ancient Past“) on unearthing America’s past in its layered historical strata:
[A half-millenium before Columbus's arrival history] was already happening in North America, where Ancient Native civilizations (like the one built by the Anasazi) were rising and falling; amidst a changing climate, new ways of life, powered by a revolution in agriculture, were being established in new parts of the continent. In Europe, meanwhile, during what we often call the Middle Ages, things were changing, too. Agriculture allowed for the accumulation of wealth, and European land started being divided up into parcels, ruled by armed lords, in the system we now call feudalism. Richter begins by exploring the roots of these two different ways of life — one driven by an idea of property, the other more decentralized — which were, unbeknownst to either side, on a crash-course.
Conventional wisdom has it that invading Europeans simply wiped out the Native way of life. In fact, Richter argues, it’s better to think of what happened in terms of historical layers, each new layer inheriting the shape of the previous one. In the fifteenth century, conquistadores brought the European Middle Ages to America, fueled by religious zeal; but, almost at the same time, European traders built a different kind of life, learning to coexist with Native civilization and importing a sensibility we might recognize as modern and capitalistic.