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Hidden Cities: The Discovery and Loss of Ancient North American Civilizations Hardcover – July 1, 1994

4.1 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Kennedy, an architectural historian and director of the National Park Service, examines how certain of the Founding Fathers-particularly Washington, Jefferson, and Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin-set out to create a nation free from the prejudices and superstitions of Europe and how they became aware that they missed a great opportunity in the West. He uses their reactions to the mound architecture of the Ohio and Mississippi valleys as the filter for their views on the status of Native Americans and blacks. He also reviews the rationales others used in explaining away the mounds and considers why the mounds were built in the first place. Solidly grounded in archaeological and historical sources, this book requires some effort on the part of the reader to follow Kennedy's argument; it will be most useful to those already well versed in early American history and archaeology. Recom-mended for specialists.
Stephen H. Peters, Northern Michigan Univ. Lib., Marquette
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

Kennedy, director of the National Park Service, does better in exposing the prejudices of whites who came across the monuments of prehistoric America than in elucidating the mysteries embodied in these New World Stonehenges. An estimated 30 million Native Americans died of European or African diseases during the century following the conquistadors' appearance in the Western Hemisphere. They left behind significant traces of sophisticated cities, roads, and burial grounds in Memphis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and elsewhere in the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys. Later explorers and soldiers beheld these relics--which included bits of antiquities, earthen mounds and various geometrical shapes carved into the landscape--with wonder, confusion, and obtuseness. Kennedy (Rediscovering America, 1990, etc.) perceptively analyzes how attempts to preserve and interpret Native American arts and architecture often foundered on the ingrained prejudices of even supposedly enlightened whites. (Thomas Jefferson, for example, was slow to shed his belief that Indians were incapable of architectural achievement.) Jeffersonians and Jacksonians found it easier to deprive Native Americans of land if they could deny that the Indians had a culture worth saving. They failed to follow the lead of such respectful figures as Jefferson's Treasury secretary, Albert Gallatin, described by Kennedy as "the first American statesman to employ the evidence of ancient American architecture to justify exertions to redeem the Republic from racial prejudice." The American mania for development, combined with dismissive scholarship that credited Indian achievements to fair-skinned "Welshmen" who supposedly discovered North America in the Middle Ages, led to a cavalier attitude toward Native American artifacts. By 1948, 90% of the earthen Indian architecture noted in a Smithsonian report 100 years earlier had been lost. Best read as an exploration of colliding cultures rather than an examination of the riddles left behind by Native American builders. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (July 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0029173078
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029173077
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #764,895 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There was a thriving and highly sophisticated civilization in North America long before europeans arrived. Astonishingly, this fact has slowly become mainstream only very recently. Evidence of this civilization presents itself everywhere in the form of earthen architecture, or mounds, scattered throughout North America. Some of these mounds were tufts of earth that easily fell to the plow. Others rose to awe-inspiring monumental heights. And these mounds weren't mere transitory stations for nomads. They provided the centers of massive metropolises that supported thousands of people. So these mounds represent more than piles of dirt (as some may want to blithely excuse them); they represent the earliest known North American Cities. Most mainstream North American history has ignored these structures and the societies that inhabited them. And many of the mounds have fallen prey to urban development projects and "progress". Nearly 90% of the structures recorded by early european settlers have completely disappeared.

Roger Kennedy takes on this hefty subject in this book written in 1994. The title is "Hidden Cities: The Discovery and Loss of Ancient North American Civilization" but the book contains far more information than that. The title actually misleads quite a bit. And the book's argument doesn't present itself in a straightforward linear manner, either. It takes considerable effort, and a large vocabulary, to glean the book's main purpose and salient points. Regardless, this book still presents a good overview for the subject of ancient america because that history gets interwoven with early european-american history.
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Format: Hardcover
In reference to the review below (honestly, just an ignorant rant), the full title of this book is HIDDEN CITIES : THE DISCOVERY AND LOSS OF ANCIENT NORTH AMERICAN CIVILIZATIONS and the book makes no promise, starting right there on the cover, to be an archeology book on the Mound-builder civilizations. In fact, go try to find a good archeology book on these lost civilizations. I dare you. The operative word here is "good" (I've reviewed one entry that was written at a 12-year-old level, was full of juvenile speculation, and truly deserved one star).

This is a phenomenal, well-written, meticulously researched book that details the history of a non-history--ignorance that is present till this day. While I'm steeped in acquaintances who allege they know every little dribble about "Native Americans," few have any knowledge whatsoever of the civilizations of North America that existed right up to the earliest European discoveries. Dawning awareness of these recently vanished civilizations influenced early government policies, got a lot of significant people thinking about who these "savages" they were encountering truly were, and forced others to ask hard questions about history. This book covers this epiphany brilliantly. This is important--essential even--material for any understanding of the relationship of Native Americans and European settlers. And it's out of print!

Honestly, I don't think any of this suits the current white intellectual romanticized notions of tribal peoples in North America very well and that's why so little interest has been shown in the Mound-builders.
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Format: Hardcover
An amazing book about a lost era of American history. Probably one of the best books written on the Mound Builders. While very well documented and footnoted, the book could use more illustrations and maps. Of course to call them "Mound Builders" is not entirely accurate, as they built more than mounds. Pyramids, platforms, circles, squares, cones, octagons, and fortresses. Whoever these mysterious people were, they had a great knowledge of astronomy and geometry to construct what they did, from the Ohio valley to Florida. Many of the sites are lost to time, but there are state parks that do preserve these ancient works. Here we have a lost civilization as great as the Maya--right here in North America!
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Format: Hardcover
This was the first (and perhaps only book) to discuss the discoveries of mounds that are older than the acclaimed Poverty Point. He discusses Watson Brake and Frenchman's Bend which are over 5,000 years old.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Looking for a book that discussed some of the more recent discoveries of our pre-Columbian history and was very pleased with this book, and amazed at what is being discovered. Reading it has given me several exciting places to explore next summer.
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