I am happy to announce that the University of Oklahoma Press had extended an offer to publish my book about the Mound Builders. The book is currently scheduled for a Spring 2020 release, pending final contract approval. The 163,000-word volume will be priced affordably (most likely under $30) and will be available online and at fine retailers nationwide.
However, the editorial and marketing teams are still looking for the right title for my book. So, today I am going to paste the description of the book from the proposal below and ask for your help in selecting a title for the book. The editors suggested Stolen History as a possibility. If you have another, please comment below or send me a message at JasonColavito@outlook.com. Please note: The description is not the official book description, but simply a summary / teaser that I put together for the book proposal.
And don’t forget to contribute to my annual fundraiser going on this week!
About the Book
What would you say if you found out that a few dozen people, operating at the highest levels of American society, all with deep and strange connections to one another, were responsible for faking the entire ancient history of the American continent to promote a religious, white-supremacist agenda in service of patriotic ideals? Would you call it fake news? For nineteenth century Americans it was a powerful truth that shaped Manifest Destiny.
It is a story that reads like a real-life version of the Da Vinci Code playing out at the highest levels of government, religion, and science—but with very real consequences.
The myth started out as two related questions: Where did the Native Americans come from? And, who built the tens of thousands of ancient earthen mounds blanketing America—some of which were nearly as large as the pyramids of Egypt?
At first, the answers seemed obvious. In 1783, Thomas Jefferson became the first person to conduct a scientific archaeological investigation. He used methods he developed himself to explore a Native American burial mound near his estate of Monticello in Virginia and reported his findings in Notes on the State of Virginia (1787). In an age when antiquarian excavation was little more than digging for treasure, his excavation anticipated by a full century the development of scientific archaeology. He found that the mounds were the work of Native Americans, who, in turn, were the descendants of people who migrated to America from Asia across the Bering Strait. Jefferson’s findings were added to the Encyclopedia Britannica as undisputed fact.
This should have settled the question. Instead, Jefferson’s report sparked claims and counterclaims from Jefferson’s friends and colleagues, including Noah Webster and Benjamin Franklin, politicians like DeWitt Clinton, Revolutionary War veterans, and religious leaders cast doubt on Jefferson’s findings, building up a myth of a lost white Mound Builder race, probably the Lost Tribes of Israel, based on little more than racism, Bible quotations, and wishful thinking. Most strange of all is the fact that the entire myth was created by only a handful of men numbered among early America’s political and intellectual elite, all of whom knew one another and corresponded with each other, and all of whom ought to have known better. In the end, it was the prestige of these early American leaders that enshrined fiction as fact.
This fanciful story became the governing myth of the new United States, providing a satisfying rejoinder to the thousands of years of history and tradition Americans had left behind in Europe. The Old World might have Greeks and Romans and Celts, but America had a Lost Race and the Lost Tribes. As America struggled to emerge from Britain’s shadow, creating a unique and independent history serviced an important and essential need. As a result, science lost out to myth, and Jefferson’s careful archaeology was eventually replaced with the groundless Lost Race theory even in the Encyclopedia Britannica.
The consequences were devastating. Lost Race believers included two U.S. presidents: William Henry Harrison and Andrew Jackson—who called the mounds the “monuments and fortresses of an unknown people” in the State of the Union Address. Jackson invoked the theory before Congress to justify the mass deportation of Native Americans from the eastern U.S.—the Trail of Tears—and the subsequent effort to eliminate Native Americans as distinct peoples. For the next 50 years, the American government engaged in endemic warfare and cultural genocide against Native peoples in order to seize Native lands and destroy their culture, all in the name of “restoring” the land to the “white” people who once lived there—the Lost Race. The result was the death of untold Native Americans and the devastation of hundreds of Native cultures in service of political expediency and an intellectual fraud.
Many of the actors in this drama were liars and frauds. The plagiarist St. John Crevecoeur faked testimony from Benjamin Franklin about a lost race that became a standard element of Franklin biographies for a century. The self-aggrandizing Caleb Atwater promoted the Lost Race theory after a life of business failure, using other people’s research without citation. Even distinguished scientists were not immune. C. S. Rafinesque faked ancient texts written by the Mound Builders to restore a reputation destroyed by Atwater after Rafinesque pointed out Atwater’s academic fraud. Archaeologist William Pidgeon falsified reports to invent a mystical white Mound Builder “code” embedded in the mounds. Farmhands and scholars alike faked buried tablets and parchments to supply “proof” of the Mound Builder race. Lie piled on lie. And because so many wanted to believe it, the lie became the truth.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, the Mound Builder myth reached its apotheosis in the foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Its founder, Joseph Smith, told the world that he had found golden tablets belonging to the Lost Tribes inside a giant mound near Palmyra, New York and had translated them to reveal a new testament of Christ, who had visited the Lost Tribes in primitive America. A Mound Builder theory that had begun as an intellectual fraud was canonized as America’s first indigenous faith. As the Mormons moved west, they tried to convert the Natives in order to help bring about the prophesied End of Days, when the Jews would turn to Christ. When that didn’t work, they went to war.
And yet the foundation of the Mormon Church began the slow process of undoing the myth of the Mound Builders. Questions over the authenticity of the Book of Mormon—for no one other than Mormons believed it was really an ancient text revealed by an angel—led to investigations into the origins of the Book, and the Mound Builders it depicted. Did Smith copy his book from a novel by Solomon Spalding, or adapt it from a bestselling religious tract by Ethan Smith? Was there really any proof of Lost Tribes buried in the mounds? Evidence began to slowly accumulate demonstrating that the imaginary Mound Builder culture was little more than a tissue of lies concocted in the years around 1800. Countless scholars had made their careers defending the Mound Builder myth and proposing a glorious American prehistory peopled by Hebrews, Phoenicians, Welsh, Greeks, and other non-Native peoples. Textbooks were rewritten to enshrine racist lies as “scientific” truths. It took time and effort to undo the lie—another sixty years—and even this effort was only partially successful.
The Mound Builder myth’s legacy governed America’s policies toward Native Americans during Manifest Destiny as well as Mormon relations with the Native peoples they displaced in Utah. The result was always the same: violence, ending in physical, spiritual, and cultural devastation for Native peoples. Native populations fell by 60% between 1800 and 1899 as a direct result of policies and practices inspired by imperialism, racism, and the Mound Builder myth.
This book is a narrative of this forgotten chapter in American history, from Jefferson’s pioneering work down to the 1894 report of the Bureau of American Ethnology in which Cyrus Thomas summarized his two decades of mound work to prove conclusively that America’s ancient monuments were the work of Native Americans. But by then, the damage had been done. The 113 years between Jefferson and Thomas demonstrate the consequences of lies accepted as convenient truths, with ramifications that echo today in arguments over white nationalism, multiculturalism, “alternative facts,” the role of science in public life, and who controls knowledge.
12/18/2018 09:20:59 am
A few suggestions
12/18/2018 09:22:23 am
BTW: Congrats Jason
12/18/2018 01:02:31 pm
12/18/2018 08:09:37 pm
Did you mean for that to be sung to the tune of John Denver's "Country Road"?
12/18/2018 09:47:09 am
(Self)Manifest(ed) Destiny, perhaps?
12/18/2018 10:27:47 am
12/18/2018 10:54:48 am
Serious question. Didn't African American groups also claim their ancestors built the mounds?
12/18/2018 11:10:07 am
Sure, the same radical Afrocentrists who claimed the Olmecs were Africans sometimes try to claim the Mound Builders too (on the grounds that the Mound Builders were Olmecs, obviously), but that's a much later development than what I assume is the scope of Jason's book.
12/18/2018 12:40:10 pm
Judging by Jason's last paragraph, it would seem he's going to tie it all in with modern white supremacists. Seems though that whites aren't the only ones trying to lay claim to the land, and also aren't the only shade of color that denies Native Americans their due in this regard.
12/18/2018 12:49:46 pm
I guess, in some super technical way? But it's not like any government was ever enforcing the Afrocentrist view with laws, nor was any Afrocentrist view ever the majority either popularly or intellectually. So why focus on that, over the obvious White Supremacy angle which is enshrined? Surely you don't want to fall into the intellectual and moral idiocy that is "Whataboutism"?
12/18/2018 03:20:38 pm
Got it. Disregard facts and evidence that don't support your preconceived conclusions.
12/18/2018 04:57:17 pm
An Anonymous Nerd
12/21/2018 07:31:33 pm
Mr. Scales continues to be as-easily triggered as ever, I see, and continues to rely on the caustic rant as his primary tool -- like most of his comrades on the Right and the Fringe.
12/23/2018 10:13:43 am
12/18/2018 11:04:42 am
12/18/2018 11:10:09 am
I think you have nailed it and am awaiting the publication of your book. It is interesting how this distortion of history is still going on today. We still see many people espousing theories that were blatantly made up in the nineteenth century as being true. I think there are few modern pundits that are chasing hidden history in America are actually researching Mormon mythology and they don't even know it. This is my last comment on this blog as I am required to go through a lengthy verification process just to post here.
American Cool "Disco" Dan
12/18/2018 05:13:25 pm
Okay, who wants what in the pool?
12/18/2018 11:11:38 am
"Stolen history" is good.
12/18/2018 11:36:02 am
Stolen history: the whitewashing of America.
12/18/2018 12:00:52 pm
Shopping it to a university press, what a brilliant idea LOL.
12/18/2018 03:35:44 pm
12/18/2018 07:27:43 pm
Nothing really. Several months back when he was having trouble finding an agent or publishing house interested in the project I told him he would be best served by shopping it to university presses. My suggestion didnt go over very well, at that time. But alls well that end well and it is a real feather in his cap in terms of credibility with academic types.
12/19/2018 04:20:55 pm
Ah I see, my suggestion of shopping it to the University of Oklahoma press seems to have worked out lol.
12/19/2018 06:55:28 pm
Yeah, Okie Press was a good call. Okie State Press or Nebraska would have been good options as well as Alabama given the tie ins to Native American studies and archaeology.
12/18/2018 12:07:24 pm
12/18/2018 02:06:50 pm
"Stolen History" Revealing the Trugh in America" is already a modern book about progressives and politics. You might be confused for that one.
12/18/2018 02:08:57 pm
Of Mounds and Men
12/18/2018 02:21:00 pm
12/18/2018 03:17:35 pm
If Astronomy isn't part of the discussion, your work will be incomplete.
American Cool "Disco" Dan
12/18/2018 05:52:04 pm
Thank you Priceless Defender, you're really good at repeating that over and over.
12/18/2018 06:48:58 pm
"Dirty History of Mound Builders"
12/18/2018 08:13:21 pm
There were no mud brick pyramids or mounds in the eastern US. They were piled up basket loads of earth and clay. Often in sophisticated layers to stop them from slumping and to make them drain better, but not a one has ever been found to have "mud bricks". In some instances in excavations they have found actual intact basket loads of slightly different colored earth.
12/21/2018 01:52:46 am
12/18/2018 03:37:06 pm
Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley
12/18/2018 05:46:54 pm
I'm glad to see this getting attention! I like "Stolen History" as a title. It's amazing how few Americans know this (fake) history. In my blog, I briefly summarize the rise and fall of the Mound Builder Myth and connect it to events in the ethnic cleansing of the 1800s. That here at https://memoriesofthepeople.wordpress.com/2018/02/21/alt-history-part-1-the-mound-builder-myth-and-ethnic-cleansing/
12/18/2018 08:07:41 pm
Pity you couldn't get ancient aliens of an Adamskian nature in. Then you could have called it "Mounds of Venus".
12/18/2018 08:44:42 pm
12/18/2018 08:45:49 pm
Congratulations, Jason. Look forward to the book's premier. I am really glad you found a publisher, after all your hard work and what you've been through. Christmas came a bit early, eh.
12/18/2018 09:13:53 pm
12/18/2018 10:48:07 pm
Mounds of Evidence
12/20/2018 06:54:44 pm
Congratulations on your forthcoming, Jason. I look forward to seeing it!
12/21/2018 05:55:44 am
I hope you devote at least some if not a good portion of your book to the actual mound builders themselves. I have been very interested in their culture and history. They were arguably one of the most advanced and powerful people in what is now the United States. I don't know how they compare to the meso-American or Andean empires, but that is something of interest. I am especially curious how they used the incredible river system they were centered on and the agricultural potential of the Midwest (both some of the best in the word and a good reason why the U.S. is the world power). My understanding is that the mound builders essentially died off before much European interaction, although de Soto may have encountered them, which is maybe why they died off; and if so, would be a striking parallel to de Orellana's exploration of the Amazon River basin where he may have encountered another very advanced Indian culture that likely soon died off. It would have also been very interesting to see how the plains cultures, after they adopted the horse culture, interacted with an advanced and seemingly powerful but agricultural mound builders (perhaps a parallel to the Mongolian and other steppe peoples numerous and ruinous invasions of Eurasia); but, the mound builders and horse cultures of the plains never really coexisted. So, I digress.
An Anonymous Nerd
12/21/2018 07:41:52 pm
[Unfortunately your book looks more focused on white American efforts to appropriate the mound builders and their achievements towards their own purposes therefore denying a great culture its historical due (btw, I am uneasy about the concept of cultural appropriation, I think it is more often used too broadly, but in this case it is entirely appropriate).]
An Anonymous Nerd
12/21/2018 07:35:53 pm
"Stolen History" is actually pretty damn good. Someone will need to think of a snappy subtitle to go with it. What's good about it is that it does not emphasize the mounds or the ancient past.
12/22/2018 02:44:00 pm
I'm not one to pontificate, but...
12/22/2018 02:46:14 pm
Oh yeah and...
An Anonymous Nerd
12/22/2018 08:56:41 pm
[I'm not one to pontificate. ]
12/23/2018 01:53:16 am
12/22/2018 01:46:04 pm
I think that "The Moundbuilder Myth" or "The Myth of the Moundbuilders" is more what you have in mind that "The Moundbuilders," since you are more interested in the 19th c speculation about who built the mounds than the mounds themselves. This is a legitimate topic, but a different one than that covered say by Bill Romain's new book, "An Archaeology of the Sacred."
12/22/2018 06:22:04 pm
Who built the Mounds? What THEY don't want you to know!
8/20/2019 11:57:29 am
Jason, your book sounds fascinating, but can you really describe the myth of the mound builders as a 'forgotten chapter in American history'? Terry Barnhart's excellent American Antiquities, which covers much of the same material, was published in 2015, and Barbara Alice Mann’s spiky Native Americans, Archaeologists, and the Mounds, which also mentions the political use of the myth by Jackson, Harrison, et al., was published in 2003. The various theories regarding the Ohioan, Mississippian, and other mounds, inclusive of their racist and white supremacist presuppositions, are a well aired theme in the history of North American archaeology, and, as such, are no more forgotten than, say, anti-Catholic legislation in early nineteenth-century New York, Louis Agassiz’s polygenism, or Newton’s alchemical interests. Perhaps the mounds, and the nineteenth-century historiographical traditions that were built up around them, are not part of the general American historical consciousness, but the same is true, I think, of much other, academically uncontroversial, basic social, political, cultural, and intellectual history.
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