Native Civilizations of the Americas

In 1700s India was one of the richest nations in the world, but after two centuries of British rule it became one of the poorest. In the 16th century, when Hernán Cortés went to loot Mexico, he was stunned by the beauty of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan. Three centuries later Charles Darwin went that way and found “the most miserable wretches on the face of the earth.” Yes, colonialism was indeed a powerful mechanism.

Post-colonial World History eventually became the history of the Western world; India or Mexico were primitive exotic lands which did not deserve to be mentioned. The engineering, farming and scientific skills of the ancient American civilizations are now slowly getting the attention it deserves, writes Colin McEwan.

By taming the steep mountain slopes, the Incas turned a previously unexploited eco-niche between the lower valleys and the high puna grassland into immensely productive agricultural terrain. Their mastery of the pragmatic demands of water management and irrigation technology blended a consummate knowledge of the landscape with an unrivalled aesthetic sensibility. The sweeping grandeur of these terraces at Pisac, Moray and Ollantaytambo still takes the breath away. [The Americas: The old New World]