Passage 2: Mound-Builder Theories
P1: Some of the most impressive geographical features in North America are the many earth mounds scattered around the continent. These earthworks are enormous artificial hills constructed by various Native American civilizations for ritualistic purposes, such as burials and worship, and they are thousands of years old, with the latest ones being finished hundreds of years before Europeans explored America. Upon their arrival, European explorers were impressed with the structures, but prejudice against the native tribes prevented them from accrediting Native Americans with their construction. Instead, American settlers developed several theories that claimed a superior but extinct “mound-builder” civilization made the earthworks. Moreover, particular details of different mound-builder theories reflected the specific prejudices of the people who supported them. For example, devout Christian groups like the Mormons argued that a sacred Israeli society was responsible, and white Americans argued that only the Vikings could have built such mounds because they believed that their European ancestors were far superior to Native Americans. The persistence of these myths showed how for centuries Americans selectively examined evidence and distorted science in order to support their own agendas against the natives.
P2: Prior to the 20th century, many Americans accepted the mound-builder theories as facts, despite the dubious evidence that supported them. For instance, most believers argued that the presence of metal artifacts beneath the mounds showed that the natives couldn’t have built them because they had no knowledge of metallurgy. Some tribes did in fact possess such skills, and the presence of defensive walls around tribal lands indicates that Native Americans could indeed construct structures such as earth mounds. Nonetheless, most Americans dismissed such evidence and instead considered other potential candidates for the mound builders. Popular choices were ancient Chinese, Greek, or African civilizations, none of which were in prehistoric America. Other people argued that mystical forces, such as God or people from mythical Atlantis, built the mounds.
P3: A common presupposition for all of these theories was that the natives were too unskilled and primitive to build these intricate and complex structures. Ironically, by proclaiming the natives’ ignorance, these theorists often displayed their own ignorance: they didn’t recognize that the writings on many artifacts excavated from the mounds were Native American, particularly because they didn’t know that these tribes had written languages. However, the popularity of these myths wasn’t solely the result of racism and ignorance: these theories also served the Americans’ agenda of seizing native lands. During the 19th century, when these theories were most popular, Americans expanded throughout the continent and eventually gained total control of all native territory. The settlers often justified their conquests by claiming that the natives themselves had stolen the land after they eradicated the mound-builders, so the Americans were essentially avenging these vanished peoples.
P4: In order to support these agendas, proponents of the mound-builder theories would point to any bit of evidence, no matter how weak, that lent credence to their claims, and some even planted false evidence. Throughout the 19th century, excavations at many mound sites produced forged tablets, and these supported theories that either the natives had killed the original builders of the earth mounds or that the mounds were indeed built by a sacred people. AU of these were inscribed with different languages, such as Mayan, Chinese, Hebrew, and Egyptian, and this supposedly proved that non-native civilizations built these mounds.A While these findings were eventually exposed as frauds, the mound-builder theories persisted, even to this day, especially among groups that claim racial superiority over the natives. B
P5: Regardless of the misinformation and domineering prejudice that supported mound-builder theories, there has always been support for the idea that natives constructed the earthworks. C The early American president Thomas Jefferson reached this conclusion when he performed excavations at these sites and recognized similarities between native burials and mound burials. D Also, early evidence includes accounts by Spanish and French explorers who stayed with various native tribes and learned of the construction of many mounds. The myths finally ceased to be the dominating view after ethnologist Cyrus Thomas proved that native tribes constructed the mounds. At the end of the 19th century, this also became the United States government’s official position.
Directions: Mark your answer by filling in the oval next to your choice.
14. According to paragraph 1, the earth mounds
(A) still pose many questions as To who built them
(B) show that an American people preceded the natives
(C) were scoffed at by the first European settlers
(D) were misunderstood for hundreds of years
15. In paragraph 1, what does the author imply about the mound-builder theories?
(A] They were based on native history.
(B) They didn’t find many supporters.
(Cl They confirmed pre-existing beliefs.
(D) They are widely accepted today.
16. The word dubious in the passage is closest in meaning to
17. The word presupposition in the passage is closest in meaning to
18. Which of the sentences below best expresses the essential information in the highlighted sentence in the passage? Incorrect choices change the meaning in important ways or leave out essential information.
“A common presupposition for all of these theories was that the natives were too unskilled and primitive to build these intricate and complex structures. Ironically, by proclaiming the natives’ ignorance, these theorists often displayed their own ignorance: they didn’t recognize that the writings on many artifacts excavated from the mounds were Native American, particularly because they didn’t know that these tribes had written languages. However, the popularity of these myths wasn’t solely the result of racism and ignorance: these theories also served the Americans’ agenda of seizing native lands. During the 19th century, when these theories were most popular, Americans expanded throughout the continent and eventually gained total control of all native territory. The settlers often justified their conquests by claiming that the natives themselves had stolen the land after they eradicated the mound-builders, so the Americans were essentially avenging these vanished peoples.“
(A) Many Native American tribes could actually write in their own languages, which several believers of the mound-builder theories wouldn’t realize until decades later.
(B) By claiming that the natives were too ignorant to write language, the myths’ believers actually showed that they were too ignorant to recognize native writing.
(Q The people who argued in favor of the mound-builder myths showed that the discovery of inscribed artifacts proved no Native American tribe ever built earthworks.
(D) Proponents of myths surrounding the earth mounds lacked crucial knowledge of the various native cultures, and this showed in their support for such ignorant theories.
19. The phrase these vanished peoples in the passage refers to
20. In paragraph 3, the author describes the American conquest of native lands in order to
(A) show how important the mounds were to white Americans
(B) explain how settlers were able to excavate the mounds
(C) prove that natives couldn’t build effective walls or mounds
(D) discuss how the mound-builder theories were exploited
21. The word these in the passage refers to
22. According to paragraph 4, how did the Cake tablets allegedly prove that Native Americans didn’t build the earth mounds?
(A) They supposedly existed before any native society.
(B) They featured writing from other civilizations.
(C) They were metal, which natives couldn’t make.
(D) They resembled sacred tablets described in the Bible
23. What early evidence contradicted mound-builder theories?
(A) the burial of Native American bodies
(B) the presence of many native artifacts
(C) the written records of various Europeans
(D) the excavations of Cyrus Thomas
24. According to the passage, all of the following are true about mound-builder theories EXCEPT:
(A) Most expressed racist attitudes.
(B) They became government policy.
(C) Some involved fictional societies.
(D) They relied on shaky evidence.
25. Look at the four squares cc that show where the following sentence could be inserted in the passage.
“For instance, some black nationalist groups believe that an African civilization responsible for constructing the pyramids also built the earth mounds; like the Viking theory, this myth serves to stress pride in a particular race.”
26. Directions: An introductory sentence for a brief summary of the passage is provided below. Complete the summary by selecting the THREE answer choices that express the most important ideas in the passage. Some sentences do not belong in the summary because they express ideas that are not presented in the passage or are minor ideas in the passage. This question is worth 2 points.
Mound-builder theories were prevalent and popular in America throughout the 19th century.
(A) People had always argued against mound-builder theories, even when they were widely accepted.
(B) Despite the lack of credible science or research, many of the outlandish theories were accepted virtually as proven fact.
(C) The earth mounds were large structures that served as ritual sites for the Native Americans.
(D) Americans annexed native territory as revenge for what the tribes had done to the society that constructed the earth mounds.
(E) The theories reflected and reinforced popular beliefs about the natives’ inferiority to the setders.
(F) Thomas lefferson found that many of the burial rituals at the mounds were not at all similar to Native American burials.