Searching for Golden Empires: Epic Cultural Collisions in Sixteenth-Century America

William K. Hartmann. Univ. of Arizona, $39.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-8165-3087-8
American schoolchildren dutifully memorize names such as Cortés and Coronado, along with their 16th-century expedition routes through what we now call Mexico and the U.S., yet tend to ignore the indigenous populations in those regions. This remarkable new study fleshes out both explorers and natives, revealing nearly forgotten fluctuations of power and persuasion. In a fresh examination of contemporary accounts, planetary scientist and historian Hartmann (Desert Heart) treats conquistadors and natives fairly while offering impassioned arguments for rehabilitating the images of the much-maligned Montezuma II (he argues for spelling it “Motezuma”) and the “lying monk” Marcos de Niza. The Europeans receive substantial attention due to more available documentation, but Hartmann carefully describes the Native Americans at the end of the pre- Columbian era and addresses with particular fascination their well-developed long-distance information network. Hartmann uses sidebars to explain controversial topics and his own research techniques, including ethnolinguistics. Detailed archaeological evidence and meticulous scholarly investigations make this book especially valuable in academia, but Hartmann’s joyful Indiana Jones–esque attitude will both educate general readers and keep them rapt. Maps & illus. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/22/2014
Release date: 10/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
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