3º ESO

Topic Five:

America before 1492

Ancient America
The first inhabitants of the American continents were nomadic hunters and gathers. These nomads probably arrived in North America around 40,000 years ago, following a land bridge that formed between North America and Asia. It is believed that another group of humans migrated from Asia into North America around 12,000 years ago. Some scientist also think that some people might have used boats to follow ocean currents to the tip of South America, while others arrived following ice from Western Europe. As these various groups traveled into the new world following wild game, they spread out across the land, forming new cultures, and in some cases, complex civilizations. Four thousands of years, these early inhabitants of the Americas made a life by hunting game, and gathering food from seeds, berries, and wild plants. Then around 5000 B.C. an agricultural revolution took place near present day Mexico.

Agricultural Revolution
For thousands of years, the inhabitants who lived on the American continents lived off of the land. Then in 5000 B.C. near present day Mexico many groups of people began to discover farming. They realized that they could plant crops such as corn, pumpkins, potatoes, and squash, and by doing so, could better provide for the needs of their people. This new technology spread from Mexico outward to other parts of the Southwest, so that by 3000 B.C. many groups of people in the region were actively practicing farming.

Villages Development
The practice of farming the land led to the development of villages. The people no longer had to travel in search of wild game and plant life. Instead, they could settle down in one place, and begin to build more permanent structures. These permanent villages allowed for more complex societies and cultures to evolve in the region. New religions and governments began to form, and individuals began to become more specialized in their jobs. This specialization of work tasks allowed technology to really take off, so that great advancements were made. The people became more skilled in tool making, creating special implements for farming, fishing, building and so forth. All of this meant that the standard of living in the Americas could be greatly improved. This improved standard of living led to a population explosion. By A.D. 1500 it is estimated that more than 50 million people lived in the Western Hemisphere.

Cultural Differentiation
The various peoples inhabiting North America gradually developed many different and unique cultures. Each culture was heavily influenced by the land, and natural resources around the people. These cultures included their traditions, religious practices, and their everyday lives and customs. As this happened, the various cultures became regionalized. That is to say that the cultures of different groups of people were very similar to one another in the same region, but very different from the cultures of the peoples in another region. The process of cultures developing in a specific region is known as cultural differentiation. The regions that developed in North America were the Arctic, the Northwest, the California region, The Great Basin, the Southwest, the Great Plains, and the Eastern Woodlands.

The Northwest People Like the peoples of the Arctic, the Northwest peoples lived off of the ocean, and rivers. They fished, and hunted wildlife.

The Arctic Peoples The peoples who settled in the Arctic lived in an area of frigid temperatures. Farming the land was impossible. The Eastern Woodlands People lived in farming villages. The land was rich and fertile. The Great Plains This vast region of regular rainfall were covered in wild grasses. These grasses supported a wide variety of wildlife mainly bison.

The Great Basin Little water, and as a result, little wildlife. This made this region a difficult place to live.

The California Region Their lands were warm year round, with abundant rainfall and wildlife. Developed culture, including art, and religion.

The Southwest The peoples of the Southwest lived in some of the most extreme conditions in North America: hot and dry deserts with scarce food and shelter.

Mesoamerican and Southamerican Cultures
The people who inhabited Central America formed a number of advanced civilizations between 1500 B.C. and A.D. 1200. As one civilization faded in the region, another developed to take its place. Later civilizations borrowed many aspects of culture from earlier civilizations, as well as creating their own unique traditions. Historians call these civilizations the Mesoamerican cultures. The word ‘meso’ means ‘middle’. These peoples all lived in middle America. In the Andes Mountains around 1200 a civilization developed independently from the civilizations of Mesoamerica. This civilization would become known as the Incas.



The Teotihuacans The Teotihuacans thrived for nearly 750 years. Then in 750 invaders from the north known as the Toltecs conquered and destroyed them.
The Toltecs The Toltecs began to conquer much of the territory in the region. Their capital city was called Tul

The Olmecs Around 1500 B.C. villages in Mesoamerica became more complex and specialized. These people formed a nation which they called Olmec.

1500 BC

1100 BC

750 BC

400 BC







THE MAYANS (900 BC-900)

INCAS (12001533)

The Mayans
Around 900 B.C a group of people known as the Mayans begin to settle the territory around the Yucatan Peninsula. By 300 A.D. they Mayan culture had become quite advanced. The Mayans were not ruled by a central government. They shared the same language, traditions, and culture, but they were lead by small local governments.

By A.D. 900 the Mayan culture began to decline. It is not entirely clear as to why, however many historians believe that war broke out between different members of royal families. This civil war made farming difficult, and as a result, many people died from hunger and disease. By the late A.D. 900s almost all signs of this once great civilization were gone.

Mayan Sports The Mayans are one of the first peoples to develop and play professional sports. One of the most important sports played by the Mayans was called Pok-a-tok. Using a solid rubber ball, which was about the size of a basketball, teams battled one another. The goal of this game was to hit the ball into a stone hoop. Mayan Science The Mayans became excellent scientists in many different fields, including medicine, astronomy, and mathematics. They tracked the movement of the stars and planets across the sky, and were able to accurately predict celestial events such as eclipses. They also developed an accurate calendar of 360 days, which they used to plan their harvests, and religious ceremonies.

Mayan Writings One of the most important advancements developed by the Mayans was written language. The Mayans developed a complex system of writing, which consisted of both an alphabet, as well as symbols, which represented whole words or thoughts. These writings were recorded in books made out of bark and plaster, as well as carved into monuments, bones, and stone. Many of these writings have survived to the present, and help give us an accurate look at their history, and culture. Mayan Religion The Mayans believed that the universe was made up of two separate worlds. The everyday world, and the otherworld. The everyday world was the world in which they lived. The otherworld, they believed, was were gods, spirits, and their dead ancestors lived. The village chief acted as the leader of political life, as well as the priest. He was responsible for standing between his people, and the otherworld. He performed important religious ceremonies, that the Mayans believed would earn the favor of those in the otherworld, and bring about their blessings. These ceremonies included the sacrifice of humans, as well as the blood letting of the priest.

In A.D. 1400 a group of nomadic hunters called the Aztecs migrated into Mesoamerica in search of food and wild game. By A.D. 1325 the Aztecs had settled in present day Mexico City, and had built a large, beautiful and powerful city, on a small island which they called Tenochtitlan As the population of Tenochtitlan grew, the island became too small. Their innovative solution was to make the island bigger. They built large wooden rafts, which they covered with mud, and secured to the lakebed with stakes. Many people lived and farmed on these floating parcels of land

The Aztec Government The Aztecs founded a strong secure central government. This helped provide stability, and allowed the empire to thrive. At the top of this government was the royal family, headed by an emperor or king This emperor appointed various authorities to rule different regions of his empire. These leaders swore allegiance to the emperor himself. The emperor maintained his control over the empire through the use of his vast and powerful army By A.D. 1500 the Aztecs had used both their military strength, as well as political ties to conquer almost all of the territory in and around their capital city. Their empire stretched from the Pacific Ocean in the west, to the Atlantic Ocean in the east.

The Aztec Empire Falls In A.D. 1521 the peoples who were ruled by the Aztecs grew tired of the treatment they received at their taskmasters hands. The Aztecs required all conquered peoples to pay heavy and burdensome taxes. They also often sacrificed their men to the Aztec gods as part of their religious practices.

In this year these people joined forces with the Spanish explorers, who had arrived in the region, and attacked the Aztec capital. They were quickly able to overthrow the Aztec Empire.

The Inca Empire
In the Andes Mountains around A.D. 1200 a civilization developed independently from the civilizations of Mesoamerica. This civilization would become known as the Incas By the late A.D. 1200s the Incas had settled in the city of Cuzco, which would eventually become their capital. In A.D. 1438 Pachacuti became the king of the Incas. He and his son Topa began a great period of expansion, creating what would be the largest empire in the new world, and one of the largest empires in the world.

The Incas formed a powerful central government. Pachacuti allowed local leaders to continue governing the people, so long as they remained loyal to him. If they did not, he relocated the people to distant parts of his kingdom, where they would not pose a threat. He passed and recorded laws that were consistent throughout the empire, and founded courts, trade routes, and initiated many building projects that strengthened his empire. In order to further unite the people, Pachacuti required all his subjects to learn and speak a common language. This language was called Quechua. There are still many people in these regions who speak Quechua to this

The Incas Fall In A.D. 1533 the Spanish arrived in South America. Hungry for territory, and for converts to Christianity, the Spanish overwhelmed the Incan Empire. Their armies were no match for the far superior Spanish technologies. While the Incan Empire disappeared completely, the Incan people remained in the region. To this day, many descendants of the Incans still inhabit the nations of Chile, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador. These people still speak Quechua, the official Incan language, and still practice Incan culture.

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