History Podcasts

Civilizations in the Americas - History

Civilizations in the Americas - History

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

While civilizations were being established in the Middle East and Asia, in various parts of South and Central America rich civilzations were also developing. Experts theorize that over 10,000 years ago the first immigrants to North and South America arrived via a Land bridge from Asia. Thefour biggest civlization were established by the Chavi, May, Olmec and Teotihucan's


Mesoamerica is the geographic area stretching from north of Panama up to the desert of central Mexico. Although marked by great topographic, linguistic, and cultural diversity, this region cradled a number of civilizations with similar characteristics. Mesoamericans were polytheistic their gods possessed both male and female traits and demanded blood sacrifices of enemies taken in battle or ritual bloodletting. Corn, or maize, domesticated by 5000 BCE, formed the basis of their diet. They developed a mathematical system, built huge edifices, and devised a calendar that accurately predicted eclipses and solstices and that priest-astronomers used to direct the planting and harvesting of crops. Most important for our knowledge of these peoples, they created the only known written language in the Western Hemisphere researchers have made much progress in interpreting the inscriptions on their temples and pyramids. Though the area had no overarching political structure, trade over long distances helped diffuse culture. Weapons made of obsidian, jewelry crafted from jade, feathers woven into clothing and ornaments, and cacao beans that were whipped into a chocolate drink formed the basis of commerce. The mother of Mesoamerican cultures was the Olmec civilization.

Flourishing along the hot Gulf Coast of Mexico from about 1200 to about 400 BCE, the Olmec produced a number of major works of art, architecture, pottery, and sculpture. Most recognizable are their giant head sculptures and the pyramid in La Venta. The Olmec built aqueducts to transport water into their cities and irrigate their fields. They grew maize, squash, beans, and tomatoes. They also bred small domesticated dogs which, along with fish, provided their protein. Although no one knows what happened to the Olmec after about 400 BCE, in part because the jungle reclaimed many of their cities, their culture was the base upon which the Maya and the Aztec built. It was the Olmec who worshipped a rain god, a maize god, and the feathered serpent so important in the future pantheons of the Aztecs (who called him Quetzalcoatl) and the Maya (to whom he was Kukulkan). The Olmec also developed a system of trade throughout Mesoamerica, giving rise to an elite class.

The Olmec carved heads from giant boulders that ranged from four to eleven feet in height and could weigh up to fifty tons. All these figures have flat noses, slightly crossed eyes, and large lips. These physical features can be seen today in some of the peoples indigenous to the area.

Main Article

Culture Areas

Since North America did not experience the rise and fall of empires, Essential Humanities does not survey the history of this region in a linear fashion instead, summaries are provided for each of North America's ten indigenous culture areas . A "culture area" is a region whose population features a distinct culture (e.g. subsistence methods, tools, religious beliefs) although many unique cultural groups may be found within a given culture area, these groups are united by broad commonalities (just as the modern United States is united by a common American culture, even though the nation may be divided into many sub-cultures). Since culture is influenced by geography and climate, culture areas often feature distinct natural environments (see Climates and Biomes).

Four of North America's indigenous culture areas developed settled agricultural life, while the other six retained a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The hunter-gatherer zone can be divided into the food-scarce regions (Arctic, Subarctic, Plateau, Great Basin), where subsistence was a constant challenge, and the food-abundant coast (California, Northwest Coast), where subsistence was relatively easy.

Indigenous Culture Areas of North America
agricultural life Northeast Woodlands
Southeast Woodlands
hunter-gatherer life food-scarce regions Arctic
Great Basin
food-abundant regions California
Northwest Coast

The harshest culture area is the Arctic , a tundra realm inhabited by the Eskimos (in the Canadian, Alaskan, and eastern Siberian Arctic) and Aleuts (a much smaller group in the Alaskan Arctic). The Eskimo language family has two main branches: Inuit and Yupik. The Inuit people live in Greenland and Arctic Canada, while the Yupik are found in Alaska and eastern Siberia. (In Canada and Greenland, the term "Eskimo" is often deemed offensive "Inuit" is used instead.) 15

During the winter, Arctic peoples traditionally dwelt in domes of snow or earth, living on fish and sea mammals. In summer, they moved inland to hunt caribou (which migrated northward in summer for grazing) and lived in skin tents. The dogsled and kayak (animal-skin boat) were both essential to Arctic life. 2,3,15

The Subarctic culture region, covered mainly in coniferous forest, encompasses most of Alaska and Canada. Subarctic peoples hunted various animals (notably caribou, aka reindeer) and fished in winter, many navigated the frozen landscape with snowshoes and toboggans. 15 Most of the Cree and Athabaskan peoples are native to the Subarctic region.

The other two food-scarce hunter-gatherer culture areas are hemmed in by mountains: the Rockies to the east, smaller ranges to the west. The Great Basin is the harsher of the two, being mainly desert its native inhabitants (which include the Washoe and Ute peoples) lived on seeds, nuts, and small animals. The Plateau region to the north (home to the Okanagan, Flathead, and Yakama peoples) was more forgiving, containing grassland and forest in addition to desert, as well as two major rivers (the Fraser and Columbia) that provided a modest salmon fishery. 15

Life in the two food-abundant hunter-gatherer regions was quite different. In the California culture area (a mix of forest, grassland, and desert), edible plants, game, and seafood were plentiful. This allowed small villages to flourish, despite the absence of agriculture. A common staple was acorn bread, prepared by grinding acorns into pulp and extracting their poison before baking. 15 The Pomo and Wappo are two well-known California peoples.

On the forested Northwest Coast , food (especially salmon) was overwhelmingly plentiful. This allowed the Northwest peoples (including the Tlingit, Haida, and Chinook) to thrive in large villages, and to become the world's only highly stratified hunter-gatherer society (including slaves, commoners, and multiple levels of nobles). Central to Northwest culture were sea-going cedar canoes and a fantastic style of wood-carving, most famously in the form of totem poles (see North American Art). 1,15

The remaining four culture areas of North America made the transition to settled agricultural life (though not necessarily universally some peoples in these areas retained hunter-gatherer life). Settlement population size varied, with the second-largest villages emerging in the Southwest, the largest in the Southeast Woodlands.

In the (mainly desert) Southwest region, agricultural settlements thrived alongside rivers, especially the Colorado and the Rio Grande. Like other desert farming societies (e.g. Egypt), the Southwest tribes built networks of irrigation channels to multiply arable land. 1,15 Southwest peoples include the Apache, Pueblo, and Navajo.

Peoples of the Plains region (which covers the central US and the southern portion of Canada's "prairie provinces") are famous for their buffalo-skin clothing and elaborate feather headdresses. Until the eighteenth century, they lived a settled farming life supplemented with buffalo-hunting. Plains life changed dramatically with the arrival of horses (from Spanish colonies to the south), which led many to abandon farming for a nomadic life of hunting from horseback some Great Basin and Plateau peoples were also drawn into Plains nomadism. 1,15 Plains peoples include the Blackfoot, Sioux, and Comanche.

The eastern United States (and a sliver of southeastern Canada), covered mainly in deciduous forest, is known as the Eastern Woodlands region. 1 (This term encompasses both the Northeast and Southeast Woodlands culture areas.) Throughout antiquity and the medieval period, various cultures of this region erected large earthen mounds, including conical, flat-topped, and line-shaped mounds. 26 Some mounds were raised over burial sites, while others served as platforms for great buildings. 27

The Eastern Woodlands region is typically divided into north and south. The northern part, known as the Northeast Woodlands , was home to relatively small agricultural settlements. Deerskin clothing, birchbark canoes, wigwams, and longhouses are characteristic of this region. 15 The Iroquois, Ojibwe, and Algonquin are all indigenous to the Northeast Woodlands.

The Southeast Woodlands gave rise to the largest settlements of pre-colonial North America. A typical Southeast village consisted of a town centre (where the nobles lived) surrounded by farms (where most of the commoners lived and worked) often, the village was dotted with mounds, which served as platforms for temples and houses. 15 Southeast peoples include the Caddo, Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Choctaw.

Agricultural settlements in pre-colonial North America reached peak size during the medieval period (ca. 500-1500). (Recall that agricultural life was limited to four culture areas: Southwest, Plains, Northeast Woodlands, and Southeast Woodlands.) This was largely due to relatively plentiful rainfall over these regions during the medieval era. 15

In the Southeast Woodlands culture area, population growth during the medieval period was so strong that one settlement, Cahokia, actually exceeded 10,000 residents. 23 (Thus, by the Essential Humanities definition of civilization, pre-colonial North America did experience civilization briefly, at Cahokia.) Cahokia was a settlement of the Mississippian culture (an umbrella term for the Southeast Woodlands peoples of the medieval era).


In the Paleozoic and Early Mesozoic eras, South America and Africa were connected in a landmass called Gondwana, as part of the supercontinent Pangaea. In the Albian, around 110 mya, South America and Africa began to diverge along the southern Mid-Atlantic Ridge, giving rise to a landmass of Antarctica and South America. During the late Eocene, around 35 mya, Antarctica and South America separated and South America became a massive, biologically rich island-continent. During approximately 30 million years, the biodiversity of South America was isolated from the rest of the world, leading to the evolution of species within the continent. [1]

The event that caused the mass-extinction of dinosaurs 66 Mya gave rise to neotropical rainforest biomes like the Amazonia, replacing species composition and structure of local forests. During

6 million years of recovery to former levels of plant diversity, they evolved from widely-spaced gymnosperm-dominated forests to the forests with thick canopies which block sunlight, prevalent flowering plants and high vertical layering as known today. [2] [3]

In the last million years since the Late Miocene, South America became connected with the continent of North America via the Panama Block that closed the marine Bolivar Trough, leading to the Great American Interchange, the interchange of biota from both continents. [4] The first species discovered to have made the northward migration was Pliometanastes, a fossil ground sloth species, roughly the size of a modern black bear. [4] Several migrations to the Southern Hemisphere were undertaken by tougher, North American mammal carnivores fewer species migrated in the opposite direction from south to north. The result of the intrusion of North American fauna was that hundreds of South American species became extinct in a relatively short time and that about 60% of present-day South American mammals have evolved from North American species. [5] However, some species were able to adapt and spread into North America. Apart from Pliometanastes, during the Irvingtonian stage of the mammal land stages, around 1.9 mya, species as Pampatherium, a giant armadillo, ground sloth Megatherium, giant anteater Myrmecophaga, a Neogene capybara (Hydrochoerus), Meizonyx, opossum Didelphis, and Mixotoxodon followed the route north. [6] The terror bird Titanis was the only discovered South American carnivore species who made the journey into North America. [7]

Agriculture and domestication of animals Edit

The Americas are thought to have been first inhabited by people from eastern Asia who crossed the Bering Land Bridge to present-day Alaska the land separated and the continents are divided by the Bering Strait. Over the course of millennia, three waves of migrants spread to all parts of the Americas. [8] Genetic and linguistic evidence has shown that the last wave of migrant peoples settled across the northern tier, and did not reach South America.

The first evidence for the existence of agricultural practices in South America dates back to circa 6500 BCE, when potatoes, chilies and beans began to be cultivated for food in the Amazon Basin. Pottery evidence suggests that manioc, which remains a staple foodstuff today, was being cultivated as early as 2000 BCE. [9]

South American cultures began domesticating llamas and alpacas in the highlands of the Andes circa 3500 BCE. These animals were used for both transportation and meat their fur was shorn or collected to use to make clothing. [9] Guinea pigs were also domesticated as a food source at this time. [10]

By 2000 BCE, many agrarian village communities had developed throughout the Andes and the surrounding regions. Fishing became a widespread practice along the coast, with fish being the primary source of food for those communities. Irrigation systems were also developed at this time, which aided in the rise of agrarian societies. [9] The food crops were quinoa, corn, lima beans, common beans, peanuts, manioc, sweet potatoes, potatoes, oca and squashes. [11] Cotton was also grown and was particularly important as the only major fiber crop. [9]

Among the earliest permanent settlements, dated to 4700 BC is the Huaca Prieta site on the coast of Peru, and at 3500 BC the Valdivia culture in Ecuador. Other groups also formed permanent settlements. Among those groups were the Muisca or "Muysca," and the Tairona, located in present-day Colombia. The Cañari of Ecuador, Quechua of Peru, and Aymara of Bolivia were the three most important Native peoples who developed societies of sedentary agriculture in South America.

In the last two thousand years, there may have been contact with the Polynesians who sailed to and from the continent across the South Pacific Ocean. The sweet potato, which originated in South America, spread through some areas of the Pacific. There is no genetic legacy of human contact. [12]

Human activity Edit

The earliest archaeological evidence from human settlement comes from Monte Verde (possibly as early as 16,500 BCE). [13] Based on archaeological evidence from an excavation at Caverna da Pedra Pintada, human inhabitants first settled in the Amazon region at least 11,200 years ago. [14]

For a long time it was thought that the Amazon rainforest was only ever sparsely populated, as it was impossible to sustain a large population through agriculture given the poor soil. Archaeologist Betty Meggers was a prominent proponent of this idea, as described in her book Amazonia: Man and Culture in a Counterfeit Paradise. She claimed that a population density of 0.2 inhabitants per square kilometre (0.52/sq mi) is the maximum that can be sustained in the rainforest through hunting, with agriculture needed to support a larger population. [15] However, recent archaeological findings have suggested that the region was actually densely populated. From the 1970s, numerous geoglyphs have been discovered on deforested land dating between 0–1250 CE, leading to claims about Pre-Columbian civilisations. [16]

Norte Chico Edit

On the north-central coast of present-day Peru, the Norte Chico civilization emerged as one of six civilizations to develop independently in the world. It was roughly contemporaneous with the Egyptian pyramids. It preceded the civilization of Mesoamerica by two millennia. It is believed to have been the only civilization dependent on fishing rather than agriculture to support its population. [17]

The Caral Supe complex is one of the larger Norte Chico sites and has been dated to 27th century BCE. It is noteworthy for having absolutely no signs of warfare. It was contemporary with urbanism's rise in Mesopotamia. [18]

Cañari Edit

The Cañari were the indigenous natives of today's Ecuadorian provinces of Cañar and Azuay at the time of European contact. They were an elaborate civilization with advanced architecture and religious belief. Most of their remains were either burned or destroyed from attacks by the Inca and later the Spaniards. Their old city "Guapondelig", was replaced twice, first by the Incan city of Tomipamba, and later by the colonial city of Cuenca. [19] The city was believed by the Spanish to be the site of El Dorado, the city of gold from the mythology of Colombia.

The Cañari were most notable in having repulsed the Incan invasion with fierce resistance for many years until they fell to Tupac Yupanqui. It is said that the Inca strategically married the Cañari princes Paccha to conquer the people. Many of their descendants still reside in Cañar. [20]

Chibchan Nations Edit

The Chibcha-speaking communities were the most numerous, the most extended by territory, and the most socio-economically developed of the Pre-Hispanic Colombian cultures. They were divided into two linguistic subgroups the Arwako-Chimila languages, with the Tairona, Kankuamo, Kogi, Arhuaco, Chimila and Chitarero people and the Kuna-Colombian languages with Kuna, Nutabe, Motilon, U'wa, Lache, Guane, Sutagao and Muisca. [21]

Muisca Edit

Of these indigenous groups, the Muisca were the most advanced and formed one of the four grand civilisations in the Americas. [22] With the Inca in Peru, they constituted the two developed and specialised societies of South America. The Muisca, meaning "people" or "person" in their version of the Chibcha language Muysccubun, [23] inhabited the Altiplano Cundiboyacense, the high plateau in the Eastern Ranges of the Colombian Andes and surrounding valleys, such as the Tenza Valley. [24] Commonly set at 800 AD, their history succeeded the Herrera Period. [25] The people were organised in a loose confederation of rulers, later called the Muisca Confederation. [26] At the time of the Spanish conquest, their reign spread across the modern departments Cundinamarca and Boyacá with small parts of southern Santander with a surface area of approximately 25,000 square kilometres (9,700 sq mi) and a total population of between 300,000 and two million individuals. [27] [28] [29]

The Muisca were known as "The Salt People", thanks to their extraction of and trade in halite from brines in various salt mines of which those in Zipaquirá and Nemocón are still the most important. This extraction process was the work of the Muisca women exclusively and formed the backbone of their highly regarded trading with other Chibcha-, Arawak- and Cariban-speaking neighboring indigenous groups. [30] [31] Trading was performed using salt, small cotton cloths and larger mantles and ceramics as barter trade. [32] Their economy was agricultural in nature, profiting from the fertile soils of the Pleistocene Lake Humboldt that existed on the Bogotá savanna until around 30,000 years BP. Their crops were cultivated using irrigation and drainage on elevated terraces and mounds. [31] [33] [34] To the Spanish conquistadors they were best known for their advanced gold-working, as represented in the tunjos (votive offer pieces), spread in museum collections all around the world. The famous Muisca raft, centerpiece in the collection of the Museo del Oro in the Colombian capital Bogotá, shows the skilled goldworking of the inhabitants of the Altiplano. The Muisca were the only pre-Columbian civilization known in South America to have used coins (tejuelos). [35]

The gold and tumbaga (a gold-silver-copper alloy elaborated by the Muisca) created the legend of El Dorado the "land, city or man of gold". The Spanish conquistadors who landed in the Caribbean city of Santa Marta were informed of the rich gold culture and led by Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada and his brother Hernán Pérez, organised the most strenuous of the Spanish conquests into the heart of the Andes in April 1536. After an expedition of a year, where 80% of the soldiers died due to the harsh climate, carnivores as caimans and jaguars and the frequent attacks of the indigenous peoples found along the route, Tisquesusa, the zipa of Bacatá, on the Bogotá savanna, was beaten by the Spanish on April 20, 1537, and died "bathing in his own blood", as prophesied by the mohan Popón. [36]

Amazon Edit

For a long time, scholars believed that Amazon forests were occupied by small numbers of hunter-gatherer tribes. Archeologist Betty J. Meggers was a prominent proponent of this idea, as described in her book Amazonia: Man and Culture in a Counterfeit Paradise. However, recent archeological findings have suggested that the region was densely populated. From the 1970s, numerous geoglyphs have been discovered on deforested land dating between 0–1250 AD. Additional finds have led to conclusions that there were highly developed and populous cultures in the forests, organized as Pre-Columbian civilizations. [16] The BBC's Unnatural Histories claimed that the Amazon rainforest, rather than being a pristine wilderness, has been shaped by man for at least 11,000 years through practices such as forest gardening. [37]

The first European to travel the length of the Amazon River was Francisco de Orellana in 1542. [38] The BBC documentary Unnatural Histories presents evidence that Francisco de Orellana, rather than exaggerating his claims as previously thought, was correct in his observations that an advanced civilization was flourishing along the Amazon in the 1540s. It is believed that the civilization was later devastated by the spread of infectious diseases from Europe, such as smallpox, to which the natives had no immunity. [37] Some 5 million people may have lived in the Amazon region in 1500, divided between dense coastal settlements, such as that at Marajó, and inland dwellers. [39] By 1900 the population had fallen to 1 million, and by the early 1980s, it was less than 200,000. [39]

Researchers have found that the fertile terra preta (black earth) is distributed over large areas in the Amazon forest. It is now widely accepted that these soils are a product of indigenous soil management. The development of this soil enabled agriculture and silviculture to be conducted in the previously hostile environment. Large portions of the Amazon rainforest are therefore probably the result of centuries of human management, rather than naturally occurring as has previously been supposed. [40] In the region of the Xinguanos tribe, remains of some of these large, mid-forest Amazon settlements were found in 2003 by Michael Heckenberger and colleagues of the University of Florida. Among those remains were evidence of constructed roads, bridges and large plazas. [41]

Andean civilizations Edit

Chavín Edit

The Chavín, a South American preliterate civilization, established a trade network and developed agriculture by 900 BCE, according to some estimates and archeological finds. Artifacts were found at a site called Chavín de Huantar in modern Peru at an elevation of 3,177 meters. [42] Chavín civilization spanned 900 to 200 BCE. [43]

Moche Edit

The Moche thrived on the north coast of Peru between the first and ninth century CE. [44] The heritage of the Moche comes down to us through their elaborate burials, excavated by former UCLA professor Christopher B. Donnan in association with the National Geographic Society. [45]

Skilled artisans, the Moche were a technologically advanced people who traded with faraway peoples, like the Maya. Knowledge about the Moche has been derived mostly from their ceramic pottery, which is carved with representations of their daily lives. They practiced human sacrifice, had blood-drinking rituals, and their religion incorporated non-procreative sexual practices (such as fellatio). [46] [47]

Inca Edit

The most important empire and settlement in pre-colonial South America. Holding their capital at the great puma-shaped city of Cuzco, the Inca civilization dominated the Andes region from 1438 to 1533. Known as Tawantin suyu, or "the land of the four regions," in Quechua, the Inca civilization was highly distinct and developed. Inca rule extended to nearly a hundred linguistic or ethnic communities, some 9 to 14 million people connected by a 25,000-kilometre road system. Cities were built with precise, unmatched stonework, constructed over many levels of mountain terrain. Terrace farming was a useful form of agriculture. There is evidence of excellent metalwork and successful skull surgery in Inca civilization. The Inca had no written language, but used quipu, a system of knotted strings, to record information. [48]

Arawak and Carib civilizations Edit

The Arawak lived along the eastern coast of South America, from present-day Guayana to as far south as what is now Brazil. Explorer Christopher Columbus described them at first encounter as a peaceful people, although the Arawak had already dominated other local groups such as the Ciboney. The Arawak had, however, come under increasing military pressure from the Carib, who are believed to have left the Orinoco river area to settle on islands and the coast of the Caribbean Sea. Over the century leading up to Columbus' arrival in the Caribbean archipelago in 1492, the Carib are believed to have displaced many of the Arawak who previously settled the island chains. The Carib also encroached on Arawak territory in what is modern Guyana.

The Carib were skilled boatbuilders and sailors who owed their dominance in the Caribbean basin to their military skills. The Carib war rituals included cannibalism they had a practice of taking home the limbs of victims as trophies.

It is not known how many indigenous peoples lived in Venezuela and Colombia before the Spanish Conquest it may have been approximately one million, [49] including groups such as the Auaké, Caquetio, Mariche, and Timoto-cuicas. [50] The number of people fell dramatically after the Conquest, mainly due to high mortality rates in epidemics of infectious Eurasian diseases introduced by the explorers, who carried them as an endemic disease. [49] There were two main north–south axes of pre-Columbian population producing maize in the west and manioc in the east. [49] Large parts of the llanos plains were cultivated through a combination of slash and burn and permanent settled agriculture. [49]

Before the arrival of Europeans 20–30 million people lived in South America. [ citation needed ]

Between 1452 and 1493, a series of papal bulls (Dum Diversas, Romanus Pontifex, and Inter caetera) paved the way for the European colonization and Catholic missions in the New World. These authorized the European Christian nations to "take possession" of non-Christian lands and encouraged subduing and converting the non-Christian people of Africa and the Americas. [51]

In 1494, Portugal and Spain, the two great maritime powers of that time, signed the Treaty of Tordesillas in the expectation of new lands being discovered in the west. Through the treaty, they agreed that all the land outside Europe should be an exclusive duopoly between the two countries. The treaty established an imaginary line along a north–south meridian 370 leagues west of Cape Verde Islands, roughly 46° 37' W. In terms of the treaty, all land to the west of the line (which is now known to include most of the South American soil), would belong to Spain, and all land to the east, to Portugal. Because accurate measurements of longitude were not possible at that time, the line was not strictly enforced, resulting in a Portuguese expansion of Brazil across the meridian. [ citation needed ]

In 1498, during his third voyage to the Americas, Christopher Columbus sailed near the Orinoco Delta and then landed in the Gulf of Paria (Actual Venezuela). Amazed by the great offshore current of freshwater which deflected his course eastward, Columbus expressed in his moving letter to Isabella I and Ferdinand II that he must have reached heaven on Earth (terrestrial paradise):

Great signs are these of the Terrestrial Paradise, for the site conforms to the opinion of the holy and wise theologians whom I have mentioned. And likewise, the [other] signs conform very well, for I have never read or heard of such a large quantity of fresh water being inside and in such close proximity to salt water the very mild temperateness also corroborates this and if the water of which I speak does not proceed from Paradise then it is an even greater marvel, because I do not believe such a large and deep river has ever been known to exist in this world. [52]

Beginning in 1499, the people and natural resources of South America were repeatedly exploited by foreign conquistadors, first from Spain and later from Portugal. These competing colonial nations claimed the land and resources as their own and divided it into colonies. [53]

European diseases (smallpox, influenza, measles and typhus) to which the native populations had no resistance were the overwhelming cause of the depopulation of the Native American population. [54] Cruel systems of forced labor (such as encomiendas and mining industry's mita) under Spanish control also contributed to depopulation. Lower bound estimates speak of a decline in the population of around 20–50 percent, whereas high estimates arrive at 90 percent. [55] Following this, enslaved Africans, who had developed immunity to these diseases, were quickly brought in to replace them. [ citation needed ]

The Spaniards were committed to converting their American subjects to Christianity and were quick to purge any native cultural practices that hindered this end. However, most initial attempts at this were only partially successful American groups simply blended Catholicism with their traditional beliefs. The Spaniards did not impose their language to the degree they did their religion. In fact, the missionary work of the Roman Catholic Church in Quechua, Nahuatl, and Guarani actually contributed to the expansion of these American languages, equipping them with writing systems. [ citation needed ]

Eventually, the natives and the Spaniards interbred, forming a Mestizo class. Mestizos and the Native Americans were often forced to pay unfair taxes to the Spanish government (although all subjects paid taxes) and were punished harshly for disobeying their laws. Many native artworks were considered pagan idols and destroyed by Spanish explorers. This included a great number of gold and silver sculptures, which were melted down before transport to Europe. [ citation needed ]

In 1616, the Dutch, attracted by the legend of El Dorado, founded a fort in Guayana and established three colonies: Demerara, Berbice, and Essequibo. [ citation needed ]

In 1624 France attempted to settle in the area of modern-day French Guiana, but was forced to abandon it in the face of hostility from the Portuguese, who viewed it as a violation of the Treaty of Tordesillas. However French settlers returned in 1630 and in 1643 managed to establish a settlement at Cayenne along with some small-scale plantations. [ citation needed ]

Since the sixteenth century, there were some movements of discontent to the Spanish and Portuguese colonial system. Among these movements, the most famous being that of the Maroons, slaves who escaped their masters and in the shelter of the forest communities organized free communities. Attempts to subject them by the royal army were unsuccessful because the Maroons had learned to master the South American jungles. In a royal decree of 1713, the king gave legality to the first free population of the continent: Palenque de San Basilio in Colombia today, led by Benkos Bioho. Brazil saw the formation of a genuine African kingdom on their soil, with the Quilombo of Palmares. [ citation needed ]

Between 1721 and 1735, the Revolt of the Comuneros of Paraguay arose, because of clashes between the Paraguayan settlers and the Jesuits, who ran the large and prosperous Jesuit Reductions and controlled a large number of Christianized Natives. [ citation needed ]

Between 1742 and 1756, was the insurrection of Juan Santos Atahualpa in the central jungle of Peru. In 1780, the Viceroyalty of Peru was met with the insurrection of curaca Joseph Gabriel Condorcanqui or Tupac Amaru II, which would be continued by Tupac Katari in Upper Peru. [ citation needed ]

In 1763, the African Coffy led a revolt in Guyana which was bloodily suppressed by the Dutch. [56] In 1781, the Revolt of the Comuneros (New Granada), an insurrection of the villagers in the Viceroyalty of New Granada, was a popular revolution that united indigenous people and mestizos. The villagers tried to be the colonial power and despite the capitulation were signed, the Viceroy Manuel Antonio Flórez did not comply, and instead ran to the main leaders José Antonio Galán.

In 1796, the Dutch colony of Essequibo was captured by the British during the French Revolutionary Wars. [ citation needed ]

During the eighteenth century, the figure of the priest, mathematician and botanist José Celestino Mutis (1732–1808), was delegated by the Viceroy Antonio Caballero y Gongora to conduct an inventory of the nature of the Nueva Granada, which became known as the Botanical Expedition, which classified plants, wildlife and founded the first astronomical observatory in the city of Santa Fé de Bogotá. [ citation needed ]

On August 15, 1801, the Prussian scientist Alexander von Humboldt reached Fontibón where Mutis, and began his expedition to New Granada, Quito. The meeting between the two scholars is considered the brightest spot of the botanical expedition. Humboldt also visited Venezuela, Mexico, United States, Chile, and Peru. Through his observations of temperature differences between the Pacific Ocean between Chile and Peru in different periods of the year, he discovered cold currents moving from south to north up the coast of Peru, which was named the Humboldt Current in his honor. [ citation needed ]

Between 1806 and 1807, British military forces tried to invade the area of the Rio de la Plata, at the command of Home Riggs Popham and William Carr Beresford, and John Whitelocke. The invasions were repelled, but powerfully affected the Spanish authority. [ citation needed ]

The Spanish colonies won their independence in the first quarter of the 19th century, in the Spanish American wars of independence. Simón Bolívar (Greater Colombia, Peru, Bolivia), José de San Martín (United Provinces of the River Plate, Chile, and Peru), and Bernardo O'Higgins (Chile) led their independence struggle. Although Bolivar attempted to keep the Spanish-speaking parts of the continent politically unified, they rapidly became independent of one another.

Unlike the Spanish colonies, the Brazilian independence came as an indirect consequence of the Napoleonic Invasions to Portugal – French invasion under General Junot led to the capture of Lisbon on 8 December 1807. In order not to lose its sovereignty, the Portuguese Court moved the capital from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro, which was the Portuguese Empire's capital between 1808 and 1821 and rose the relevance of Brazil within the Portuguese Empire's framework. Following the Portuguese Liberal Revolution of 1820, and after several battles and skirmishes were fought in Pará and in Bahia, the heir apparent Pedro, son of King John VI of Portugal, proclaimed the country's independence in 1822 and became Brazil's first emperor (He later also reigned as Pedro IV of Portugal). This was one of the most peaceful colonial independences ever seen in human history.

A struggle for power emerged among the new nations, and several further wars were soon fought thereafter.

The first few wars were fought for supremacy in the northern and southern parts of the continent. The Gran Colombia – Peru War of the north and the Cisplatine War (between the Empire of Brazil and the United Provinces of the River Plate) ended in stalemate, although the latter resulted in the independence of Uruguay (1828). A few years later, after the break-up of Gran Colombia, the balance of power shifted in favor of the newly formed Peru-Bolivian Confederation (1836–1839). Nonetheless, this power structure proved temporary and shifted once more as a result of the Northern Peruvian State's victory over the Southern Peruvian State-Bolivia War of the Confederation (1836–1839), and the Argentine Confederation's defeat in the Guerra Grande (1839–1852).

Later conflicts between the South American nations continued to define their borders and power status. In the Pacific coast, Chile and Peru continued to exhibit their increasing domination, defeating Spain in the Chincha Islands War. Finally, after precariously defeating Peru during the War of the Pacific (1879–1883), Chile emerged as the dominant power of the Pacific Coast of South America. In the Atlantic side, Paraguay attempted to gain a more dominant status in the region, but an alliance of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay (in the resulting 1864–1870 War of the Triple Alliance) ended Paraguayan ambitions. Thereupon, the Southern Cone nations of Argentina, Brazil, and Chile entered the 20th century as the major continental powers.

A few countries did not gain independence until the 20th century:

French Guiana remains an overseas department of France.

1900–1920 Edit

By the start of the century, the United States continued its interventionist attitude, which aimed to directly defend its interests in the region. This was officially articulated in Theodore Roosevelt's Big Stick Doctrine, which modified the old Monroe Doctrine, which had simply aimed to deter European intervention in the hemisphere.

1930–1960 Edit

The Great Depression posed a challenge to the region. The collapse of the world economy meant that the demand for raw materials drastically declined, undermining many of the economies of South America.

Intellectuals and government leaders in South America turned their backs on the older economic policies and turned toward import substitution industrialization. The goal was to create self-sufficient economies, which would have their own industrial sectors and large middle classes and which would be immune to the ups and downs of the global economy. Despite the potential threats to United States commercial interests, the Roosevelt administration (1933–1945) understood that the United States could not wholly oppose import substitution. Roosevelt implemented a good neighbor policy and allowed the nationalization of some American companies in South America. The Second World War also brought the United States and most Latin American nations together.

The history of South America during World War II is important because of the significant economic, political, and military changes that occurred throughout much of the region as a result of the war. In order to better protect the Panama Canal, combat Axis influence, and optimize the production of goods for the war effort, the United States through Lend-Lease and similar programs greatly expanded its interests in Latin America, resulting in large-scale modernization and a major economic boost for the countries that participated. [57]

Strategically, Brazil was of great importance because of its having the closest point in the Americas to Africa where the Allies were actively engaged in fighting the Germans and Italians. For the Axis, the Southern Cone nations of Argentina and Chile were where they found most of their South American support, and they utilised it to the fullest by interfering with internal affairs, conducting espionage, and distributing propaganda. [57] [58] [59]

Brazil was the only country to send an Expeditionary force to the European theatre however, several countries had skirmishes with German U-Boats and cruisers in the Caribbean and South Atlantic. Mexico sent a fighter squadron of 300 volunteers to the Pacific, the Escuadrón 201 were known as the Aztec Eagles (Aguilas Aztecas).

The Brazilian active participation on the battle field in Europe was divined after the Casablanca Conference. The President of the U.S., Franklin D. Roosevelt on his way back from Morocco met the President of Brazil, Getulio Vargas, in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, this meeting is known as the Potenji River Conference, and defined the creation of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force.

Economics Edit

According to author Thomas M. Leonard, World War II had a major impact on Latin American economies. Following the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, most of Latin America either severed relations with the Axis powers or declared war on them. As a result, many nations (including all of Central America, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Argentina, and Venezuela) suddenly found that they were now dependent on the United States for trade. The United States' high demand for particular products and commodities during the war further distorted trade. For example, the United States wanted all of the platinum produced in Colombia, all the silver of Chile, and all of cotton, gold and copper of Peru. The parties agreed upon set prices, often with a high premium, but the various nations lost their ability to bargain and trade in the open market.

Cold War Edit

Wars became less frequent in the 20th century, with Bolivia-Paraguay and Peru-Ecuador fighting the last inter-state wars. Early in the 20th century, the three wealthiest South American countries engaged in a vastly expensive naval arms race which was catalyzed by the introduction of a new warship type, the "dreadnought". At one point, the Argentine government was spending a fifth of its entire yearly budget for just two dreadnoughts, a price that did not include later in-service costs, which for the Brazilian dreadnoughts was sixty percent of the initial purchase. [60] [61]

The continent became a battlefield of the Cold War in the late 20th century. Some democratically elected governments of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay were overthrown or displaced by military dictatorships in the 1960s and 1970s. To curtail opposition, their governments detained tens of thousands of political prisoners, many of whom were tortured and/or killed on inter-state collaboration. Economically, they began a transition to neoliberal economic policies. They placed their own actions within the US Cold War doctrine of "National Security" against internal subversion. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Peru suffered from an internal conflict. South America, like many other continents, became a battlefield for the superpowers during the Cold War in the late 20th century. In the postwar period, the expansion of communism became the greatest political issue for both the United States and governments in the region. The start of the Cold War forced governments to choose between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Late 20th century military regimes and revolutions Edit

By the 1970s, leftists had acquired a significant political influence which prompted the right-wing, ecclesiastical authorities and a large portion of each individual country's upper class to support coups d'état to avoid what they perceived as a communist threat. This was further fueled by Cuban and United States intervention which led to a political polarisation. Most South American countries were in some periods ruled by military dictatorships that were supported by the United States of America.

Also around the 1970s, the regimes of the Southern Cone collaborated in Operation Condor killing many leftist dissidents, including some urban guerrillas. [62] However, by the early 1990s all countries had restored their democracies.

Colombia has had an ongoing, though diminished internal conflict, which started in 1964 with the creation of Marxist guerrillas (FARC-EP) and then involved several illegal armed groups of leftist-leaning ideology as well as the private armies of powerful drug lords. Many of these are now defunct, and only a small portion of the ELN remains, along with the stronger, though also greatly reduced FARC. These leftist groups smuggle narcotics out of Colombia to fund their operations, while also using kidnapping, bombings, land mines and assassinations as weapons against both elected and non-elected citizens.

Revolutionary movements and right-wing military dictatorships became common after World War II, but since the 1980s, a wave of democratisation came through the continent, and democratic rule is widespread now. [63] Nonetheless, allegations of corruption are still very common, and several countries have developed crises which have forced the resignation of their governments, although, in most occasions, regular civilian succession has continued.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay were overthrown or displaced by U.S.-aligned military dictatorships. These detained tens of thousands of political prisoners, many of whom were tortured and/or killed (on inter-state collaboration, see Operation Condor). Economically, they began a transition to neoliberal economic policies. They placed their own actions within the U.S. Cold War doctrine of "National Security" against internal subversion. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Peru suffered from an internal conflict (see Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement and Shining Path). Revolutionary movements and right-wing military dictatorships have been common, but starting in the 1980s a wave of democratization came through the continent, and democratic rule is now widespread. Allegations of corruption remain common, and several nations have seen crises which have forced the resignation of their presidents, although normal civilian succession has continued. International indebtedness became a recurrent problem, with examples like the 1980s debt crisis, the mid 1990s Mexican peso crisis and Argentina's 2001 default.

Washington Consensus Edit

The set of specific economic policy prescriptions that were considered the "standard" reform package were promoted for crisis-wracked developing countries by Washington, DC-based institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and the US Treasury Department during the 1980s and '90s.

A turn to the left Edit

According to the BBC, a "common element of the 'pink tide' is a clean break with what was known at the outset of the 1990s as the 'Washington consensus', the mixture of open markets and privatisation pushed by the United States". [64] According to Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, a pink tide president herself, Hugo Chávez of Venezuela (inaugurated 1999), Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil (inaugurated 2003) and Evo Morales of Bolivia (inaugurated 2006) were "the three musketeers" of the left in South America. [65] By 2005, the BBC reported that out of 350 million people in South America, three out of four of them lived in countries ruled by "left-leaning presidents" elected during the preceding six years. [64]

Despite the presence of a number of Latin American governments which profess to embrace a leftist ideology, it is difficult to categorize Latin American states "according to dominant political tendencies, like a red-blue post-electoral map of the United States." [66] According to the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal non-profit think-tank based in Washington, D.C.: "a deeper analysis of elections in Ecuador, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Mexico indicates that the "pink tide" interpretation—that a diluted trend leftward is sweeping the continent—may be insufficient to understand the complexity of what's really taking place in each country and the region as a whole". [66]

While this political shift is difficult to quantify, its effects are widely noticed. According to the Institute for Policy Studies, 2006 meetings of the South American Summit of Nations and the Social Forum for the Integration of Peoples demonstrated that certain discussions that "used to take place on the margins of the dominant discourse of neoliberalism, (have) now moved to the centre of public debate." [66]

Pink tide Edit

The term 'pink tide' (Spanish: marea rosa, Portuguese: onda rosa) or 'turn to the Left' (Sp.: vuelta hacia la izquierda, Pt.: Guinada à Esquerda) are phrases used in contemporary 21st century political analysis in the media and elsewhere to describe the perception that leftist ideology in general, and left-wing politics in particular, were increasingly becoming influential in Latin America. [64] [67] [68]

Since the 2000s or 1990s in some countries, left-wing political parties have risen to power. Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, Fernando Lugo in Paraguay, Néstor and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in Argentina, Tabaré Vázquez and José Mujica in Uruguay, the Lagos and Bachelet governments in Chile, Evo Morales in Bolivia, and Rafael Correa of Ecuador are all part of this wave of left-wing politicians who also often declare themselves socialists, Latin Americanists or anti-imperialists.

  • 1998: Hugo Chávez, Venezuela [69]
  • 1999: Ricardo Lagos, Chile [70][71]
  • 2002: Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil [72][73][74][75]
  • 2002: Lucio Gutiérrez, Ecuador [76][77]
  • 2003: Néstor Kirchner, Argentina [78][79][80]
  • 2004: Tabaré Vázquez, Uruguay [81][82][83]
  • 2005: Evo Morales, Bolivia [84][a][93]
  • 2006: Michelle Bachelet, Chile [94][95]
  • 2006: Rafael Correa, Ecuador [96][97][98][99]
  • 2007: Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina [100][101][note 1][104][105][106][107][108][109][110][111]
  • 2008: Fernando Lugo, Paraguay [112][113]
  • 2009: José Mujica, Uruguay [114][115][116][117]
  • 2010: Dilma Rousseff, Brazil [118][119][120]
  • 2011: Ollanta Humala, Peru [121][122][123][124][125]
  • 2013: Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela [126][127][128][129]
  • 2017: Lenín Moreno, Ecuador [130]
  • 2019: Alberto Fernández, Argentina
  • 2020: Luis Arce, Bolivia

Politics Edit

During the first decade of the 21st century, South American governments move to the political left, with leftist leaders being elected in Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela. Most South American countries are making an increasing use of protectionist policies, undermining a greater global integration but helping local development.

The Creek War

In the South, the War of 1812 bled into the Mvskoke Creek War of 1813-1814, also known as the Red Stick War. An inter-tribal conflict among Creek Indian factions, the war also engaged U.S. militias, along with the British and Spanish, who backed the Indians to help keep Americans from encroaching on their interests. Early Creek victories inspired General Andrew Jackson to retaliate with 2,500 men, mostly Tennessee militia, in early November 1814. To avenge the Creek-led massacre at Fort Mims, Jackson and his men slaughtered 186 Creeks at Tallushatchee. “We shot them like dogs!” said Davy Crockett.

In desperation, Mvskoke Creek women killed their children so they would not see the soldiers butcher them. As one woman started to kill her baby, the famed Indian fighter, Andrew Jackson, grabbed the child from the mother. Later, he delivered the Indian baby to his wife Rachel, for both of them to raise as their own.

Jackson went on to win the Red Stick War in a decisive battle at Horseshoe Bend. The subsequent treaty required the Creek to cede more than 21 million acres of land to the United States.

A painting depicting the Trail of Tears, when Native Americans were forced by law to leave their homelands and move to designated territory in the west. (Credit: Al Moldvay/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Migration of Humans into the Americas (c. 14,000 BCE)

Map of the Americas. The Bering Land Bridge between Asia and North America in 18,000 BCE is shown in dark green. The map also shows the extent of ancient civilizations in Central or Mesoamerica (Ellis and Esler, 2014).

How is this related to climate?

  • During the last ice age, which peaked around 19,000 BCE and ended around 8,700 BCE, global sea levels were up to 100 meters lower than they are today because colder temperatures resulted in large amounts of water becoming frozen in glaciers.
  • The Bering Land Bridge existed during this time of low sea levels. When the glaciers melted and sea levels rose to their present-day position, the land bridge flooded and formed the Bering Strait that now separates Asia from North America. See below for an interactive map of the Bering Land Bridge and the Bering Strait over time.

Map of the Bering Strait and the Bering Land Bridge over time (Cal years BP: “calibrated years before the present” or “calendar years before the present”) (from Wood, 2020).

Further Exploration

  • New evidence found in Chiquihuite Cave, Mexico, including tools made from a type of limestone not originating from the cave itself, suggests that humans first arrived in North America possibly as far back as 28,000 BCE. At that time, the ice sheets covering North America during the last ice age were still extensive, which would have made cross-continental travel very difficult, and suggests that the Pacific coast was the more probable travel route. This idea is known as the Pacific Coastal Route Hypothesis.
    • This new research indicates that even though people likely reached North America no later than 24,500 to 17,000 BCE, occupation did not become widespread until the very end of the last ice age, around 12,700 to 10,900 BCE.
    • This new evidence dispels the Clovis-first model, named for evidence of human occupation in Clovis, New Mexico. This model suggests that the first people to reach North America traveled across the Bering Land Bridge and then into North America along an ice-free cross-continental corridor around 14,000 to 8,000 BCE (map below). It is likely that by then North America had already been occupied by people who migrated via the Pacific coastal route.
    • Under the Pacific Coastal Route Hypothesis, people traveled south along the “kelp highway” of the western coast of the Americas because it was mainly ice-free and therefore easier to traverse than the ice-covered inland areas (map below). The coastal waters had common giant kelp species such as Durvillaea antarctica and Macrocystis pyrifera, which supported rich ecosystems that provided food, such as sea bass, cod, rockfish, sea urchins, abalones, and mussels for the migrating people. At the end of the last ice age, glaciers melted and sea levels rose, flooding the “kelp highway.”

    Map of North America during the Last Glacial Maximum, depicting both the coastal route suggested by the Pacific Coastal Route Hypothesis and the ice-free corridor route suggested by the Clovis-first model. Chiquihuite Cave is marked in red (from Gandy, 2020, National Geographic Magazine).

    • After the initial migrations to North America, people began moving southward, following the Pacific coast from Alaska to Chile. Those who made it to northern and central South America were limited to small communities because the cold, harsh climate of the ice age prevented populations from expanding. A short period of rising temperatures and retreating glaciers followed, which allowed people to migrate further south and establish new settlements in Patagonia, such as in Monte Verde (map below). Then, around 12,500 BCE, in what is known as the Antarctic Climate Reversal, temperatures dropped as much as 6℃ below present-day and remained low for 2 millenia. When temperatures rose yet again, more glaciers melted, flooding the Strait of Magellan and cutting the southernmost settlements on Tierra del Fuego off from the mainland (map below), leading to a cultural division between mainland and coastal inhabitants.

    Map of southern South America. The Patagonia region is shown in dark brown. Monte Verde, located on the western coast, is marked with a red dot. The Strait of Magellan, marked in blue, and Tierra del Fuego are at the southern tip of the continent (from Salbuchi, 2010).

    This upper elementary and middle school history course uses text, images, map work, research activities, and more to help students explore the lives of the Aztec, Maya, and early American Indians.

    Supplies Needed

    Corresponding lessons on SchoolhouseTeachers.com access to the Internet, computer, and printer 3-ring binder for notetaking and research

    Go to Class Lessons and download the lesson plan and lesson file. Start with the Day 1 assignment. Follow the instructions each day on the lesson plan and check them off when completed.

    West Coast of-course mean Washington Oregon and California [some may include Hawaii and Alaska since both states are the western-most states in the U.S.]. Wyoming, Colorado and Montana are as western as it gets, the west starts in Texas, but its just a different kind of West, more like a Southern West.

    Mesopotamia, the area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers (in modern day Iraq), is often referred to as the cradle of civilization because it is the first place where complex urban centers grew.

    A New History of the First Peoples in the Americas

    The miracle of modern genetics has revolutionized the story anthropologists tell about how humans spread out across the Earth.

    Europeans arriving in the New World met people all the way from the frozen north to the frozen south. All had rich and mature cultures and established languages. The Skraeling were probably a people we now call Thule, who were the ancestors of the Inuit in Greenland and Canada and the Iñupiat in Alaska. The Taíno were a people spread across multiple chiefdoms around the Caribbean and Florida. Based on cultural and language similarities, we think that they had probably separated from earlier populations from South American lands, now Guyana and Trinidad. The Spanish brought no women with them in 1492, and raped the Taíno women, resulting in the first generation of “mestizo”—mixed ancestry people.

    Immediately upon arrival, European alleles began to flow, admixed into the indigenous population, and that process has continued ever since: European DNA is found today throughout the Americas, no matter how remote or isolated a tribe might appear to be. But before Columbus, these continents were already populated. The indigenous people hadn’t always been there, nor had they originated there, as some of their traditions state, but they had occupied these American lands for at least 20,000 years.

    This article is adapted from Rutherford’s new book.

    It’s only because of the presence of Europeans from the 15th century onward that we even have terms such as Indians or Native Americans. How these people came to be is a subject that is complex and fraught, but it begins in the north. Alaska is separated from Russian land by the Bering Strait. There are islands that punctuate those icy waters, and on a clear day U.S. citizens of Little Diomede can see Russians on Big Diomede, just a little over two miles and one International Date Line away. Between December and June, the water between them freezes solid.

    From 30,000 years ago until around 11,000 B.C., the earth was subjected to a cold snap that sucked up the sea into glaciers and ice sheets extending from the poles. This period is known as the Last Glacial Maximum, when the reach of the most recent Ice Age was at its fullest. By drilling mud cores out of the seabed, we can reconstruct a history of the land and the seas, notably by measuring concentrations of oxygen, and looking for pollen, which would have been deposited on dry ground from the flora growing there. We think therefore that sea level was somewhere between 60 and 120 meters lower than today. So it was terra firma all the way from Alaska to Russia, and all the way down south to the Aleutians—a crescent chain of volcanic islands that speckle the north Pacific.

    The prevailing theory about how the people of the Americas came to those lands is via that bridge. We refer to it as a land bridge, though given its duration and size, it was simply continuous land, thousands of miles from north to south it’s only a bridge if we view it in comparison to today’s straits. The area is called Beringia, and the first people across it the Beringians. These were harsh lands, sparse with shrubs and herbs to the south, there were boreal woodlands, and where the land met the sea, kelp forests and seals.

    Though these were still tough terrains, according to archaeological finds Western Beringians were living near the Yana River in Siberia by 30,000 B.C. There’s been plenty of debate over the years as to when exactly people reached the eastern side, and therefore at what point after the seas rose they became isolated as the founding peoples of the Americas. The questions that remain—and there are many—concern whether they came all at once or in dribs and drabs. Sites in the Yukon that straddle the U.S.-Alaskan border with Canada give us clues, such as the Bluefish Caves, 33 miles southwest of the village of Old Crow.

    The latest radio-dating analysis of the remnants of lives in the Bluefish Caves indicates that people were there 24,000 years ago. These founding peoples spread over 12,000 years to every corner of the continents and formed the pool from which all Americans would be drawn until 1492. I will focus on North America here, and what we know so far, what we can know through genetics, and why we don’t know more.

    Until Columbus, the Americas were populated by pockets of tribal groups distributed up and down both north and south continents. There are dozens of individual cultures that have been identified by age, location, and specific technologies—and via newer ways of knowing the past, including genetics and linguistics. Scholars have hypothesized various patterns of migration from Beringia into the Americas. Over time, it has been suggested that there were multiple waves, or that a certain people with particular technologies spread from north all the way south.

    Both ideas have now fallen from grace. The multiple-waves theory has failed as a model because the linguistic similarities used to show patterns of migration are just not that convincing. And the second theory fails because of timing. Cultures are often named and known by the technology that they left behind. In New Mexico there is a small town called Clovis, population 37,000. In the 1930s, projectile points resembling spearheads and other hunting paraphernalia were found in an archaeological site nearby, dating from around 13,000 years ago. These were knapped on both sides—bifaced with fluted tips. It had been thought that it was the inventors of these tools who had been the first people to spread up and down the continents. But there’s evidence of humans living in southern Chile 12,500 years ago without Clovis technology. These people are too far away to show a direct link between them and the Clovis in such a way that indicates the Clovis being the aboriginals of South America.

    Today, the emerging theory is that the people up in the Bluefish Caves some 24,000 years ago were the founders, and that they represent a culture that was isolated for thousands of years up in the cold north, incubating a population that would eventually seed everywhere else. This idea has become known as Beringian Standstill. Those founders had split from known populations in Siberian Asia some 40,000 years ago, come across Beringia, and stayed put until around 16,000 years ago.

    Analysis of the genomes of indigenous people show 15 founding mitochondrial types not found in Asia. This suggests a time when genetic diversification occurred, an incubation lasting maybe 10,000 years. New gene variants spread across the American lands, but not back into Asia, as the waters had cut them off. Nowadays, we see lower levels of genetic diversity in modern Native Americans—derived from just those original 15—than in the rest of the world. Again, this supports the idea of a single, small population seeding the continents, and—unlike in Europe or Asia—these people being cut off, with little admixture from new populations for thousands of years, at least until Columbus.

    In Montana, 20 miles or so off Highway 90, lies the minuscule conurbation of Wilsall, population 178 as of 2010. Though stacks of material culture in the Clovis tradition have been recovered throughout North America, only one person from this time and culture has risen from his grave. He’s acquired the name Anzick-1, and was laid to rest in a rock shelter in what would become—around 12,600 years later—Wilsall. He was a toddler, probably less than two years old, judging from the unfused sutures in his skull. He was laid to rest surrounded by at least 100 stone tools, and 15 ivory ones. Some of these were covered in red ochre, and together they suggest Anzick was a very special child who had been ceremonially buried in splendor. Now he’s special because we have his complete genome.

    And there’s the woeful saga of Kennewick Man. While attending a hydroplane race in 1996, two locals of Kennewick, Washington, discovered a broad-faced skull inching its way out of the bank of the Columbia River. Over the weeks and years, more than 350 fragments of bone and teeth were eked out of this 8,500-year-old grave, all belonging to a middle-aged man, maybe in his 40s, deliberately buried, with some signs of injuries that had healed over his life—a cracked rib, an incision from a spear, a minor depression fracture on his forehead. There were academic squabbles about his facial morphology, with some saying it was most similar to Japanese skulls, some arguing for a link with Polynesians, and some asserting he must have been European.

    With all the toing and froing about his morphology, DNA should be a rich source of conclusive data for this man. But the political controversies about his body have severely hampered his value to science for 20 years. For Native Americans, he became known as the Ancient One, and five clans, notably the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, wanted to have him ceremonially reburied under guidelines determined by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), which affords custodial rights to Native American artifacts and bodies found on their lands. Scientists sued the government to prevent his reburial, some claiming that his bones suggested he was European, and therefore not connected with Native Americans.

    To add an absurd cherry on top of this already distasteful cake, a Californian pagan group called the Asatru Folk Assembly put in a bid for the body, claiming Kennewick Man might have a Norse tribal identity, and if science could establish that the body was European, then he should be given a ceremony in honor of Odin, ruler of the mythical Asgard, though what that ritual entails is not clear.

    His reburial was successfully blocked in 2002, when a judge ruled that his facial bones suggested he was European, and therefore NAGPRA guidelines could not be invoked. The issue was batted back and forth for years, in a manner in which no one came out looking good. Nineteen years after this important body was found, the genome analysis was finally published.

    Had he been European (or Japanese or Polynesian), it would’ve been the most revolutionary find in the history of U.S. anthropology, and all textbooks on human migration would have been rewritten. But of course he wasn’t. A fragment of material was used to sequence his DNA, and it showed that lo and behold, Kennewick Man—the Ancient One—was closely related to the Anzick baby. And as for the living, he was more closely related to Native Americans than to anyone else on Earth, and within that group, most closely related to the Colville tribes.

    Anzick is firm and final proof that North and South America were populated by the same people. Anzick’s mitochondrial genome is most similar to people of central and south America today. The genes of the Ancient One most closely resemble those of tribes in the Seattle area today. These similarities do not indicate that either were members of those tribes or people, nor that their genes have not spread throughout the Americas, as we would expect over timescales of thousands of years. What they show is that the population dynamics—how ancient indigenous people relate to contemporary Native Americans—is complex and varies from region to region. No people are completely static, and genes less so.

    In December 2016, in one of his last acts in office, President Barack Obama signed legislation that allowed Kennewick Man to be reburied as a Native American. Anzick was found on private land, so not subject to NAGPRA rules, but was reburied anyway in 2014 in a ceremony involving a few different tribes. We sometimes forget that though the data should be pure and straightforward, science is done by people, who are never either.

    Anzick and Kennewick Man represent narrow samples—a tantalizing glimpse of the big picture. And politics and history are hampering progress. The legacy of 500 years of occupation has fostered profound difficulty in understanding how the Americas were first peopled. Two of the doyennes of this field—Connie Mulligan and Emőke Szathmáry—suggest that there is a long cultural tradition that percolates through our attempts to deconstruct the past.

    Europeans are taught a history of migration from birth, of Greeks and Romans spreading over Europe, conquering lands, and interloping afar. Judeo-Christian lore puts people in and out of Africa and Asia, and the silk routes connect Europeans with the East and back again. Many European countries have been seafaring nations, exploring and sometimes belligerently building empires for commerce or to impose a perceived superiority over other people. Even though we have national identities, and pride and traditions that come with that sense of belonging, European culture is imbued with migration.

    For Native Americans, this is not their culture. Not all believe they have always been in their lands, nor that they are a static people. But for the most part, the narrative of migration does not threaten European identity in the same way that it might for the people we called the Indians. The scientifically valid notion of the migration of people from Asia into the Americas may challenge Native creation stories. It may also have the effect of conflating early modern migrants from the 15th century onward with those from 24,000 years earlier, with the effect of undermining indigenous claims to land and sovereignty.

    Deep among the lakes of the Grand Canyon are the Havasupai. Their name means “people of the blue-green waters,” and they’ve been there for at least 800 years. They’re a small tribe, around 650 members today, and they use ladders, horses, and sometimes helicopters to travel in and out of—or rather, up and down—the canyon. The tribe is rife with type 2 diabetes, and in 1990, the Havasupai people agreed to provide Arizona State University scientists with DNA from 151 individuals with the understanding that they would seek genetic answers to the puzzle of why diabetes was so common. Written consent was obtained, and blood samples were taken.

    An obvious genetic link to diabetes was not found, but the researchers continued to use their DNA to test for schizophrenia and patterns of inbreeding. The data was also passed on to other scientists who were interested in migration and the history of Native Americans. The Havasupai only found this out years later, and eventually sued the university. In 2010, they were awarded $700,000 in compensation.

    Therese Markow was one of the scientists involved, and insists that consent was on the papers they signed, and that the forms were necessarily simple, as many Havasupai do not have English as a first language, and many did not graduate from high school. But many in the tribe thought that they were being asked only about their endemic diabetes. A blood sample contains an individual’s entire genome, and with it, reams of data about that individual, their family, and evolution.

    This isn’t the first time this has happened. In the 1980s, before the days of easy and cheap genomics, blood samples were taken with consent to analyze the unusually high levels of rheumatic disease in the Nuu-chah-nulth people of the Pacific Northwest of Canada. The project, led by the late Ryk Ward, then at the University of British Columbia, found no genetic link in their samples, and the project petered out. By the ’90s, though, Ward had moved to the University of Utah, and then Oxford in the U.K., and the blood samples had been used in anthropological and HIV/AIDS studies around the world, which turned into grants, academic papers, and a PBS–BBC jointly produced documentary.

    The use of the samples for historical migration indicated that the origins of the Havasupai were from ancient ancestors in Siberia, which is in accordance with our understanding of human history by all scientific and archaeological methods. But it is in opposition to the Havasupai religious belief that they were created in situ in the Grand Canyon. Though nonscientific, it is perfectly within their rights to preclude investigations that contradict their stories, and those rights appear to have been violated. Havasupai Vice Chairman Edmond Tilousi told The New York Times in 2010 that “coming from the canyon . is the basis of our sovereign rights.”

    Sovereignty and membership of a tribe is a complex and hard-won thing. It includes a concept called “blood quantum,” which is effectively the proportion of one’s ancestors who are already members of a tribe. It’s an invention of European Americans in the 19th century, and though most tribes had their own criteria for tribal membership, most eventually adopted Blood Quantum as part of the qualification for tribal status.

    DNA is not part of that mix. With our current knowledge of the genomics of Native Americans, there is no possibility of DNA being anywhere near a useful tool in ascribing tribal status to people. Furthermore, given our understanding of ancestry and family trees, I have profound doubts that DNA could ever be used to determine tribal membership. While mtDNA (which is passed down from mothers to children) and the Y chromosome (passed from fathers to sons) have both proved profoundly useful in determining the deep ancestral trajectory of the first peoples of the Americas into the present, these two chromosomes represent a tiny proportion of the total amount of DNA that an individual bears. The rest, the autosomes, comes from all of one’s ancestors.

    Some genetic genealogy companies will sell you kits that claim to grant you membership to historical peoples, albeit ill-defined, highly romanticized versions of ancient Europeans. This type of genetic astrology, though unscientific and distasteful to my palate, is really just a bit of meaningless fantasy its real damage is that it undermines scientific literacy in the general public.

    Over centuries, people have been too mobile to have remained genetically isolated for any significant length of time. Tribes are known to have mixed before and after colonialism, which should be enough to indicate that some notion of tribal purity is at best imagined. Of the genetic markers that have been shown to exist in individual tribes so far, none is exclusive. Some tribes have begun to use DNA as a test to verify immediate family, such as in paternity cases, and this can be useful as part of qualification for tribal status. But on its own, a DNA test cannot place someone in a specific tribe.

    That hasn’t stopped the emergence of some companies in the United States that sell kits that claim to use DNA to ascribe tribal membership. Accu-Metrics is one such company. On its web page, it states that there are “562 recognized tribes in the United States, plus at least 50 others in Canada, divided into First Nation, Inuit, and Metis.” For $125 the company claims that it “can determine if you belong to one of these groups.”

    The idea that tribal status is encoded in DNA is both simplistic and wrong. Many tribespeople have non-native parents and still retain a sense of being bound to the tribe and the land they hold sacred. In Massachusetts, members of the Seaconke Wampanoag tribe identified European and African heritage in their DNA, due to hundreds of years of interbreeding with New World settlers. Attempting to conflate tribal status with DNA denies the cultural affinity that people have with their tribes. It suggests a kind of purity that genetics cannot support, a type of essentialism that resembles scientific racism.

    The specious belief that DNA can bestow tribal identity, as sold by companies such as Accu-Metrics, can only foment further animosity—and suspicion—toward scientists. If a tribal identity could be shown by DNA (which it can’t), then perhaps reparation rights afforded to tribes in recent years might be invalid in the territories to which they were moved during the 19th century. Many tribes are effective sovereign nations and therefore not necessarily bound by the laws of the state in which they live.

    When coupled with cases such as that of the Havasupai, and centuries of racism, the relationship between Native Americans and geneticists is not healthy. After the legal battles over the remains of Kennewick Man were settled, and it was accepted that he was not of European descent, the tribes were invited to join in the subsequent studies. Out of five, only the Colville Tribes did. Their representative, James Boyd, told The New York Times in 2015, “We were hesitant. Science hasn’t been good to us.”

    Data is supreme in genetics, and data is what we crave. But we are the data, and people are not there for the benefit of others, regardless of how noble one’s scientific aims are. To deepen our understanding of how we came to be and who we are, scientists must do better, and invite people whose genes provide answers to not only volunteer their data, but to participate, to own their individual stories, and to be part of that journey of discovery.

    This is beginning to change. A new model of engagement with the first people of the Americas is emerging, albeit at a glacial pace. The American Society of Human Genetics meeting is the annual who’s who in genetics, and has been for many years, where all of the newest and biggest ideas in the study of human biology are discussed. In October 2016 they met in Vancouver, and it was hosted by the Squamish Nation, a First Nations people based in British Colombia. They greeted the delegates with song, and passed the talking stick to the president for the proceedings to begin.

    The relationship between science and indigenous people has been one characterized by a range of behaviors from outright exploitation to casual insensitivity to tokenism and lip service. Perhaps this time is coming to an end and we might foster a relationship based on trust, genuine engagement, and mutual respect, so that we might work together and build the capacity for tribes to lead their own research into the histories of these nations.

    Though the terms Native American and Indian are relative, the United States is a nation of immigrants and descendants of slaves who have overwhelmed the indigenous population. Less than 2 percent of the current population defines itself as Native American, which means that 98 percent of Americans are unable to trace their roots, genetic or otherwise, beyond 500 years on American soil. That is, however, plenty of time for populations to come and breed and mix and lay down patterns of ancestry that can be enlightened with living DNA as our historical text.

    A comprehensive genetic picture of the people of postcolonial North America was revealed at the beginning of 2017, drawn from data submitted by paying customers to the genealogy company AncestryDNA. The genomes of more than 770,000 people born in the United States were filtered for markers of ancestry, and revealed a picture of mishmash, as you might expect from a country of immigrants.

    Nevertheless, genetic clusters of specific European countries are seen. Paying customers supply spit harboring their genomes, alongside whatever genealogical data they have. By aligning these as carefully as possible, a map of post-Columbus America can be summoned with clusters of common ancestry, such as Finnish and Swedish in the Midwest, and Acadians—French-speaking Canadians from the Atlantic seaboard—clustering way down in Louisiana, close to New Orleans, where the word Acadian has mutated into Cajun. Here, genetics recapitulates history, as we know the Acadians were forcibly expelled by the British in the 18th century, and many eventually settled in Louisiana, then under Spanish control.

    In trying to do something similar with African Americans, we immediately stumble. Most black people in the United States cannot trace their genealogy with much precision because of the legacy of slavery. Their ancestors were seized from West Africa, leaving little or no record of where they were born. In 2014, the genetic genealogy company 23andMe published its version of the population structure of the United States. In that portrait we see a similar pattern of European admixture, and some insights into the history of the postcolonial United States.

    The Emancipation Proclamation—a federal mandate to change the legal status of slaves to free—was issued by President Lincoln in 1863, though the effects were not necessarily immediate. In the genomic data, there’s admixture between European DNA and African that begins in earnest around six generations ago, roughly in the mid-19th century. Within these samples we see more male European DNA and female African, measured by Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA, suggesting male Europeans had sex with female slaves. Genetics makes no comment on the nature of these relations.

    9. The Ancient Egyptian Civilization

    Period: 3150 B.C. – 30 B.C.
    Original Location: Banks of the Nile
    Current Location: Egypt
    Major Highlights: Construction of pyramids, mummification

    Prehistoric humans came upon the Nile — a lush green oasis surrounded by hot deserts on all sides — and liked what they saw. Settlements mushroomed alongside the river, and the earliest agricultural villages date back 7,000 years, setting the scene for the country of Egypt that still exists today.

    The Ancient Egyptians are synonymous with pyramids, mummies, and pharaohs (sometimes all at once), but there exist two more cornerstones of Egyptology — the culture’s distinctive art and a crowd of gods possessed by a rich mythology.

    And, in 1274 B.C., Pharaoh Ramses II ended a bloody 200-year-old conflict with the Hittites when the two kingdoms agreed to be allies, signing one of the world’s first peace treaties.

    The kingdom of Ancient Egypt disappeared slowly, its layers stripped away one by one. Starting with several wars that tore down its defenses, the invasions began and each wave erased more and more of the ancient civilization’s ways.

    The Assyrians weakened Egypt’s military and economy. Greek letters replaced hieroglyphics. The Romans effectively ended the pharaohs. The Arabs grabbed the country in 640 A.D., and by the 16th century, the Egyptian language had been completely replaced with Arabic.


    Trollope himself was decidedly unimpressed by many of these contrivances and most of all by central heating. Of the young ladies of Fifth Avenue, New York City, he wrote: ‘The very pith and marrow of life is baked out of their young bodies by the hot-air chambers to which they are accustomed. Hot air is the great destroyer of American beauty’.

    Conant’s article appeared in The Atlantic Monthly , Jan. 1949, p.19-21.

    Münkler’s nicely drawn distinction between boundaries between modern states and boundaries within empires is consistent with my position.

    Watch the video: ΑΥΤΟΧΘΟΝΕΣ ΛΑΟΙ ΤΗΣ ΑΜΕΡΙΚΗΣ (July 2022).


  1. Leyti

    wonderfully, this entertaining message

  2. Umarah

    sound thoughts, but hard to read, I don't know why.

  3. Murphy

    Does not work

  4. Buadhachan

    the exceptional delusion, in my opinion

  5. Enrique

    I'm sorry, but, in my opinion, they were wrong. Write to me in PM, discuss it.

  6. Halley

    I apologize for interfering ... I was here recently. But this topic is very close to me. Is ready to help.

  7. Haven

    I join. So it happens.

Write a message