The first Americans had a very different environment and lifestyle from humans today.
The Earth was in the grip of an Ice Age. An Ice Age is a period of global cooling. This caused glaciers to cover much of the North.
Landbridges formed... A landbridge called Beringia connected Asia to North America. People from Asia followed herds of animals across this land bridge and ended up in North America. These were the first Americans.
People during this time were hunter gathers. They hunted animals and gathered whatever plants they could find.
These first Americans would become Native Americans.
Different cultures developed.
There were two main Native American cultures:
- Mound Builders (Adena, Hopewell, Mississippians) built monuments of earth.
- Cliff Dwellers (Anasazi) built homes out of adobe called pueblos.
Over time more and more cultures existed... This created a variety of Native American tribes/nations.
There are similarities among Native American nations:
1) Spoke same language
2) Believed spirits were in nature
3) No one person owned land
4) Several leaders made decisions for the nation
5) Important division was the clan
The Iroquois were located in New York. Hiawatha formed this powerful alliance of nations called the Iroquois League.
A civilization is an advanced society with systems of government, writing, education, and specialization.
There were three great Native American civilizations further south:
- Inca (they had the largest empire)
Location - Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
Scientific achievements included making maps of the star groups, two calendars.
Mathematic achievements included developing a system of numbers and a symbol for zero.
Location - Central Mexico. Their capital was Tenochtitlan.
Achievements - They gained their wealth from conquest and trade. Conquered people had to pay a tribute.
Montezuma was the unpopular ruler during the Aztec decline.
Hernan Cortez conquered the Aztec Empire.
Location - South America. Capital was Cusco.
Achievement - They peacefully convinced neighboring nations to join their empire. If they did not join, then they went to war and conquered them forcibly.
The Inca empire became the largest of the three southern empires.
At around the same time across the ocean... Europe was in its Middle Ages, or a period of decline, after the fall of the powerful Roman Empire.
Some groups, such as the Vikings, thrived though.
Middle Ages - period from 500-1500 where feudalism was dominant. Trade, education, and the arts declined. Europe was made up of many Kingdoms, or small countries, ruled by monarchs.
Monarch - King or Queen.
Feudalism - a system where land is granted to people in return for service or goods.
Manor - was a large piece of land owned by a Lord.
Vikings did well during the Middle Ages because European was divided into smaller kingdoms after the fall of the massive Roman Empire. Vikings often raided these kingdoms.
Vikings were also expert shipbuilders and sent out ships to explore the world.
The Viking, Leif Eriksson, was the first person to discover North America.
During the Middle Ages a terrible disease, called the Black Death/Plague, devastated Europe.
25% of Europe's population perished.
The Black death helped to end Feudalism. A wealthy middle class emerged. These people were merchants, lawyers, and doctors. Trade began to increase.
Causes of Increased Trade:
- Marco Polo
Marco Polo, a member of a middle class merchant family, went on a voyage to Asia. He learned much about the culture and goods of Asia and he brought this information back to Europe. This caused interest in Asian goods and trading increased.
The Crusades were a series of religious wars between Christians and Muslims. They fought over the holy land of Jerusalem.
When European soldiers went to Jerusalem they came in contact with new Asian goods and brought them back to Europe. People became very interested in these new goods and trade increased.
Italian merchants gained a monopoly on Asian goods. This means they completely controlled the trading of these goods.
Increase of trade led to an interaction of cultures and it sparked a desire to learn.
Europe began to emerge from the Middle Ages into a golden age called the Renaissance.
The Renaissance was a period of increased trade, learning, wealth, art, and science.
Famous individuals of the Renaissance:
Michelangelo - Italian artist. One of his achievements was painting the Sistine Chapel.
Leonardo da Vinci -
Italian Renaissance painter, architect, inventor, and student of all things scientific. Is known for painting the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper.
William Shakespeare - English writer. Known for famous works such as Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, etc.
The increased trade and demand of Asian goods during the Renaissance encouraged explorers to find better trade routes.
Portugal led Europe into the Age of Exploration, a period where Europeans explored and mapped the world.
Using technology such as the compass and caravel, explorers found a trade route to Asia.
Bartholameu Dias - traveled to the southern tip of Africa and named it the Cape of Good Hope.
Vasco de Gama - sailed around Africa and arrived in Asia. He discovered a water trade route to Asia!
Other nations in Europe joined the Age of Exploration. Spain hired Christopher Columbus to find a water route to Asia.
Christopher Columbus believed that he could reach Asia by sailing West from Europe.
In 1492 Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue and landed in the Bahamas on an island called San Salvador. Columbus "rediscovered" North America.
Columbus' arrival in the Americas led to an exchange of ideas and goods between the "Old World" and the "New World." This exchange of goods was called the Columbian Exchange.
After discovering the rich resources of the Americas... Countries began to create colonies in the Americas.
These colonies existed to make the home country rich.
Spain was the most successful at claiming land and creating colonies, or lands ruled by the home country, at first.
Spanish colonies were mainly located in Central and South America.
Spanish conquistadors, or conquerors, defeated the Aztec and Inca Empires. They were aided by their superior technology and the spread of disease.
Hernan Cortez - defeated the Aztec.
Francisco Pizarro - defeated the Inca.
The Spanish had a bad relationship with the Native Americans due to the encomienda system which forced Natives to work for landowners.
France claimed a large area of land and set up their colony in present-day Canada, North America.
Jacques Cartier - claimed the land for the French.
Samuel de Champlain - established Quebec, created a great relationship with the Natives, and explored the Great Lakes.
He is known as the Father of New France for these achievements.
The French and the Native Americans had a good relationship.
The French and Native Americans were partners in the profitably fur trade. The fur trade was France's main source of riches in the colonies.
The Dutch became interested in the fur trade and set Henry Hudson to claim land for the Netherlands.
The Dutch established their colony in present-day New York and created a settlement on Manhattan Island called New Amsterdam.