AN04a_Native American Civilizations
FS: The Americas Nurture Great Civilizations- An Overview.
Timeline: 10th C. BCE – 15th C. CE
Main Idea: Often, secondary school history courses and textbooks in the United States reflect a world view similar in values to that of Europe. When we study non-European societies, there may be the notion lurking in our mind that these societies were not equal to Europe in creativity, innovation, complexity, and scientific achievement. This is unfortunate and inaccurate.
Complex North American societies were linked to each other through culture and economics. Native America’s great societies and civilizations exploited these links to build and create as well as peoples of the “Old World”. Some of these American societies are well known, while others remain little more than legendary.
A. Indian vs. Native American: Which is academically appropriate and why?
B. “Old” World: Asia, Africa, & Europe
C. “New” World: North & South America
D. Pre-Columbian: Prior to the 1492 arrival date of Columbus in the Americas. (1)
II. Theories Regarding Origins & Development
A. Migrations: Via the Berings Strait Land Bridge ~50000 BP. This may be the leading theory in this field today, but not the only one.
B. Pre-Columbian Contact with Old World Civilizations
3. Speculative theories lacking significant physical & literary evidence.
III. Native America’s Nurturing Geography
A. Great Plains (eg. ancestors of Sioux, Blackfoot, etc.)
B. Mississippi River Valley (eg. ancestors of Mississippian Culture=> Mound Builders) (2)
C. Woodland (eg. ancestors of The Iroquois, etc.) (3)
D. American South-West (eg. ancestors of Anazasi, Pueblo)
E. Pacific North-West (eg. ancestors of Sea-dependent cultures=> Tlingit)
F. Central Mexican Valley (eg. ancestors of Olmec, Teotihuacan)
IV. History-Altering Impact
A. Crops: Corn, Beans, Squash, Potato
B. Medicine: Advanced Pharmacopoeias
C. Science & Technology: Architecture, Food Preservation, Agriculture, Metallurgy
V. Summary: Why it matters now.
Traditions and ideas from these cultures became part of the cultures of North America since then.
(1) Listen to a podcast sponsored by The Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History (GLI). Learn the latest about Pre-Columbian America from one of nation’s important historians. Charles C. Mann’s America Before Columbus\
Brown University, July 22, 2008
Running Time: 45:00
(2) Recent research on the Mound Builders of the famous Cahokia site can be accessed from the GLI website. Timothy R. Pauketat’s Cahokia: A Pre-Columbian American Indian City\
(3) Read recent findings on a great Native American society by accessing GLI’s Matthew Dennis’s The League of the Iroquois\
NOTE: If you cannot access the sources listed above using the links, you may have to create an account with the Gilder-Lehrman Institute. Once you have that account, search for the source using the scholar’s name and/ or title of the work.
– Maps of Americas
– Millennium Video Series, CNN Productions, Inc. ©1999.
– Slide presentation
– World History: Patterns of Interaction
– Gilder-Lehrman Institute for American History