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MIHAI MANEA- SIGMA P ublishing House 2007

An educational pack for the bilingual high schools in Romania

The earliest times in North America

The Early American Continent was the homeland of important naive civilizations.

A Basic Chronology

2,000.000 B.C. Ice age begins

c 5,000 B.C. - first domesticated plants in the Western Hemisphere
c. 400-100 B.C. - the Adena culture on Ohio Valley River
c. 100 B.C. - The Anasazi culture in the Southwest

Archeological excavations have revealed early settlements fortifications, burial places,

mounds of important historical significance. An example is the settlement close to Phoenix,
Arizona or those in Ohio and Mexico.
According the tradition, the first natives in North America were called Indians. The first
tribes were the Hokohum, the Adenans, the Hopewellians, the Mississippians, the Anasazi,
the Pueblos and many others.
Populations growth had an important result- the first permanent settlements.
The Indian tradition called them “potlatch” some historians called them “cities”, such as
Cahokia(Missouri) or the cliff-palaces from Mesa Verde (Colorado), Pueblo Benito (New
When the first European colonists arrived in the New World or America as it was later
called, there was nothing but a large area of wilderness and the Indians, with a vast diversity
of culture and customs. The Indians hunted animals, gathered and cultivated cereals and made
war. The relations between the tribes were sometimes friendly. Their society was a clan-based
one. Kinship cemented all Indian tribes together. Each tribe was comprised of big networks of
kin groups who claim their descent from a common ancestor who embodied the admired
qualities of some animals. There were very much in touch with the land and with the nature,
and their religious beliefs and civilization as a whole very much reflected their communion
with their natural environment.

clan- a group of one family, all originally descended from one family and having the same name
Indian- Native from North America
potlatch - a “settlement”
tribe – a social group made up of people of the same race, beliefs, customs, language, living in a
particular area, often under the leadership of a chief.
The Age of Empires in America
When the first European reached America, what they found was the great Empires-
the Mayas, the Aztecs and the Incas.
The Maya civilization, which was based in the Northern Central American region,
was a Mesoamerican civilization, noted mostly for the uniquely developed written
language of the pre-Columbian Americas. The inhabitants also developed spectacular
works of art, monumental architecture and very sophisticated mathematical and
astronomical systems.
The Mayas were followed by the Aztecs, who were some of the Pre-Columbian
peoples of Mexico. They built a large empire in the 14th, 15th, 16th centuries. Some
historians refer to all Aztecs as the Nahua peoples. The nucleus of the huge state as the
Valley of Mexico, where the capital city of Tenochtitlan was built upon some islets in
Lake Texcoco.The Aztecs were famous for their rich temples and mysterious pyramids.
Further in the South there were the Incas. The Inca Empire was the largest one in
pre-Columbian America. The Empire was centered in the Andes Mountains and its
administrative,political and military heart was located in Cuzco. Starting from Peru, the
Incas slowly conquered large parts of South America. The Incas called their king “child
of the sun”.
New historical researches revealed that the Vikings(the Norse) who were excellent
sailors and skilled warriors were among the very first Europeans to set foot in the New
World. The Viking sagas described some voyages that are thought to have been to the
coast of America. It seemed that around the year 1000 Erik, a Viking chief, sailing west
from Greenland arrived on the American continent and even organized a settlement.
Soon he was followed by Leif, who travelled the Atlantic coasts of present-day Canada.
According to some historians the Vikings travelled over the Atlantic Ocean as far as
the Bahamas.