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Chapter 1: Ancient America before 1492

Lecture to accompany the text The American Promise: A History of the United States Volume I to 1877
by

Jason Holloway

on 2 October 2014

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Transcript of Chapter 1: Ancient America before 1492

Chapter 1: Ancient America Before 1492
1. Archaeology and History
2. The First Americans
How does the opening vignette relate to the chapter as a whole?
American history before 1492 is dominated by Native/Ancient Americans but much is incomplete and at times controversial.
Artifacts are the main object of study for both historians and archaeologists.
How are the two disciplines ultimately different in their areas of focus?
Writing is relatively new in human history.
8,000 BP, before present, or only 2 per of human history.
Biologically early humans were the same, similar behaviors existed, languages were created, but no written forms of expression.
How do archaeologists discover how illiterate peoples lived?
Why is this relevant to our discussion of Native Americans?
Where did the first Americans come from and what technological skills did they have?
Why were the addition of Native Americans to the Western Hemisphere a relatively late phenomenon?
Homo Erectus arises 2,000,000 BP in Africa.
Homo Sapiens first appears around 400,000 BP in Africa.
For 97% of Human history, the Western Hemisphere had no inhabitants.
What two developments allowed this to change?
By 25,000 BP certain innovations like the needle allowed warm clothing to develop.
Between 25,000 and 14,000 BP the sea level drops 350 ft. and Beringia appears.
Gradually people migrate into North America, why is it as attractive as it is for the new inhabitants?
Paleo-Indians are the first peoples in the Americas arriving in small groups of roughly 25.
Roughly how long did it take the Paleo-Indians to migrate across the whole Western Hemisphere?
The Clovis Point is one of the main artifacts of this period used largely to sharpen spears.
What did Paleo-Indians hunt, how did they use their kills, and what did it represent of their society as a whole?
After a short period, large mammals increasingly die out due to overhunting and difficulty adapting to climatic changes.
Changes in lifestyle are a result, focus on smaller animals and more foraging.
Greater cultural diversity ensues why?
By 1492, North America alone has more than 300 major tribes, hundreds of smaller ones.
3. Archaic Hunters and Gatherers
4. Agricultural Settlements and Chiefdoms
5. Native Americans in the 1490s
6. The Mexica: A Mesoamerican Culture
7. Conclusion: The World of Ancient Americans
Archaic refers to the period between 10,000 and 4,000/3,000 BP.
What activities does this period correspond with?
Archaic hunters largely use what sorts of tools and with what purpose?
First permanent settlements are established though still rare.
Basket making is an increasing important activity.
Bisons on the Great Plains are big targets and Folsom Points are used to kill them.
Bow and arrows gradually replace spears, why?
Lack of large draft animals.
Great Basin area is between the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada.
Area depends greatly on infrequent rain
Relied on fishing, some hunting, and lots of plant gathering.
Pacific Coast cultures are abundant.
California is the most inhabited location with 500 tribes, 90 languages.
Permanent tribes are more likely here.
Lots of tribes collect acorns in California region.
Northwest people fish heavily
In both areas lots of conflict occurs, why?
Eastern Woodlands is region in the east along the major river valleys.
Deer was the most important animal source of food.
Lots of gathering occurred in this wooded region.
Small settlements are founded.
How long do people on average live?
First to start agriculture with gourds, pumpkins, sunflowers and corn.
Where did agricultural influences emanate from?
Women led the develop of agriculture, why is this the case?
How important is agriculture to these communities?
Pottery develops coming from Mexico.
Why is Pottery important for some Native Americans but not others?
Around 4000 BP agriculture and permanent settlements really take hold.
Around 2500 BP burial mounds first occur, what does there appearance suggest to us?
These changes are ultimately still underway in 1492.
Southwestern cultures create settlements called pueblos.
Why do they begin to adopt agriculture here?
Gradual institution of significant irrigation works.
Of these various groups the Anasazi built famous cliff pueblos at places like Chaco Canyon, NM.
They develop buildings that have lunar/solar connections as well.
Between 1100-1200 CE their communities are abandoned due to changing climatic conditions.
Woodland peoples develop burial mounds and chiefdoms.
Burial mounds signify greater political/social complexity.
Adena people in Ohio build hundreds of mounds.
Hopewell people build larger ones that showcase greater and more varied cultural goods.
Mississippian cultures create Cahokia. Why is Cahokia important?
Also constructed woodhenges similar to those at Stonehenge.
Influence from Mexico is very apparent.
What were the circumstances of many of these chiefdoms by the time of the arrival of Europeans?
Total population in 1492 is debated but 4 million is the most likely number.
Roughly the same population as England.
England is however much more densely populated with 8,000 per 100 square miles as opposed to 60 per 100 square miles in North America.
Eastern and Great Plains peoples are 1/3 of total.
3 main groups are the Algonquian, Iroquoian, and Muskogean.
Where are the Algonquian located, what do they principally do, and what are some of the individual tribes called?
Where are the Iroquoian located, what do they principally do, and what are some of their individual tribes called?
Where are the Muskogean located, what do they principally do, and what are some of their individual tribes called?
Great Plains indians are 1 in 7 and had been forced west by other tribes.
Primarily hunts buffalo.
What are some of the tribes pertaining to this group?
Southwestern and Western people are 1/4 of all Native Americans.
Descendents of pueblo builders.
Under attack from Apache and Navajo.
Pacific Coast Native Americans are 1/5 of total.
Little agricultural implementation due to abundance.
The Dalles is the primary trading site of perhaps all North America, why is that?
Similarities across the board exist amongst Native Americans in that most are hunter-gatherers though agriculture is supplemental.
No writing exists amongst the tribes though, what do they do in its place?
How is Native American society and European society different technologically in 1492?
How common is warfare amongst Native American tribes?
How do Native Americans massively change the environment before European arrival?
Most of the 80 million people in the hemisphere lived in Mesoamerica and the Andes with a population similar to Europe's.
Mexica/Aztec one of the largest most noted groups.
Their empire had between 8 and 25 million people in it.
Why do we know more about the Aztec/Mexica and even the Incas and Mayans than other groups?
Aztec start migrating into the valley of Mexico around 1325 and build their capital Tenochtitlan.
Gradually they build a large empire conquering both enemies and allies.
What was the Mexica religion like and how did it effect their perceptions of warfare?
How did the tribute system work?
Wealth was gradually redistributed which allowed the construction of impressive building and monuments that the Europeans later encountered.
Other than the required tribute there was little involvement of the Mexica in subdued areas.
How did this arraignment ultimately undermine their empire upon the arrival of the Spanish?
For 13,000 years the history of the Americas is the history of Native Americans.
What is this history essentially problematic and how do we know what we know?
How did Native Americans diversify overtime?
How did Native Americans and Europeans differ technologically in 1492?
How did the arrival of Europeans alter Native American's historical development?
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