Precontact Native Americans

January 5, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: History, World History, Aztec
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Precontact Native Americans

U.S. History I

The First Immigrants to America 

Siberian hunters crossed “Beringia” before 12,000 BCE & spread southwards 





Ice Age lowered sea level about 350 feet, exposing land under Bering Sea Siberians hunting wooly mammoths, mastadons, etc. followed them across to Alaska Quickly killed off large mammals  

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included horses & camels thus only dogs & llamas domesticated

Others may have crossed by sea from Asia or SW Europe Peopled both continents by 10,000 BCE

Copyright 2001, A.B. Longman

Mesoamerican Civilizations ©2004 Wadsworth, a division of Thomson Learning, Inc. Thomson Learning™ is a trademark used herein under license.



Agriculture began in Mesoamerica 5000 BCE 

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Olmecs & Zapotecs (1st millenium BCE) Teotihuacán (300 BCE 800 CE) 

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Ruins of Teotihuacán

Maize, beans & squash

150,000 people living in stucco apartment complexes Temple of the Sun over 200’ high Trade in cocoa, rubber, feathers, obsidian & pulque

The Mayan Civilization   

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3 million population on the Yucatan peninsula City-states ruled by powerful kings Polytheistic religion  Human sacrifice  Ceremonial ball game Developed hieroglyphics Overcultivation coupled with prolonged drought led to collapse of southern cities in 9th – 10th centuries New urban centers in northern Yucatan flourished under Toltecs

Mayan pyramid at Uxmal

Mayan Glyphs carved on wall at Palenque, Mexico

©2004 Wadsworth, a division of Thomson Learning, Inc. Thomson Learning™ is a trademark used herein under license.

Mayan Pyramid at Chichen-Itza

©2004 Wadsworth, a division of Thomson Learning, Inc. Thomson Learning™ is a trademark used herein under license.

The Aztecs 

Mexica (Aztecs) migrated from the northwest (Land of Aztlán) 



Politics and society: 

©2004 Wadsworth, a division of Thomson Learning, Inc. Thomson Learning™ is a trademark used herein under license.

Founded Tenochtitlán on island in Lake Texcoco

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Monarch had both divine and secular responsibilities Hereditary nobility trained in harsh temple schools Commoners belonged to calpulli (kinship group) headed by elected chief  Held land in common & maintained temples & schools  Responsible for taxes and conscription Women could own property & make contracts, but not equal to men

Aztec Religion and Culture 

Polytheistic religion:   







Ometeotl = all-powerful creator god Huitzilopochtli = sun god; protector of Aztec people Quetzalcoatl = feather serpent god of learning; left in 10th century but destined to return one day Fatalistic religion – believed world had been created & destroyed 4 times Human sacrifice necessary to prevent 5th destruction of world

Impressive art and sculpture

Aztec Calendar Stone

Examples of early South American ceramics (6th - 9th centuries, Peru)

©2004 Wadsworth, a division of Thomson Learning, Inc. Thomson Learning™ is a trademark used herein under license.

©2004 Wadsworth, a division of Thomson Learning, Inc. Thomson Learning™ is a trademark used herein under license.

The Inca Empire  

Inca Empire est. by Pachakuti in 1440s Highly centralized gov’t  

©2004 Wadsworth, a division of Thomson Learning, Inc. Thomson Learning™ is a trademark used herein under license.





Forced labor used to build:  

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Provinces & districts had equal numbers of residents Governors members of royal family Collective farming under state control cities like Cuzco & Machu Picchu 24,800 miles of roads with rest houses, storage depots & suspension bridges

20,000-man army raised by universal conscription No writing, but system of knotted strings (quipu) served as mnemonic devices for messengers

Peoples of North America ©2004 Wadsworth, a division of Thomson Learning, Inc. Thomson Learning™ is a trademark used herein under license.





Agriculture & pottery entered North America around 2000 BCE Hohokam & Anasazi (Pueblo) culture flourished in Southwest from 700 – 1300 CE  





Bandelier, NM

Irrigation to grow crops Clay & timber buildings

Adena & Hopewell cultures in Ohio & Illinois River valleys, 100 BCE – 400 CE Mississippian chiefdoms flourished in Southeast between 700 – 1500 CE

Mississippian Culture (700 – 1300) 

Cahokia: city of 20,000 at its height (1100-1200 CE)    

Artist’s conception of Cahokia



Central city enclosed by wooden stockade nearly 6 square miles Central plaza covered 50 acres “Monks Mound” - 100 feet high, topped with large palace/temple “Woodhenge” – circles of wooden posts served as calendar to mark solstices & equinoxes Climate change &drought led to dwindling population after 1200 – abandoned by 1400

Native North American Cultures 







Eastern Woodlands  Algonquian – Wampanoag, Mahican, Lenni Lenape, Powhatans  Iriquoian – 5 Nations, Hurons, Susquehannocks, Cherokee  Muskogean – Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw Great Plains  Sedentary farmers – Mandans, Hidatsas  Nomadic buffalo hunters – Sioux, Crow, Comanche Southwestern  Athapascans - Apache & Navajo Pacific Northwest  Chinook, Salish

Eastern Woodlands Culture 

Matrilineal descent   

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Clans & villages were primary identity, not tribes Wars fought for 2 reasons:  

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Husband joined wife’s clan Iriquois women chose chiefs Algonquin women could be chiefs

Make other village pay tribute Gain captives to be adopted (requickening)

No written language European diseases spread ahead of contact through trade

Algonquian Village

17th Century European Society 

Mostly small agricultural communities based on nuclear families  



Society tied together by cooperation between neighbors and patronage & deference between nobles & commoners  

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Young marriage age & large families No “generation gap”

Nobles owed patronage to commoners Commoners owed deference to nobles

Supernatural still credible Violence & death very common Pre-capitalist economic order

Intercultural Exchange 

Indians & Europeans met on “middle ground,” but Europeans had the upper hand  



Iriquois Wampum Belts

Communication problems not just due to language - sometimes same concept had different meanings in different cultures  



Indians tried to use Europeans as allies, or play one group off another some accepted Christianity, but almost all rejected imposition of culture

“Father” was benevolent figure for Indians, authoritarian for Europeans Indians understood land ownership as usufruct rights, not exclusive ownership

Each learned others’ customs, but appropriated for their own use  

wampum became money for some European colonists Indians gave new meanings & uses to European trade goods

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