Migration to the Americas Chapter 1 - pages 4-21

The Migration Begins

  • The written history of the Americas is several hundred years old, yet human beings have been living on these continents for thousands of years
  • Today, scientists are still seeking answers to these questions. Experts in archaeology (AHR • kee • ah • luh • jee), the study of ancient peoples, continue to piece together evidence that tells the story of the first Americans
  • Archaeologists have learned a lot about the past from artifacts (AHR • tih • fakts)—the tools, weapons, and other objects that early people left behind
  • This theory maintains that early people traveled along a strip of land that once linked Asia and the Americas
A widely held theory of recent times is that the first humans might have come to the Americas perhaps 20,000 or more years ago

A Land Bridge Revealed

  • Throughout Earth's history, the climate has changed. Several periods of extreme cold have occurred. The most recent of these ice ages began 100,000 years ago and ended about 12,000 years ago
  • The glaciers held so much water that ocean levels were lower. The lower sea level exposed a strip of land—a "land bridge"—connecting northeastern Asia to what is now Alaska
  • It now lies beneath the Bering Strait, a body of water named for explorer Vitus Bering. A strait is a narrow body of water that connects two larger ones
  • Many scientists believe early people traveled from Asia to North America across the land bridge. Yet not all scientists agree on how or when this might have happened

Searching for Hunting Grounds

  • It is clear, of course, that humans arrived in the Americas. Over centuries, they traveled throughout both continents. In time, settlements stretched as far east as the Atlantic Ocean and as far south as the tip of South America
  • What is the reason for this migration (my • GRAY • shuhn), or movement of people from one area to another? Why did these early Americans travel such distances? The answer may lie in the search for food
  • Early peoples were nomads (NOH • madz), people who moved from place to place in search of hunting grounds. Although they also ate wild grains and fruits, they depended on hunting for much of their food
  • They stalked herds of bison, mastodons, or mammoths, charging at the animals with spears
A single mammoth, which averaged 12 feet (3.7 m) tall, could provide tons of meat, enough to feed a group of people for months

Earth Warms

  • About 15,000 years ago, the Ice Age began to end. Temperatures started to rise, and the glaciers began to melt.
  • Ocean levels rose, and Beringia disappeared beneath the waves, cutting off the land route between Asia and the Americas
  • Around the same time, the large mammals on which humans depended for food began to disappear.
  • This might have been the result of overhunting or changes in the climate. The decline in game populations meant that early Americans had to find other sources of food
How did the Ice Age expose a land bridge between Asia and the Americas?
When the temperatures were low, great amounts of water froze into glaciers. This caused the ocean level to drop significantly, exposing the land bridge


  • The constant search for food meant trying new methods. Early Americans caught fish and hunted smaller animals, while also gathering berries and grains. Farming was another new option that began to emerge. Its development would change the nomadic way of life of many groups
  • Around 10,000 years ago, people in the area now known as Mexico learned to plant an early form of maize (MAYZ), which is a type of corn. These early farmers also planted pumpkins, beans, and squash
  • Scientists have a method of determining how old an artifact is. Using a process called carbon dating, scientists can measure the amount of radioactive carbon in an artifact. They can use this measurement to come up with an estimate of the artifact's age
  • Eventually, the groups of people living in the Americas developed their own cultures (KUHL • churz), or shared traditions and behaviors.
Maize, Pumpkin, Beans, and Squash
What were some changes that affected the nomadic way of life?
Warming Earth, the unavailability of large game, and the adaptation to farming

Cities and Empires

Standard 8.1.1

Identify the major Native American Indian groups of eastern North America and describe early conflict and cooperation between European settlers and these Native American groups

Great Civilizations of Mexico, Central america, and south america

  • Centuries before the Europeans arrived, great civilizations (sih • vuh • luh • ZAY • shuhnz), or highly developed societies, thrived in Mexico, Central America, and South America
  • The largest and most advanced of these were the Olmec, Maya, Aztec, and Inca
  • The accomplishments of the Olmec, Maya, Aztec, and Inca rivaled any of the great civilizations in other parts of the world
  • They also came up with complex methods for tracking time, counting, and writing
Olmec, Maya, Aztec, and Inca

The Olmec

  • Along the Gulf Coast of what is now Mexico, a people called the Olmec (OHL • mehk) once flourished
  • Between 1200 b.c. and 800 b.c., the Olmec built stone houses, monuments, and drainage systems
  • For reasons that are not fully understood, the Olmec civilization declined. By about 300 b.c., it had collapsed. Yet the Olmec had a strong influence on the cultures that followed

The Maya

  • The Maya (MY • uh) civilization followed the Olmec and reached its peak between a.d. 250 and a.d. 900. Maya farmers planted maize, beans, squash, and other vegetables
  • These people lived in one of the many large cities the Maya built in the steamy rain forests of present-day Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize
  • Maya civilization was a theocracy (thee • AH • kruh • see), a society ruled by religious leaders. Powerful Maya priests believed the gods were visible in the stars, sun, and moon
  • Their understanding of astronomy and their advanced mathematics helped them predict eclipses and develop a 365-day calendar
  • The Maya also developed a system of writing that used hieroglyphics (HY • ruh • glih • fihks), symbols or pictures that represent things, ideas, and sounds

maya transport and trade

  • Farmers brought maize and vegetables to city markets. They exchanged their goods for items such as cotton cloth, pottery, deer meat, and salt
  • Without wheeled vehicles or horses, the Maya carried goods on their backs. Traders traveled on a network of roads that were carved out of the jungle
  • They also used canoes to ship goods, such as jade statues, turquoise jewelry, and cacao beans used for making chocolate, up and down Mexico's east coast

maya civilization declines

  • In time the Maya civilization declined. By about 1200, its once-great cities were nearly deserted. The reason is a mystery. One theory holds that the soil became exhausted and unable to produce enough food for large populations
  • Though their civilization declined, the Maya people did not disappear entirely. Descendants of this great civilization still live in parts of Mexico and Central America today

The aztec empire

  • In 1325, centuries after the fall of the Maya, a group of hunters called the Aztec (AZ • tehk) were wandering through central Mexico. They were searching for a permanent home for their people
  • One day, they came upon an island in Lake Texcoco (tehs • KOH • koh). There they saw what they thought was a sign from their god: an eagle with a snake in its beak sitting on a cactus
  • It was on this site that the Aztec would build their capital city, Tenochtitlán (tay • NAWCH • teet • LAHN). Today it is the site of Mexico City
  • Tenochtitlán's construction was a marvel of building skill, knowledge, and human labor. Workers toiled day and night under the direction of priests and nobles. They dug soil from the bottom of the lake to make causeways, or bridges of earth
  • These causeways linked the island and the shore. Elsewhere, they used earth to fill in parts of the lake, creating fields for growing crops

aztec culture

  • The Aztec created a military empire. In the 1400s, the Aztec army conquered many neighboring communities.
  • Conquered people had to pay tribute in food and other goods. Some were also forced to work as slaves in Aztec cities and villages.
  • Like Maya culture, Aztec culture revolved around its religious beliefs. The Aztec believed they must perform human sacrifices to please the gods and ensure abundant harvests.
  • They sacrificed prisoners of war by the thousands for this purpose.

a great city remembered

  • The Aztec Empire was still going strong when Europeans arrived in the Americas in 1492. The first Europeans to see Tenochtitlán were awed by its splendor. In 1519 Hernán Cortés led 550 Spanish soldiers into the Aztec capital
  • Some of the Spanish soldiers thought Tenochtitlán was more magnificent than Rome and the other great European capitals of the time

the great inca civilization

  • In the western highlands of South America, the largest of all early American civilizations grew—the Inca. The Inca people founded their capital city of Cuzco (KOOS • koh) around 1200
  • In 1438 the emperor Pachacuti (PAH • chah • KOO • tee) came to the throne. He and his son, Topa Inca, expanded the empire by conquering others with their powerful army.
  • At its peak, the Inca Empire stretched for more than 3,000 miles (4,828 km), from present-day Colombia to northern Argentina and Chile
Machu Picchu (MAH • choo PEE • choo)

fearsome warriors

  • The Inca state was built around war. All men between 25 and 50 years old could be drafted to serve in the army for up to five years.
  • Their weapons included clubs, spears, and spiked copper balls on ropes. Using slings, Inca soldiers could throw stones 30 yards
  • Rather than fight this fearsome force, many neighboring areas accepted Inca rule

Inca culture

  • The Inca people believed their emperor was a descendant of the sun god
  • Inca workers also built great cities devoted to religious ceremonies, including Machu Picchu (MAH • choo PEE • choo), a site hidden high in the Andes Mountains
Machu Picchu Terraces
  • In order to farm their mountainous lands, the Inca cut terraces, or broad platforms, into steep slopes
  • The Inca built at least 10,000 miles (16,093 km) of stone-paved roads to link distant parts of their empire
  • The Inca language, Quechua (KEH • chuh • wuh), became the official language for the entire empire
  • The Inca had no written language, but they did develop a system of recordkeeping using string called quipus (KEE • poos)
  • Like the Aztec, the Inca were thriving in the early 1500s. They, too, would soon come face to face with Spanish soldiers and experience a dramatic change in fortunes

north American peoples

  • As in Mexico, Central America, and South America, advanced cultures developed in parts of North America that are now the United States long before Europeans arrived in the 1500s
  • Among these cultures were the Adena, Hopewell, and Mississippians in the central and eastern regions of the present–day United States
  • Archaeologists have classified these earthwork-building cultures into three groups: the Adena, Hopewell, and Mississippian cultures


  • Sometime after a.d. 900, a people now called the Mississippians built the largest known earthworks complex in present-day Illinois. Later named Cahokia (kuh • HOH • kee • uh), the complex might have had 20,000 or more residents
  • Surrounded by farms and settlements, Cahokia became the center of Mississippian culture
  • Cahokia appears to have resembled the ancient cities of Mexico. A great pyramid-shaped earthwork dominated Cahokia
"Before we came into this land, we lived yonder, under the sun. [the speaker pointed toward Mexico] . . . Our entire nation extended along the great water [the Gulf of Mexico] where this great river (the River St. Louis) loses itself." —Natchez legend


  • From about a.d. 200 to a.d. 1400, the Hohokam (hoh • hoh • KAHM) culture flourished in the dry, hot desert of present-day Arizona
  • As desert dwellers, the Hohokam were experts at maximizing their few sources of water
  • They irrigated (IHR • uh • gayt • uhd), or brought water to, their corn, cotton, and other crops by digging hundreds of miles of channels

The ancient PUEBLOANS

  • The Four Corners is the place where the modern-day states of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico meet. It was in this region that the Ancient Puebloans (PWEH • bloh • uhnz) lived at about the same time as the Hohokam—from about a.d. 1 to a.d. 1300
  • The Ancient Puebloans built great stone dwellings that Spanish explorers later called pueblos (PWEH • blohs), or villages
Cliff dwellings were easy to defend and offered protection from winter weather. One of the largest cliff dwellings is Mesa Verde (MAY • suh VUHR • dee) in Colorado
  • The Ancient Puebloans began leaving their pueblos and cliff dwellings for smaller communities in about 1300
  • They might have abandoned their large villages when drought, a long period of little rainfall, destroyed their crops
While the Hohokam, Ancient Puebloan, and the Adena, Hopewell, and Mississippian civilizations eventually faded away, other Native American cultures arose to take their place. In the time before European arrival in the late 1400s, many unique societies flourished throughout North America. Within different regions, different groups shared common features. These features reflected the conditions within each region.

northern people

  • A people called the Inuit (IH • noo • wuht) settled the frigid lands at the northernmost part of North America, near the Arctic Ocean
  • Some scientists believe the Inuit were the last migrants to come from Asia to North America
  • The Inuit were skilled hunters and fishers. In the coastal waters, they hunted whales, seals, and walruses in small, skin-covered boats called kayaks
  • On land they hunted caribou, large deerlike animals that lived in the far North
  • The Inuit made warm, waterproof clothing from caribou skins and seal skins. They burned seal oil in lamps

western peoples

  • The area between the Cascade Mountains and the Rocky Mountains is known as the plateau region
  • There, the Nez Perce (NEHZ PUHRS) and Yakima (YAH • keh • muh) peoples also depended on the land, fishing the rivers, hunting deer in forests, and gathering roots and berries
  • Present-day California was home to a great variety of cultures
  • Along the northern coast, Native Americans fished for their food
  • In the central valley of California, the Pomo (poh • moh) gathered acorns and pounded them into flour
  • In the more barren southern deserts, nomadic groups collected roots and seeds
  • Between the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains lies the Great Basin region.
  • There, the soil was too hard and rocky for farming.
  • This meant that peoples such as the Ute (YOOT) and Shoshone (shuh • SHOHN) had to travel in search of food.
  • They hunted and gathered small game, pine nuts, juniper berries, roots, and some insects. They crafted temporary shelters from branches and reeds.

southwestern peoples

  • In the Southwest region, descendants of the Ancient Puebloans formed the Hopi (HOH • pee), the Acoma (uh • KOH • muh), the Zuni (ZOO • nee), and other peoples
  • Farming was central to their cultures, with maize serving as their basic food source
  • They built their homes from dried mud bricks called adobe (uh • DOH • bee)
  • They also used irrigation to grow beans, squash, melons, pumpkins, and fruit
  • Their trade network spread throughout the Southwest and into Mexico
Hopi, Acoma, and Zuni
  • The Apache (uh • PAH • chee) and the Navajo (NAH • vuh • hoh) settled in the Southwest region about 1,000 years ago
  • These new groups were primarily hunters and gatherers. In time, the Navajo settled in villages and built square houses called hogans
  • They also began to grow maize and beans, and they raised sheep as well
Apache and Navajo Indians

plains peoples

  • The peoples of the Great Plains were nomadic. Their villages were temporary, lasting only for a growing season or two
  • The women planted maize, squash, and beans
  • The men hunted antelope, deer, and buffalo
  • When the people moved from place to place, they dragged their homes—cone-shaped skin tents called tepees—behind them
Plains Indians
  • Buffalo were central to the lives of the people of the Plains
  • Native Americans used buffalo to supply many basic needs
  • Buffalo meat was a good source of food, and people used the bones to make tools and weapons. Buffalo skins provided shelter and clothing
  • Today many people associate Native Americans of the Plains with the use of horses. These animals would transform Plains life—but not until the 1600s, after their arrival from Europe

eastern peoples

  • Complex societies existed in the woodlands of eastern North America.
  • A similar language connected the many Algonquian (al • GAHN • kwee • uhn) groups.
  • The Cherokee (CHEHR • uh • kee) and Iroquois (IHR • uh • kwoy) had formal law codes and formed federations (feh • duh • RAY • shuhnz), agreements among different groups to join together.
Algonquin Indians
Cherokee Indians
Iroquois Indians
  • The Iroquois lived near Canada in what is now northern New York State
  • The original five Iroquois groups, or nations, were the...
  • Onondaga (ah • nuhn • DAW • guh)
  • Seneca (SEH • nih • kuh)
  • Mohawk (MOH • hawk)
  • Oneida (oh • NY • duh)
  • Cayuga (kay • YOO • guh)
  • These groups often warred with each other. Then, in the 1500s, they established the Great Peace, an alliance called the Iroquois League
  • The five nations agreed to the Great Binding Law, an oral constitution that defined how the league worked and established the Grand Council

southeastern peoples

  • Among the Native American groups of the Southeast were the Creek, Cherokee, and Chickasaw (CHIH • kuh • saw)
The Creek lived in loosely knit farming communities in what is now Georgia and Alabama. There they grew corn, squash, tobacco, and other crops
The Cherokee farmed in the mountains of what is now Georgia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas
The Chickasaw spread out across the Southeast, but most of their largest settlements were in present-day Mississippi. There they farmed the fertile river bottomlands

a changing world

  • In whichever part of North America they lived, Native Americans developed rich and varied cultures, and ways of living that were suited to their environments
  • In the 1500s, however, a new people with vastly different cultures and ways of life would arrive in the Americas: the Europeans
  • Their arrival would change the Native Americans' world forever
Arrival of Europeans

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