|American Promise Notes p. 3-32
I. Archaeology and History
1. Archaeologists and historians share a desire to learn about people who lived in the past, but they employ different methods to inform their interpretations and to arrive at their conclusions.
2. Archaeologists depend on physical objects for their evidence; historians rely on written records.
3. The use of writing distinguishes the chronological periods and the people studied by archaeologists from those studied by historians.
4. Archaeology can tell us a great deal about the lives of humans who inhabited the world before the invention of writing.
5. Much of the history of these ancient peoples, however, remains unknowable.
II. The First Americans
A. African and Asian origins
1. The process of continental drift encircled the land of the Western Hemisphere with large oceans, isolating it from the other continents long before early humans first appeared in Africa about 2 million years ago.
2. Modern humans appeared in Africa about 400,000 bp (years before the present time); all humans throughout the world today are descendants of these ancient Africans.
3. Two major developments allowed small bands of hunters in pursuit of game to migrate to the Western Hemisphere: (1) human adaptability to the frigid environment near the Arctic Circle, and (2) changes in the earth's climate that led to the reconnection of North America to Asia.
4. By about 25,000 bp, humans had spread from Africa throughout Europe and Asia; sometime after 15,000 bp, humans had traveled across Beringia, the land bridge that connected Siberia to Alaska, and arrived in the Western Hemisphere.
5. Archaeologists refer to these first migrants and their descendants, who originated in Asia, as Paleo-Indians.
B. Paleo-Indian Hunters
1. Paleo-Indians traveled through ice-free corridors along the eastern side of the Canadian Rockies in pursuit of abundant large game.
2. They used distinctive spearheads, now known as Clovis points, to hunt mammoths, which provided the first Americans with abundant food and materials for clothing and shelter, and which promoted rapid population growth and expansion of peoples throughout the Western Hemisphere.
3. Around 11,000 bp, climatic changes and human intervention rendered the mammoth and other large game extinct, engendering a major crisis for the Paleo-Indians.
4. Paleo-Indians adapted to the extinction by making at least two important changes in their way of life: increased reliance on small game and the introduction of foraging.
5. Environmentally motivated adaptations allowed for great cultural diversity among the post-Clovis peoples of ancient America.
III. Archaic Hunters and Gatherers
A. Great Plains Bison Hunters
1. After the mammoth became extinct, some hunters concentrated on herds of bison that grazed the plains stretching east of the Rocky Mountains.
2. These hunters, who moved constantly to maintain contact with their prey, developed trapping techniques that made it easier to kill large numbers of animals.
3. Around AD 500, bows and arrows reached Great Plains hunters, allowing them to wound prey from farther away and making it easier to shoot repeatedly; but the hunters did not otherwise alter age-old techniques of bison hunting on foot.
B. Great Basin Cultures
1. Archaic peoples in the Great Basin inhabited a region of great environmental diversity.
2. Despite the variety and occasional abundance of animals, these peoples relied on plants for their most important food source.
C. Pacific Coast Cultures
1. The richness of the natural environment made present-day California the most densely settled and culturally diverse area in ancient North America.
2. California cultures shared the hunter-gatherer way of life and a reliance on acorns as a major food source.
3. The Pacific Northwest coast provided its inhabitants, who lived in relatively permanent villages, a rich natural environment, replete with a variety of fishes.
D. Eastern Woodland Cultures
1. East of the Mississippi River, Archaic peoples adapted to a forest environment that included many local variants.
2. Woodland hunters stalked deer as their most important prey and, like all Archaic peoples, gathered edible plants, seeds, and nuts.
3. Around 4000 BP, Woodland cultures added two important features to their basic lifestyle: agriculture and pottery.
4. Despite cultural changes brought on by the introduction of agriculture and pottery, ancient Woodland Americans retained basic features of their hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
IV. Agricultural Settlements and Chiefdoms
A. Southwestern Cultures
1. Facing unpredictable rainfall and dry climates that made wild plant food supplies unreliable, ancient Americans in the Southwest developed cultures characterized by agriculture and multiunit dwellings called pueblos.
2. After 3500 BP corn became the most important cultivated crop for ancient Americans; reliance on corn encouraged Americans in the Southwest to become irrigation experts and limit their migratory habits in order to tend the crop.
3. About AD 200, small farming settlements began to appear throughout the Southwest, marking the emergence of the Mogollon culture, which began to decline about AD 1000.
4. Around AD 500, other ancient peoples migrated from Mexico to southern Arizona and established Hohokam settlements, which relied heavily on a sophisticated irrigation system until their decline in about AD 1400.
5. North of the Mogollon and Hohokam cultures, the Anasazi culture began to flourish around AD 100.
6. Persistent drought in southern Utah, Colorado, northern Arizona, and New Mexico forced the Anasazi culture to abandon their large pueblos around AD 1200.
B. Woodland Burial Mounds and Chiefdoms
1. Around 2500 BP, Woodland cultures began to build burial mounds, suggesting the existence of a social and political hierarchy that archaeologists term a chiefdom.
2. Between 2500 and 2100 BP, the Adena people, centered in Ohio, built hundreds of burial mounds and placed in them a variety of grave goods.
3. About 2100 BP, the Adena culture evolved into the Hopewell culture, which constructed even larger burial mounds and filled them with even more elaborate goods than their Adena forbearers.
4. Careful analysis suggests that burial was probably reserved for the most important members of Hopewell society; most people were cremated.
5. The Hopewell culture declined around AD 400; around AD 800, the Mississippian culture emerged, surviving until around AD 1500.
6. The largest Mississippian site was Cahokia, located in present-day Illinois, comprising over one hundred mounds of different sizes and shapes.
7. By the time Europeans arrived the conditions that caused the emergence of large chiefdoms had changed and chiefs no longer commanded sweeping powers.
V. Native Americans in the 1490s
1. Native Americans populated and shaped the world the Europeans encountered.
2. By the 1490s, Native Americans lived throughout North America, but compared to populations in England and elsewhere in Europe, they were spread thin across the land.
3. Regions with abundant resources, such as the West Coast, supported relatively large populations, but even in these regions, the density was well below the average for England at the same time.
4. About one-third of Native Americans lived in the enormous Woodland region, east of the Mississippi, clustering in three broad linguistic and cultural groups: Algonquian, Iroquoian, and Muskogean.
5. Algonquian tribes inhabited the Atlantic seaboard, the Great Lakes region, and much of the upper Midwest; along the Atlantic seaboard many grew corn and other crops, in addition to hunting and fishing, while tribes around the Great Lakes and northern New England relied heavily on hunting, fishing, and gathering wild rice.
6. Iroquoian tribes, inhabiting Pennsylvania, central New York, and the upland regions of the Carolinas and Georgia, distinguished themselves from their neighbors by building permanent settlements, adhering to matrilineal rules of descent, and forming a confederation of Iroquoian tribes, the League of Five Nations.
7. Muskogean peoples spread throughout the woodlands of the Southeast and adapted remnants of earlier Mississippian cultures in their religion's rites.
8. The Great Plains peoples accounted for one-seventh of the total Native American population.
9. Roughly one-fourth of Native Americans lived in settled agricultural communities in the Southwest.
10. About one-fifth of all Native Americans resided along the Pacific coast.
11. Although trading was common, all Native Americans in the 1490s still depended on hunting and gathering for a major portion of their food; most tribes also practiced agriculture.
12. Native Americans adapted to the natural environment, but also altered it by building permanent structures, developing agricultural techniques, and setting fires to encourage the growth of certain plants that attracted deer and other game animals.
VI. The Mexica: A Meso-American Culture
1. Most of the roughly 80 million inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere at the time of Columbus 's arrival lived in Mexico and Central and South America.
2. One of the most prominent cultures of this region was the Mexica (called Aztecs by Europeans), who began their rise to prominence in 1325 and by the 1490s ruled an empire larger in population and area than Spain and Portugal combined.
3. The Mexica worshipped the war god Huitzilopochtli, engaged in constant warfare to protect and extend the empire's borders, and sacrificed captives in elaborate rituals carried out by priests.
4. The empire functioned as a military and political system that exacted tribute from its subject peoples.
5. The redistribution of wealth from the commoners to the nobility made possible the achievements of Mexican society: huge cities, fabulous temples, teeming markets, and filled coffers.
6. The Mexica allowed for an indigenous ruling elite to remain in power in conquered territories as long as they paid tribute to the empire, for which they got little in return, except immunity from punitive raids.
7. After 1492, Spanish intruders capitalized on high levels of discontent among subject peoples to conquer the Mexica.