North American Civilizations
Early North American Civilizations
A New Beginning
Up until roughly 35,000 B.C.E north America was uninhabited with humans. It was a land flourishing with animals and dominated by large carnivores. When the sea froze in the Bering Strait it offered a passage way for humans to expand their civilizations and explore new worlds. That is just what the people in Asia did. They were first brought to what we now know as Alaska; this was a place with less ice and more plants and animals to offer them efficient food and shelter. Many of these people at first were hunters and gatherers, roaming the lands for food like Elk, Bison, and Deer. Over the next thousands of years these people found themselves spreading further down the west coast of North America reaching the Northwest. Eventually the people made their way to Central and South America where the possibilities just started.
Depending on the land on which early settlers resided, their life styles and cultures varied. In the Pacific Northwest bands of people did very well, the land offered abundant amounts of resources for food and shelter. With the resources being so vast this allowed the people to grow larger as a society or “tribe”. These natives were great at fishing and farming; the environment was ideal for agriculture and with the many lakes, rivers, and the Pacific ocean nearby supplied them with numerous fishing resources. Since the environment was so different in many areas of settlement the bands of people varied in some ways. More were good at farming crops while others were better at hunting game.
As the cultures in the Americas became quite impressive for their time the real trophies of societies lie in Central and South America. The Aztecs were by far the most sophisticated civilization on all the continents of the America’s. They constructed temples that resembled the great pyramids of Egypt; they discovered mathematics and the number zero and one of their greatest accomplishments was their calendar which is still accurate to this day.
During these times the men and women had their own priorities as people of their bands/tribes. Like many other cultures and societies the men were the power holders, the leaders of the people. The men were the sole hunters and gatherers, setting out in packs hunting down large game to bring back and distribute to their families. The women played the role of the farmer/caretaker. They owned to the crops and were solely in charge of them. Only one other person in these groups was higher in society than the men and that was the Shamans or spiritual leaders. These were the people who looked towards the supernatural and spirits to guide them and their people. These shamans played a large role in keeping the peoples beliefs and morale up to survive; they gave prophecies and foresight to the people.
A map illustrated by Diego Gutierrez was created in 1562. This was a great map for the Europeans to use however did consist of dramatization. He depicted the Natives on the east coast of what is now Brazil. The drawings show the natives to be acting in cannibalistic ways. In one drawing he shows a man chopping another human with a sword and just below that a few others roasting a human on a stick over a fire. The Europeans had no respect for the people whom lived on these lands before their arrival. They were out to search new lands and wealth like gold and precious stones. Once the Europeans found this “new” land they capitalized on the less powerful people. The map drawn by Gutierrez may have helped in their exploration and conquering of South America. The map depicted the natives on the east side of South America where smaller groups of people lived; this possibly made it easier for the Europeans to conquer having to only fight off small societies. Possibly, the Europeans grew larger and more aware after they reached larger civilizations like the Aztecs. Even though the Aztecs fought off the Europeans at first they returned with full force and wiped their beautiful and sophisticated society for good.
The Gutierrez map not only depicts a view from one society on the Americas but it also claims these lands by the Spanish and the French. In the upper left hand corner the drawings of their coats of arms are shown. I believe these represent the possession of what is drawn; this meaning that the two country’s claim right to what they feel they have found. The drawing tells me that the Spanish are held at the top with the French next in line. The angel behind the Spanish sign is directed in the center acting as the center of attention and the backbone while the French are off to the side held by some type of baby angle. I feel this shows the relationship between the Spanish and the French possibly representing the work they have done together and the continuous relationship in exploration of the Americas. In addition to these two countries code of arms illustrated the Portuguese’s are listed as well. This one is far away in the bottom corner of the map being held by what appears to be a sea god riding a beast. I feel this depicts them as being the discoverers of the southern part of South America only; this may have been Gutierrez’s way of expressing his feelings for the Portuguese.
While many of us in society now know the true history of early America and who actually found it some of the history we may never know. What we do know is that the early migrants from Asia crossed the Bering Strait in search of new land and found it. The difference between these people and the Europeans was that the early Asians were not out seeking power, rich’s, and the motivation to impress a king they were out to ensure the survival of their people and themselves. They did what they had to do to survive in the world back then. When the Europeans set sail they were out to find new land for the king and become someone of importance. As we know nothing got in their way of achieving ultimate power; they found the old world and destroyed the people whom had spent thousands of years building their societies up. The important thing is that we know the truth about history, even if it is a dark memory of our ancestors at least the memory’s of the great societies whom dwelled the Americas live on forever.
Axia College. (2005). The Creation. Retrieved August 23, 2008, from Axia College, Week One, HIS115 Web site.
Hebert John, (2003). The 1562 Map of America by Diego Gutiérrez .Discovery and Exploration. Retrieved August 24, 2008, from http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/gmdhtml/dsxphome.html
Axia College. (2006). PSI Source: Gutiérrez Map. Retrieved August 24, 2008, from Axia College, Week One, HIS115 Web site.