Chapter 1 – The World before 1600
Section Notes
The Early Americas
North American Cultures in the
African Cultures before 1500
Europe and Exploration
Cultures Make Contact
The World Before 1600
History Close-up
Quick Facts
Visual Summary: The World
Before 1600
The Bering Land Bridge
Native American Culture Areas
West and Central Africa,
European Routes
Columbian Exchange
Differences in Geography,
Differences in Dwellings
Bartolomé De Las Casas
The Early Americas
The Main Idea
People arrived on the American continents thousands of
years ago and developed flourishing societies.
Reading Focus
• According to scientists and historians, how and when did the first
migration to the Americas occur?
• What kind of cultures developed in Central and South America?
• What characterized the earliest cultures of North America?
Migration to the Americas
Ice Age
• 10,000 years ago ice covered many parts of the
world (land and water), causing lower sea levels.
• Land was exposed along coasts.
• Today the Bering Strait lies between Alaska and
Siberia, but during the Ice Age a land bridge
connected them.
• Historians call the ancient land area Beringia.
• Hunters from Siberia crossed the land bridge.
• They arrived in North America between 12,000
and 40,000 years ago.
• These hunters crossed in small groups at different
Migration to the Americas
Hunters and Gatherers
• They were nomads who
moved from place to place.
• Hunting was good along edges
of ice sheets.
• Followed hunter-gatherer
way of life
• Giant sloths
• Women and girls collected
nuts, berries, wild plants, and
birds’ eggs.
• Woolly mammoths
• Men and boys went on
extended hunts, followed the
animal herds.
• When the animals moved, so
did the hunter-gatherers.
• Hunter-gatherers never
stayed in one place for long.
• Saber-toothed cats
• Wolves
• Camels
• Animals were not accustomed
to humans, making them easy
• Hunters drove animals off cliffs
or killed them with stonetipped spears.
Migration to the Americas
End of the Ice Age
• The climate grew warmer; glaciers melted.
• Large lakes and layers of rich soil were left.
• Thick forests grew in eastern North America.
• Climate change and skillful hunters killed off Ice
Age animals.
• Bands of hunters moved south in search of new
food supplies.
• By at least 11,000 years ago, people were living in
North and South America.
Migration to the Americas
The Agricultural Revolution
• Native Americans
began farming.
• Farming led them to
live in villages
instead of moving
from place to place.
• This dramatic
change was called
the Agricultural
• This change began
at least 7,000 years
ago in parts of the
Basic Crops
• By about 2,000 years
ago, ancient American
farming was based on
– Corn (maize)
– Beans
– Squash
• Men hunted seasonally
for meat, but began
raising animals.
More Changes
• The food supply was
• Populations grew.
• People began
crafting (pottery &
• They developed
ways to govern
villages and to
distribute wealth.
Cultures of Central America
and South America
Central and South America have archaeological sites from
many different cultures.
• Three major cultures flourished in Mesoamerica.
• Mesoamerica is the area from present-day central
Mexico into Central America.
• A fourth important culture arose in South America.
Cultures of Central America
and South America
The Olmec
• The Olmec were the first major
Mesoamerican society.
• They lived along the Gulf of
Mexico around 1200 BC.
• The Olmec culture is known as the
mother culture of Mesoamerica
because their religion, art,
agriculture, and social
organization influenced later
Engineers and Artists
• First Mesoamericans to develop a
writing system
• Created sculptures made of basalt
that weigh as much as 40 tons
and stand 10 feet high
The Olmec used a “slash-andburn” farming technique.
• Trees were cut down and burned
on a plot of land.
• Ashes made the land fertile for a
few years.
• The farmers then moved to a
new plot, allowing the old plots to
become fertile again.
• Over time, the farmers cleared
large areas of land.
Cultures of Central America
and South America
The Maya
• Mayan society
began to rise around
400 BC.
• Their cities were
religious centers
with stone pyramids,
palaces, temples,
sacred ball courts.
• Religious centers
grew into city-states
populated by
thousands of people.
• Priests studied stars
and created
• The Mayan developed
a writing system and
a number system.
Mayan Decline
• The civilization
declined by about
1500, but the culture
lives today. Mayanspeaking people still
live in Mexico and
The Toltec
• The Toltec dominated
central Mexico as the
Maya began to
• They were skilled
warriors, artisans, and
• Toltec influence is
seen in the
architecture of late
Mayan cities such as
Chichén Itzá.
Cultures of Central America
and South America
The Aztec
• Came to power in 1400s
• These were the warlike
Mexica, better known as
the Aztec.
• Aztec capital was
• Built on an island in a
shallow lake
• Featured canals, plazas,
and marketplaces
• Food supplied by floating
gardens called
chinampas, in the lake.
• A conquering people, their
slaves and captives were
used for human sacrifice to
their many gods.
The Inca
• While the Aztec conquered
Mesoamerica, the Inca rose
to power in the Andes
Mountains of South
• Inca conquered along the
• Their vast empire was
connected by roads and
• Inca empire was largest in
America with perhaps 12
million people.
The Earliest Cultures of North America
Southwest Peoples
Mound Builders
• Grew corn, beans,
squash and women
made pottery
• Lived in eastern North
America in small
farming villages run by
clan leaders
• The Hohokam dug
irrigation ditches for
farming. Had simple
temple mounds and
ball courts
• The Anasazi lived in
multistory adobe
buildings (pueblos)
built on flat mesas
and on steep cliffs.
• The Anasazi had a
road system.
• Complex villages
• Called mound builders
because they buried
their leaders in large
earth mounds
• Adena people had a
trade network to bring
them goods from far
• Hopewell people were
skilled artists.
• Last major moundbuilders
• Most advanced
farming society
north of Mexico
• Grew maize and
beans, invented the
• Towns had large
• Their greatest cities
were Cahokia, near
St. Louis, and
Moundville, in
North American Cultures in the 1400s
The Main Idea
A variety of complex societies existed in different regions of
North America before European explorers arrived in the
early 1500s.
Reading Focus
• How did regional differences among Native Americans shape
their diverse cultures?
• What Native American customs were shared among several
• How did trading networks link Native American societies?
Regional Differences among Native Americans
• Diverse environments of North America influenced the
Native American cultures across the continent.
The Southwest
• Pueblo peoples inherited many Anasazi customs.
• The Zuni, Hopi, and Acoma lived in pueblos.
• They grew corn, beans, squash, and cotton in river and
creek bottoms.
• They made distinctive pottery and baskets.
• Later the Apache and the Navajo arrived.
– Originally nomadic hunters, gradually took up farming like
the other Pueblo peoples
– Became skilled weavers
Regional Differences among Native Americans
The Northwest Coast
Climate was cool and rainy. Tall trees, wild plants, game, and
fish were abundant.
Hunters went to sea to hunt whales.
The Kwakiutl and the Haida were skilled woodworkers.
The rich resources made them wealthy.
This region was located south of the Northwest Coast.
Home to the Pomo, Hupa, and Yuro, among others
These peoples lived in small communities of 50 to 300. There
were over 100 languages spoken in the region.
The people fished and hunted because food was available yearround. They did not have to farm.
Regional Differences among Native Americans
The Far North
• Region also known as Arctic and Subarctic
• The peoples are the most recent migrants from Asia.
• These ancestors of modern Inuit came by boat about
1,500 years ago.
• Aleuts came earlier and settle on Aleutian Islands.
Land and Vegetation
• Much of the land is tundra.
• Animals were abundant despite the lack of vegetation.
• The Inuit and Aleuts mainly hunted.
• On the coast, people hunted seals, seabirds, and whales
• Inland, they hunted caribou, beaver, and bear.
• Archaeological evidence of their sites is rare. Perhaps rising sea
levels after the Ice Age covered the coastal settlements.
Regional Differences among Native Americans
The Great Basin and the Plateau
• These are two dryland regions located east of the mountain
ranges of the Pacific coast.
The Great Basin
• Native Americans such as the Ute and Shoshone were challenged by
the weather and environment.
• There was little rain, few trees, no large rivers, and few wild game.
• They were hunter-gatherers: dug roots, gathered acorns and piñon
nuts, and hunted rabbits.
• Their populations were small.
The Plateau
• Located north of Great Basin
– More rainfall than Great Basin
– More forests than Great Basin
– Crossed by rivers brimming with salmon and other fish
• Groups such as the Nez Percé lived in villages along the rivers.
Regional Differences among Native Americans
The Great Plains
The Eastern Woodlands
• Home to the Sioux,
Pawnee, and
• Thick forests
• Flat land with
prairie grasses and
tree-lined rivers
• Herds such as elk
and bison grazed
• Had to hunt
was difficult with
tough grass roots
• The Caddo and
Wichita lived in
fertile farm valleys.
• Because travel was
difficult, groups
developed their own
traditions, tools, and
(often) languages.
• The Iroquois included
several groups who
shared a culture and
language. They lived in
• The Chippewa, Fox, and
Sauk also lived in the
region. They spoke
Algonquian languages.
• Plenty of meat, furs,
and fish
The Southeast
• Most lived in settled
farming villages.
• They had a warm
climate with plenty
of rain; this allowed
them to grow
several crops a
• Many groups lived
here, including the
• They lived in
thatched-roof log
cabins plastered
with mud.
Native American Customs
Family relations
• Most villages and nations organized into clans by kinship
• Kinship determined inheritance, status, and marriage eligibility
• Housing arrangements and social engagements depended on the
position of women.
• Iroquois society was matrilineal.
• In Hopi culture, a man went to live with his wife’s family when he
married, bringing seeds from his mother’s crops.
Social and political structures
• Social organization varied greatly from group to group.
• Most clans or nations were headed by a chief. Villages were run by
a council of elders.
Native American Customs
Land use
• They did not believe that land should be bought and sold.
• Some societies viewed land as a gift from the Great Spirit to be
shared by the village or group for farming or hunting.
• Still, some groups warred over territory.
Division of labor
• Ancient hunter-gatherers: men and boys hunted and women and
girls gathered plants, nuts, and berries
• Agricultural Revolution saw women take over planting and
cultivating crops
• Southwest division of labor: women and men farmed; women
cared for children, cooked, wove cloth, and made pottery and
baskets; men were woodcarvers and probably metalworkers
Native American Customs
Religious beliefs
• Native Americans shared spiritual and religious ideas.
– Belief that there was a spiritual connection to the
natural world
– In many belief systems, a tree stood at the center of
the earth.
– Animals were thought to be powerful spirits.
• Native Americans told many stories.
– Some explained the creation of the world or the origin
of their peoples.
– Other stories were about spirits and crops, rivers or
other aspects of nature.
Trading Networks Link
Native American Societies
Native Americans
usually traded by a
barter system.
Reasons for trade
• Specialization
• Farmers could grow
extra crops.
• Others could access
needed minerals.
• People living near
water traded shells
or pearls.
• Artisans traded
their creations.
Trading Networks
Exchange of Ideas
• Hopewell trade
network covered twothirds of the United
• The trade networks
carried ideas from
place to place.
• It could take years to
bring items back to
Ohio (long distances
and travel difficulty).
• The Hopewell people
obtained bear’s teeth,
obsidian, cooper, mica,
and shells through
• Travel made by canoe
and on foot
• Mississippians may
have borrowed
temple mounds and
pyramids from
• Pueblo peoples’
religious ideas and
ritual costumes
came from Mexico.
African Cultures before 1500
The Main Idea
Trade was a major factor in the development of African
societies south of the Sahara.
Reading Focus
• What powerful West African trading kingdoms arose
between 300 and 1500?
• How did trade shape kingdoms in East Africa?
• How did African society change as a result of the slave
West African Trading Kingdoms
Trans-Sahara trade
• Despite the danger, trading caravans have crossed Sahara since
ancient times.
• African interior had gold and ivory; Arabs from North Africa
traded salt from mines.
• Great trading empires thrived in the grasslands near the Niger
• Desert traders also brought Islam to West Africa.
West African Trading Kingdoms
• Earliest West
African trading
state (arose
around AD 300)
• Located on a
gold and salt
• Grew wealthy
and powerful
• History passed
down through
oral tradition
• Did not convert
to Islam
• Mansa Musa
most famous
• People of Mali
were Muslims.
• When Mansa
Musa made a
pilgrimage to
Mecca, the
outside world
knew of Mali’s
• This kingdom
became larger
than Ghana or
• Askia
most famous
Songhai ruler,
Muslim learning.
West African Trading Kingdoms
Coastal kingdoms
• By 1300, the settlement of Benin became a powerful
– Grew rich from foreign trade
– Famous for its brilliant artists
• Farther south, the kingdom of Kongo was growing.
– Thrived by trading salt and palm oil
Kingdoms of East Africa
Trade Important to Growth
• East Africans traded with Egypt, India, and the Middle East.
• East African trading ships sailed the Red Sea and Indian
• East Africa had gold, cinnamon, rhinoceros horn and tortoise
shell. They also shipped enslaved Africans.
• They bought porcelain, silk, and jewels from India and China.
Arabian Influence
• Arabia was a strong influence along East African coast.
• Arab merchants settled in coastal cities and brought their
customs and Islam.
• New culture and new language (Swahili) developed in East
African Society and the Slave Trade
• African rulers were wealthy and had lavish lifestyles.
• Strong families were central to African society.
• People were loyal to those with the same lineage.
• Men and women could be enslaved if they were captured in war,
found guilty of a crime, or were in debt.
• Slaves could work their way to freedom in most African societies.
The Portuguese in West Africa
• Nature of slavery changed when Europeans arrived in Africa.
• Portuguese established large-scale farms, or plantations, first in
Africa, then in Caribbean islands and in the Americas; later the
Spanish, British, French, and Dutch did the same.
• Plantations were labor-intensive. First Native Americans were used for
labor, but diseases and working conditions took a heavy toll.
African Society and the Slave Trade
The Atlantic Slave Trade Begins
• Atlantic slave trade began in the sixteenth century as a response for
the demand for cheap labor. Europeans viewed the black Africans as
• Planters demanded more laborers for their plantations.
• African merchants helped supply slaves to traders in exchange for the
traders’ business. African rulers supplied slaves in exchange for
European firearms.
• Others who supplied slaves wanted to help weaken rival African
• Europeans captured people during conflicts with North African
• European traders conducted slave raids and kidnappings.
• The Portuguese began the slave trade, but by the 1600s the English,
French, and Dutch were heavily involved, too.
African Society and the Slave Trade
The Impact on African Society
• Atlantic slave trade continued for 400 years.
• Historians estimate that 20 million Africans were sent to the Americas.
• Many others were sent to other parts of the world. Many died
en route.
• The strongest young people were taken, the future leaders.
• Slave raids discouraged people from planning for the future.
• The slave trade interrupted normal political and economic
development because of the loss of population.
• The slave trade divided Africans from one another.
• Young African men were hired by slave traders as kidnappers.
• Rulers warred against their own people and neighbors in order to gain
captives for the trade.
Europe and Exploration
The Main Idea
Renaissance ideas changed Europeans’ medieval outlook and
inspired them to explore the world.
Reading Focus
• What changes took place in Europe during the Middle Ages?
• What happened during the Renaissance and the Protestant
• What did Europeans hope to find during the Age of Exploration?
The Middle Ages
• The Middle Ages (AD 500 to 1500) began when the Roman
Empire collapsed and created widespread lawlessness.
Feudalism and the manorial system
• Invaders occupied Spain and attacked other nations in
central Europe. Vikings raided the northern coasts of
• Feudal system developed when local nobles gave parcels
of land from their large estates to vassals, or nobles of
lower rank. The vassals pledged their loyalty and military
service to the lords.
The Middle Ages
The Crusades
• Roman Catholic Pope Urban called on Christian kings and
knights to recapture the Holy Land from Muslim Turks.
Thousands answered his call to the holy wars, known as
the Crusades.
• The Muslims kept their lands, but the wars allowed
Europeans to experience new lands and people and
boosted trade between Europe and the Middle East.
• Wealthy European merchants and artisans made up a
growing middle class.
The Middle Ages
New nation-states
• Many nobles lost their fortunes in the Crusades; the new
middle-class townspeople did not owe loyalty to a feudal lord.
• Kings gave towns charters and collected taxes. England,
France, and Spain began creating nation-states with strong
central governments and homogeneous populations.
• King John of England was forced to sign the Magna Carta, a
document that established several principles of government:
– No taxation without representation
– The right to trial by a jury of one’s peers
– These rights were gradually extended to ordinary people.
The Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation
The Renaissance (rebirth)
• In the 1300s, a new era of learning began in the wealthy
city-states of Italy.
• Classics of Greece and Rome were studied, inspiring an
intense creativity in the arts.
• In the medieval period, many people accepted misery in
their lives and hoped for rewards in heaven.
• During the Renaissance people showed an interest in a
meaningful life on earth.
• Scientists began to question teachings of Catholic Church.
The Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation
Many thought the Catholic clergy had become lazy and corrupt.
They felt the church failed to provide proper spiritual guidance.
In 1517 a German monk, Martin Luther, nailed a list of
arguments to a church door. This critique of the Catholic Church led
to the Reformation movement.
Protestants: those who joined protests against the church
Christianity in Spain
Islam was widespread in Iberian Peninsula. By 1100s, Christian
rulers wanted to take it back. Movement known as Reconquista.
Spanish Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand wanted Spain to be a
Catholic kingdom. Ordered all Jews and Muslims to convert or
leave Spain. Even Christians could be punished if they were
suspected of defying the church.
The Age of Exploration
Marco Polo
• Polo went to China and
stayed for 17 years and
worked for Kublai Khan.
• On the return trip, he went
through Southeast Asia
and India.
• Marco took note of the
people, places, and
• His book about his travels
was very popular; it
influenced later explorers.
Prince Henry the
• Set up a school and naval
observatory to encourage
• He sponsored many
• Hoped to find a sea route
to India to allow Portugal
and other countries to
trade directly with the
East instead of going
through Italian merchants
The Age of Exploration
Better sailing technology
• Prince Henry’s school developed the caravel, a sturdy and fast ship.
• Improved navigational instruments: astrolabe and magnetic compass
Looking for a sea route to Asia
• Overland trip to Asia was long, difficult, and dangerous
• Portuguese explorers led the way: Dias, da Gama, Cabral
• Bartolomeu Dias was first to round the southern tip of Africa.
• Vasco da Gama found the sea route to India. The new trade route
helped Portugal become a world power.
• The sea route discovery led to the decline of trans-Sahara trade and
the African trading empires.
• Pedro Álvars Cabral spotted the South American coast.
Cultures Make Contact
The Main Idea
Columbus’s voyages to the Americas established contact with
Native Americans and led to European colonies and an
exchange of goods and ideas.
Reading Focus
• When did Vikings visit North America, and why was their stay
• Why were Columbus’s voyages to the Caribbean significant?
• What impact did European exploration have on Native
• What was the Columbian Exchange, and how did it affect both
Europe and America?
Vikings Visit North America
• Vikings were sea raiders who terrorized the coasts of
western Europe.
• In late 900s, Vikings from Norway reached Greenland in
North America. Erik the Red began settlements there in
• Erik’s son, Leif Eriksson, was heading to Greenland, but
landed on eastern Canadian coast. He named it Vinland.
• Leif tried to establish a colony in Vinland, but was not
welcomed by the Native Americans. The Vikings left
Canada three years later after warfare with the natives.
• The Vikings never settled in Vinland again, but they
continued to return for timber.
Columbus’s Voyages to the Caribbean
Christopher Columbus
• Believed that he could reach India by sailing west (did not know about
American continents)
• Convinced Queen Isabella to back his voyage (after several years)
• Studied sailing and navigation techniques and read books about travel
and geography
The first voyage
• Set sail on August 3, 1492
• Crew of 90 men, two caravels (the Niña and the Pinta) and his flagship,
the Santa Maria
• Reached land after 3 weeks (San Salvador in the Caribbean)
• Called the local people “los Indios.” They were Tainos.
• Always thought he had explored part of Asia
Impact on Native Americans
Colonies in Hispaniola
• Christmas Town: The men Columbus had left to establish a
town in Hispaniola behaved so wildly in his absence that they
angered the Tainos. The Tainos killed all of them.
• Isabela: The site had no fresh water and malaria-carrying
• While Columbus explored other islands, his brothers ran
Isabela. Some Spanish officers rebelled against them.
• Columbus and his brothers captured Indians to sell as slaves.
Colonization turned into conquest.
• He eventually lost his post as governor of Hispaniola in 1500.
Impact on Native Americans
Native American Labor
Spaniards wanted to find gold and needed the labor to mine it.
In 1494 Columbus sent 26 Indians back to Spain, wanting them to
be trained as interpreters.
He suggested starting a trade in Indian slaves. Also wanted to
convert them to Christianity
Trade in Indian Slaves
Queen Isabella didn’t want to enslave Indians.
Many Indians were then sent to Portuguese plantations instead.
Later the Portuguese, French, and Dutch ran Caribbean plantations
and kept enslaved Indians as local labor.
Father Bartolomé de Las Casas dedicated his life to protecting the
Indians from mistreatment.
The Columbian Exchange
Interaction between
Europeans and Native
eventually Africans—led
to exchanges:
– plants
– animals
– languages
– technology
– deadly germs,
brought epidemics to
the Americas
Native American crops
• Corn, beans, squash,
tomatoes, chocolate,
European contributions
• Certain foods
• Domestic animals,
including horses
• New technology, including
• Smallpox and measles
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