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Analyzing Civilizations/Cultures

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Analyzing Civilizations/Cultures

Pre-Columbian America

The Pre-Columbian era entails all period subdivisions in the American history, which starts from the time when there was original settlement of the Americas to when Americas got colonized by the Europeans. This is the period of time when during the indigenous cultures of America until they got conquered by the Europeans. Civilizations during Pre-Columbian era established features such as permanent settlements, cities and towns, agriculture, architecture and societal hierarchies.

The lithic stage is known to be the earliest era of occupation by humans in America, which occurred during the late Pleistocene period to earlier than 8,000 B.C. This period refers to the cultures of the post glacial collectors and hunters in South America. The period was called Lithic because of the Lithic flaked stone tools that first appeared. The period embraced two types of stone technology that included unformulated and unspecialized flake and core industries, and industries that exhibited a blade technique that was more advanced and improved of the stone working. There are stone tool traditions in South America of the lithic stage that show localized adaptations to the continent’s diverse habitats. People lived in small mobile groups that depended on hunting, plant gathering and fishing. Due to the extreme and continued use of wild animals and plants, it resulted into changes in genetics to some of the species and ere eventually domesticated by human groups. The lifestyle during Lithic stage continued up to 5,00bc when humans started using the domesticated animals and plants. Data gotten from sites in South America is the most convincing evidence since crude tools that were found had lasted more than 20,000 years ago. This period included the Clovis culture and the traditional groups of Folsom.

The Asian nomads got into America through the Bering Land Bridge also called Beringia. Today this is called Bering Strait. The genetic evidence in the mitochondria DNA of the Amerindians that is maternally inherited conforms to the principle of varying genetic populations that migrated from Asia. The Paleo-Indians spread in the North and South America over the course of millennia. The earliest culture that can be identified is the Clovis culture and sites dates more than 13, 000 years ago. According to some genetic studies, the colonization of the Americas dates between 40,000 and 13, 000 years ago. According to the first approach of the migration model, the first movement was beyond Alaska into the new world and occurred not earlier than 14 to 17 thousand years ago. This movement was followed by several successive immigrants. This movement is termed to as the short chronology theory. The second approach of migration model is called the long chronology theory that suggests that the first people entered America between 40 and 50 thousand years ago or even earlier (Wells and Read 138-40).

The archaic stage is also known as the Meso-Indian period. This is known to be the second period of occupation of humans in the Americas that lasted from about 8000 to 2000B.C. the ending of this period is characterized by the adoption of sedentary farming and the date varies significantly across the American cultures. During the middle Archaic period, around 6500BC, people at the Monte Sano in the Lower Mississippi valley built complex earthwork mounds to portray their religious rites and cosmology. According to archeologists, the mounds were built by the societies that hunted and gathered and people used the sites based on seasons. Watson Brake is the largest mound out of eleven, which was built at the start of 3400BC. This thus shows that it was not until adoption of agriculture when complex constructions were began.

The Formative stage is also known as the Neo-Indian period, which is a name given to the North and Meso-American societies that lived between 1000B.C and 500 BC. The people of this period had cultures that included technologies of pottery, weaving and food productions that were more developed. There was social organization that was characterized by permanent villages and towns. In addition it was during this period that there were the first ceremonial centers. Cultures such as Adena, Woodland, Old Copper and Mississippian are considered to be Formative, which is a times referred as Pre-Classic stage.

From the Atlantic coast to plains’ edge, there was the spread of Mississippi culture that is thought to have gone across the southeast and Midwest. However, the culture was strong around the Ohio River and Mississippi River and was characterized by the construction of large and complex mounds and big plazas. This continued the building of mounds that was started by the earlier cultures. The [people cultivated maize and other crops and engaged in trade networks. The society was stratified and first appeared around 1000AD from the woodland period. Cahokia is known to be the largest urban site for the Mississipppians, which is located near what is today called the East St. Louis. There were other chiefdoms that were constructed in the southeast that were characterized by trade networks that went up to Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico (Kelly and Lawrence 232-40).

The Classic stage is a theoretical term that is archaeologically given to North and Meso-American societies that survived between 500 A.D and 1200 A.D. the cultures of this period were characterized by specialization in craft and commence of metallurgy. Social organization was advanced compared to that of the earlier stage and involved the start of urbanism and ceremonial centers that were relatively large. This stage was restricted to the Mesoamerica and Peru complex societies. In addition, other advanced cultures such as early Maya, Hopewell and Teotihuacan were included.

The Paleo-indians soon extended throughout America and diversified into many hundreds of tribes that were culturally distinct. Their adaptation across North America was featured by small bands that were highly mobile and consisted of between 20 to 50 people from extended family. These groups went from place to place as they made use of the resources they had and in turn sought some more. These people were known to be very good hunters and carried tools that varied such as projectile knives or points and other less distinctive implements employed in butchering and pressing of hides. During this period, the bands of people depended on hunting of the megafauna that are now extinct, which includes bison antiques and mastodon. By 8000 BC, the climate in North America stabilized to become similar to today’s climatic conditions. This change in climate facilitated massive and widespread migration as well as cultivation that in turn led to the dramatic increase in the population in America. For several years that followed, the indigenous people of America domesticated cultivated and bred variety of plant species, which constitutes a significant percentage of the cultivated crops globally today. Migrations went on and several years passed before the first complex civilization took place, which is thought to have emerged around 5000BC. Even though agriculture was adopted in some appropriate regions, many people in artic and costal lines hunted and gathered. It is this period, the archaic period, when many archeological cultures were identified by archeologists. As a result of climate changes, vegetation, landforms and ecology, the earliest people migrated and came together to form many separate peoples of differing languages and cultures. A wide range of traditional creation stories suggest that many American indigenous people lived there since their creation (Bulliet, Crossley, Headrick, Hirsch and Johnson 47)

Poverty Point is thought to be the oldest mound in the Lower Mississippi Valley that was built in 1500BC. This is taken as the centerpiece of culture and has earthworks that take form of concentric half circles that are six in number and separated by radial aisles. During this period, the succeeding cultures continued building mounds and built many sites in the Ohio River Valley and middle Mississippi. They in addition made effigy, ridge and conical mounds as well as other shapes.

The woodland period is the time between 1000BC and 1000AD. The term refers to the prehistoric sites that were found between archaic period and the cultures OF Mississippi. Both the ensuing Hopewell tradition and Adena culture constructed monumental earthwork architecture and started trade and networks for exchange. This is the developmental period and even though it did not have massive changes, there was continuous development in bone and stone tools, textile manufacture, working with leather, production of tools, cultivation and construction of houses for shelter. Even though bows and arrows replaced spears and atlatls, the woodland people had used them until the end of the period. The Post Classic stage existed between 1200A.D and the Europeans’ local contact with the Native Americans. The cultures during this time are featured by developed metallurgy and its social organization involved complex urbanism and militarism. In addition the cultures showed a tendency towards society’s secularization.

Mesoamerica is known as the region that extends from Mexico south to Costa Rica on its northwestern border. This region gave rise to groups of stratified and culturally associated agrarian civilizations that span around 3,00 year period prior to the European discovery of the now New World by Christopher Columbus. This term, Mesoamerican, is mainly used to refer to the group of cultures during pre Columbus. The region was occupied by an assortment of ancient cultures that had common religious beliefs, architecture, technology and art for a period that lasted more than 3,000 years. There were complex cultures that began to form in this area between 2000 and 300BC and some of these cultures matured into advanced Mesoamerican civilization including the Olmec, Maya, Toltec and Zapotec among others. Aztecs are known as the Triple Alliance because they were three little kingdoms that were loosely related and lasted for almost 3,500 years before they got into contact with Europeans. The indigenous civilizations of this time are credited with many discoveries including the construction of the pyramid temples, and sciences such as mathematics, astronomy and medicine. It was also during this time when writing, calendars and art were invented. In addition, there was extensive agriculture and complex theology. Among other inventions were wheels that were only used as toys. Copper, gold and silver were used for metal working (Hey e193).

Works Cited

Bulliet, Richard, Crossley Pamela, Headrick Daniel, Hirsch Steven and Johnson Lyman. The Earth and Its People: A Global History, Edition 5, Cengage Learning, 2008. Print.

Hey, J. "On the Number of New World Founders: A Population Genetic Portrait of the Peopling of the Americas". PLoS Biology (PubMed Central (PMC) is the U.S. National Institutes of Health) 3.6 (2005): e193.

Kelly, Robert and Lawrence Todd. "Coming into the Country: Early Paleo-Indian Hunting and Mobility". American Antiquity 53.2(1988): 231–244.

Wells, Spencer and Read Mark. The Journey of Man - A Genetic Odyssey. Random House. 2002. pp. 138–140.

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