The history of the Early Indigenous Peoples

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This booklet is a tool meant to help you integrate into your course content the history of the early indigenous peoples of what is now known as North and Central America.
1. American Indian History Timeline
Since Time Immemorial to C.E. 1450
To the Educator: absolve America of any guilt or shame about how this
country came to be. As Vine DeLoria, Jr. avows,
This timeline is a tool meant to help you integrate into
denying the existence of complex ancient American
your course content the history of the early indigenous
Indian civilizations makes genocide inevitable,
peoples of what is now known as North and Central
understandable, and even palatable, given that Native
America. Textbooks generally omit early Native
Americans were merely “latecomers who had barely
American histories and tend to define those histories
unpacked before Columbus came knocking on the
through the lens of European conquest. It is my hope
door.” 2
that you will teach your students the truth: that the
indigenous civilizations of the Americas were, are, and Whether teachers intend it or not, omissions of this
continue to be sophisticated, significant contributors to magnitude perpetuate the myth of European racial
society, whose authoritative indigenous ways of superiority. With anti-racist practices, such as giving a
knowing has sustained such complex civilizations for more accurate and complete historical portrayal of the
millennia. agency and sophistication of all of the societies that
came before us, teachers can combat this sort of white
This timeline draws almost
supremacy. Accomplishing such
entirely from Chapter 1 of Liz "There are immense contemporary political
a feat does not require Herculean
Sonneborn’s 2007 “updated” implications to [the Bering Strait] theory which
efforts. It can start small, say,
edition of Chronology of makes it difficult for many people to surrender.
Considerable residual guilt remains over the with a timeline.
American Indian History
(Infobase Publishing). 1 manner in which the Western Hemisphere was You can employ this timeline in
However, she neglects the invaded and settled by Europeans.... People any number of ways; I suggest
want to believe that the Western Hemisphere ...
validity and sheer volume of you start with
was a vacant, unexploited, fertile land ....[and]
divergent theories of early that American Indians were not original • tucking a reference copy
human migration. In one fell inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere but of it in the teachers edition of
swoop she dismisses indigenous latecomers who had barely unpacked before whatever ancient or world history
presence explained through Columbus came knocking on the door. If text you use;
creation stories by validating an Indians had arrived only a few centuries • teaching lessons about
oft refuted migration theory: earlier, they had no real claim to land that how deliberate exclusion of
“Although generally could not be swept away by European indigenous histories constitutes
accepted by discovery." overt racial biases that subvert
archaeologists and other -Vine Deloria Jr. in Red Earth, the agency of American Indian
White Lies (1995)
scholars, some Indians peoples today; and/or
contest the Bering Strait Theory, observing • creating a visual classroom timeline that
that their creation stories hold that their people parallels typical Eurocentric mainstream
were created in their traditional homelands.” ancient and world history.
I suspect that the more we include indigenous
I doubt that Judeo-Christian creation stories would
civilizations in the teaching and telling of ancient
have received the same treatment. Sonneborn further
world history, we will promote and experience a much
infers that indigenous people of the Americas have
needed renaissance of how our students define our
only been on this continent since the last ice age when
world and the contributors who made it possible.
humans “unwittingly” stumbled onto North America
(p 1).
Nonetheless, indisputable evidence uncovered over the Sincerely,
20th and 21st centuries—well before 2007—confirms
that human existence in the Americas predates the
land bridge across the Bering Strait to which Shana Brown, Yakama / Muckleshoot
Sonneborn refers, thus acknowledging that humans Teacher, Author, and Curriculum Developer
likely migrated well before the last ice age and in a
variety of conveyances. Their human movement was
anything but “unwitting.”
Omissions and misrepresentations like Sonneborn’s
Deloria, Vine, et al. Spirit & Reason the Vine Deloria, Jr. Fulcrum Pub.,
I indicate in footnotes and brackets where I diverge from her work. 1999, p 79.
2. [The earliest verified archaeological evidence of the settlement of North America comes from two distinct sites, one in
Pennsylvania and one in Chile. Meadowcroft Rockshelter, a 35-mile drive southwest of Pittsburgh, was used
continuously for centuries but was abandoned by Indians around the time of the Revolutionary War. An amateur
archaeologist, Albert Miller, first discovered artifacts in a groundhog burrow there in the 1950s, but it wasn’t until the
1970s that the site was properly excavated by a team from the University of Pittsburgh. What they found was an
unbroken record of human habitation that may stretch back 19,000 years. Tools, bones, campsites, and personal effects
were recovered. The presence of 149 species of animals was established, along with evidence of early farming of
squash, corn, and beans.
The Monte Verde site in Chile, also excavated in the 1970s, is a rare find: a relatively complete village that was
inundated by rising water in a peat bog shortly after it was inhabited and therefore was held in a kind of anaerobic
amber. Like the Meadowcroft site, Monte Verde has been dated to as many as 19,000 years ago. Together the sites are
important and do more than help us understand how and when North America was settled; they also show that there
were people in North America well before the Bering land bridge formed about 10,000 years ago, throwing into
dispute the theory that North America was settled primarily by Asiatic wanderers over the bridge. Indian stories about
our own origins almost all claim we came into being in our native lands.
The questions archaeology is struggling to explain—When and how was North America settled? Did the first people
come across the land bridge 10,000 years ago? Or on earlier land bridges formed 30,000 years ago before sea levels
rose once again? From Asia by boat earlier? From northern Europe? All of the above? Were there in fact multiple
origins of the human species?—are rapidly being answered by ongoing genetic research. This research suggests that
prehistoric Indians share a lot of DNA with Asian populations and, surprisingly, with European populations as well. It
is quite likely that Europeans migrated into far eastern Asia and mingled with the populations there and that their
descendants crossed over to the New World between 30,000 and 20,000 years ago. But this is all the science of
migration, not the history of peoples.
Most Indians do not see themselves as merely the first in a long series of arrivals to North America; they see
themselves as indigenous. And the belief in tribal indigeneity is crucial to understanding modern Indian realities. The
rhetorical stance that Indians are merely one group of travelers with no greater stake than any other clashes with
Indians’ cultural understanding that we have always been here and that our control over our place in this world—not
to mention our control over the narrative and history of that place—has been deeply and unjustly eroded.] 3
ca. 120,000 B.C.E. 4
California site uncovers possible evidence of human activity.
ca. 48,000 – 51,000 B.C.E. 5
“Topper Site” in present-day South Carolina uncovered stone tools dated 16,000 years old and carbon-dated
burnt plant remains that were burned disputedly 50,000 – 53,000 years ago.
ca. 18,000 B.C.E. 6
“The Kelp Highway” places humans on both sides of the land bridge 20,000 years ago.
As the massive ice sheets covering western North America retreated, the first humans arrived on the continent not only
by foot but by boat, traveling down the Pacific shore and subsisting on abundant coastal resources. Supporting that
idea are archaeological sites along the West Coast of North America that date back 14,000 to 15,000 years. Now our
understanding of when people reached the Americas—and where they came from—is expanding dramatically. The
emerging picture suggests that humans may have arrived in North America at least 20,000 years ago—some 5,000
years earlier than has been commonly believed. And new research raises the possibility of an intermediate settlement
of hundreds or thousands of people who spread out over the wild lands stretching between North America and Asia.
Treuer, David. The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present. Riverhead Books, 2019.
“New Evidence Puts Man In North America 50,000 Years Ago.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 18 Nov. 2004,
“New Evidence Puts Man In North America 50,000 Years Ago.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 18 Nov. 2004,
Fen Montaigne, Jennie Rothenberg Gritz. “The Story of How Humans Came to the Americas Is Constantly Evolving.”, Smithsonian Institution, .
3. ca. 13,000 B.C.E. 7
Artifacts from the Cooper’s Ferry site poke more holes in the traditional theory of when people arrived in the
Radiocarbon dates show that people were creating tools and butchering animals in Cooper’s Ferry between 15,000
and 16,000 years ago, making Cooper’s Ferry a rare and important addition to the handful of archaeological sites
that are upending the traditional theory of the peopling of the Americas.
ca. 12,960 – 12,565 B.C.E. 8
Clovis infant known today as “Anzick Boy” buried with wealth of artifacts.
In 1968, construction workers came upon the remains of an infant skeleton. Those remains became known as Anzick-
1 and are believed to represent a member of the Clovis people. This is the oldest and only known Clovis era burial in
North America. Buried along with the infant were many stone tools and points, suggesting great significance of the
infant to the Clovis people who buried him.
ca. 10,900 to 9000 B.C.E.
Large wild game species become extinct.
The mammoth, mastodon, giant sloth, and other big game species begin to die out throughout North America. Their
extinction leads to the end of the Clovis cultural tradition (see entry for CA. 9200 TO 8900 B.C.E.), in which early
Indians relied on hunting large game animals for their survival. The reason these game species disappeared is un­
clear. One prominent theory holds that they were overhunted, while another contends that changing climate conditions
as the last ice age came to an end, killed off the animals' food supply, and dried up their watering areas.
ca. 9500 to 5000 B.C.E.
The Paleo-Indian tradition emerges in eastern and central North America.
The first people in North America develop the Paleo-Indian tradition. The Paleo-Indians are hunters of large wild
mammals, such as mammoths, mastodons, and giant sloths. Within the tradition emerges several cultures, including
the Clovis (see entry for CA. 9200 TO 8900 B.C.E.) and Folsom (see entry for CA. 8500 TO 8000 B.C.E.) cultures,
which are characterized by innovations in the crafting of projectile points-the stone tips on Paleo-Indian hunting tools.
The Paleo-Indian tradition will slowly fade as the climate of North America grows warmer. The rising temperatures
will lead to the demise of many large game animals (see entry for CA. 10,900 TO 9000 B.C.E.) and at the same time
offer early Indians new species of flora and fauna to use as food sources (see entry for CA. 8000 TO 4000 B.C.E.). 9
ca. 9000 to 5000 B.C.E.
Early Indians in the Northwest develop the Old Cordilleran culture.
The Old Cordilleran cultures emerges among the Indians in the Columbia River valley of what are now Washington
and Oregon. The culture is characterized by varied strategies for obtaining food. Old Cordilleran Indians use projectile
points in the shape of willow leaves for hunting small animals, make fishhooks, and craft other simple tools to pre­
pare wild plants for eating. These peoples are most likely the ancestors of modern Indian groups, such as the Cayuse,
Chinook, and Klamath.
Davis, Photograph by Loren. “15,000-Year-Old Idaho Archaeology Site Now among America's Oldest.” National Geographic, 30 Aug. 2019,
Yirka, Bob. “New Testing Method Suggests Baby Anzick-1 Was Same Age as Surrounding Clovis Artifacts.”,, 19 June 2018,
Two of Sonneborn’s entries were deleted, as they were inaccurate given new evidence as of 2018. See Footnote 2.
4. ca. 8500 to 8000 B.C.E.
The Folsom culture develops in the Great Plains region.
In the Great Plains and portions of the Southwest, Paleo-Indians create a cultural tradition based on bison hunting.
Unlike many other large game animals (see entry for CA. 10,900 TO 9000 B.C.E.), the Folsom Indians' prey
survived changing weather conditions in North America by becoming grass-eaters who feed on the grasslands that
grew up on the Great Plains. Folsom hunters develop shorter, narrower projectile points than did their Clovis
predecessors (see entry for CA. 9200 TO 8900 B.C.E.). With fluting on both sides, these delicate points are also much
more care­ fully crafted, making the Folsom peoples perhaps the most skilled stone workers in all of ancient North
America. In addition to stalking bison on foot, small bands of Folsom hunters often come together to join in
communal hunts, in which they drive herds into natural enclosures, then slaughter the trapped animals with their
ca. 8000 B.C.E.
Paleo-Indians occupy the Lindermeier site.
Early Indians of the Folsom tradition (see entry for CA. 8500 TO 8000 B.C.E.) settle in what is now Lindermeier,
Colorado, which will become one of the first Paleo-Indian sites to be excavated. The people of Lindermeier spend
much of their time in small groups moving from place to place hunting wild bison herds. These roaming bands range
hundreds of miles from the Lindermeier, but they regularly return to the well-watered site and join in bison drives, in
which, working together, they can kill large numbers of animals at one time. In addition to the distinctive Folsom
projectile points, the inhabitants of Lindermeier make thin knives, drills for punching holes in wood and stone, and
scrapers for preparing animal hides. Some of these are made from obsidian, a volcanic rock found more than three
hundred miles away. These objects testify to the Lindermeier Indians' participation in a large network of trade.
ca. 8000 to 4000 B.C.E.
The ecology of North America is transformed by a warming climate.
The end of the last ice age causes dramatic changes in the North American continent. As the atmosphere of the earth
becomes warmer, runoff from melting glaciers creates the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River, and other waterways.
Trees blanket the East, grass­ lands sprout up in the Plains, and dry deserts cover much of the West. This
transformation provides early Indians with more comfortable environments as well as new plant and animal food
ca. 8000 to 1000 B.C.E.
The Archaic tradition replaces Paleo-Indian ways.
With rising temperatures, the ecology of North America changes dramatically (see entry for CA. 8000 TO 4000
B.C.E.), prompting equally significant changes in the way ancient Indians live. Throughout the continent, the hunting
way of life of the Paleo-Indians (see entry for CA. 9500 TO 5000 B.C.E.) is replaced by the Archaic tradition,
characterized by a greater variation in strategies for getting food. The Archaic Indians adapt to a wide variety of the
new environments and learn to exploit the food sources available in each. Depending on their surroundings, some
come to rely on wild plant foods, some on fishing, some on hunting, and some on a combination of these activities.
These varied food-getting methods allow the Archaic Indians to protect them­ selves from food shortages more
effectively than their Paleo-Indian ancestors could.
In the east, the Archaic tradition will be replaced by the Woodland tradition (see entry for CA. 1000 B.C.E. TO 1600
C.E.), which is distinguished by a reliance on farming, the crafting of pottery, and the construction of funerary
mounds. In other areas, such as California and the Pacific Northwest, where agriculture will play a less important role
[as indigenous foods were plentiful year-round, Indians of the Pacific Northwest were considered quite wealthy
compared to their contemporaries], the Archaic way of life will survive up to the period of first contact with non-
5. ca. 7000 B.C.E.
Farming begins in Mesoamerica.
At sites in Tamaulpipas, Tehuacan, and the Valley of Oaxaca in present-day Mexico, early Indians begin to
experiment with cultivating plants found in the wild, such as beans, pumpkins, peppers, and gourds. At this stage, the
Indians' primitive farming methods produce only a small amount of food­ possibly representing as little as 5 percent of
their diet. Their primary food sources remain hunting wild game and gathering wild plants. (See also entry for CA.
5000 B.C.E.)
ca. 7000 B.C.E. to C.E. 1
Cochise Desert culture emerges in the American Southwest.
Early Indians in what is now Arizona and western New Mexico develop the Cochise Desert culture. These people
travel in small bands, moving from place to place and living in caves and rock shelters. Unlike the people of the
Clovis (see entry for CA. 9200 TO 8900 B.C.E.) and Folsom (see entry for CA. 8500 TO 8000 B.C.E.) cultures to the
east, the Cochise people rely on gathering wild plant foods rather than on hunting. The earliest Cochise sites include
such tools as scrapers and milling stones for grinding seeds. In later settlements, projectile points indicate that the
Cochise Indians will become more interested in hunting. Early forms of maize at these sites also suggest that they will
make attempts at farming. The Cochise Desert culture may provide a base for later, more sophisticated southwestern
farming cultures, such as the Mogollon (see entry for CA. 200 TO 1400) and Hohokam (see entry for CA. 400 TO
ca. 6800 B.C.E.
Anangula becomes the first settlement on the Aleutian Islands.
The village of Anangula is settled on an islet off Umnak Island in the eastern Aleutians. Its inhabit­ ants are the first
known occupants of the Aleutian Islands. Most likely a permanent settlement for fishermen and hunters of sea
mammals, Anangula features large oval-shaped dwellings about 15 feet in length. Artifacts uncovered at Anangula
include several sizes of simple blade tools.
ca. 6400 B.C.E. to C.E. 1200
The Koster site is occupied.
One of the best studied archaeological sites in the American Midwest, Koster (located in Greene County, Illinois) is
originally a temporary camp occupied by people of the Early Archaic tradition (see entry for CA. 8000 TO 1000
B.C.E.). These first occupants hunted deer and harvested mussels and wild seeds. By 5600 B.C.E., the site is used
year-round. A permanent village established there in about 3900 B.C.E has a population of as many as 150 people,
who subsist on a wide variety of wild game, fish, and plants. The largest Koster village, occupied from C.E. 800 to
1000, has about one thousand in­ habitants and covers 25 acres.
ca. 5000 B.C.E.
Mexico Indians begin growing maize as a food crop.
In present-day Mexico, Indians begin selecting and planting seeds of a primitive species of maize (Indian corn). This
early domestic corn may have been developed from a wild corn plant or from teosinte, a related wild grass. Each plant
yields only one inch­ long ear with some fifty small, edible kernels. The presence of grinding stones at ancient sites
suggests that most of this maize is eaten in the form of meal. (See also entry for CA. 1500 B.C.E.)
ca. 4000 B.C.E.
Northwest Indians learn to preserve fish.
The peoples living along the Pacific coast of what is now the northwestern United States and south­ western Canada
develop methods of drying and storing fish. This capability allows them to preserve the thousands of salmon and other
fish caught in the spring runs for use at other times of the year. An ex­ ample of early North Americans' increasing
6. skill at taking advantage of the natural resources in their lands, the Northwest Indians' fish-preservation technique
leads them to become more reliant on fishing than on hunting.
ca. 4000 B.C.E. to C.E. 300
Hunters use Head-Smashed-In as a buffalo jump.
At the Head-Smashed-In site in what is now west­ ern Alberta, Canada, bands of early Indians come together for
communal hunts, now called buffalo jumps. Popular buffalo jump sites such as Head­ Smashed-In feature high cliffs.
Groups of hunters initiate a buffalo stampede by screaming and chasing a frightened herd down a long drive toward
the cliff and force the animals to run off the edge. Possibly annual events, successful jumps could pro­ vide hunters
with hundreds of killed animals at one time. Near Head-Smashed-In is a designated area where people gather to strip
the carcasses, remove the meat, and process the hides so that they can be used for clothing and shelter.
ca. 3000 to 2500 B.C.E.
The Old Copper culture emerges in the Great Lakes region.
Archaic Indians (see entry for CA. 8000 TO 1000 B.C.E.) in the Great Lakes region develop the Old Cop­ per culture
after discovering deposits of copper on the shore of Lake Superior. Using simple tools, these people are able to dig out
the copper easily in chunks and sheets. They learn to shape the metal, first by chipping and hammering, later by
heating the copper to make it more malleable. From this raw material the Indians create tools and weapons, such as
projectile points and ax blades, as well as shiny bracelets, beads, and other ornaments. These items will be­ come
valued as luxury goods in a trade network that will develop throughout the Eastern Woodlands (see entry for CA.
1000 B.C.E. TO C.E. 200).
ca. 3000 to 1000 B.C.E.
The ancestors of the Aleut and Inuit arrive in North America.
Thousands of years after early peoples traveled from Asia to North America across the Bering land bridge (see entry
for CA. 25,000 TO 12,000 B. C.), the ancestors of the Aleut and Inuit arrive in the continent. These people probably
used small skin or wooden boats to cross the Bering Strait (the waterway that covered the Bering land bridge once the
polar ice caps melted at the end of the last ice age). These new­ comers will eventually settle throughout the Arctic
and on the Aleutian Islands off the southwest coast of present-day Alaska. Because their ancestors arrived in North
America far later, the modern Aleut and Inuit are more closely related to Asians than Indians are.
ca. 2500 B.C.E.
Eastern Archaic Indians begin growing crops.
Early Indians of the Eastern Woodlands begin farming gourds and squash. Seeds and knowledge of how to grow these
plants were probably brought north from Mexico (see entry for CA. 7000 B.C.E.). With the ability to grow and store
foods, eastern Indians no longer have to rely exclusively on hunting and gathering for their survival. Farming also
marks the beginnings of tribal life, as groups band together to plant and harvest the crops, store their yields, and
protect their stores from theft by other peoples.
ca. 2000 B.C.E.
The cultures of the early Aleut and Inuit begin to diverge.
About 1,000 years after they arrive in North America (see entry CA. 3000 TO 1000 B.C.E.), the ancestors of the
modern Aleut and Inuit develop distinct culture. The early Aleut settle the 1,400-mile Aleutian Is­ land chain off the
coast of what is now Alaska. The Aleutian environment is warmer, windier, and wetter than that of the frozen Arctic
of the Inuit. The Aleut share with Inuit an expertise in hunting, but their village life, in which people are ranked by
social position and wealth, more closely resembles that of the Indians of the northwest coast of the present-day United
7. ca. 2000 to 1000 B.C.E.
Southwestern Indians begin growing maize.
Early Indians in the southwest begin to plant fields of maize, which was first domesticated in Mexico at least three
millennia earlier (see entry for CA. 5000 B.C.E.). Initially, maize supplements food obtained by hunting and
gathering. Southwestern Indians soon become more dependent on the crop as they start growing a hybrid species,
crossed with wild grass (see entry for CA. 1500 B.C.E.). The new species, which produces far larger ears with more
rows of kernels, spreads quickly through the region.
Over time the southwestern Indians develop newer, even hardier breeds that grow well with little moisture. They also
learn to divert streams to water their crops. By about C.E. 1, an expanding population makes agriculture a more
attractive food strategy than hunting and gathering. Maize farming, therefore, transforms the Indians’ way of life.
Instead of living in small, mobile bands, they begin to settle in larger, more permanent villages.
ca. 1800 to S00 B.C.E.
Poverty Point is settled in Louisiana.
Indians begin building a massive settlement at Poverty Point, overlooking the floodplain of the Mississippi River, in
what is now northeastern Louisiana. The habitation area covers nearly 500 acres and includes, at its height, as many as
600 dwellings occupied by some 5,000 people. Located near the confluence of six rivers, the Poverty Point site serves
as a major trading center for three hundred years. Exotic materials such as copper, argillite, and quartz-some from as
far away as the G eat Lakes region-are traded there.
Poverty Point also features great earthworks. Most prominent are mounds about 82 feet wide and nine feet tall that
form six concentric semicircles. The massive construction will be the largest in North American for the next thousand
years. Why the mounds were built and how they were used re­ mains a mystery.
ca. 1500 B.C.E.
Mexican farmers develop an improved species of maize.
By crossing primitive species of maize (see entry for CA. 5000 B.C.E.) with wild grass plants, Mexican Indians create
a hybrid plant that is far superior as a food source. The new species offers larger ears, covered with protective husks,
and with many more kernels than earlier forms of maize. Exported from Mexico, this heartier and more productive
plant will allow Indian groups to the north to adopt settled, largely agricultural ways of life (see entry for CA. 2000
TO 1000 B.C.E.).
1500 BCE to C.E. 300
The Olmec establish the first great civilization in Mesoamerica.
Called the "mother civilization" because of its great influence on the cultures of later Mesoamerican people, the Olmec
civilization emerges in the humid lands along the Gulf coast in what is now southern Mexico. The rich wild-plant
resources in the region allow the Olmec population to grow and eventually spread throughout Mesoamerica.
The Olmec build large urban areas such as San Lorenzo and La Venta, where people gather to trade and attend
religious ceremonies. These centers feature large public buildings and pyramids, constructed by great teams of
workers. Commoners also farm nearby fields, and craftsworkers produce figurines, ceremonial paraphernalia, and
ornaments for the elite. artisans create monumental sculptures, such as the gigantic human heads excavated at the San
Lorenzo site. Measuring as tall as five feet and weighing as much as 20 tons, these basalt sculptures may be portraits
of the Olmec’s rulers.
The Olmec culture largely disappears by 300 CE, but through the Maya (see entry for ca. 200 to 1500), Toltec (see
entry for ca 900 to 1200), and Aztec (see entry for ca. 1430 to 1517) civilizations many elements of its social,
religious, military, and artistic traditions will survive for more than a millennium.
8. ca. 1000 B.C.E. to C.E. 200
Adena culture evolves in the Ohio River valley.
The Adena culture emerges in small settlements in what is now southern Ohio and parts of present-day West
Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Indiana. The inhabitants farm a few crops-including pumpkins, gourds, and
tobacco-but they are primarily hunters and gatherers. In their plentiful environment, they can rely on wild plants and
animals for food and still maintain a relatively sedentary existence.
The most distinctive characteristic of Adena sites are clusters of burial mounds. Early mounds include ridges formed
along natural hills and free­ standing earthworks in the shapes of circles, squares, and pentagons. The Adena people
construct be­ tween 300 to 500 mounds. The largest, such as the Great Serpent Mound (see entry for 200 B.C.E. TO
C.E. 400), require the cooperative labor of many people. That some burial mounds are much larger than others also
indicates that some Adena have higher status than others.
The contents of the mounds provide evidence that the structures were built for religious rather than defensive
purposes. Used for burials of corpses or cremated remains, many contain luxury go ds for the dead to take with them
to the afterlife. These goods include neck ornaments, slate pipes for smoking tobacco, and stone tablets carved with
designs and animal shapes that may have been used as stamps for body tattooing. some goods also suggest that the
Adena are participants in a long-distance trade network. a number of mounds, for instance, hold bracelets, rings, and
axes that Adena artisans craft from copper imported from present-day Michigan (see entry for ca. 3000 to 25000
BCE). the Adena culture will begin to disappear in the first century CE and will gradually be displaced by the people
of the Hopewell tradition (see entry for ca. 200 BCE to 400 CE).
ca. 1000 B.C.E. to C.E. 1600
The Woodland tradition spreads through eastern North America.
With the domestication of wild plants native to eastern North America, the Woodland cultural tradition grows up
among the Indians of the region. Accompanying the development of agriculture 1s the manufacture of pottery and the
construction of funerary mounds. The Woodland tradition encompasses several distinct cultures, including the Adena
(see entry for CA. 1000 B.C.E. TO C.E. 200), Hopewell (see entry for CA. 200 B.C.E. TO C.E. 400), and
Mississippian (see entry for CA. 700 TO 1550).
ca. 800 B.C.E. to C.E. 1300
Eastern Canada sees the rise of Dorset culture.
The peoples of present-day eastern Canada and Greenland develop the Dorset culture, which is based on the hunting
of marine mammals, such as seals and walruses, using bows and arrows. Their settlements feature subterranean
houses, and the Dorset people may also construct igloo-like dwellings from blocks of ice. They also make small stone
lamps, construct kayaks, and craft unique animal and human figures from bone and ivory, which they may use as
charms to bring them luck on the hunt.
The Dorset culture begins to fade in importance in the 11th century with the arrival of people of the Thule culture in
the region (see entry for CA. 900 TO 1600). The Thule's tools and weapons are more sophisticated and better suited to
helping humans survive in this challenging environment.
ca. 750 B.C.E.
The ancient village čixʷícən (ch-WHEET-son), was uncovered in 2003 at the base of Ediz Hook in Port Angeles,
The largest pre-European contact village site in Washington State, the village of Tse-whit-zen flourished for over
2,700 years and was one of many in the Klallam territory, which stretched from the Hoko River on the Strait of Juan
de Fuca into the Hood Canal. The village site dates back to 750 B.C. — approximately the same time Rome was
founded. The Department of Transportation, who uncovered the site, met with the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.
Together they came up with a plan to remove the artifacts and human remains so that construction could continue.
9. ca. 500 B.C.E.
Southwestern farmers begin growing beans.
Agricultural communities in what is now the Ameri­ can Southwest learn to farm beans, which soon become staples.
Beans prove to be a particularly healthful food, because they contain an amino acid that allows early Indians to digest
more effectively the protein found m maize, their earlier staple crop (see entry for CA. 20 0 T 1000 B.C.E.). Beans
also help farmers by returning nitrogen to soil that corn plants deplete, thus keeping their fields fertile year after year.
ca. 500 B.C.E. to C.E. 900
The Zapotec culture emerges at Monte Alban.
From the mountaintop urban center of Monte Alban, the Zapotec people extend influence over much of the present-
day state of Oaxaca. The Zapotec are ruled by divine kings. Their military conquests are recorded in carvings known
as the Danzante ("dancers") on stone tablets, depicting the naked bodies of slain and mutilated captives. Like other
Mesoamerican political and ceremonial centers, Monte Alban features temples and ball courts arranged around a great
plaza. Perhaps as a result of the decline of Teotihuacan (see entry for CA. 200 B.C.E. TO C.E. 750), whose leaders
may have paid tribute to those of Monte Alban, the Zapotec ruler loses control of the surrounding area in about C.E.
900. As centralized control diminishes, the Zapotec people begin living in small independent settlements until they fall
prey to, first, invading Aztec (see entry for CA. 1430 TO 1521) in the late 1400s, then Spanish armies in the early
ca. 200 B.C.E. to C.E. 400
The Great Serpent Mound is constructed.
The largest effigy mound in North America, the Great Serpent Mound, is constructed in what is now Adams County,
Ohio, by Indians of the Adena (see entry CA. 1000 B.C.E. TO C.E. 200) or Hopewell (see entry for CA. 200 B.C.E.
TO A. D. 400) tradition. The serpent is about five feet tall, 20 feet wide, and nearly a mile long. From the air, it looks
like a gigantic un­ coiling snake with its mouth open, holding an oval shape that may represent an egg or a celestial
body. Although the meaning the serpent mound held for its builders is unclear, the serpent is common in the oral
traditions of the Indians of the region.
The Hopewell culture develops throughout the Midwest.
The Hopewell cultural tradition emerges in the Ohio River valley and gradually spreads throughout the Midwest,
stretching south to the Gulf of Mexico and north to the Great Lakes. This culture has much in common with the Adena
tradition (see entry for CA. 1000 B.C.E. TO C.E. 200), which pre­ dated it in what is now Ohio. Like the Adena, the
Hopewell obtain food by hunting and gathering supplemented with farming. Hopewell farmers, however, eventually
add a new crop-maize (Indian corn)-that give them a more secure food supply and allow their population to grow.
The Hopewell live in small villages, often clustered around large ceremonial centers. The settlements feature burial
mounds that are far larger than those constructed by the Adena. These mounds cover crypts that serve as burial
chambers for the social and political elite. Buried with corpses or their cremated remains are elaborate goods, such as
copper breastplates and ear ornaments, pipes carved in animal shapes, pearl bead necklaces, painted fabrics, and
human and animal shapes crafted from flat copper and mica sheets. Many of the objects are made from raw materials
obtained through trade. Traders bring to the ceremonial centers materials from as far west as the Rockies, as far east
as the Atlantic coast as far north as present-day Canada, and as far south as what is now Florida. At the centers,
craftspeople make the trade items into luxury goods, many of which are exported to outlying areas under Hopewell now Florida. At the centers, craftspeople make the trade items into luxury goods, many of which are
exported to outlying areas under Hopewell influence.
The cause of the Hopewell's decline in the fourth century is unclear. Changing climactic conditions may have
diminished their wild food resources, or the introduction of the bow and arrow may have led to increased warfare.
Other theories hold that the cultivation of corn may have destroyed the Hopewell culture. Corn, as a reliable food
source, may have eliminated the need for the Hopewell trade net­ work. It may also have encouraged the Hopewell
to abandon their ceremonial centers for less densely populated settlements, where widespread famine was far less
likely if a particular year's corn crop was small.
10. ca. 200 B.C.E. to C.E. 750
The Basketmaker tradition marks the first phase of Anasazi culture.
The Anasazi tradition emerges in the Four Corners area of what is now Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado,
with the establishment of small villages of underground pit houses. These early Anasazi farm squash and maize but
obtain most of their food by hunting and gathering. Their villages gradually become larger and more numerous.
Because they use woven baskets rather than pottery to store their food, their culture will be named the Basketmaker
tradition by archaeologists. After 500, in the final phase of the Basketmaker culture, the Indians come to rely on
agriculture as their primary food source. (See also entry for CA. 750 TO 1400.)
Teotihuacán becomes Mesoamerica's first great urban center.
Teotihuacán emerges as the largest urban center in Mesoamerica before the rise of the Aztec Empire (see entry for
CA. 1430 TO 1521). Located about 30 miles to the northeast of present-day Mexico City, Teotihuacán functions as an
administrative, commercial, and ceremonial center. At its height (about C.E. 600) it covers more than eight square
miles, making it larger than ancient Rome. Its population numbers between 125,ooo and 200,000.
Teotihuacan's center is laid out on an enormous grid and features great open plazas, pyramids, and palaces aligned
along a road a mile a d a half long known as the Street of the Dead. On its east side is the enormous Pyramid of the
Sun. Built in about C.E. 125, it towers over the city, with a height of more than 200 feet.
While the houses of the leaders and noble class of Teotihuacan are located in the city center, ordinary people live in
suburbs that spread out over 20 square miles. Most of these Teotihuacanos labor in the surrounding farms that feed
the city's large population area. The outlying area also includes special communities for foreign traders and more than
500 artisans' workshops. Many of these craftspeople produce projectile points, knives, scrapers, and figurines from
obsidian—a shiny, black volcanic glass. the export of these obsidian objects to peoples throughout Mesoamerica
accounts for much of Teotihuacan’s wealth.
ca. 200
Southwestern Indians begin making pottery
The development of pottery making allows southwestern Indians to make better use of the foods they farm. ceramic
pots are effective cooking vessels that allow them to boil dried corn and beans easily over an open fire. They are also
excellent containers for storing these crops, allowing little spoilage. The increased use of pottery coincides with a
more settled way of life, as pots are too heavy and fragile for hunters and gatherers to move easily from place to place.
ca. 200 to 1400
The Mogollon culture emerges in what is now Arizona and New Mexico.
In the mountainous area of present-day east-central Arizona and west-central New Mexico, the Mogollon cultural
tradition develops. Early Mogollon sites feature multifamily villages of subterranean pithouses. Although the
inhabitants farm, most of their food comes from hunting and gathering. Farming grows in importance as villages
become larger. In comparison with the Hohokam (see entry for CA. 400 TO 1500) to the southeast, the Mogollon
inhabit a relatively wet environment and therefore do not need to irrigate their lands as the Hohokam do. ,
By the late 10th century, the Mogollon peoples abandon their pithouses for aboveground adobe structures (see entry
for CA. 700) similar to modern-day pueblos. At the same time, they begin to construct underground ceremonial
chambers known as kivas. The largest-called Great Kivas-measure more than 30 feet in diameter. Mogollon pottery
also becomes more sophisticated. In addition to producing brown ceramic vessels for cooking and storage, the
Mogollon people of the Mimbres Valley (see entry for ca. 1000 to 1130) create black-on-white decorated pottery for
ceremonial use. the Mogollon tradition dies out before the arrival of non-Indians in the region, but these Indians are
sometimes identified as the ancestors of the present-day Pueblo groups.
11. ca. 300 to 1500
The Maya civilization dominates southern Mexico.
The Maya culture emerges in what is now southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize, beginning in about 300. Probably
highly influenced by the culture of the Olmec (see entry for 1500 B.C.E. to C.E. 300), the Maya reach their height
between 600 and 900, an era known as the Classic Period. At this time, there are more than one hundred Maya urban
centers, each with its own ruler. These centers possibly frequently vie for supremacy by fighting one another.
Worshipping several gods, the Classic Maya hold as a central tenet that time is cyclical and that knowledge of the past
can allow one to predict the _future: Their religious beliefs, therefore, galvanize their study of timekeeping and
astronomy. The complex calendar they develop is more accurate than the Roman calendar used today. They also make
great strides in mathematics and create a system of hieroglyphic writing. Using this writing system, they record their
history in codices, on stellae, and later in books namely the Popul Vuh (see entry for 1554), the Books of Chilam
Balam, and the Annals of the Cakchiquels.
The Maya also excel in architecture and art. They build great palaces and tall pyramids from cut stone. The city of
Tikal, for instance, features six pyramids among the 3,000 structures used by a population as large as 60,000. Their
artists, often specializing in one craft, produce beautiful murals, masks, stone and wood carvings, feathered clothing,
and jewelry decorated with jade, pearl, and shell.
By 900, the Maya civilization in the southern lowlands declines, possibly because of epidemic disease, exhaustion of
natural resources, or a change in climate that adversely affects agricultural yields. The Maya continue to flourish in
Yucatan until the beginning of the 16th century. Already weakened by smallpox, ecological changes, or civil war, the
Yucatan Maya are subjugated by the Spanish after a series of invasions (see entries for 1523 and for 1546). Although
most of their culture has disappeared, Maya dialects are still spoken by more than 3 million descendants of the Classic
and Postclassic Maya. (See also entry for 987.)
ca. 400 to 1300
The Fremont tradition develops in present-day Utah.
In what is now Utah and portions of Nevada, Colorado, and Idaho, the Fremont culture emerges. The Fremont peoples
live in scattered villages, where they adopt several traits of Anasazi culture (see entries for CA. 200 B.C.E., C.E. 750,
and for CA. 750 TO 1400), such as building subterranean pit houses, making pottery, and cultivating maize. The ways
of life among these people vary widely according to the natural resources available. Some live in sedentary farming
communities; others travel in small groups in search of wild game and plants; still others al­ ternate between these
food-getting strategies. The Fremont culture is also characterized by anthropomorphic clay figurines and rock
paintings that suggest shared religious beliefs. The tradition fades in the 13th century, probably because of drought
conditions that make farming difficult and because of competition from other groups who have moved onto their
ca. 400 to 1500
The Hohokam culture develops in present-day Arizona.
In the desert area of what is now southern Arizona and northern Mexico, the Hohokam tradition evolves and
dominates the region for more than one thousand years. In the culture's earliest years, villages are no more than
clusters of several dwellings. Over time, at such sites as Snaketown (see entry for CA. 975 TO 1150), larger
settlements grow up with populations exceeding five hundred. Unlike the contemporaneous Anasazi settlements in
Chaco Canyon (see entry for CA. 900 TO 1150), however, these villages are probably economically and politically
independent of one another.
Hohokam villages are characterized by platform mounds and large ball courts, both of which may be used for rituals.
The ball courts may also function as open-air markets, where traders from surrounding settlements gather. Parrot
bones, shells, turquoise, and other exotic items from faraway areas later found at Hohokam sites are evidence that the
Hohokam people are part of a vast trade network.
The Hohokam obtain most of their food by farming corn, beans, and squash. To grow these crops in their dry lands,
the Hohokam become pioneers in irrigation technology. Beginning in about 800, they build an enormous network of
canals to carry water from nearby rivers into their fields. As their farming methods improve, they start to grow tobacco
and cotton, in addition to their staple food crops. The Hohokam also supplement their food supply by gathering
12. mesquite beans and cactus fruit and by hunting deer and rabbits.
After 1100, the Hohokam tradition begins to decline, possibly because of a series of floods or invasions by
outsiders. By 1500, the culture has disappeared, although the present-day Akimel O'odham (formerly known as the
Pima) may be the Hohokam's direct descendants.
ca. 500
The bow and arrow are used throughout North America.
Possibly used by Arctic people as early as 2000 B.C.E., the bow and arrow become widely adopted by Indians across
the North American continent. The innovation proves to be a much more effective hunting tool than the atlatl, or spear
thrower. In addition to being easier to make and lighter to carry, arrows shot from bows allow hunters to fell their prey
at a greater distance. Bows can also be reloaded quickly, so that a skilled hunter can shoot several arrows at a single
ca. 600 to 1500
The Mixtec culture emerges in Mesoamerica.
Living in the present-day Mexican states of Oaxaca, Guerrero, and Puebla, the Mixtec people develop a distinct
culture. Unlike such later Mesoamerican peoples as the Aztec (see entry for CA. 1430 TO 1521), they do not establish
a united empire ad­ ministered from a capital city but instead occupy many separate states, each with its own political
leaders. These states, ruled by local dynasties, are socially stratified, with commoners laboring for the benefit of the
noble and royal classes. They build the temples, ball courts, and royal residences that characterize Mixtec urban
centers. Artisans produce a wide array of luxury goods-such as gold and silver necklaces and ear and nose ornaments-
for the Mixtec elite and for trade with Indians in other areas. The Mixtec also develop a picture writing system, which
they use to make genealogical records and take down historical and religious information.
In the late 15th and early 16th centuries, most of the Mixtec states are overrun by either Aztec invaders or Spanish
conquistadors. Approximately a quarter of a million direct descendants of the ancient Mixtec still live in Mexico.
ca. 700
Southwestern Indians begin building houses from adobe.
Indians in the Southwest abandon their pithouses and begin constructing multiroomed, above­ ground dwellings from
adobe (sun-dried clay, often mixed with straw). The shift is a response to their increasing dependence on corn and
bean crops to feed a growing population; the pithouses are too small for storing and preparing these foods. Their new
adobe houses are not only larger but also can easily be increased in size by adding more rooms as needed. The clay
also provides excellent insulation, making these dwelling comfortable during both hot summers and cool winters.
ca. 700 to 1550
The Mississippian culture extends over the central United States.
The Mississippian Indian culture evolves in what is now the central United States, stretching north to south from
Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico and east to west from the Appalachians to the eastern Plains. The largest
Mississippian settlements are centered along the Mississippi River and its major tributaries. At the culture's greatest
ex­ tent, the Mississippian population numbers in the millions.
The Mississippians construct urban areas that serve as ceremonial and trade centers. The largest is Cahokia (see
entry for CA. 800 TO 1400), which at its height has at least 20,000 residents. In these centers the Mississippian
construct enormous platform mounds. These mounds are rectangular at the base and topped with a series of flat tiers.
On their flat tops rest houses for hereditary leaders. These houses are lavishly furnished with walls covered with deer
skins, and their roofs are decorated with precious shells and pearls. When a leader dies, his house is destroyed and
in its place is built a new tier of earth which becomes the foundation of the next leader' dwelling.
The Mississippian urban centers rely on goods obtained by traders who travel area rivers by canoe to outlying
settlements. This far-reaching trade network brings to the centers such exotic items as copper from the Great Lakes
region, mica from the Appalachian Mountains, and sharks' teeth and barracuda jaws from the Gulf of Mexico.
13. The Mississippians depend on corn, beans, and squash, which are farmed mostly by women. Unlike earlier mound-
building cultures (see entries for CA. 200 TO 1400 and for CA. 400 TO 1500), they use a new tool-the stone-bladed
hoe-to make their fieldwork easier. Mississippian men employ another innovation-the bow and arrow (see entry for
CA. 500)-to hunt deer and other animals for meat.
Although some sites are abandoned earlier the Mississippian culture survives into the historic area. Soldiers under
Hernando de Soto (see entry for 1539) will leave records of their large urban centers in the Mississippi River valley.
Contact with non-Indians, however, destroys the remaining centers, whose populations thereafter fall victim to
repeated epidemics of infectious European diseases to which the Indians have no natural immunity.
ca. 750
Teotihuacan is destroyed.
Teotihuacan, the greatest pre-Aztec urban center in Mesoamerica (see entry for CA. 200 B.C.E. TO
C.E. 750), is looted and burned. Its ravagers are either invaders from outside of the city (perhaps the Toltec; see entry
for CA. 900 TO 1200) or city residents in revolt. Many of the pyramids that rose above Teotihuacan's central plaza are
destroyed in the attack. The ruins of the city will be revered by the Aztec (see entry for CA. 1430 TO 1521 , w o enter
the region in the 14th century. They will give Teotihuacan its name, which means "the City of the Gods" in Nahuatl,
the Aztec language.
ca. 750 to 1400
Anasazi culture enters the Pueblo Period.
The Anasazi move from the Basketmaker Period (see entry for CA. 200 B.C.E. TO C.E. 750) to the Pueblo Period
with the introduction of an innovation in architecture-the widespread use of aboveground dwellings made from adobe
(clay) bricks or from stone mortared with adobe (see entry for CA. 500). The new housing style gives the Anasazi
more space for storing and milling corn, a food source that becomes more important as their population increases.
They retain a form of their old under­ ground pithouses but use these structures-known as kivas-exclusively for
Starting in about 1000, Anasazi villages grow far larger. Some Anasazi settlements house as many as 10,000 people,
and their total population numbers as high as one hundred thousand. The many roads connecting the villages allow the
Anasazi to enjoy a vast trade network centered on the Chaco Canyon (see entry for CA. 900 TO 1150).
These large villages are abandoned by the Anasazi beginning in the 14th century. They may have relocated to smaller
settlements after suffering droughts that made farming enough food for their large populations impossible. The
Anasazi may also have been driven from their lands by less sophisticated peoples, who then adopted some of their
ways. The remnants of the Anasazi will become the ancestors of modern Pueblos groups, such as the Hopi and the
Zuni. (See also entry for CA. 1100 TO 1200.)
ca. 875 to 1500
The Patayan culture develops in western Arizona
South of the Grand Canyon, the Patayan culture (also known as the Hakataya culture) emerges along the Colorado
River in what is now western Arizona. Like the Hohokam to the east (see entry for CA. 400 TO 1500), the Patayan
people rely on farming for their survival, although they supplement their food supply with hunting and gathering.
Other cultural traits include building aboveground brush dwellings and making pottery and baskets. The Patayan (the
Yuman word for "old people) may be the ancestors of Yuman-speaking groups such as the Quechan and the Mojave.
ca. 900 to 1150
The "Chaco Phenomenon" evolves in the San Juan Basin.
Over a 25,000-square-mile area in the San Juan Basin in what is now northern New Mexico and southwestern
Colorado, the Anasazi (see entries for CA. 200 B.C.E. TO C.E. 750 and for CA. 750 TO 1400) begin to live in large
pueblos. Most include 10 to 20 rooms, though nine enormous pueblos in the basin grow to hundreds of rooms in size.
Archaeologists will refer to this development as the Chaco Phenomenon, after the Chaco Canyon, which serves as the
14. trade, administrative, and possibly ritual center for the outlying pueblos. The settlements are connected by more than
250 miles of roads, including elaborate stairways and ramps to help travelers make their way through difficult terrain.
This travel network permits people from scattered pueblos to trade food and goods with one another. The Chaco
Phenomenon therefore allows the dry des rt basin to sustain a much larger population than it could have if the Indians
had been confined to isolated farming settlements.
The area suffers a sustained drought after 1130 , and the Chaco system begins to decline. By this time, it may have
grown too large to remain effective and thus would have collapsed even if rainfall had remained at normal levels. The
people of the canyon slowly scatter-some forming new, smaller settlements, others probably abandoning and
returning to hunting and gathering food.
ca. 900 to 1200
The Toltec establish an empire in central Mexico.
United under the leader Mixcoatl, the warlike Toltec overwhelm the peoples of present-day central Mexico There,
Mixcoatl’ s son Topilzin founds a large empire of states centered around the Toltec capital of Tula. Tula spreads over
an area of more than five square miles and has a population in the tens of thousands. The region includes a swampland
that provides the Toltec with basketry materials and gives Tula its original name—Tollan, meaning "place of the
The Toltec become expert temple pyramid builders as well as craftspeople, known best for their chacmools—large,
stone sculptures of warriors lying on their backs that may have held the hearts of human sacrifices. Under Topilzin,
the Toltec also develop the cult of Quetzalcóatl, a mythic feathered serpent whose name Topilzin adopts. According to
Toltec legend, Quetzalcóatl, driven out of Tula by the god Tezcatlipoca, goes to live in the east but vows one day to
return to reclaim his throne. Toltec art and the Quetzalcoatl cult will have a great influence on the Maya (see entries
for CA. 300 TO 1500 and for 987) and the Aztec (see entry for CA. 1430 TO 1521)-the latter of whom will succeed
the Toltec as the dominant people of the region.
ca. 900 to 1500
The Etowah village site is occupied.
In what is now northwestern Georgia near the present-day city of Rome, Etowah grows into one of the largest
Mississippian ceremonial centers (see entry for CA. 750 TO 1550). The village covers 52 acres and features two large
plazas surrounded by seven mounds, three of which are topped with buildings serving as temples or houses for
Etowah's leaders. Smaller mounds containing artifacts associated with the religious beliefs of the Southern Cult (see
entry for CA. 1100 TO 1300) are used as burial sites for elite villagers. The village is surrounded by a palisade and a
moat. At its height, Etowah is the center of a chiefdom that controls a large area, including what is now northern
Georgia and Alabama, eastern Tennessee, and western North and South Carolina. Its decline before the historic period
is probably due to warfare, perhaps with the Mississippian chiefdom centered at the Moundville site in present-day
ca. 900 to 1600
Thule culture spreads across northern Canada.
Along the Arctic coast of present-day northern Alaska, groups of Native people begin to rely on whaling as a primary
source of food. The result is the Thule culture, which quickly expands eastward throughout what is now northern
Canada, eventually spreading all the way to Greenland.
The rapid adoption of the Thule culture is attributed to the wide array of vessels and tools the Thule people develop to
help them survive in the frozen Arctic. Possibly the most important innovation is the umiak, a large, open skin boat
that can carry teams of hunters on whaling expeditions. The Thule also create sophisticated harpoons and spears,
which they use to hunt whales, walruses, seals, caribou, polar bears, and smaller mammals. They live in snow houses
heated with whale oil lamps in the winter, and in skin tents in the summer. As transportation, they use sleds drawn by
packs of domesticated dogs. Thule artisans also make many different types of implements and ornaments from stone,
bone, ivory, sinew, and copper. Although Thule culture will fade in the 15th century, many elements of the tradition
will survive in the modern Inuit way of life.
15. ca. 975 to 1150
The Hohokan site of Snaketown is occupied.
Located at the confluence of the Gila and Salt Rivers near what is now Phoenix, Arizona, Snake­ town-the largest
Hohokam settlement (see entry for CA. 400 TO 1500)-grows to sustain a population of as many as 600. The people
live in more than 100 dwellings circling a central plaza, where ceremonial events are held. The site also features two
enormous ball courts, which serve as arenas for a game played with a small ball made from rubber possibly imported
from Mexico.
Maya legend records the arrival of Quetzalcoatl.
According to Maya chronicles, a man named Quetzalcóatl (Kukulkan, in the Maya language) arrives on the coast of
the Yucatan Peninsula and becomes a leader among the Yucatan Maya (see entry for CA. 300 TO 1500). The legend
recalls the Toltec cult of Quetzalcoatl, which holds that this god traveled east after being driven from the Toltec
capital of Tula by a supernatural rival (see entry for CA. 900 TO 1200). A relationship between the Yucatan Maya
and the Toltec is borne out by the ruins of Chichén Itzá, a great urban center whose structures combine aspects of
both of these cultures.
ca. 1000
The Norse begin trading with the indigenous people of Vinland.
According to Norse sagas of the 12th and 13th centuries, Norse explorer Leif Eriksson purchases a boat from a sailor
named Bjarni Herjolfsson, who claims that when blown off coast traveling west from Green­ land he sighted the coast
of a large landmass. In Herjolfsson's boat, Eriksson sets off to find it. He and his crew explore two islands; one they
call Helluland, and another they name Markland. Scholars later identify them as Baffin Island and Labrador,
respectively. The Norsemen also come upon a land with rich soil, plentiful game and fish, and large patches of wild
grapevines. After this last feature, the explorers dub the region Vinland, which is most often identified with
Newfoundland (see entry for 1960).
Eriksson's party remains in Vinland for nearly a year. There they build settlements and come in con­ tact with the
indigenous people of the area-most likely either Inuit or Beothuk-whom the Norsemen call Skraelings (literally
"wretches"). The Skraelings give the travelers animal pelts and ivory in exchange for metal tools and wool. Other
encounters are less fruitful: on several occasions, the Norsemen kill Skraelings. Eriksson's crew will abandon the
settlement, possibly due to indigenous resistance to their acts of violence. (See also entry for CA. 1007.)
ca. 1000 to 1130
The Mimbres begin creating painted pottery.
The Mogollon (see entry for CA. 200 TO 1400) of Mimbres Valley in what is now southwestern New Mexico begin
crafting decorative bowls that are likely used in ceremonies. Made by Mimbres women, their unique pots are painted
with geometric designs and human, animal, and mythological figures. The vessels are often placed in graves, over the
head of the corpse. Before a corpse is entombed, a hole is punched into the base of the pot to "kill" it ritually and allow
its spirit to travel to the after­ world. In the 20th century, the beautiful Mimbres ceramics will be treasured by art
ca. 1007
Norsemen kill eight "Skraelings."
As recorded in Norse sagas, Thorvald Eriksson, the brother of Leif Eriksson (see entry for CA. 1000), and a crew of
35 are exploring the coast of the Atlantic Ocean when they spy on the beach nine indigenous people, whom the Norse
refer to as Skraelings. Without provocation, the Norsemen at­ tack. All of the Skraelings are killed, except for one who
manages to escape by canoe. Another party of Skraelings avenge the murders by shooting arrows at the invader's ship.
Eriksson is killed in the attack, and his crew returns to Greenland.
16. ca. 1100
Sinagua culture begins to flourish.
The Sinagua culture develops in the Verde Val­ ley of what is now central Arizona after a volcano spreads ash over
their lands. The ash improves the fertility of the soil, allowing the Sinagua to harvest large crops for the next 200
years. Located north of the Hohokam (see entry for CA. 400 TO 1500) and south of the Anasazi (see entry for CA.
750 TO I400), the Sinagua culture adopts elements of these traditions. Like the Anasazi, for instance, the Sinagua
build cliff dwellings, some of which will survive at Walnut Canyon National Monument, near present-day Flagstaff.
ca. 1100 to 1200
The Anasazi construct cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde.
In what is now southwestern Colorado, the Anasazi (see entry for CA. 750 TO 1400) at Mesa Verde construct adobe
dwellings of 10 to several hundred rooms in alcoves in canyon walls. The largest of these cliff dwellings is Cliff
Palace, which includes 220 rooms. To reach the buildings, inhabitants have to make a difficult and steep climb using
handholds and footholds carved into the cliffs. Their inaccessibility suggests that the cliff dwellings are meant to
provide protection from the residents' enemies as well as from inclement weather.
ca. 1100 to 1300
The Southern Cult emerges among the Mississippians.
The people of the Mississippian tradition (see entry for CA. 700 TO 1550) in the modern southeastern United States
create artifacts that reflect a set of religious beliefs later termed the Southern Cult. Common motifs of Southern Cult
artifacts include skulls, warriors holding axes, severed heads, weeping eyes, and hands with eyes in their palms. These
are most often engraved into shell but also carved into wood and stone and embossed on sheets of copper. The
gruesome imagery suggests that the Southern Cult is related to war and possibly human sacrifice. Many of the
materials used to craft these objects also indicate that the Southern Cult Mississippian are involved in a far-reaching
trade network. Cop­ per axes, for instance, are made from metal mined in the Great Lakes region.
ca. 1150
The Anasazi establish Oraibi.
In what is now northeastern Arizona, the Anasazi (see entry for CA. 750 TO 1400) found the village of Oraibi. By the
late 13th century, the settlement will have a population of as many as 1,000. It will later be occupied by the Hopi,
descendants of the Anasazi, and become the longest continually occupied settlement in the present-day United States.
(See also entry for SEPTEMBER 9, 1906 [not in this document].)
ca. 1300 to 1400
Migrants to Hohokam territory develop the Salado culture.
As the Sinagua culture (see entry for CA. 1100) comes to an end, a group of Sinagua people travel south and settle
among the Hohokam (see entry for CA. 400 TO 1500) in the Gila River valley. Th: culture that evolves among these
migrants as they rake on Hohokam traits will become known as the Salado tradition.
The Salado people are probably responsible for
introducing a new form of architecture among the Hohokam. One example is the four-story Great House at Casa
Grande. Accustomed to building structures from stone, the Salado Indians have difficulty working with the adobe
bricks used by the Hohokam. Perhaps unsure about the stability of the material, they fill the centers of the bottom
floors with bricks to ensure the buildings will not collapse.
17. ca. 1325
The early Aztec found Tenochtitlan.
The Mexica, a tribe of nomadic hunters who will later become known as the Aztec (see entry for CA. 1430 TO 1521),
arrive in Central Mexico, where they encounter more powerful groups that demand tribute. To escape these groups,
the early Aztec found a settlement on a muddy island in the center of what is now Lake Texcoco. According to Aztec
legend, the god Huitzilopochtli leads them to this place (today the site of Mexico City), where they find an eagle
seated on cactus with a serpent in its beak. This image now appears on the flag of Mexico. The legend also survives in
the name Tenochtitlan, meaning "place of the cactus" in Nahuatl, the Aztec language.
ca. 1400
The Peacemaker and Hiawatha form the Iroquois Confederacy.
According to Iroquois oral tradition, a Huron prophet known as the
Peacemaker advocates the end of warfare associated with the blood "Roots have spread out to form the Tree· of
feud-a custom that requires the family of a victim of violence to Great Peace, one to the north, one to the
avenge the crime by attacking members of the perpetrator's family. east, one to the south, and one to the west.
The message of peace is embraced by Hiawatha, an Onondaga These are the Great White Roots and their
leader who communicates the Peacemaker's words to his own tribe nature is Peace and Strength.
and four others-the Cayuga, Mohawk, Seneca, and Oneida-living "If any man or any nation of the Five
in what is now New York State and southeastern Canada. All are Nations shall obey the laws of the Great
receptive except for a powerful Onondaga war leader, Tadadaho, Peace and shall make known to the
whose evil character is symbolized by the snakes woven in his statesmen of the League, they may trace
hair. Hiawatha finally secures Tadadaho's cooperation by offering back the roots to the Tree. If their minds
him the chairmanship of the Grand Council, an assembly of 50 are clean, and if they are obedient and
leaders representing each tribe the Peacemaker has conceived to promise to obey the wishes of the Council
resolve disputes amicably. The council is to meet in the centrally of the League, they shall be welcomed to
located territory of the Onondaga, gathering at what the take shelter beneath the Great Evergreen
Peacemaker calls the Great Tree of Peace. Tree.”
-from the Iroquois Confederacy's
The people of the confederacy organized by the Peacemaker and Law of Great Peace
Hiawatha call themselves Haudenosaunee, meaning the "people of
the longhouse." Several families live in harmony in this traditional
dwelling, just as the tribes vow to live in peace within the same realm. Non-Indians will begin referring to the
Haudenosaunee as the Iroquois and their powerful confederacy as the Iroquois League, or the Five Nations. (A sixth
tribe, the Tuscarora, will later join the league; see entry for 1722.)
ca. 1430 to 1521
The Aztec become the primary power in Mesoamerica.
Clustered on a muddy island in Lake Texcoco-the site of present-day Mexico City (see entry for CA. 1325)-the Aztec
people stage a series of wars on neighboring Indian groups in what is now the Val­ ley of Mexico. By about 1440,
they emerge as the dominant people of the region. In a long succession of military conquests, the ambitious, despotic
Aztec rulers build up a vast empire. At its height, it comprises some 500 small states, spreading over 80,000 square
miles throughout much of present­ day Mexico.
Although absolute power rests with the ruler, the Aztec observe several layers of social rank-ranging from high-
ranking nobles to middle­ ranking merchants and artisans to low-ranking commoners. Individuals can rise or fall in
position; warriors who distinguish themselves in battle are most frequently able to better their social positions.
The enormous empire is administered through a bureaucracy centered in Tenochtitlan, which is also the home of the
Aztec ruler. The advanced Aztec farming technology, which employs man­ made irrigation canals, helps sustain the
population of this huge urban center. The residents of Tenochtitlán also rely on tributes of food and goods from
conquered people in outlying areas. In addition, the conquests of Aztec warriors bring captives to the capital, who are
killed in ever-growing numbers during religious ceremonies. The Aztec believe the sacrifices are necessary to nourish
Huitzilopochtli, the god of the sun and of war (see entry for CA. 1325). Without the shedding of blood through these
human sacrifices and ritual bloodletting, they fear that their world will come to an end. Their dire prophesies will
come true with the arrival of Spanish conquistadores in their realm.
18. ca. 1450 to 1500
The Navajo (Dineh [Diné]) and Apache arrive in the Southwest.
Originally living in what is now southwestern Canada, the ancestors of the Navajo (Dineh) and Apache tribes migrate
for reasons unknown to what is now the American Southwest. There, initially they remain hunters and gatherers who
move from place to place in search of wild animals and plants. Their way of life contrasts with that of their new
Pueblo neighbors—the descendants of the Anasazi (see entry for ca. 750 to 1400)—who live in villages and obtain
most of their food through farming. the first contacts between the newcomers and the Pueblo were likely hostile with
the Navajo and Apache raiding Pueblo villages for food and supplies. some groups, however, may have developed a
peaceful relationship based on trade.
By the 17th century, increased contact and intermarriage with the Pueblo will create a hybrid culture among the
Navajo that blends their old ways with Pueblo farming techniques, ceremonies, and customs. the Apache, in contrast,
will remain a mobile people with a culture focused on hunting, gathering, and raiding.
Works Cited
Davis, Photograph by Loren. “15,000-Year-Old Idaho Archaeology Site Now among America's Oldest.” National
Geographic, 30 Aug. 2019,
Deloria, Vine, et al. Spirit & Reason the Vine Deloria, Jr. Fulcrum Pub., 1999, p. 37.
Fen Montaigne, Jennie Rothenberg Gritz. “The Story of How Humans Came to the Americas Is Constantly
Evolving.”, Smithsonian Institution,
“New Evidence Puts Man In North America 50,000 Years Ago.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 18 Nov. 2004,
“Humans in California 130,000 Years Ago? Get the Facts.” National Geographic, 7 May 2020,
Sonneborn, Liz. Chronology of American Indian History. Facts On File, 2007.
Valadez, Jamie, and Carmen Watson-Charles. “Tse-Whit-Zen.” Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe,