Text and photos courtesy of Michelle Mock
The Ancient World of North America
We often associate "ancient times" with Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. During the ancient times, humans also lived, and cultures thrived, in the ancient world of the continent that would later become known as North America.
Early North Americans would hunt large animals and forage, and as they migrated across ice, tundra, plains, woodlands and deserts, they would find places to settle. Some gradually changed to a more settled way of life, farming the land where they chose to live.
Throughout North America, there were hunters and gatherers like the Cochise and the Cree. Many native tribes and nations lived in North America through the years. Farming began to lead to settlements in what today is known as Mexico. Evidence of pottery (possibly first used in South American civilizations) was found in Mexico and Guatemala. By 1500 BC, farming and agriculture had reached the southeast and midwest of what is now known as the United States. Those living on the oceanic coasts relied heavily on fishing.
Somewhere between 2000 and 1000 BC, the Mayan culture began in Mesoamerica (what we know today as Central America). Around the same time, the Olmec culture rose on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The Mayans and Olmecs built beautiful temples and artifacts, many can still be seen to this day. The Olmec culture had moved west (to Oaxaca), but began to decline around 300 BC and the Zapotec culture rose in that region.
Between 1000 and 300 BC, the Adena people settled around the Ohio River Valley. They lived in small groups and farmed corn and beans. Around 300 BC, the Hopewell people displaced the Adenas. They were great mound-builders and traders.
Around 200 BC to 700 AD, the Teotihuacán culture rose in Mexico. Further North, the Hohokam people in the southeast built ditches and dykes to irrigate their crops. Through the early years AD (1 to 500 years after Christ), basket makers culture began to develop in the southwest of North America. At the same time the city of Teotihuacán, including the Great Pyramid of the Sun, was built in Central America. The Teotihuacán and Zapotec cultures continued to thrive during the first six or seven hundred years AD. The Mayan culture also peaked during this time.
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