About This Chapter
Early Civilizations of America - Chapter Summary
This chapter covers the history of the early civilizations of America. Learn about the origins of Mesoamerican civilizations and explore pre-Columbian South America. After completing this chapter, you should be able to:
- Describe the civilizations of the Inca and Olmecs
- Discuss the North American Indians before the Europeans
- Explain the effects of European colonization
- Explore the cultural and economic interactions between Native Americans and Europeans
- Summarize the Spanish explorers and colonies
- Define the Columbian exchange
The engaging video lessons in this chapter are taught by professional instructors, and the self-assessment quizzes can help you check your understanding of lesson concepts. Choose between fun animated video lessons or printable transcripts. Track your progress via your personal dashboard.
1. Native American History: Origins of Early People in the Americas
Because the first humans and civilizations got their start in Africa and the Middle East, historians and anthropologists have had to figure out how Native Americans got to the Americas. In this lesson we look at the three prevailing theories of the earliest migration to the New World.
2. Mesoamerican Civilizations: The Olmecs to Cortes
This lesson focuses on the early cultures of Mesoamerica. The Olmec, Maya, and Aztecs developed great civilizations in Mesoamerica over millennia. Then, after all of this development and the building of a great empire, the Aztec were quickly defeated by Hernando Cortes.
3. The Inca Civilization and Pizarro: Pre-Columbian South America
The Incan Empire was an amazing empire of the early Americas. Their accomplishments rival those of many other great empires, but they were defeated by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in only a few years.
4. Pre-Columbian Civilization: North American Indians Before Europeans
Watch this video for an overview of the cultural groups of Native Americans as they lived at the time of first contact with Europeans. Some of these groupings, like the tribes of the plains, changed so much due to the addition of European influences, such as horses, that there is only conjecture as to how exactly they lived before European contact.
5. Effects of European Colonization: Christopher Columbus and Native Americans
The earliest explorers in the Western Hemisphere left a legacy that would shape the development of the Americas permanently. No matter what they came looking for, Europeans left behind death, horses, and metal.
6. Cultural & Economic Interactions Between Native Americans & Europeans
As Europeans explored and settled in North America, one of the great cultural and economic exchanges in world history began. In this lesson we will learn how Amerinds and Europeans interacted in the 16th and 17th centuries.
7. New Spain: Spanish Explorers and Spanish Colonies
Who are the most well-known explorers and conquistadors of the New World? In this lesson, we'll look at some of the most infamous explorers. We'll discover the difference between explorers and conquistadors, and then learn about the encomienda system.
8. The Columbian Exchange
The Columbian Exchange is a term used to denote the world-changing exchange of agricultural goods, slave labor, diseases, and ideas between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres that occurred after the year 1492 CE.
Earning College Credit
Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.
To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page
Transferring credit to the school of your choice
Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.
Other chapters within the AP US History: Exam Prep course
- North American Colonial Settlement by Europeans
- Events & Leaders of the American Revolution Overview
- Creation of the United States Post-American Revolution
- The Virginia Dynasty & Jacksonian Democracy Overview
- Everyday Life in Antebellum America
- Overview of Westward Expansion
- Buildup to the American Civil War
- The American Civil War
- After the Civil War: Reconstruction
- Industrialization & Urbanization (1870-1900)
- Social Issues of the Progressive Era (1900-1917)
- American Imperialism & World War I
- America in the 1920s (1920-1929)
- The Great Depression & New Deal (1929-1940)
- Significant Events of World War II
- World Events & Politics After World War II (1946-1959)
- Events & Presidents During the Cold War (1950-1973)
- Overview of Civil Rights & Other Movements
- Changes in the Modern United States
- Recent American History & Politics
- Critical Thinking Skills for AP US History
- AP U.S. History: Test-Taking Skills and Prep
- Essay Writing Overview
- AP US History Flashcards
- Important Events Leading to the American Revolution