Ch 1: First Contacts (28,000 BCE-1821 CE)

About This Chapter

Watch first contact in America video lessons to learn about the Native American tribes, first contacts with Spain, Christopher Columbus, the Incas and more. Each lesson is accompanied by a short multiple-choice quiz you can use to check your understanding of these and other topics covered in this chapter.

First Contacts

Captain John Smith was not the first to have contact with the natives, and the New World was not new to a large number of people who lived or visited the Americas prior to Columbus. North America's history is rich and full of stories that changed the way the land was developed. In fact, the Americas have history that pre-dates pharaonic Egypt.

Through these lessons, you'll learn about the civilizations that survived before Europeans made contact. Civilizations you may have never heard of, such as the Olmecs, existed long before the Aztecs and Mayans. Discover how these prevalent peoples were affected by European contact for the good and the bad. Also, learn how explorers, such as Cortez, Pizarro and Columbus, eventually led to the downfall of these great civilizations.

The Columbian exchange was a large part of how the Americas transformed from the untouched land that it once was. When Europeans crossed the ocean, they brought with them animals, plants and diseases that were foreign to the current lands. Not surprisingly, what was brought over was often replaced by similar items when they went home. This exchange allowed animals, plants and diseases to thrive in different conditions and climates. Eventually, these newly introduced items cross-bred with native species creating all new animals and plants.

As the Americas grew with European colonists, goods were required. The New World also had some goods that were rare or not found in Europe. The triangle trade between the North Atlantic states, Africa and the West Indies (one between the same states, Britain and the West Indies also existed) was established. This trade route allowed the trading of slaves, rum, spices, whale oil, furs and gunpowder.

7 Lessons in Chapter 1: First Contacts (28,000 BCE-1821 CE)
Test your knowledge with a 30-question chapter practice test
Native American History: Origins of Early People in the Americas

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.

Mesoamerican Civilizations: The Olmecs to Cortes

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.

The Inca Civilization and Pizarro: Pre-Columbian South America

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.

Pre-Columbian Civilization: North American Indians Before Europeans

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.

Effects of European Colonization: Christopher Columbus and Native Americans

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.

New Spain: Spanish Explorers and Spanish Colonies

6. 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.

The Columbian Exchange

7. 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.

Chapter Practice Exam
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Practice Final Exam
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