Ch 20: Pre-European Civilizations in North America

About This Chapter

Watch online video lessons to learn about the Aztecs, Incas, Mayans and more. Take the self-assessment quizzes that follow each lesson to gauge your learning.

Pre-European Civilizations in North America - Chapter Summary and Learning Objectives

Embark on a brief survey of early history in North America with the video lessons and quizzes included in this chapter. You can explore topics ranging from the arrival of the first humans to the mysterious decline of the Mayans. Instructors also examine the engineering and architectural feats of North America's ancient civilizations alongside the agricultural and hunter-gatherer lifestyles. This chapter is designed to help you:

  • Explain the Bering Land Bridge, Atlantic and Oceana theories
  • Identify contributions of Mayan and Native North American civilizations
  • Describe characteristics of pre-Columbian civilizations in North America

Video Objectives
Native American History: Origins of Early People in the Americas Discuss theories used to explain how early human populations arrived in the Americas.
Mesoamerican Civilizations: The Olmecs to Cortes Outline features of early Mesoamerican civilizations, including the Olmec, Mayas and Aztecs.
The Mayan Civilization: Economy, Politics, Culture & Religion Examine the economic, political, cultural and religious characteristics of Mayan civilization.
The Decline of the Mayan Culture Identify theories used to explain the decline of Mayan civilization around 800 C.E.
The Aztecs and the Incas in the Middle Ages Explore characteristics of Aztec and Inca civilizations in the middle ages.
Pre-Columbian Civilization: North American Indians Before Europeans Get an overview of Native American Indian tribes living in the Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, Northwest and Great Plains regions.
The Apache, Navajo and Mandan Civilizations Detail characteristics and contributions of the Apache, Navajo and Mandan civilizations.
The Inuit and Aleut Civilizations of the Far North Discover distinctive traits of the Inuit and Aleut civilizations.

10 Lessons in Chapter 20: Pre-European Civilizations in North America
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.

Mayan Civilization: Economy, Politics, Culture & Religion

3. Mayan Civilization: Economy, Politics, Culture & Religion

In this lesson, we explore the Mayan civilization of Southern Mexico and Central America. A rich and culturally-vibrant civilization, its sudden disappearance from the annals of history have puzzled scholars for years.

Mayan Disappearance: Theories & Concept

4. Mayan Disappearance: Theories & Concept

For many years, archaeologists have studied the collapse of the Maya civilization. Learn the different theories archaeologists believe were responsible for the downfall of the Maya.

The Aztecs: Civilization & Culture

5. The Aztecs: Civilization & Culture

A mythical origin, an intricate political and social system, impressive accomplishments, bloodthirsty gods, and a violent clash of two cultures - watch this video to learn more about the interesting history of the Aztecs!

The Inca Civilization and Pizarro: Pre-Columbian South America

6. 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.

The Incan Empire: History & Fall

7. The Incan Empire: History & Fall

If we look at 15th-century Mesoamerica, we see that the fastest growing empire of the time was the Incan Empire. The Inca created an elaborate society, which, before it fell to the Spanish, was the largest nation on Earth, and it remains the largest native state to have existed in the western hemisphere.

Pre-Columbian Civilization: North American Indians Before Europeans

8. 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.

The Apache, Navajo & Mandan Civilizations

9. The Apache, Navajo & Mandan Civilizations

In this lesson, we explore three Native American tribes in, what is today, the America's Southwest and Midwest. Though all three were different cultures, they were all ultimately decimated by the same thing: contact with European settlers.

The Inuit & Aleut Civilizations of the Far North

10. The Inuit & Aleut Civilizations of the Far North

In this lesson, we explore the northern North American civilization of the Inuit and the Aleut, who eked out livings in the roughest of North American climates.

Chapter Practice Exam
Test your knowledge of this chapter with a 30 question practice chapter exam.
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Practice Final Exam
Test your knowledge of the entire course with a 50 question practice final exam.
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