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The First Americans


The First Americans Life on the Great Plains Some of these civilizations are the Mandan, Hidatsa, Pawnee, and Sioux. These cultures relied mostly on the buffalo for ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The First Americans

The First Americans
Pathway to the Americas
  • During the Ice Age the earths surface was
    covered with glaciers (huge sheets of ice)
  • Scientists believe that people crossed the
    Beringia land bridge from Asia into the Americas
    in search of food and animals during these times

First American Civilizations
  • The first Americans were huntergatherers.
  • When the Ice Age ended, warmer weather conditions
    allowed the people to begin farming.
  • Farmer grew pumpkins, peppers, squash, and the
    most important cropcorn or maize.

  • This ancient civilization developed around Vera
    Cruz, Mexico.
  • They had rich farming resources.
  • They built a large trading network using rivers
    as the highways for trade.
  • They were known for making rubber using tree
    resin and making balls to use for sports.
  • They admired famous ball players and some of the
    statues might be famous players.

Olmec Heartland
Olmec Monument possibly a ball player
Olmec Temple
  • This was one of the first planned cities of
    Mesoamerica but we dont know who first built
    this city.
  • Teotihuacan means Place of the Gods.
  • The city was a center of trade and had a
    population of about 120,000 to 200,000 people and
    was used by many groups including the Toltec and

Teotihuacán Step Pyramids
  • Built their civilization on the Yucatan Peninsula
  • They traded in Mesoamerica and built cities.
  • Along with the Teotihuacanos, the Maya
    mysteriously abandoned their cities.
  • Scholars suggest that drought, overpopulation, or
    rebellion caused the mysterious decline.

Maya Temple/Pyramid
  • These people were warrior nomads who seized
    northern Mexico.
  • They tightly controlled trade and held a monopoly
    (the sole right) to trade obsidian.
  • Keeping control of obsidian helped protect them
    from any enemies. (obsidian was used to make
    sharp edged knifes)
  • They were later defeated by the Aztecs.

  • These people lived along the dry coastal desert
    of what is now Peru.
  • They dug canals from rivers into their desert
    homeland and soon the desert bloomed with crops.
  • They traded with others in the Amazon region and
    built large temples.

  • They lived near the Moche in the Andes Mountains
    of Peru.
  • They built the largest empire in the ancient
  • Their capital city was named Cuzco.

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Civilizations of North America
  • Civilizations developed in North America along
    the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio Rivers.
  • Other civilizations developed in the southwest.
  • All of people developed farming and trading.

  • Lived in the dry southwest in modern day New
  • They grew corn, beans, and squash and developed
    irrigation systems.

  • Lived in the same region as the Hohokam, but they
    moved into the regions cliffs and canyons.
  • They also grew crops but collected rainwater and
    channeled it onto their fields.
  • They lived in huge apartments built into the
  • Spanish explorers later called these buildings
    pueblos which is the Spanish word for village.

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Mound Builders
  • Civilizations grew around the Mississippi River
    where the inhabitants built large mounds made
    from earth
  • The mounds served as temples, home sites for the
    leaders, or burial sites.
  • These civilizations spread throughout the
  • The Mississippians were known for their large
    scale farming and large cities.

Moundville, Alabama Mississippian
Civilization Along the Black Warrior River near
Life in the Americas
The Mayan People
  • The Mayan people settled in the Peten or the flat
    region. (Located in modern day Guatemala)
  • It was shielded from the sun by dense forests and
    was filled with stinging insects, poisonous
    snakes, and screeching animals.
  • Swamps and sinkholes served as water sources.
  • The Maya set up city states and were ruled by
    kings who passed their titles down to their sons.

Life In Mayan Cities
  • Mayan rulers were considered god-kings
  • They practiced human sacrifice to please the gods
  • Captives were often sacrificed
  • Religion was the center of their lives
  • Lived in a strict class system
  • Women were sometimes powerful and served as
    leaders in the military or queens
  • The Maya admired flat heads in the back. Babies
    had boards bound to their heads in order to
    flatten the head!!
  • The Maya also admired crossed eyes and babies had
    charms dangled before their eyes to achieve this!

Mayan Science and Math
  • Mayan Priests tracked the movements of the sun,
    moon, and the stars in order to understand the
    plan of the gods.
  • They developed a 365 day calendar and used it to
    know when to plant
  • They developed a math system based on the number
  • They wrote in a form of hieroglyphics

Life in the Inca Empire
  • Ruled by a strong central government set up by a
    leader named Pachacuti.
  • A central government requires that every region
    within an empire report back to a central leader.
  • The Inca lived in a strictly divided culture
  • They rarely sacrificed humans, but during times
    of crisis like earthquakes children were
    sometimes sacrificed
  • The Inca built large stone buildings and
    developed a way of keeping records using a quipu.
    (a knotted cord of different lengths used to do
    math calculations)

Many Inca mummies have been discovered. They are
sometimes children or young girls. Some have
been discovered with ceremonial clothing on and
with artifacts that they needed in an afterlife.
The Inca sacrifices are much different than the
Aztec or Maya sacrifices.
The Aztec
  • The Aztec were warlike and fearsome.
  • They built their capital city, Tenochtitlan, in a
    swampy, snake infested region.
  • They chose strong kings to lead them into battle
    to collect tribute and captives.
  • They had a strict class system of nobles,
    commoners, unskilled laborers, and enslaved

Life in the Aztec Empire
  • Commoners were the largest class. They could
    become nobles if they performed a brave deed
    during battles.
  • They believed in an afterlife where soldiers,
    sacrificed captives, and women who died in
    childbirth lived. All others went to the Land of
    the Dead or the lowest level of the underworld.
  • They built a huge temple at Tenochtitlan where
    human sacrifices were performed. In one year,
    the Aztecs were known to have sacrificed as many
    as 20,000-30,000 victims.

Aztec Sacrifice Knife-used to slice open the
victim and then remove the heart!
Life in North AmericaThe Inuit
  • The Inuit lived in the harsh conditions of the
    Arctic regions of present day Canada.
  • They built igloos or dome shaped homes made of
    blocks of ice and snow.
  • They hunted many animals including caribou, polar
    bears, whales for food.

Life in North AmericaWest Coast
  • Most of these civilizations were oceangoing
    fishermen and farmers.
  • They settled in the area from Washington to
  • They harvested crops like dates and relied on
    roots and plants that grew naturally in the
    environment for food.

Life in the Southwest
  • These cultures relied more on the development of
    irrigation systems and farming.
  • These cultures are the Anasazi, Hopi, Pueblo,
    Apache, and Navaho.
  • These people developed a type of sun-dried mud
    brick home called adobe.

Life on the Great Plains
  • Some of these civilizations are the Mandan,
    Hidatsa, Pawnee, and Sioux.
  • These cultures relied mostly on the buffalo for
    their food because farming was very difficult.

Life in the Eastern Woodland
  • These cultures like the Cherokee, Iroquois,
    Seneca, Mohawk, and Oneida existed mostly because
    of agriculture and hunting.
  • They sometimes formed confederations to link
    groups together.
  • The most famous was the Iroquois confederation
    which linked tribes together in protection from
    the powerful Algonquian.

The Fall of the Aztec and Inca
The Fall of the Aztec and Inca
  • Europeans wanted to find a route to Asia to trade
    without having to go through the Middle East and
    the Muslims.
  • In 1492, the Spanish sent Christopher Columbus on
    a voyage to find a new route to Asia.
  • He believed by going west he could reach Asia.

Columbus and Spain
  • He arrived in the Caribbean and landed on an
    island that he named Hispaniola.
  • He returned home with parrots, gold and silver,
    and several native captives.
  • The Spanish rulers decided to finance another
  • This time the Spanish sent soldiers called
    Conquistadors with the explorers.
  • The Spanish claimed the island and forced the
    natives to work as slaves.

Hernan Cortes
  • Cortes was a poor noble with little chance for
    wealth and saw conquest as the way to be rich.
  • He became a soldier and sailed to Hispaniola. He
    helped Spain conquer Cuba and was given control
    of several native villages.
  • Six years later, smallpox almost wiped out the
    native population in the Caribbean. The Spanish
    needed workers and Cortes looked to Mexico to
    find the workers.

Cortes defeats the Aztec
  • Cortes attacked Mexico in 1519 in search of gold,
    slaves, and glory.
  • He was helped in his conquest by a Mayan woman
    named Malintzin who helped him translate.
  • She told him that the Aztec people did not like
    their rulers and would join with him against
  • Montezuma, the Aztec leader, feared that the
    people would welcome Cortes as the light skinned
    god named Quetzalcoatl.
  • Montezuma fought against Cortes but another
    outbreak of smallpox and measles wiped out the
  • Spain easily defeated the rest of the weakened

Vasco Nunez de Balboa
  • Balboa was another Spanish explorer in search of
  • He was told that an empire of gold existed in
    what is modern day Panama.
  • While searching for the city, Balboa discovered
    the Pacific Ocean.
  • A jealous official charged Balboa with treason or
    disloyalty to the government of Spain and he was

Francisco Pizarro
  • After Balboas death, Pizarro continued the
    search for the golden empire.
  • He came across the Inca empire of South America.
  • The Inca had already been devastated by small
    pox, but they still outnumbered the Spanish
    soldiers 80,000 to 160!!
  • The Inca ruler, Atahualpa, thought Pizarro was
    insane that he would attack with those odds.
  • Pizarro tricked the Inca leader into an ambush
    and the Spanish took control of the Inca empire.