311 the rise of civilization in the americas during

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Unformatted text preview: Heaven, Takes all our good men. Could we but ransom him There are a hundred would give their lives. Source: From The Book of Songs, trans. by Arthur Waley (New York: Grove Press, 1960), p. 311. The Rise of Civilization in the Americas During the last ice age the Bering region between Siberia and Alaska was dry land. Sometime before 12,000 years ago, and perhaps as early as 30,000 years ago, humans crossed this land bridge, probably in several migrations. Over many centuries these Asian immigrants moved south and east until they eventually crossed the more than 11,000 miles to the tip of South America and the more than 4,000 miles to the eastern regions of North America. In light of the vast distances and imposing geographic barriers involved, these ancient migrations must have been as heroic as any in human history. From them arose a wide variety of original American cultures and many hundreds of languages. The earliest immigrants to the Americas, like all other Paleolithic peoples, lived by hunting, fishing, and gathering. At the time of the initial migrations, herds of large game animals such as mammoths were plentiful. By the end of the ice age, however, mammoths and many other forms of game had become extinct in the Americas. Compared to Africa and Eurasia, many parts of North and South America were poor in CRAIMC01_001-039hr.qxp 36 8/12/10 3:57 PM Page 36 Part 1 Human Origins and Early Civilizations to 500 B.C.E. istics of later Mesoamerican cities, including animal resources and in the rich source of prothe symmetrical arrangement of large plattein they provide. Neither horses nor cattle forms, plazas, and other monumental strucpopulated the American continents. Where tures along a central axis and possibly fishing or small game were not sufficiently courts for the ritual ball game played plentiful, people had to rely on protein throughout Mesoamerica at the time of from vegetable sources. One result was the Spanish conquest. Writing developed the remarkable manner in which the origin Mesoamerica during the Late Formainal Americans participated in the Netive period. As we will see in Chapter 13, olithic revolution. American production succeeding civilizations—including the of plants providing protein far outpaced Classic period civilization of Teotihuacán, that of European agriculture. In this rethe Post-Classic civilizations of the Toltecs gard one of the most important early deand Aztecs, and the Classic and Postvelopments was the cultivation of maize Classic civilization of the Mayas—cre(corn). Wherever maize could be extenated large cities, developed sophisticated sively grown, a major ingredient in the calendar systems, and were organized in food supply was secured. The cultivacomplex social and political structures. tion of maize appears to have been in Olmec Head This colossal Olmec head, now in The Andean region is one of dramatic place in Mexico by approximately 4000 the Museo Nacional de Antropologia in Mexico B.C.E. and to have developed farther contrasts. Along its western edg...
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