Chapter 6 The Ancient Americas

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Chapter 6

The Ancient Americas

Chapter Preview: People, Places, and Events

Clovis People 10,000 B.C.

These spear points come from some of the earliest North Americans. Lesson 1, Page 154

Olmec Head       1500 B.C.

For centuries the meaning of these giant stone heads has been a mys­tery. Lesson 1, Page 157

Snake Mound A.D. 500

Where in the United States can these mysterious mounds be found? Lesson 3, Page 164

Lesson 1

Geography of Ancient America

Main Idea The geography of the Americas gave rise to complex cultures.

The wind whistled across the treeless plain as a band of hunters — perhaps six to ten men — made its way toward the river. The river's banks were lined with rich grasses and willow shrubs, ideal food for the big game the hunters were after. Perhaps they would find a woolly mammoth, an enormous, lumbering ancestor of the modern elephant. Mammoths had dense coats of matted hair, covering a

hide that one expert has described as "tough as an eight-ply truck tire."
Or perhaps the hunters would find a giant steppe bison, with its seven-
foot horn span. Or a saber-toothed tiger, like the one whose skull appears
above, might find the hunters!

Scientists believe that hunters like these, together with their families,

were the first humans to reach the Americas. Probably in search of new
hunting grounds, they came from northern Asia and followed game across
a land bridge to what is now called Alaska.

Key Vocabulary




Key Places


Rocky Mountains




---A ceremonial knife of the Inca.

Copan Ballcourt              A.D. 700

Over 1,000 years ago, this court was used for an important ball game. Lesson 2, Page 160

Tikal A.D. 1000

Where was this ancient Mayan city located? What was it like? Lesson 2, Page 160

Mesa Verde A.D. 1300

Who were the Anasazi people? What kind of life did they lead? Lesson 3, Page 166


The World's Longest Land Mass


Clovis People

Early peoples are often known for the spear and arrow points they left behind. The Clovis people lived between 10,000 B.C. and 9200 B.C. Their weapon points were so effective that they helped lead to the extinction of woolly mammoths.

Focus What are the main geographic features of North, Central, and South America?

The land bridge that ancient hunters crossed — probably around 13,000 B.C. — has been called Beringia, after the Bering Sea, which now covers it. Beringia was formed by the freezing of much of the earth's water in vast ice sheets called glaciers. During these periods, known as ice ages, so much water froze that sea levels dropped and new lands emerged.

Some scientists argue that the first humans came to America not by
land but by sea, in canoes made from animal skins. Others believe that
humans arrived by land during an even earlier ice age, between 45,000
and 75,000 years ago. So far there is no firm evidence for either theory.

Humans soon spread throughout America. By at least 9000 B.C., they

had reached the southernmost tip of South America. By that time, people
had spread from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic.

The map on the next page shows the main features that early Americans encountered on their great journeys. Trace with your finger the continental backbone of the Rocky Mountains which eventually merges into the Andes to extend down to the tip of South America. Find the Great Lakes. They were holes gouged out by glaciers that later flooded when the glaciers melted at the end of the last ice age. Finally, locate the isthmus, or narrow neck of land, that connects North and South America.

Early Civilizations in the Americas

Focus What geographic factors contributed to ancient American civilizations?

The melting of the glaciers that created the Great Lakes also raised sea levels — once again Beringia lay underwater. Asia and America were separated. The warming of the earth's climate also made North America extremely dry. Grass became sparse, and most of the big game died out. America's first inhabitants were forced to adapt to this change or become extinct like the animals they hunted. New tools had to be developed for hunting the smaller animals that had survived the warming. Faced with this challenge, some early peoples turned from a diet of meat to one of

fruits and vegetables. They became more skillful at fishing and at gathering nuts, berries, and roots. Most important for their survival, they discovered how to cultivate plants. By at least 4,500 years ago — and perhaps as far back as 7,000 years ago — some groups of early Americans had domesticated beans, squash, and maize, or corn. The hunters were becoming farmers.



There are many theories about human migration to the Americas. Beringia, shown above, would have provided a possible route. Some experts believe that people came when the land bridge was first exposed around 75,000 years ago. Map Skill: What continent did the people come from?

---See map on page 155


---Many cultures arose in the Americas. This chart shows some major ones. Chart skill: Which three groups lasted the longest?

---See chart on page 156

---A warrior's ear ornament, by the Moche of South An This "ear spool" was worn
it was by the miniature warrior. Arts: How many separate parts do you think this piece has?

Corn soon became the leading crop. Ancient Americans also grew many other foods: tomatoes, peppers, peanuts, pumpkins, and 3,000 different kinds of potatoes. They made chocolate from the bean of the cacao tree. They even raised a few animals for their own use — including alpacas, llamas, guinea pigs, turkeys, and ducks. By planting corn, these early Americans had planted the seeds of civilization.

Mother Cultures

Farming in the ancient Americas seems to have begun in two separate places, spreading outward from both. One early farming culture took root in Mesoamerica which includes present-day Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, as well as the jungle peninsula called the Yucatan (yook uh TAN). Another group

of people began farming in South America, high in the Andes. Both of these complex farming cultures became civilizations in own right, with still mightier civilization as their descendants.

The Olmec people of Mesoamerica thrived from about 1500 B.C. to 900 B.C. While their existence was unknown to scholars until the beginning of this century, the Olmec have since come to be seen as the "mother culture" of all of Mesoamerica. Olmec accomplishments paved the way for the still more impressive civilizations that succeeded them, from the Maya to the Aztec. Cultivation of corn, pyramid architecture, religious practices, even the development of a calendar and writing system — all had their origins in Olmec culture.


Most famous for their monumental sculptures — huge stone heads have been discovered throughout the Olmec region of Central America —the Olmec were also gifted architects and mathematicians. Just as the cultures that followed would do, the Olmec held religious rites in large stone temples, set in clearings carved from the surrounding jungle.

Little is known about the exact nature of Olmec worship, but the Olmec left many intriguing hints. Some Olmec relics were deliberately buried by the Olmec themselves. Why this was done is puzzling, but from the surrounding evidence it seems that these burials were an important aspect of Olmec life. It appears that one grouping of small statues was dug up by the Olmec themselves 100 years after its burial, as if they wanted to check on it. The statues were immediately reburied.

Meanwhile, in South America, the Chavin (shah VEEN) civilization of Peru flourished from about 1000 B.C. to 200 B.C. Like the Olmec, the Chavin farmed maize and were noted for their architecture and sculpture. They built large urban centers with carefully planned streets and homes. They also erected vast step pyramids to honor

their gods, and impressive tombs for their dead leaders and nobles. Together with another, later group, the Moche (moh SHAY), Peru's Chavin people would eventually give rise to an even more spectacular civilization — that of the Inca.

---Huge Olmec heads like this one could be as tall as 10 feet and weigh as much as 20 tons. Culture: Why do you think  these mysterious heads were made?

Lesson Review: Geography

1. Key Vocabulary: Use glacier, isthmus, and maize in a paragraph about how early hunters developed into farms.

2. Focus: What are the main geographic features of North, Central, and South America?

3. Focus: What geographic factors contributed to ancient American civilizations?

4. Critical Thinking: Interpret Why do you think the “seeds of civilization” might be planted through the process of farming?

5. Theme: Lasting Beginnings Why might change be good for an early culture? Why might stability be good?

6. Geography/Science Activity: Research and create a diagram that shows how the glaciers formed the Great Lakes.


Lesson 2

Mayan and Incan Civilizations

Main Idea Great civilizations arose in Mesoamerica and South America.

Key Vocabulary



The city stretched for miles through the Valley of Mexico. By A.D. 500, it was home to as many as 200,000 people making it the sixth-largest city in the world. Its name was Teotihuacan (teh oh tee hwah KAHN), "the place of the gods." The main street, called the Avenue of the Dead, was studded with massive temples. Towering above the other temples stood the mighty Pyramid of the Sun. Some 20 stories high, it was made of earth and brick. Drums boomed as priests climbed its steep

staircase to the altar on its flat top. There they performed the rituals of human and animal sacrifice that were the cornerstone of Mesoamerican religion.

Teotihuacán was both a city and a nation, a unique Mesoamerican civilization that began around A.D. 50. This city-state was a manufactur­ing and commercial hub as well as a religious center, exporting tools, weapons, and beautiful orange pottery to regions hundreds of miles away. Then, about A.D. 750, most of the city was destroyed by fire. Eventually, this locale would become the capital of the fabulous Aztec Empire, about which you can read more in Chapter 12. But first another civilization — the Maya — would take center stage.

Key Events

300 B.C.— A.D. 900

Height of Mayan civilization

c. A.D. 500

Teotihuadn flour­ishes

c. A.D. 1520

Inca high point


The Maya and Mesoamerica

Focus! What did the Maya have in common with other Mesoamerican civilizations?

Although the Maya had a typical Mesoamerican civilization, theirs lasted longer than any other, spanning the time between the end of the Olmec and the rise of the Aztec. Even today, echoes of the ancient Mayan tongue can be heard in the voices of Mexicans in the Yucatan region.

The early Maya modeled themselves after the achievements of the Olmec. Later, the Maya were inspired by the Teotihuacan civilization. Eventually, other Mesoamerican peoples would model themselves after the Maya. Each Mesoamerican empire consisted of a number of city-states. A city-state is a center of political power that includes an urban area and surrounding farmland. The classic Mesoamerican city was built around a plaza, or public square. In front of the plaza was the city's largest structure, a flat-topped pyramid with a temple on top.

In most Mesoamerican cities, warrior kings ruled over a society that was divided into two classes: nobles and peasants. Typically, these cities fought each other in order to win prisoners for sacrifice to the gods. Mesoamericans worshiped many gods, with the sun god usually consid­ered the most powerful. The Maya in particular believed that the will of the gods was shown in the movements of heavenly bodies. As a result, their priests spent a great deal of time studying the sky. Eventually, this

interest — and the need to set accurate dates for sacrifice — led to the development of the calendar.

---As can be seen from the map, the regions that gave rise to Mesoamerican civilization were very close together. Map Skill: Which one of the cities shown above is neither Mayan, Aztec, nor Olmec?

---See map on page 159


---The Mayan city of Tikal. Set into the Yucatan jungle like a jewel, Tikal was a center of commerce.

Farming was the main Mayan occupa­tion in Mesoamerica. Both in raising crops

and building cities, these people used stone tools rather than metal ones. Although they knew about the wheel, it may have been of little use to them in their difficult
terrain. They used it solely on children's toys. If something needed to be taken somewhere, it traveled by human back.

A Jungle City of the Maya

During its height, the Mayan civilization embraced some 200 city-states with a total population of 12 to 16 million people. Among the most important cities was Copan.

Copan was a gorgeous sight. Laid out in a rich river valley in what is now Honduras, many of its buildings were hewn from pale green vol­canic rock rather than the more commonly used white limestone. The use of this beautiful stone was intentional, for Copan was the cultural capital of the Mayan Empire. The staircase of just one of its temples was like a history book in stone. Its 72 steps were carved with 1,250 stone glyphs, or word pictures, telling the deeds of Copan's divine kings. Red-painted stone statues of these rulers stood at the city's center. Monuments bore
dates in a special Mayan calendar. Known as the Long Count, this calen 

Tell me more

The Mayan Ballcourts

A game of life and death

Of all the Mayan rituals, one of the most important was the ball game. In one form or another this game was played throughout ancient Mesoamerica. The rubber ball at far right        was used by the Olmec 3,000 years ago. It still smells of rubber! The
ballcourt at Copan 0 was situated near the center of the city. Like most Mesoamerican courts, it was shaped like the capital letter I and had sloping stone side walls.

Just as the rules of modern sports change over time, so the ball ritual changed and evolved. At Copan, the point of the game was simply to keep the ball aloft without using hands or feet. Players


dar dated time from what they considered the creation day of the world — August 11 in the year 3114 B.C. - by our calendar.

Copan was especially active on market days, when farmers from miles around crowded into the city to sell goods in the public bazaar. In addition to food, farmers sold craftwork, such as paper or embroidered cotton cloth. Each kind of item was sold in a different section of the marketplace. There were also areas for jewelers and image makers. Image makers were popular with farmers. Farmers liked to bury clay likenesses of the corn god or the rain god to ensure a good crop. The Maya did not use money, but bartered for their purchases with cacao beans, sea salt, or other goods.

Copan was a place of beauty, power, and wealth. Its merchants did business throughout Mesoamerica. In fact, the city's glory hastened its end. The trouble began in the late 700s. First, there was a population boom. By that time, much of the best farmland at the bottom of the valley was taken by temples and palaces. Farmers were forced to cultivate the mountain slopes. The more forest they cleared, the more the soil eroded. In time, the farmers could no longer feed the popu­lation. People grew weak. Disease spread. In addition, warfare between Copan and its neighbors grew constant. By A.D. 1000, most of Copan's inhabitants had left the valley, and the city was abandoned to the jungle.

---A jaguar of the Yucatan. The wor­ship of these jungle cats was common to many Mesoamerican cultures, including the Maya, the Olmec and the Aztec. Science: Why do you suppose the jaguar has spotted fur?

used hips, shoulders, and elbows to keep the ball bouncing in a symbolic representation of the order of the universe. In some versions, the losing team was sacri­ficed to the gods.

The game was always played fast and hard. Heavy padding of wood and leather (shown on the Mayan clay figure at left 1), protected the players.

On some courts, players could score by passing the ball through a hoop. The ring shown here 2 is from the ballcourt at the Mayan city of Chichén Itzá, which was built hundreds of years after Copan. A player who got the ball through the ring could win the clothing and jewels of the spectators!


Tell Me More

Chocolate Feasts

The tradition of drinking chocolate may go back further than you think. The very word for the bean we make chocolate from, cacao, is Mayan. It means "bitter juice." No one knows how long ago the Mayans culti­vated cacao beans, but they were definitely drinking their bitter, unsweetened chocolate by Columbus's arrival in 1492.

1. A Mayan chocolate pot.

2. Cacao beans, from which chocolate is made.

3. The glyph for chocolate (which literally means "sour water").

The Inca and South America

Focus How did the Incan Empire compare to Mesoamerican civilizations?

While Mesoamerica thrived, civilizations were also developing to the south, along the rugged Andes. First, the ChavIn people appeared in South America, perhaps as early as 1000 B.C. Like the Olmec to the north, these early farmers worshiped jaguar gods, of whom they made exquisite carvings. Later, another people, called the Moche, arose and became the dominant group, building on the achievements of the declin­ing Chavin.

---The Incan town of Machu Picchu, below, was built high in the Andes. The site went undiscovered by outsiders until 1911. In the photo at right, the splendid Incan
stonework can be seen, together with llamas, the Inca's chief means of transport.


Just as the Maya were inspired by the Olmec, so the Inca of Peru fol­lowed the Chavin and the Moche cultures. Conquering the remnants of these earlier peoples, in less than 200 years the Inca expanded from a simple chiefdom to become the single largest empire in the Americas.

Like the Mesoamerican empires, the Inca had a highly structured society in which all authority was in the hands of a single ruler. Human sacrifice to ensure good crop yields was also a common feature of Incan life. However, the Inca could be benevolent conquerors. Rather than sim­ply enslaving or sacrificing defeated opponents, the Inca brought them into their empire, extending them privileges of citizenship in exchange for heavy taxes.

In time, the empire became a sprawling network of states, each pay­ing tribute to the Incan capital at Cuzco. Their empire was built on mili­tary might and an excellent road system. Training their young nobles as warriors, the Inca built a powerful standing army and used it to subdue neighboring states. Their road system allowed the army to move swiftly to any trouble spots. (A map of this road system appears in Chapter 1, page 17.) In addition to being good road builders, the Inca were fantastic architects.

Whether they arose in Mesoamerica or South America, the early civi­lizations of these regions achieved great things. With simple tools and careful planning, they erected cities and monuments that still stand today. At the same time, through the mastery of farming, they created strong societies that endured for thousands of years.

---This ritual knife, called a tumi, was made from pure gold and bits of turquoise. The handle shows a wealthy Inca, with his massive ear spools. Culture: What does this figure have in common with the one on page 156?

Lesson Review

1. Key Vocabulary: Use plaza in a sentence about life in ancient Copan.

2. Focus: What did the Maya have in com­mon with other Mesoamerican civiliza­tions?

3. Focus: How did the Incan Empire compare to Mesoamerican civilizations?

4. Critical Thinking: Compare Then and Now Can you draw any parallels between the decline of Copan and present-day eco­logical problems?

5. Geography: How did the Andes pose a challenge to the Inca people?

6. Writing/Citizenship Activity: Imagine you are writing a journal that describes life in Copan. Describe a typical day.


Lesson 3

Early North American Cultures

Main Idea Extensive trade shaped much of early North American Cultures.

Key Vocabulary



For centuries, the ancient mounds of eastern North America have left viewers westruck. In the 1800s, people believed the massive earth­works at such sites as Poverty Point, Louisiana, and Cahokia, Illinois, were the work of a race of giants. Some of the mounds are simply huge. Monk's Mound in Cahokia covers three more acres than the Great Pyramid at Giza. Other mounds are ornate, representing animals in designs so large they can only be recognized from the air. While the mounds' purpose remains a mystery, more is known about their builders.

Key Events

200 B.C.-A.D. 500 The Hopewell culture

A.D. 900 Founding of Cahokia

C. A.D. 900 Anasazi build cliff dwelling!

---This half-mile-long earthen snake was built by Mound Builder peo­ple in what is now Ohio. Culture: Why might it have been made?

The Mound Builders

Focus How did trade affect North America's early cultures?

The Mound Builders lived in the eastern half of what is now the United States. While there were many mound-building groups living in this region, the two most important were the Hopewell and the Mississippian.


The Hopewell

The Hopewell culture was centered in present-day Ohio. It flourished from about 200 B.C. to A.D. 500. Mostly hunters and gatherers, the Hopewell people lived simply and in small villages. Surprisingly, they were also brilliant and energetic builders. They left behind elaborate earthen mounds, some in the shape of animals. Some mounds were used for burials. Whether circles or squares, these earthen tombs were only for nobles, whose bodies would be placed in log rooms deep in the mound.

Treasures were usually added: pearl beads, copper jewelry, wooden masks, and finely carved stone pipes. Finally, millions of baskets of dirt were piled on top.

When these tombs were first discovered, their contents revealed something interesting about Hopewell culture. Many of the materials that appeared in the burials could not be found locally. So, this group must have developed an extensive trading network. On foot and by canoe, Hopewell merchants traveled as far north as the Great Lakes and down the length of the Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, and Ohio rivers.

The Mississippians

The Mississippian culture started later than the Hopewell, beginning around A.D. 900 and lasting almost until the arrival of the first Europeans

--Map Skill: Which two cultures overlap each other?

Curious Facts

What common factors link pyramids in the Americas, Egypt, and elsewhere in the world? Many were built around the same time, of similar materi­als. Experts think that building a pyramid may well be simply the easiest way to create a very large monument.


---Ears of corn like this one were the staple crop of civilizations in both North America and Mesoamerica. Science: Over the centuries, ears of corn became larger. Why was this?

at the start of the 1500s. The culture really began to develop when the knowledge of how to cultivate corn and beans spread north from Mesoamerica. Once they got the knack of farming, the Mississippian population boomed. People built towns and even — near what is now Cahokia, Illinois — a large, bustling city.

With 30,000 inhabitants, ancient Cahokia was the largest community in North America. Seventeen earthen pyra­mids — some as tall as 100 feet — dotted the skyline. At the base of these great monuments was a large plaza where Mississippians held public events. Several of the pyramids were used as temples, still others as tombs or dwellings. One pyramid supported the palace of Cahokia's chief. Outside a stout wooden wall stood more mounds and a circle of posts. Their precise locations helped Cahokia's priests track the stars.

---The skull of an Anasazi woman from the 1300s. The spear point that killed her can be clearly seen.

The Pueblo

Focus How did the Anasazi cope with the harsh desert environment?

In the winter of 1888, two cowboys, Richard Wetherill and Richard Mason, were rounding up some stray cattle on their Colorado ranch. What they discovered that day made history. While riding across a mesa


Tell Me More

Pueblo Pottery

The Pueblo people were accomplished potters, as this bowl shows. The painting on it probably shows a man and woman from the Mimbres region of the Southwest. The
woman is on the left, the man on the right.

This bowl has a special significance. It is called a "killed" bowl, because of the hole in the center. Bowls and pots like these were made for use in funeral rituals, in which the ceremonial dish — painted with the likeness of the deceased — would have a hole punched through it to release the spirit of the dead.

Most Pueblo pottery was decorated with painting, as Pueblo artisans appear not to have known of — or cared to use — the glazes used by Mesoamerican cultures.

— a steep hill with a flat, tablelike top — the two men came to a canyon so deep and sheer they had to dismount in order to peer over the edge. Sheltered by the mesa's overhanging cliff lay what looked like an entire town packed into a cave. The men had stumbled across the remains of a lost culture — the Anasazi people. The ruins were part of a group of cliff dwellings, now called Mesa Verde, or "green table," for the forests on the mesa's top.

The Anasazi culture appeared around A.D. 200. By that time, people in the Southwest had learned from Mesoamericans how to cultivate beans and corn. At first the people lived in pit houses, dug partly under ground. Later, they moved aboveground into pueblos, or villages of flat-roofed adobe houses. These houses shared adjoining walls and were built on many levels, in a step pattern. In this way the roof of each level provided a ter­race for the one above. The former pit houses became kivas, or religious centers. Later still, around A.D. 900, the people built their famous cliff dwellings.

The Anasazi adapted to their harsh desert environ­ment. They designed their buildings to be cool during the day and warm at night. They irrigated their fields with rainwater. In addition to being fine architects, the Anasazi were good farmers. But it was difficult to feed a growing population in the desert. So they added to their diet in other ways. They hunted rabbit, deer, and bighorn sheep,


using everything from bows and arrows to nets woven from human hair.

The Anasazi also established a trading system. For example, the Anasazi site of Chaco Canyon , New Mexico, is the hub of a 400-mile web of roads. One thing Anasazi traders were after was corn. Other imports included such luxury goods as seashells
from the Pacific and copper bells and macaw feathers from Mesoamerica. The main export was bright blue turquoise, which the Anasazi also made into jewelry and religious objects for their own use. The actual trading was carried on at fairs during which thousands of people crowded into Chaco.

The Anasazi flourished for about 900 years. Then, during the 1100s, a period of drought set in. Crops failed, and life became increasingly diffi­cult. In addition, the Anasazi had cut down so many trees to use for building material and fuel that the soil began to erode. By 1300, the peo­ple had abandoned most of their settlements and moved away. As with other ancient North American peoples, in time only their impressive

architecture remained.

---This detail from a larger painting is from the wall of an Anasazi kiva. It shows the vibrant style their artists favored.

Lesson Review

1. Key Vocabulary: Write a paragraph about the Anasazi using mesa and pueblo.

2. Focus: How did trade affect North America's early cultures?

3. Focus: How did the Anasazi cope with the harsh desert environment?

4. Critical Thinking: Problem Solving What might the Maya have learned from the Anasazi about overcoming an overpopula­tion problem?

5. Geography: How did early North Americans use the physical geography for trade?

6. History/Arts Activity: Chart out a trade network for one group of North American Mound Builders.




Using Periodicals as a Source

Cracking Codes

Did you know that when he was just 11, David Stuart became one of the first people to read Mayan hieroglyphics? If you want to learn about his recent discoveries and about the newest developments in this field, look up an article on Mayan writing.

Newspapers, magazines, and journals are all periodical literature. They are published in regular intervals — daily, weekly, monthly, and so on — and contain up-to-date information on almost any topic. You can find your way to the periodical you want by looking in the Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature, which is published monthly.

1.  Here's How

•      Identify a subject (example: the Maya).

•      Narrow your subject (Mayan writing). List words to describe your subject (writing, Maya, IIIII hieroglyphics).

•      Look up your subject words in the Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature.

•      Choose the articles that interest you and write down their titles. Include the names and dates of the periodicals and the page numbers of the articles.

•      Ask a librarian if the article is on 1 microfilm or in the periodical itself.

•      Find the periodical, then the specific issue by using the date. Locate the article by using the page number.

•      Take notes on relevant information.

•      Record the source (title of article, author, publication, date, page num­bers). Include the source in any report you write

2. Think It Through

How is information in a periodical different from information in an encyclopedia or a nonfiction book? How can you use these sources together?

3. Use It

1. What do the numbers written with colons (141:40-2) mean?

2. Using the Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature, write down names of articles that will give you information about Mayan writing. Include article titles, names and dates of the periodicals, and page numbers.


Chapter 6

Chapter Review

---See chapter review timeline on page 170

Summarizing the Main Idea

1. Choose four of the following civilizations: Olmec, Chavin, Maya, Inca, Hopewell, Mississippian, Anasazi. Copy and complete the chart below, filling in the missing information to compare the civilizations you chose.


2. Using the six words below, write a description of life in the  ancient Americas.

glacier (p. 154)        

isthmus (p. 154)      

maize (p.154)

plaza (p. 159)

mesa (p. 166)

pueblo (p. 167)

Reviewing the Facts

3. How did America's first inhabitants adapt to the changing climate in their new home?

4. Why are the Olmec considered the "mother culture" of Mesoamerica?

5. What was life like in the city of Teotihuacdn?

6. Why did the Maya invent the calendar?

7. What caused the downfall of Copan?

8. How did the Inca people increase the size of the empire?

9. Who were the Mound Builders, and what were the mounds they built?

10. Describe the three different kinds of homes the Anasazi lived in at one time or another.


Skill Review: Using Periodicals as a Resource

11. What advantages might a periodical have over an encyclopedia when it comes to getting fresh information?  

12. Why is it important to narrow your subject before beginning the search for articles?

13. why do you suppose the Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature was developed?

Geography Skills

14. Study the map of the Americas on page 155, and review the two main theories of first people arrived there. Which theory do you think was correct? Why?

15. You are a travel agent living in the year 13,000 B.C. Write and decorate a travel        brochure advertising the Americas, that will attract early humans to this new land.

Critical Thinking

16.  Predict After the Ice Age, water levels around the world rose, creating the oceans and coast- lines we know today. If the world's ice caps continued to melt, the oceans would rise even more. How would the United States and the community where you live be affected if that happened?

17. Compare then and now What modern sports do the Mayan ball games resemble? How are they similar? How are they different?

Writing: Citizenship and Cultures

18. Citizenship You are an Incan diplomat. Write a speech explaining why it is better to let conquered enemies become citizens in your empire than to enslave them.

19. Cultures You are living during the time of the Maya. Write a letter to a pen pal in another land describing your daily life.



The Maya's excellent astronomical skills helped them create a calendar. Find out more about the origins of astronomy and the calendar. What other cultures made calendars? Share your findings with the class.


The Maya culture did not use money, but instead used a barter system, using such things as cacao beans, and salt. Develop your own barter system. Decide on the value of various objects, and give examples of how your system works.

Internet Option

Check the Internet Social Studies Center for ideas on how to extend your theme project beyond your classroom.

Theme Project Check-In

As your civilization grew, it would have come into contact with others. This would have

affected it in many ways. Ask yourself these questions as you work on your project:

•      What did your culture have in common with other civilizations?

•      How important was trade to your civilization?

•      How did the civilization adapt to its environment?






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