My imagination was caught by the great age of the world

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Understanding the World

"My imagination was caught by the great age of the world."

from Self Made Man by Jonathan Kingdon See page 44.

Why Does It Matter?

These are the words of scientist Jonathan Kingdon, who was born and grew up in East Africa. They could also be the thoughts of anyone who has imagined what life was like hundreds or even thousands of years ago. How did people live? What did they eat? What was their land like? People have always wanted to know what things were like for those who lived before them.

Thanks to historians and other scholars, answers to many of these questions are being discovered. Objects made by ancient people have been uncovered all over the world. These objects reveal mysteries of the distant past. They also help us to better understand who we are.


Adventures with



Stony Silence

Some of the stones have toppled. But others still stand, tall and mysterious, on this plain in southern England just as they have for thousands of years. Who built Stonehenge? How were the 50-ton stones transported to this place and raised up by prehistoric people using simple tools? And, perhaps more mysterious, why? Some archaeologists suggest that Stonehenge may have been a temple that marked the movements of the sun. But we may never know for sure.


If you could talk to one of the workers who helped build Stonehenge long ago, what questions would you ask?



Regions of the World


What do you think of when you see a photo of Earth from outer space? Try imagining a world of over 6 billion people, living in thousands of places. Some may have lives much like yours. People's lives may be as different as night and day. These differences, as well as the similarities, tell the great story of the world's regions and cultures.




Farmers in China have long used terraces like these in Guangxi to farm in hilly areas.The rice grown in these southern terraces feeds millions of people.



Southern Africa has many busy harbors like this one at Luderitz. People along Africa's coasts have traveled and traded by sea for hundreds of years.



The town of Sankt Gallen lies high in the southern Alps.The people who settled these fertile mountain valleys have long been famous for their herding and dairy farms.



This icy plain in the Arctic is part of a vast area of awesome beauty. Plants and animals like this polar bear have had to adapt to the Arctic's unique environment.



World Regions

Focus Activity


What does studying regions tell us about the world?


• geography

• region

• landform

• climate

• culture

Read Aloud

How many different living areas do you pass through each day? Bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, classroom, gym, lunchroom ... all of these areas serve different purposes in your life. When you stop and think about them, these areas, or regions, also reveal a great deal about who you are. The world, too, is divided into many different regions. They can tell us much about what life is like all across planet Earth.


Learning about life on planet Earth—that's what geography is all about. Geography is the study of Earth, how it shapes people's lives and is shaped in turn by people's activities. In fact, the word geography comes from a Greek word that means "Earth writing," or "writing about Earth."

You don't have to be in a classroom to learn about geography. Geography is a part of almost everything you do. When you coast down a hill on your bike, splash in a pool on a hot summer day, or wipe frost from a window in winter, you are experiencing part of geography. Each time you read a road sign on a highway or listen to the weather report on the radio, you become, for a moment, a geographer. You are using the tools of geography to study planet Earth.



Geographers divide Earth's surface into different kinds of regions. A region is an area with common features that set it apart from other areas. By studying different regions we can learn more about the world, more about ourselves, and more about people in other parts of the world.

Regions can be huge. Some are as big as half of Earth's surface. You have learned about these kinds of regions, called hemispheres, on pages G4-G5. Regions can also be very small. Your school's playground, for example, is an "exercise region" of your school.

Physical Regions

Regions that are defined by Earth's natural environment are called physical regions. Physical regions often have common landforms, such as mountains or plains.

As you can see from the map on this page, continents are the biggest kind of physical region. Continents can be divided into many smaller physical regions. In the region of South America, for example, the Andes Mountains make up a physical region.

Climate Regions

Physical regions can also be organized by climate, or the weather pattern that an area has over a long period of time. For example, the climate around Earth's central part, near the equator, is hot and humid. This is the world's tropical region. Around the North Pole, by contrast, the average winter temperature is -30¡F. The North Pole is located in one of the two polar regions of the world.



If you were to fly in an airplane, you would see many landforms that make up the world's physical regions. Another type of region, however, is invisible from an airplane. These regions are based on culture. Culture is the way of life of a group of people, including their daily habits, beliefs, and arts.

Cultural Regions

To learn about cultural regions, you must come down to Earth and meet the people who live in a place. Language, religion, and ethnic heritage are some of the parts of culture that make up cultural regions. For example, South America, Central America, and most of the Caribbean Islands form the cultural region of Latin America. Most people there speak Spanish, Portuguese, or French—all offshoots of an old language called Latin. Religion also ties Latin America together, since many Latin Americans are Roman Catholics.

Within Latin America are many smaller cultural regions, such as the region of Chiapas (chee AH pus) in the southeastern corner of Mexico. In Chiapas, unlike in the rest of Mexico, most people are Indians. Many speak a Mayan Indian language rather than Spanish. They eat traditional foods slid-as tamales de frijol (tuh MAH leez duh FREE hohl), a dish made of corn, black beans, and hot peppers.

Other Regions

Most places are part of more than me type of region. For example, Chiapas is a cultural region, but it is a political region as well. Political regions are

Many people in Chiapas follow traditions of their culture. These include clothing, farming methods, and festivals. In some festivals, people wear masks like the ones shown here.


set up by governments. Just as Texas is one state of the 50 United States, Chiapas is one of the 31 states in Mexico.

Many of the people in Chiapas work as farmers. They live in the state's rugged countryside, in rural regions. Their lives are very different from the 20 million Mexicans who live 500 miles away in one of the world's largest urban regions—Mexico City.

By looking at Chiapas you can see that different kinds of regions often overlap. Look at the map on this page. How many different regions is Chiapas a part of?


Throughout this book you will be learning about life in different regions. You will discover how the environment has shaped life in each region. You will explore the physical and cultural features that make regions similar to and different from each other. You will study how these regions have interacted over time. Finally, you will learn how certain cultural forces have, over time, tied all of Earth's regions into one interdependent world.

Reviewing Facts and Ideas


• Geographers use regions to help them understand planet Earth.

• Physical regions are often defined by landforms and climate.

• Cultural regions are often defined by language and religion.

• There are many different kinds of regions, and they often overlap.


1. What is geography? How is riding downhill on a bike an example of geography in action?

2. Why is it helpful to meet the people in a place when learning about their region?

3. FOCUS Why do geographers divide the world into regions?

4. THINKING SKILL List different regions of your community and then classify them as physical or cultural regions.

5. WRITE Suppose that you are flying around the earth in an airplane. Describe the large bodies of water and landforms you see.


Geography Skills

Working with Latitude and Longitude







global grid


The people of the world are separated by many differences in language, religion, and customs. One skill that most of us share today, however, is the ability to read maps.

People around the world have long made maps. Yet not all maps were the same. Some people drew their maps so that east, rather than north, was at the top of the map. Others made their own region huge and outlying areas tiny. It was not always easy for people to understand each other's maps.

Over 2,000 years ago, Greek scientists developed a way to divide the world into an imaginary grid so that all places could be exactly pinpointed. The Greeks based their system on two sets of lines called latitude and longitude. Lines of latitude run east and west. Lines of longitude run north and south.

Today mapmakers all over the world use this system. All places have their own unique address and can be located by anyone who knows how to use the system. Refer to the Helping Yourself box on the next page for help in locating places using latitude and longitude.


Although lines of latitude run east and west, they measure distance in degrees north and south of the equator. A degree is a unit of measurement that describes the distance between lines of latitude and longitude. The symbol for degrees is ". As you can see on Map A, the equator is the starting line for measuring latitude.


Lines of latitude are also known as parallels. Parallels are lines that run in the same direction and are always the same distance apart.

If you imagine that Earth is an apple, lines of latitude would cut the apple into a stack of rings. Lines of longitude, by contrast, would cut the apple into equal wedges. Lines of longitude run north and south, and measure distance in degrees east and west of the prime meridian.

Look at Map B on page 12. The prime meridian is marked 0¡, meaning zero degrees longitude, and it separates east from west. All lines east and west of the prime meridian are called meridians.


On Map C the parallels and meridians cross each other to form a global grid. This grid makes it possible to pinpoint exact locations. Which line of latitude is New Delhi, India, closest to? Which line of longitude is it closest to?


Now find the correct latitude and longitude of Oslo, Norway, on Map C.

1. Starting from the equator, in which direction do you

travel to get to Oslo?

2. Which line of latitude does Oslo lie on?

3. How might latitude and longitude be helpful to travelers?

Helping Yourself

• Lines of latitude measure the distance north and south of the equator.

• Lines of longitude measure the distance east and west of the prime meridian.

• Lines of longitude and latitude cross to form a grid that can be used to locate any place.



Regions and Culture

Focus Activity


What is daily life like for a boy in India?


• custom

• values

• interaction


• New Delhi

Read Aloud

Azeez Narain (uh ZHEEZ nuh RAHN) is an eleven-year old boy who lives in New Delhi, India. Azeez begins each day with prayers in his family's temple room and then heads to the kitchen for breakfast. Sometimes he eats toast and cereal. More often he eats poha, which is puffed rice with nuts and coconut roasted in butter and spices. Then Azeez rides a bus to school, where he studies 11 subjects six days a week. Four of those subjects are different languages.


Do parts of Azeez's life sound familiar to you? Some probably do, like eating cereal for breakfast and riding a bus to school. Many such customs are shared by people around the world. Customs are ways of living that people practice regularly over time. Some of Azeez's customs, however, may not be familiar to you. That is because the cultural region of India is very different from that of the United States.

All cultures are made up of many different customs. Those customs determine how we dress, play, eat, learn, live with other people, and understand the world. Customs can reveal a great deal about what we believe is important in life. In fact, every detail of our life says something about the culture in which we live.


This is a typical street scene in New Delhi, India. How is it similar to an American city?


Azeez Narain lives with his parents and six-year-old brother in New Delhi, India. The Narains share many customs with people in other parts of the world. Both parents work, for example. Azeez's mother teaches at a university and his father works as a journalist. Azeez and his friends like to ride their bikes and play computer games.

Many of the Narains' other customs are unique to the culture of India. Before you can understand these customs, however, you need to know a bit about India's past.

Culture and History

Throughout history people have brought new customs and ideas to India. Thousands of years ago the religion of Hinduism began shaping Indian culture. It remains a very important influence on Indian culture.

About 1,000 years ago Muslims began to settle in India. Muslims are people who follow the religion of Islam. Hinduism and Islam call for different ways of thinking and living. These differences in culture have caused conflicts between these groups in India.

About 250 years ago British traders arrived in India and brought their own customs with them. Britain took over India's government in 1858 and ruled India for nearly 100 years. Today, some Indians still speak English.

The lives of Azeez and his family reflect the different cultures that are part of India's rich past. The Narains speak both Hindi and English. Azeez loves to play cricket, a game invented in Britain that is a bit like baseball. The Narains are Hindu, as are most Indians. However, the name Azeez is a combination of Muslim and Hindu words that means "community-harmony."



As you can see, a culture is made up of customs that are passed down through time. Azeez's life shows that the ways we speak, play, and view others can reveal clues about our culture.

Values and Beliefs

One of the most important parts of any culture is its values, or the things people believe are most important in life. Many people's values are shaped by their religious beliefs.

As a Hindu, for example, Azeez believes that all living things have souls and are "a fraction of God." Azeez's parents and grandparents have passed many other Hindu values down to him.

The most important lessons which my grandparents have taught me are that we should live a simple life and that we should not be attracted by money. We should not hurt anyone, including the animals. That's why we are strict vegetarians and don't even eat eggs.

Think about how the values or religious beliefs that you have been taught affect the way you live from day to day.

Culture at Home

You can get many hints about what a culture is like by seeing how people live at home. The Narains live in a six-room apartment. Their living room is filled with books, sofas, a television with '15 channels, and carvings and pictures of Indian leaders and Hindu gods. Mainly traditional Indian food is cooked in the kitchen, including Azeez's favorite dish—uttapam (OOT uh pam). Azeez describes this as "a sort of south Indian pizza made of rice with vegetables, coconut, and dried fruit."

A temple room honors the Hindu god Krishna. Each morning and evening Azeez goes there to offer his prayers. On Sundays the Narains travel to the local temple to worship.

Think about how the way you live at home reflects your family's beliefs and customs.

Cultures Change

Cultures do not stay the same forever. They constantly change through their interaction with other cultures. Interaction is the exchange of ideas and customs.

The Narains, for example, do not cook only Indian food. Sometimes they make Chinese or American food as well. Once in a while Azeez plays chess, a game probably invented in India


over 1,000 years ago. The style of chess Azeez plays today, though, was created through interaction between Asian and European cultures.

Another part of Indian culture that has changed is the role of women. Today women in India, especially in cities, have much more freedom and many more rights than in the past. In fact, Indians elected a woman, Indira Gandhi, as head of their government in 1966. Azeez's 11-year-old cousin Kalayani (ka luh YAH nee) says of her future, "I can do anything I want to do."

Azeez at School

Just as home life reveals much about a culture, so does life at school. Azeez attends school six days a week and must wear a uniform. Because so many different languages are spoken in India, Azeez studies four different languages: Hindi, English, Bengali, and Sanskrit, which is an ancient written language. Classes are taught in Hindi and English. Besides languages, Azeez also studies history, geography, math, science, government, and music.

Azeez enjoys playing chess and making music with friends. Here, he is playing the mridanga, a traditional Indian two-headed drum.


What language is spoken in India today?

A language called Hindi is the most widely spoken language in India. However, the country's government recognizes 14 other languages in addition to Hindi. That means the government has to print laws and information in 15 different languages! Imagine having to communicate with groups of people who speak different languages. In what ways might that be difficult?

Other Parts of Culture at School

One instrument Azeez plays in music class at school is the mridanga (mri DAHNG guh), a two-headed drum used in Indian music. Every day Azeez eats in the school lunchroom with his friends. No meat or egg dishes are served. Instead, the students have spicy vegetables and lentils with rice, and flat breads fried in butter.


New Delhi, where Azeez lives, is the capital of India. India's government is similar to that of the United States. Indians vote for leaders to represent them in government. This form of government, called a representative democracy, is an important part of India's culture. It gives all Indians a say in how they are ruled. When Azeez turns 18, he, too, will be able to vote for the leaders of his government. How old will you have to be to vote in elections in the United States?



Cultures Around the World

You have met Azeez Narain in this lesson. Now meet five more young people in this Infographic.What do they have in common? What are some differences in their lives?

Rachel Dennis, age 11

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

HOME: Lives in a house on the Atlantic coast with her parents, brother, and dog


SCHOOL SUBJECTS: Social studies, science, English, math, art, health, music, physical education

HOBBIES: Gymnastics, horseback riding

Anna Patricia de Martinez, age 12

Lima, Peru

HOME: Lives in a brick house with her mother, brother and grandparents


SCHOOL SUBJECTS: Science, math, Spanish, social studies, English, physical education, music, gardening

HOBBIES: Swimming, volleyball, aerobics

FAVORITE FOOD: Pastelle de Manzanas (pie)

Olanike Olakunri, age 10

Lagos, Nigeria

HOME: Lives in a cinder block house with her parents

LANGUAGES: Yoruba, English

SCHOOL SUBJECTS: Math, English, Citizenship, music

HOBBIES: Board games, mystery books, school running team

FAVORITE FOOD: Eba (a porridge made of cassava flour and okra)


Brian Lawlor, Age 11

County Tipperary, Ireland

HOME: Lives in a farm cottage with his parents and sister


SCHOOL SUBJECTS: Math, English, geography, music, science, Gaelic studies, physical education

HOBBIES: Hurling (like field hockey), and playing the accordion


Harry Tan, age 10


HOME: Lives in an apartment with his parents, brother, sister, and dog

LANGUAGE: Mandarin Chinese

SCHOOL SUBJECTS: English, Chinese, social studies, math, science, art, physical education

HOBBIES: Video games, skateboarding, baseball

FAVORITE FOOD: Rice with chicken in curry gravy


Whenever and wherever people have lived, their lives have been shaped by the culture around them. A culture's language, government, values, foods, and entertainment make people who they are. Cultures also change as they interact with others over time.

This process of interaction is a big part of the story you will read in this book. In the chapters to come you will read about the world's many different cultures. Interaction between these cultures over the years has created the fascinating and complex world that we live in today.

Reviewing Facts and Ideas


• All cultures are made up of similar parts, such as religion, government, and education.

• Values affect not only what people believe, but also how they live.

• Cultures change as people of different cultures interact with one another.


1. What are some clues you can study to learn about a culture?

2. How has religion shaped life for people in India?

3. FOCUS What has Azeez Narain's life taught you about the many parts of Indian culture?

4. THINKING SKILL What are two generalizations that you could make about Azeez's family?

5. WRITE Write an article for visitors from other countries. Describe how culture in the United States has been shaped by interaction with other cultures.




Number a sheet of paper from 1 to 10. Beside each number write the word from the list below that best matches the statement.











1. The things that people believe are most important in life

2. The distance east or west of the prime meridian measured by imaginary lines that run north and south on a map or globe

3. An area with common features that set it apart from other areas

4. The way of life of a group of people at a particular time that includes their daily habits, beliefs, and arts

5. The distance north or south of the equator measured by imaginary lines that run east and west on a map or a globe

6. The study of Earth

7. A weather pattern of an area over a long period of time

8. A physical feature such as a mountain range, plain, or plateau

9. A unit of measurement describing the distance between lines of latitude and longitude

10. A way of living that people practice regularly over time


1. What is geography and what can we learn by studying it?

2. Why do geographers use the concept of regions?

3. What are three types of regions?

4. What defines a physical region?

5. What do the equator and the prime meridian have in common?

6. How does a global grid make it possible to find locations?

7. What makes up a culture?

8. Explain one way in which culture influences a country.

9. What is the role that religion plays in a culture?

10. How is India's government an example of cultural interaction?



Write a paragraph about the region where you live. In it describe the region's major landforms, its climate, and some important features of its culture.


Write a letter to Azeez Narain in India. Tell him about the culture and values of the community in which you live. Also tell him about some of the ways you think your life i similar to or different from his.


Write a brief pamphlet about an interesting place you have visited. Suppose you are writing it for people from another country who will be visiting the place you describe.




Use the map on this page to answer the following questions.

1. What are lines of longitude?

2. What is the prime meridian?

3. What is the first line of longitude shown west of the prime meridian? What is the first line of longitude shown east of the prime meridian?

4. How far apart are the lines of longitude shown on the globe?

5. What is useful about having lines of longitude on a map?

Summing Up the Chapter

Copy the main idea table below on a separate sheet of paper. Then place each item in the feature list in the correct category below. Think of other features you might want to add. When you have completed the table, write a paragraph answering the question "How might the land, water, and climate of a region help shape the culture of the people who live there?"


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