Thinking about geography and culture

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A Look Into the Past


These photographs show places built by people many centuries ago. While the places or their ruins remain, the people who built them are gone. Read Chapter 2 to begin your journey into the mystery of the very distant past.




The Taj Mahal in Agra, India, is among the world's most beautiful buildings.A ruler had it built to honor his wife.

Mesa Verde


In what is now southwestern Colorado, Native Americans began building their homes right into the area's cliffs about 1,400 years ago.



Ruins at the Acropolis hint at the glory of Ancient Greece. Its people developed a great civilization and formed the first democratic government.



Thousands of years ago traders made their way across the dry lands of northern Africa.Their

journey was made easier by camels.



Understanding History

Focus Activity


What do historians do to look into the past?


• history

• oral tradition

• artifact

• primary source

• secondary source

Read Aloud

How has your life changed from the way it was five years ago? You're probably playing different games and have long outgrown your old clothes. Your family may have moved into a new home. Your life will continue to change as you grow older. Look around carefully. Ten years from now, everything around you—every object you use, every song you enjoy listening to—will help tell the story of what your life was like today.


As the story of your life unfolds, it becomes part of an even bigger story of human history. History is the story of the past. People who study what has happened in the past are called historians. They may study details of daily life, or they may examine events that have changed the world. Historians have learned, for example, that people in Central America first enjoyed what we now call bubble gum hundreds of years ago. Historians have also learned how terrible wars brought huge changes for these same people in Central America.

Whether they study life-changing events or interesting details, historians use different kinds of sources, from books to bones, to discover what life was like in the past. Sources are an historian's most important tools. Like all tools, they need to be used carefully and skillfully.



Nina was so excited that she forgot to say hello as she burst through her grandfather's front door.

"Grandpa, guess what? We're getting a new computer tonight!"

"Why, hello Nina," Grandpa Joe replied, putting down his magazine. "What is all this I hear about a new computer?"

An attic or storeroom (above) can be an excellent place to find artifacts from the past. An old camera is an example of an artifact.

"It's a lot more powerful, so my friends and I can play CD-ROMs on it."

"Whoa, Nina," laughed Grandpa Joe. "I still don't understand that much about computers. See, back when I was your age, we didn't even have television. Most people didn't."

"What?" gasped Nina.

"It's true," her grandfather continued. "Back in '1950 our family was the first in our neighborhood to get a TV. That was a big deal! I'll never forget how our neighbors crowded around that TV wanting to see all the new shows. . . ."

Grandpa Joe was describing the past using oral tradition—passing on history by word of mouth. Oral tradition is an important way that people remember the past. This was how history was kept alive before writing was invented.

"You know," mused Grandpa Joe, "I kept that old TV set. It's up in the attic. You should see it! It's nothing like what we have today."

"Hmmm . . . OK," answered Nina, her curiosity getting the better of her.

Learning from Artifacts

The old TV was definitely an artifact (AHR tuh fakt) from another time. An artifact is an object made by someone in the past. The TV's small screen was housed in a big, bulky, wooden cabinet.

It was hard to imagine that such a homely machine had once been the center of so much attention. Propped up against the TV was another artifact—a large plastic ring that rattled when Nina picked it up. What did it do? Nina shook it, rolled it, then looped it around her shoulder. She decided to take it with her and figure it out later.



On the shelf next to the TV lay other interesting artifacts: a dusty model of an old car, a big scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings, and a yellowing stack of magazines.

Nina scooped up as many items as she could, along with a newer-looking book called God's Country: America in the Fifties. Then she headed back downstairs to examine her finds.

Using Primary Sources

Except for the book, all of the items that Nina picked up in the attic were primary sources from the 1950s. Primary sources are materials that were created during the time under study. They can be written things, such as magazine articles or advertisements. They can also be nonwritten things, such as toys or tools or pictures.

Read the following excerpt from one of Nina's written sources. It describes a time in America's past when televisions were a novelty. What clues in the text tell you this is a primary source?

In the early days of television, not everyone was lucky enough to own their own set (above). Often, people would crowd sidewalks to watch (left).



Excerpt from an interview published in Television, by Michael Winship, 1988.

I first saw television when I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn. . . . We didn't own a television set—most people didn't. But the Texaco Star Theater with Milton Berle was on Tuesday nights. So we all stood on the street, and the people who had a television set on my block would put it in the window facing the street. Half the block would gather —maybe 50 people would watch the show.


A Secondary Source

Secondary sources are records of the past that are based on studies of primary sources. Nina's secondary source was the book God's Country: America in the Fifties. This is a study of life in the 1950s written by J. Ronald Oakley in 1986. Read the following excerpt from America in the Fifties.

In the America of 1950, almost 90 percent of all families did not have a television set. . . . By the early 1960s, 90 percent of all American homes had at least one television set. Never had a new product expanded so rapidly or so quickly become an essential part of American life.

How does the information given in this secondary source differ from the information given in the primary source on the previous page?

Different Viewpoints

Nina could appreciate the old TV in the attic much more now that she knew how rare TVs were in 1950. But what could she make of the cars from the 1950s?

"They were so huge, so different from the cars we have today," Nina marveled as she picked up the old car model. "They couldn't have been very practical—and they must have been real gas guzzlers, too."

"But people didn't care that much about being practical back then," Grandpa Joe answered. "We wanted comfort and grandness, and those cars delivered!" To support his opinion, Grandpa Joe turned to an old car advertisement in his scrapbook. Look at the advertisement on this page.

An advertisement in a scrapbook can show what was important to car buyers in the 1950s.

Nina and her grandfather looked at the model car from different viewpoints. Nina noticed how the car contrasted with today's cars. On the other hand, Grandpa Joe was reminded of people's attitudes about cars during the 1950s. These different viewpoints brought them to different conclusions.

Historians often disagree about how sources should be interpreted, or how life in a past time should be remembered. Since their own viewpoints shape the way they view the past, historians can end up constructing different pictures of the same historical period.

Historians also have trouble reconstructing the past. The further back in time something happened, the harder their job becomes. In addition, many important sources from the past have been destroyed or lost. This makes it impossible to understand certain past cultures and events.



Based on the sources she had to work with, Nina was beginning to put together a picture of what life was like in the 1950s. In some ways the 1950s were similar to the 1990s. People worked hard and enjoyed relaxing with their families and friends. There were major differences, too. Television was still a new invention, so it was just starting to become the basic part of American life it is today. Cars were larger and used more gasoline. Conserving natural resources such as oil was not as much of a concern then as it is now.

Looking at an Artifact

But what purpose did the big plastic ring serve? The answer came as Nina flipped through a 1958 issue of Life magazine. A photograph in an article caught her eye. It showed teenagers swinging the rings around their waists.

A library is a good place to find primary and secondary sources. Your local library probably has sections for books and magazines from the past. Many modern libraries now also have computers and CD-ROMs.


The article called the rings "hula hoops" and said they were "the newest national craze. . . bigger than anything that ever hit the toy business." You can see a page from that article on page 28.

Combining Sources

Nina's article shows why written sources can be so valuable to historians. They can speak for people and things from another time. The article, a written source, helped explain the hula hoop, an artifact.

Without realizing it Nina had done work similar to that of a true historian. She used primary and secondary sources to shed light on her topic, life in the United States in the 1950s. She also examined artifacts to learn their purpose and importance in a culture. Lastly, she used and interpreted written sources to try to understand one of a culture's customs.


The work of an historian is like that of a detective. Clues to an historical period or event may be deeply buried. So historians have to rebuild the past as accurately as possible, using the evidence that is available to them. Sometimes key evidence has been lost or destroyed, making the job even harder.

Historians are not alone in their task, however. They have skilled partners—scientists—who help them uncover written and unwritten sources from the past. You will read about these scientists and the work they do in the next lesson.

Reviewing Facts and Ideas


• History is the study of what happened in the past.

• Before writing was invented, history was passed down through oral tradition, or word of mouth.

• Artifacts, or objects made in the past, can also tell how people lived.

• Historians use primary and secondary sources to interpret what life was like in the past.

• The sources that historians use, the way they use these sources, and their points of view, shape the way the past is remembered.


1. How does oral tradition differ from a written source? How can both help to preserve history?

2. What is a secondary source? Give an example of a secondary source you use at school.

3. FOCUS How do sources help us to learn about the past?

4. THINKING SKILL What effects do the sources available to a historian have on the ways she or he understands the past? How might a historian's point of view affect the way she or he understands history?

5. WRITE Use your imagination to write about how the artifacts in your classroom might be viewed by an historian 100 years from now. What are three conclusions the historian could make from these artifacts about life in the 1990s?


Thinking Skills

Decision Making





One of the most important parts of an historian's job is making choices. Every historian chooses which sources to study and how to interpret those sources. When historians make these choices, they are making decisions. To make a decision is to choose from a number of alternatives.


One of the most thrilling historical studies ever made involved the search for the ancient city of Troy by Heinrich Schliemann (HIN rihk SHLEE mahn) in 1870. Many legends told of a great walled city called Troy, where heroic warriors long ago had fought fierce and bloody battles. You will

Heinrich Schliemann located the site of ancient Troy (left and above).


learn more about these legends when you study Ancient Greece in Chapter 8.

No one knew for sure whether Troy had been a real city or whether it had been created in the imaginations of ancient poets. Schliemann was fascinated by the stories of this old city, and he was determined to find it's location and learn it's secrets.

Now that Schliemann had set his goal, he identified the different alternatives for the possible location of ancient Troy. Some historians thought that Troy could be found on the island of Corfu, northwest of mainland Greece. Others believe that the city was located on the west coast of Turkey. Schliemann himself thought that Troy might be buried under a mound near the Dardanelles Strait in Turkey.

He was then ready to evaluate the different alternatives to choose the most promising location. To evaluate something is to judge it's worth. In order to evaluate the possible locations of Troy, Schliemann examined many different sources of information. among these sources were descriptions of Troy in a book called The Iliad, by Greek poet Homer. Schliemann believed that this book was the most accurate source because it was the oldest one, written about 2,800 years ago. Schliemann also studied the land-forms of Greece and Turkey in hopes of finding more clued about Troy.

From his research, Schliemann decided that the mound in Turkey he had seen was the best choice from among the different alternatives. This mound was called Hissarlik (hih sur LIK), and it was there that he began his search. In 1870 Schliemann and his wife Sophia began a large project at Hissarlik to unearth the long-lost city of Troy. Soon they found the stone walls of an ancient city. As they dug deeper and deeper they found gold and silver artifacts and other evidence of the magnificent city that had once been Troy. Eventually, the remains of nine cities, newer ones built upon the ruins of older ones, were uncovered. Today historians believe that the sixth city was the one that Homer wrote bout in The Iliad many years ago.

Helping Yourself

• A decision is a choice between alternatives.

• Identify the goal you want to reach.

• Identify the different alternatives for reaching your goal.

• Evaluate each alternative.

• Choose the best alternative.


Refer to the Helping Yourself box for help making a decision. Imagine that you are trying to learn about the history of your hometown. Your goal is to find the best historical source about the first people who moved there. What are three sources that you could choose to find out more about the first people in your hometown? Decide which of these sources is the best one. Why?


1. What are the main steps in making a good decision?

2. Why is it important to set a goal when making decisions?

3. Why is it important to identify alternatives for reaching a goal?

4. When might it be useful to be able to make good decisions?



Iceman of the Alps

Focus Activity


What can artifacts tell us about the ancient past?


• archaeology

• excavate

• prehistory


• Konrad Spindler


• Alps

Read Aloud

It was warm and sunny in the Alps on September 19, 1991—a perfect day for hiking. As Erika and Helmut Simon moved along a mountain ridge, they spotted something in the melting ice. At first they thought it was trash, or maybe a doll. When they got closer Erika cried out, "It's a man!" The leathery-brown body was indeed human, lying half-buried in the snow. Shocked, the Simons hurried down the mountain to tell the police. They would not learn until several days later that the body they stumbled upon was over 5,000 years old.


History is full of mysteries. It is the job of historians to do the detective work needed to solve these mysteries. As you learned in the last lesson, written sources can be a big help to historians trying to interpret past events. Artifacts are helpful clues, too.

The science of archaeology (ahr kee AHL uh jee) is the study of the remains of past cultures. Archaeologists carefully dig up, or excavate, historical sites. They use instruments to discover, identify, and save these remains. They take X rays to see what is inside an object and how it was made. They do tests to determine the age of artifacts. Above all, archaeologists must link different clues to figure out what artifacts and remains might say about how people lived in past cultures.



The Alps are Europe's highest mountain range. They contain dozens of snow-covered peaks and massive slabs of ice called glaciers. On some days the Alps are a beautiful and safe place to hike. On other days the Alps can be deadly. In fact, each year more than 100 people die in sudden snowstorms there.

Thus police and local reporters were not too surprised when the Simons found a body in the Alps. Two days after the discovery, a local newspaper reported:

Judging by the dead man's equipment, he was a mountaineer. It seems that the accident occurred some decades ago. The body has not yet been identified.

The article was accurate in many ways, but very wrong in one. Soon it would become clear that this "mountaineer" had been frozen for far more than 40 or 50 years.

A Mystery in the Ice

A few days after the Simons made their discovery, the police set out to recover the body. Look at the map on this page to see where the body was found. The police also saved some items scattered around the area. These included a knife, some bits of rope and leather, and an ax. After a closer look they realized that this ax was no ordinary hiking tool. Its metal blade was lashed to a wooden handle with strips of leather. The ax looked hundreds of years old!

The story of the "Iceman" now became big news, especially to archaeologists. Five days after the Iceman was found, German archaeologist Konrad Spindler came to investigate. When he saw the Iceman's belongings, Spindler's eyes widened. "This [was] something any first-year archaeology student could identify," he later wrote. Spindler estimated the Iceman's age by observing that his ax was made of copper and his knife-blade of chipped stone. Looking up, Spindler announced his conclusion: "Roughly 4,000 years old!"

Later on, detailed testing would prove that the Iceman was actually about 5,300 years old. From these results, archaeologists realized that the Iceman had lived in Europe in the age of prehistory, or the time before writing was developed there. "A fully equipped prehistoric man—nothing like it had ever been seen by an archaeologist," Spindler wrote.


When hikers in the Alps stumbled upon his body, the "Iceman" (left and above) had been frozen for over 5,000 years!


Archaeologists have uncovered axes and knives and prehistoric graves before. What made the discovery of the Iceman so interesting? He was found with the tools and clothes he used every day. The Iceman brought a priceless treasure of artifacts into the 1990s.

Tools of the Archaeologist

Several archaeologists rushed to the Alps to recover as many of the Iceman's belongings as possible. They were able to work only a few days, however, before the first winter snows buried the site. The following summer, these archaeologists shoveled away over 600 tons of snow before they could pick up where they had left off.

The archaeologists' first task was to make a detailed map of the location. They also took photographs showing where each artifact was found. Next, they used steam blowers and even hair dryers to melt snow and ice around the artifacts. The melted water was filtered three times. Archaeologists wanted to make sure that even the tiniest specks of evidence were not lost.

The archaeologists found flecks of wheat. This proved that the Iceman must have had contact with a village where grain was grown. Archaeologists also recovered over 2,000 grains of pollen, or plant dust. Study of the pollen with a microscope showed that most of the grains came from alder and pine trees. Scientists reasoned that the


Iceman probably died in autumn, the season when pine and alder trees give off the most pollen.

Equipped for Survival

Near the Iceman, archaeologists found all sorts of survival gear, such as knife-blades, rope, and hunting arrows. They also recovered a small net. Was the net used to carry things? Was it a fishing net? The wide spaces in the mesh seemed to rule out both of these possibilities. Then Konrad Spindler compared the net to modern nets used by European farmers to catch birds. They matched exactly. The question of the net's purpose seemed to be answered.

In a leather belt-pouch the Iceman carried needed tools, such as small flint blades and a bone needle probably used to repair equipment. There was also a handful of a black fungus. Chemical study showed that tiny crystals of sulfur and iron were attached to the fungus. These are ingredients in today's matches. Archaeologists concluded that the Iceman used the fungus as a kind of fire-starter.

The Iceman also carried two small beads of a different kind of fungus on a leather strap. Close comparison of samples with those in a huge fungus collection showed that the Ice man's beads were made from birch fungus. Birch fungus contains an ingredient that helps fight disease. Therefore, archaeologists believe that this was the Iceman's "medicine chest."

Artifacts found near the Iceman tell archaeologists much about life in prehistoric Europe. It seems that people then had survival skills possessed by few people today.

Examining the Evidence

The Iceman was moved from the Alps to a special refrigerated room in Innsbruck, Austria. There scientists determined that he was about 5 feet 2 inches tall. From the amount of wear on his teeth, they reasoned that he was 35 to 40 years old when he died. Pieces of his hair showed that he had wavy dark-brown hair and a beard.

X rays indicated that the Iceman had some broken ribs on his right side. Some archaeologists believe that the Iceman was somehow injured before he died, because he was found lying on his left side. Shortly after his death, he was covered by snowfall. Glacier ice gradually encased him. It would imprison—and preserve—him for 5,000 years.

Archaeologists use methods of modern science to discover information from artifacts and other remains. A flint knife (left) tells them about Iceman's survival equipment.



From the body of one man and a few of his belongings, archaeologists have learned much about what life was like in the Alps during prehistoric times. Many mysteries have been solved, but some still remain.

Living 5,000 Years Ago

We now know at least the following about the Iceman's world. The people of the Iceman's time were experts at interacting with their environment. Archaeologists concluded this because as many as 17 different kinds of trees and 8 different kinds of animals were used to make the Iceman's belongings. These prehistoric people were also skilled metalworkers. They were able to shape copper into tools. And the Iceman must have had contact with farmers. We know this because traces of grain were found in his belongings.

The Mystery Remains

What about the Iceman himself? Who was he and what did he do for a living? Why did he hike up into the high mountains of the Alps just before


The Iceman's clothes and tools help archaeologists to figure out what his life may have been like.


Six-foot bow for hunting game


Copper ax for chopping firewood


Woven grass cape for extra warmth


Deerskin coat for protection from the cold


Leather pants o animal skins


Leather boots

insulated with grass


Net similar to modern European bird nets


Flint knife with leather case


winter set in? Spindler believes that the Iceman may have been a shepherd who spent long periods of time in the mountains, away from his village below. We may never know for certain what he was doing high in the mountains that long-ago autumn day. Whatever the reason, the Iceman's misfortune has proven to be history's great gain.


We can sometimes learn facts about an entire culture by focusing on one individual, such as the Iceman. Archaeologists looked carefully at artifacts that the Iceman used every day. They discovered much about how people lived in the highlands of prehistoric Europe.

In chapters to come, you can use some of the same methods you learned about in this lesson. You will read about great ideas and events that changed the world. But you will also have the opportunity to think about individuals like the Iceman. These individuals add fullness and detail to the big picture of history.


How did archaeologists figure out how old the Iceman was?

Tiny skin samples were sent to four laboratories for carbon-dating tests. All living things contain carbon, and when they die a special type of carbon called carbon-14 slowly begins to break down at a known rate. By measuring the amount of carbon-14 that has broken down in a sample, scientists can then determine its age.

All four test results concluded that the Iceman lived between 5,000 to 5,300 years ago.

Reviewing Facts and Main Ideas


• Archaeologists use science to study and interpret the remains of past cultures.

• Our understanding of prehistory, or the time before writing was invented, is often based on the work done by archaeologists.

• Archaeologists and historians can sometimes make conclusions about life in past cultures. One of the ways they do this is by looking closely at information about one or two individuals.


1. What made Spindler realize that the Iceman was actually very old?

2. What was the Iceman's net probably used for? How did Spindler find out?

3. FOCUS How do archaeologists help to uncover secrets of the past?

4. THINKING SKILL What are two facts and two opinions presented about the Iceman in this lesson?

5. GEOGRAPHY Describe how the Iceman's belongings tell the different ways in which he interacted with his environment.




When should cultural sites around the world be protected?

Many places have ruins of ancient temples and palaces. These ruins provide clues to ancient cultures. Both in the past and today, people have not always protected such places. Wars and pollution damaged some. Other sites became overgrown. Still others have been destroyed to make room for new buildings.

Serious efforts to protect archaeological sites began in 1959. Archaeologists learned that a huge dam being built at Aswan in Egypt would flood temples thousands of years old. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) worked with the Egyptian government to save these temples.

Along with archaeologists and officials from many nations, UNESCO has drawn up a list of almost 400 "World Heritage sites" to be preserved. The list includes Southeast Asian temples, Mexican pyramids, European cathedrals, and ancient African cities. Sites in the United States are in danger of being destroyed as well. Some people think such sites should be preserved. Nancy Marzulla explains other factors that should be considered, such as the use and value of property. Consider the viewpoints on this issue and answer the questions that follow.

Rather than let them be flooded, workers took apart and moved the temples at Abu Simbel, in Egypt.


Three DIFFERENT Viewpoints


Architect, Washington, D.C.

Excerpt from Interview, 1995

We need to protect our global cultural heritage, because if such places are not properly kept up, they can be changed beyond recognition or destroyed. Once you lose a cultural site, you can never get it back. It's like losing a book and all the information in it. It's gone forever. When the tombs of ancient Egypt were looted and the artifacts stolen, the world lost a significant source of information about the past.


Lawyer, Washington, D.C.

Excerpt from Interview, 1995

Historic preservation is fine as long as we also protect the rights of property owners. In the United States the Constitution guarantees these rights. The owner of a house or building has the right to be paid a fair amount for any property to be preserved if it results in the destruction of private property rights. Preservation laws may require the owner to keep a site or building exactly as it is, which could destroy the value of the property.


International Relations Specialist, Paris, France

Excerpt from Interview, 1995

Today our global cultural resources are threatened in many ways. Among these threats are industrial pollution, urban growth, war, natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and too much tourism. The loss of any one of these unique sites is irreplaceable. These sites are a link between the past and the present, and, if we manage to preserve them, a link with the future. They give us a feeling of belonging to the world as a whole.


1. Explain how each person supports her or his view.

2. In what ways are some of the viewpoints alike? In what ways are they different?

3. What other viewpoints might people have on this issue? How could you find out about historical sites in your community?


Discuss what you agree with or disagree with about these and other viewpoints. Discuss why you think the speakers might feel as they do. Then, as a class, write two statements that all of you can agree with about preserving historical sites.




Number a sheet of paper from 1 to 10. Beside each number write the word or term from the list below that best completes the sentence. You will need to use some words more than once.





oral tradition


primary source

secondary source

1. Before written records were kept, people passed on their history by word of mouth or ____.

2. A written study of the past that is based on a primary source is called a ____.

3. An object made by someone in the past is an ____.

4. The scrapbook that Nina found in her grandfather's attic is an example of a ____.

5. ____ is the study of the remains of past cultures.

6. Archaelogists often dig up, or ____ historical sites.

7. ____ can be identified as the story of the past.

8. The time before the development of writing is called _____.

9. _____ often involves the search for artifacts.

10. Stories and legends were passed on during prehistory through _____.


1. What sources do historians use to study the past?

2. What is the difference between primary and secondary sources?

3. How is an historian like a detective?

4. What do artifacts show about the past?

5. How is history different from prehistory?

6. What do archaeologists study?

7. What conclusions did the archaeologist Konrad Spindler make about the frozen man found in the Alps?

8. What belongings of the Iceman were discovered, and what did archaeologists learn from examining them?

9. Name at least one method the archaeologists used to find information about the Iceman.

10. What mysteries still remain to be solved about the Iceman?



Write a paragraph summarizing what you know about the history of your community.


Suppose you are writing an article for your school newspaper about "The Iceman of the Alps." Describe the discovery and what archaeologists learned from it.


Suppose you were able to interview the Iceman. Write at least three questions you would ask him, and provide the answers you think he might give.




Suppose you are Heinrich Schliemann in 1870. You are fascinated by stories of an ancient city called Troy. No one knows for sure if the city is real or imaginary. You decide to find out.

1. What goal do you set for yourself?

2. What alternatives do you consider to reach your goal?

3. What are the possible consequences of each alternative?

4. Will a map like this one help you to set your goal?

5. Do you think you made a good decision?

Summing Up the Chapter

Copy the main-idea diagram below on a separate sheet of paper. Then review the chapter to find at least two details that support the main ideas. When you have filled in the diagram, answer the question "How do we learn about past cultures?"

MAIN IDEA Archaeologists and historians use a variety of methods and sources to learn about the past.


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