6 - Early Societies in the Americas & Oceania

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Chapter 6: Early Societies in the Americas & Oceania

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Early Human Migrations By 700 CE, humans had established communities in almost every habitable part of the world.

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Early Mesoamerican societies 1200 BCE – 1100 CE

Origins of Mesoamerican Societies:

Origins of Mesoamerican Societies Melting glaciers 18,000 years ago began a rise in ocean waters. First large wave of migration from Siberia to Alaska was probably 13,000 BCE, perhaps earlier. Some may have arrived by sea from Asia By 9500 BCE reached southernmost part of South America Hunter/Gatherer societies evolved into agricultural societies c. 8000 BCE


Olmecs 1200-100 BCE “Olmec” means the “ Rubber People ” (name derives from the rubber trees in the region) Ceremonial Centers San Lorenzo, La Venta , Tres Zapotes First centers were not cities like those of Eastern hemisphere Large numbers of people would gather for special occasions and return home to villages

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The Olmec heartland where the Olmecs reigned from 1400 - 500 BCE

Agriculture and Herding:

Agriculture and Herding Abundant rainfall, so no need for irrigation Developed drainage systems to divert waters Staple: maize (corn) Herding: turkeys, barkless dogs Both food No draft animals (cattle, sheep, goats, pigs) No development of wheeled vehicles

Olmec Society:

Olmec Society Probably authoritarian in nature Common subjects delivered a portion of harvests to support elite classes. Large class of conscripted laborers to construct ceremonial sites Also built tombs for rulers, temples, pyramids, drainage systems

Olmec Heads:

Olmec Heads Up to 10 feet tall, 20 tons Transported by dragging, rolling on logs 1000/workers per head Similar heads were carved for centers at San Lorenzo and Tres Zapotes. It is now generally accepted that these heads are portraits of rulers, perhaps dressed as ballplayers. 17 heads have been unearthed so far! The monuments found in the Olmec site of La Venta are all dated from between 900 – 300 BC. That’s 2500 years ago!

The Olmecs:

The Olmecs There is evidence that the Olmec practiced ritual bloodletting and played the Mesoamerican ballgame, hallmarks of nearly all subsequent Mesoamerican societies.

Mysterious Decline of Olmecs:

Mysterious Decline of Olmecs Archaeologists believe the Olmecs systematically destroyed their own ceremonial centers, then deserted them. No evidence of invasion. Evidence points to revolution or civil war. ???????????

Lasting Influence of the Olmecs:

Lasting Influence of the Olmecs Astronomical observations helped create calendar to keep track of seasons. System of writing (not much survives) Rituals including sacrifice Cultivation of maize (corn) Construction of ceremonial pyramids

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Major Pre-Columbian Civilizations Olmec influence will be strong here…

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Migration into South America began c. 12,000 BCE Climate improves c. 8000 BCE Occupied long, narrow territories between Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean Largely independent from Mesoamerica Andes Mountains and lowlands of Panama and Nicaragua prevented contact Highly individualized due to geography Early Societies of South America (Andean Societies) 1000 BCE – 700 CE

Food Supply:

Food Supply Those who migrated into the Andes Mountains hunted deer, llama, alpaca and other large animals not found in Central America. Cultivation of maize and squashes spread from Mesoamerica, while gold, silver and copper metallurgy spread from the Andes north. By 2500 BCE, the earliest Andean cultivators relied on peanuts, beans, and sweet potatoes.

Chavin Cult:

Chavin Cult New religion in central Andes, 900-300 BCE Little known about particulars of religion Created intricate stone carvings Cult may have arose when maize became an important crop > cult for fertility and abundant harvests. During the era Andean society became increasingly complex Elaborate woven clothing, cotton fishnets, metallurgy for jewelry Probably inspired the creation of ceremonial centers.

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A Chavin stone art in the shape of a head.

The Mochica State:

The Mochica State Valley of the Moche River Dominated northern Peru, 300-700 CE No writing, but pottery and other artifacts are evidence of a complex society with vast job specialization (armed warriors maintaining stability in the region, aristocrats hunting, women working with textiles, rulers receiving messages) One of many states in region, none able to consolidate into empire 6 th -7 th centuries CE saw climactic shifts with droughts that led to a decline of early Andean civilizations. On this bottle, two animated warriors, their faces covered with fox face masks, carry round shields and war clubs.

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Early Societies of Oceania, 1500 BCE – 700 CE


Oceania Early migrants entered Australia and Oceania about 60,000 years ago. Prehistoric land bridges, lower seas permitted migration Later descendants developed large, oceangoing canoes equipped with outriggers to travel throughout the Pacific Basin Societies in Australia and New Guinea followed radically different paths Early hunter-gatherer societies in Australia Early agriculture in New Guinea by 3000 BCE Grew yams, taro & raised pigs & chickens

Aborigine of the Naomi Tribe:

Aborigine of the Naomi Tribe Aboriginal refers to the indigenous people of Australia The Aborigines did not domesticate plants or animals A religious leader, rather than a political chief or governmental structure, assumed overall responsibility of the tribe. The tribal unit was divided into bands of hunting groups and family units . Australia maintained aboriginal societies until Europeans arrived in the 19 th and 20 th centuries. Aborigines used axes, spears, clubs, nets, lassoes and boomerangs to bring down animals ranging in size from rats to giant kangaroos

Early 19th Century Aboriginal Tribe:

Early 19 th Century Aboriginal Tribe

21st century Aboriginal People:

21 st century Aboriginal People

Lapita Peoples:

Lapita Peoples Earliest Austronesian (language group of Oceania) migrants to sail into the Pacific Ocean and establish settlements in Pacific islands. Found throughout Pacific Islands Agriculture, animal herding (established villages-raised pigs and chickens) Political organization based on chiefdoms Relatives formed aristocracy Trade over open ocean declines 500 BCE Greater independence of settlements

Peopling of the Pacific:

Peopling of the Pacific From New Guinea, people sailed to the Bismarck and Solomon Islands By 1500 BCE, mariners arrived at Vanuatu By 1300 BCE, mariners arrived at Fiji By 1000 BCE-Tonga, Samoa and Tahiti Migrants last reached Polynesia (the area outlined by Hawaii, Easter Island and New Zealand

Human Migration to the Pacific Islands:

Human Migration to the Pacific Islands Establishment of human communities in the Pacific islands was the last phase of a long process by which Homo Sapiens populated the habitable regions of the Earth. It’s likely that the islands of New Zealand were the last sizable lands that human beings reached.

Map Activity:

Map Activity Map Activity http://connect.mcgraw-hill.com/connect/hmSectionHomePortal.do?sectionId=9332023 Click on the link below to complete an online map assignment. If you have not already done so, you will need to create your account. See the directions linked here to set up your textbook online. The password, of course-is “derekjeter” http://www.fairport.org/webpages/phickey/textbooks.cfm

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