Early Native Americans. Origins and early Native Peoples. Land Bridge Origins: Asia to America.
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A priest named Jose de Acost (1539-1600), was the first to propose the possibility of a temporary land bridge called Beringia by which early peoples crossed from Asia to the Americas. Later scientists also believe that during the Pleistocene era (approximately 20,000 years ago) large areas of the land were exposed and sea levels dropped because water was locked up in glaciers. This created a landmass ( land bridge or isthmus ) across the Bering Strait, between Siberia and Alaska.
These Stone Age hunters followed the herd migrations across the Beringia plain to North America. But evidence also suggests they ate sea mammals, fish, and vegetation. Peoples then moved south into North America by following possible unglaciated routes along the pacific coastline or an Alberta corridor. ( a long valley located between ice mountains )
The large animals that the Natives hunted died out. The wandering hunters (nomads) had to find new kinds of food, so they hunted smaller animals, fished, and gathered fruits. They stopped moving from place to place and built small, permanent homes. After a while many began to plant their own food and became farmers. The groups they formed spoke different languages and had different ways of life.
Native Americans who lived along the Mississippi River and its tributaries were developing their own unique culture. These prehistoric Native Americans, who are called Mississippian Indians by archaeologists, lived in permanent towns which were built on a fairly standard pattern. Ceremonial buildings on large four sided flat-topped mounds faced a plaza. The villagers gathered in the plaza for important events, ceremonies, and to watch various games such as stickball and chunkey.
The earthen mounds were built over a period of years. Perhaps they began as a slight rise with an important building on it. After a time, the building burned. Whatever the cause of the fire, the people brought basketful after basketful of dirt to make a mound. When they were satisfied, they built a new building on top. Archeologists do not know what purpose these buildings fulfilled. The most widely accepted ideas are that these buildings were either religious structures, or the homes of chiefs or other important families.
Most of the Hopewell mounds were big and round. The biggest mound was about 20 feet high. There was also a perimeter mound, a long skinny mound around the outside of the other mounds. The Hopewell people made these mounds out of dirt which they got out of "borrow pits" nearby. They carried the dirt in baskets.
The Cahokia Mounds were bigger. The base of the biggest mound, Monk's Mound, covers 14 acres. and is 100 feet high. Monk's Mound is a platform mound and is flat on top. There was a large house on the top that the king and his servants lived in. Other mounds were conical. They were used for burials. There were also ridgetop mounds used to mark the borders of the mound area. There were over 120 mounds in this area.
The Hohokam and the Anasazi were peoples who settled in the American Southwest.
The Hohokam Indians settled in the Gila and Salt River valleys of southern Arizona.
They built rectangular pit houses from earth, rather than stone, and lived in small villages. They cremated their dead and placed the ashes in a specially prepared pit.
Although the Hohokam relied a great deal on hunting and gathering, they also were skilled farmers and excellent engineers. They were a peaceful people who built large irrigation canal networks. Some were over ten miles long and used gravity to control water flow to their corn crops and homes.
The early Anasazi lived in pit houses, which were shallow depressions in the ground covered by a canopy of brush and mud. Fire was always a threat, as the roof was only about six feet above the fire pit. The Anasazi did not have pottery. They used vessels of fine basketry instead, some woven so tightly that they could have held water.
The Anasazi later formed villages of multi-room one story buildings, which were surrounded by large cultivated fields. Evidence shows that by 400 AD the Anasazi had learned to grow two crops a year of cotton, beans, or maize.
Just after 900 AD the Anasazi started to build multi-story pueblos using techniques imported from the Aztecs of Central Mexico. The pueblos were made out of sandstone blocks covered with mud. Roof beams supported the ceilings.
Some pueblos were five stories high, although usually they were only two stories high. Some dwellings housed as many as 350 people in 220 rooms.