What Came To Be Called America

By 1492 people had lived in the Western Hemisphere for tens of thousands of years. For much of this time it is believed that they experienced virtually no recorded, sustaied contact with other parts of the world -- Europe, Africa, or Asia.

Millions of people lived in an area some five times the size of Europe. In strikingly diverse habitats and climates they developed possibly the most varied and productive agriculture in the world. Their lifestyles and belief systems differed widely and they spoke hundreds of distinct languages.

Throughout the hemisphere, states and centers of high civilization had risen and fallen. The dynamic Mexica (Aztec) and Inca empires were still expanding at this time and internal migration and warfare were common. The peoples did not see themselves as part of an entity. Only later would this area be given a unifying name - America - and the people labeled "Indians" by Europe.

We have focused on five geographical areas of the region to represent the variety and complexity of peoples and cultures before 1492: the Caribbean, Middle America, the Andean region, the South Atlantic, and North America. In order to understand what came to be called America we are often dependent on European observations.

Continue the Voyage with The Caribbean: Island Societies or abandon ship and use the Outline.