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Pangaea to Paradise

Page history last edited by Mr. Hengsterman 4 years, 5 months ago


From Pangaea to Paradise - The Americas Before European Conquest [1491]

Pre-Columbian indigenous populations were not sparsely settled in a pristine wilderness,  rather, a vastly
more populous and sophisticated civilizations that actively
shaped and influenced the land around them .







The pristine myth? The “first Americans” arrived in a series of migrations from the Asian continent possibly as far back as 40,000 years ago.  The complex civilizations that arose in the Americas before the arrival of the Europeans experienced relatively similar processes of development over several millennia.



About 300 million years ago, Earth didn't have seven continents, but instead one massive super continent called Pangaea. It began to break apart about 175 million years ago. 


In contrast to the present Earth and its distribution of continental mass, much of Pangaea was in the southern hemisphere and surrounded by a super ocean, Panthalassa. Pangaea was the last super continent to have existed and the first to be reconstructed by geologists.



The Pristine Myth: The myth persists that in 1492 the Americas were a sparsely populated wilderness, “a world of barely perceptible human disturbance’ There is substantial evidence, however, that the Native American landscape of the early sixteenth century was a humanized landscape almost everywhere. Populations were large. Forest composition had been modified, grasslands had been created, wildlife disrupted, and erosion was severe in places. Earthworks, roads, fields, and settlements were ubiquitous. With Indian depopulation in the wake of Old World disease, the environment recovered in many areas. A good argument can be made that the human presence was less visible in 1750 than it was in 1492.




What History textbooks get wrong


What History textbook should be presenting 




By the time Europeans arrived in America in 1492, perhaps 54 million people inhabited the two American continents.  Over the centuries they split

into countless tribes, evolved more than 2,000 separate languages, and developed many diverse religions, cultures, and ways of life.



Incas in Peru, Mayans in Central America, and Aztecs in Mexico shaped stunningly sophisticated civilizations. Their advanced agricultural practices, 

based primarily on the cultivation of maize, which is Indian corn, fed large populations, perhaps as many as 20 million in Mexico alone.


Corn planting reached the present-day American Southwest by about 1200 B.C. and powerfully molded Pueblo culture. The Pueblo peoples in the Rio Grande valley constructed intricate irrigation systems to water their cornfields. They were dwelling in villages of multistoried, terraced buildings when Spanish explorers made contact with them in the sixteenth century. (Pueblo means “village” in Spanish.)


The Iroquois in the northeastern woodlands, inspired by a legendary leader named Hiawatha, in the sixteenth century created perhaps the closest North American approximation to the great nationstates of Mexico and Peru. The Iroquois Confederacy developed the political and organizational skills to sustain a robust military alliance that menaced its neighbors, Native American and European alike for well over a century (see “Makers of America: The Iroquois,” pp. 40–41).



The City had temples, canals, aqueducts and botanical gardens – the Spanish conquistadors were stunned by it all:  All about us we saw cities and villages built in the water, their great towers and buildings of masonry rising out of it…When I beheld the scenes around me I thought within myself, this was the garden of the world.

—Bernal Diaz del Castillo, Spanish conquistador 
















Talking Points - European Exploration and Discovery 






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