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Chapter Summary


Millions of years ago, the two American continents became geologically separated from the Eastern Hemisphere land masses where humanity originated. The first people to enter these continents came across a temporary land bridge from Siberia about 35,000 years ago. Spreading across the two continents, they developed a great variety of societies based largely on corn agriculture and hunting. In North America, some ancient Indian peoples like the Pueblos, the Anasazi, and the Mississippian culture developed elaborate settlements. But on the whole, North American Indian societies were less numerous and urbanized than those in Central and South America, though equally diverse in culture and social organization.

The impetus for European exploration came from the desire for new trade routes to the East, the spirit and technological discoveries of the Renaissance, and the power of the new European national monarchies. The European encounters with America and Africa, beginning with the Portuguese and Spanish explorers, convulsed the entire world. Biological change, disease, population loss, conquest, African slavery, cultural change, and economic expansion were just some of the consequences of the commingling of the Old World and the New World.

After they conquered and then intermarried with Indians of the great civilizations of South America and Mexico, the Spanish conquistadores expanded northward into the northern border territories of Florida, New Mexico, and California. There they established small but permanent settlements in competition with the French and English explorers who also were venturing into North America.



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