America Before Columbus

America before Columbus was a unique time in the history of the North and South American continents. Native peoples controlled the land and build vast empires that were as advanced and complex as those of the Old World. The geography of North and South American caused isolation between civilization. This would also help lead to their eventual downfall and decline. 

Major Topics in the "America Before Columbus" unit include:

The Geography of North and South America


Indigenous People: an overview

The Olmec

The Maya

The Aztec

The peoples of South America

The peoples of North America


The Geography of North and South America

The North and South American landscape is diverse and poses unique issues of the inhabitants of both modern and ancient times. The elongation of the North and South American continents along a north/south axis means different climate zones to be present on the continent. This means the spread of agriculture, tools, knowledge and people are limited by the climate and physical physical features of the land.

The major land forms of North and South America are shown on the map to the right. Large mountain ranges, flat grassy plains, and long rivers dominate the continents. It is These land forms that have shaped human activity and movement since the first humans arrived on the North American Continent .

N+S America landform map.png

Indigenous People: an overview

The North and South American Continents were and still are home to many different and diverse indigenous peoples. From the Olmec, the Maya, the Aztec, the Inca, different South American Tribes, and the numerous North American tribes of the plains, woodlands, swamps and deserts, all were heavily impacted by the land forms in which they all lived. Their locations and the lack of interactions with different major civilizations, due to the time and periods of history when they existed, cause unique cultures to form. 

America Before Columbus gives a glimpse into the North and South American Continents before the arrival of Europeans to the New World. 


The Olmec

Olmec Map Video

This video maps out the location of the Olmec Empire within


General Olmec Information Video

This video gives general information about the Olmec 

Olmec colossal Heads

This video gives  information about the Olmec Colossal Heads

Subduction Zone Video

This video about subduction zones helps explain the landscape and geography of Central America 


The Maya