There are virtually no significant written sources from this period in the history of North America. Historians must rely then on the work of archaeologists, geologists, folklorists, and linguists to reconstruct the main features of the period. Some basic features of Native American life in pre-Columbian North America include:

  • A lifestyle that was essentially nomadic or semi-nomadic for much of the period. Hamlets and villages appear late and only in some areas.
  • Food production was primarily based on hunting and gathering (including fishing). Agriculture was practiced in some areas.
  • Though there was some contact between the various Indian groups in North America, the culture developed in significant isolation (both intellectual and physical) from the other parts of the world. The vulnerability of the Indians to Eurasian diseases was a major factor in the ease of European expansion.
  • The diversity of languages is but one indication that there was considerable cultural diversity among the various Native American groups.

This module explores Native American culture in two sections: Changes over Time, 10,000 BC to 1200 AD; and Native North Americans on the Eve of European Contact, ca 1500 AD.

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