17 Jan 2023


Prehistory of America before the 1500s European Invasions

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Prehistory refers to the history from the period before writing was invented as a mean of record of occurring events. The knowledge of these past events is owed mainly to archaeological research and discoveries. It is the period before the documentation of events could be clearly defined in terms of geological eras. This marked the era when people could not put down in writing, the time of occurrence of events which literally led to the development of modern history. Americas like all other areas across the world lived through a period of very little literacy (Kehoe, 2014). This period is the period of American prehistory. The documentation of prehistory has helped historians in emphasizing the culture characteristic of one time and to differentiate between people of different periods. This paper is going to give a summary of the prehistory of the Native Americans, including those of the western hemisphere and the initial European invasion through the 1500s. 

The first people to settle in North America arrived 14000 years ago. The pre history of the Native Americans also known as American Indians, Amerindians, Aboriginals or First Nation Persons began in Colombia, where the people used material culture and a technology which included the use of fire and fire drills. Archaeologists are seeking to find charcoal so that they may get clear and exact dates of the establishment of the camp areas which were left behind by the Native Americans as they moved along. The American people were agriculturalists although a part of the group involved itself in other activities such as hunting and gathering big game animals. There are others who domesticated animals such as dogs. Due to changes in climatic conditions, the Native Americans adapted and started to develop fish hooking techniques using fish hooks made from bone, stone tools. They used this hooks to catch fish. The forest was the greatest source of food from which the people gathered berries, seeds and hunted white tailed deer as an additional food source (Kehoe, 2014). They did pottery and basketry. This archaic period distinguishes itself from other periods because this is the time during which pottery and basketry first appeared leading to the establishment of trade along various trading networks. The Native Americans cleared forested, bushy land so as to practice crop farming. This was the best achievement from this period of the Native American dominance of the Americas, from foraging to farming. Agriculture was widely covered by a number of crops such as potatoes, corn, beans, sunflower and tubers which were the main domesticated crops. Nuts and seed bearing plants were semi domesticated among Native Americans. The llama was the animal most domesticated (Joseph, 2014). 

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As the European invasion began in the 15 th century, more than 50 million Native Americans resided throughout the western hemisphere. This resident group moved south and east adapting to different environments following this invasion of what was formerly their land. Most geographers and anthropologists have grouped this people according to culture and as a people who exhibit similar characteristics. As a result of their displacement, they were affected by various epidemics and faced enslavement. The European invasion into the North America in search of gold or for other religious reasons led to the disruption of the Native Americans way of life. Diseases became a disaster, hunger followed by malnutrition, killed almost 90% of their population. Unlike the Europeans, Native Americans were not immune to diseases spread by domesticated animals such as sheep, goats, horses and pigs. A large population lost their lives as a result of influenza invasion, diphtheria, cholera, measles, whooping cough and syphilis (Kehoe, 2014). The Europeans fueled hostility on the tribal villages that they invaded. This led to outbreaks of war and conflicts along tribal lines and between the Native Americans. Increased number of deaths, racism and land displacement resulted from this invasion. 

Lastly, the final period of the prehistoric life of the Native American people occurred during the 1650 A.D. Around this period, Americans mostly relied on agriculture for food though they still involved themselves in hunting and fishing. They mostly set fire on a set of trees so that they could grow crop on the formed ash. They believed that the ash was some form of fertilizer for their crops. Archeologists believe that the Native Americans made their shelter from the surrounding forests. This is evidenced from the words of some of the European colonists and explorers who observed and kept written records of the culture of the Native Americans. 


Kehoe, A. B. (2014). America before the European invasions. New York: Routledge; 

Joseph, F. (2014). Unlocking the prehistory of America . New York: Rosen Publishing. 

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