By Natural Philosopher Mike Prestwood
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Land: Americas

From prehistory to post-medieval.

History by historical land mass is yet another wonderful lens into knowledge. These insights are the backbone to Mike‘s articles and his longer effort books. A part of his lifelong commitment to study. While they are not complete, they are useful.

History of the Lands
Switch To: Africa & Middle East | The Americas | Asia | Europe-Mediterranean | Oceana-Australasia

World Population: 1.5 Million
World Population: 1.5 Million
50,000 BCE
Estimates range from 500,000 to 2.5 million

Cognitive Revolution

50,000 BCE – 70,000 BCE. Population range: 500,000 to 2.5 million.
Given the uncertainties and lack of direct data, the following are speculative estimates.

  • Africa-Middle East: 50-60% or 600,000 to 1 million people
    Africa, being the origin of modern humans, likely had the highest population density at this time, particularly in Sub-Saharan regions which were more conducive to human habitation due to their climate and available resources.
  • Asia: 40% or 200,000 to 400,000 people
  • Europe-Mediterranean: 10% or 50,000 to 100,000 people
  • The Americas: 0.
  • Oceana-Australasia: 1% or 10,000 to 15,000 people
    The initial colonization of Australia around 50,000 BCE by modern humans involved small, isolated groups who managed to navigate sea crossings, leading to a very low initial population density. The rest of the remote islands of Oceania were among the last to be reached by humans.

A Shared Earth! Neanderthals-Hobbits-Flourensis

Around this time, Homo sapiens shared the Earth with other hominin species. Neanderthals were still widespread in Europe and parts of western Asia. In Asia, particularly on the islands of Indonesia, Homo floresiensis, often referred to as the “Hobbit” due to their diminutive stature, survived until about 50,000 years ago. Additionally, Denisovans, a less visually documented but genetically distinct group, also roamed Eurasia, leaving behind a genetic legacy that persists in modern humans, particularly among populations in Melanesia.

Seasonal Settlements at Monte Verde
Seasonal Settlements at Monte Verde
circa 14,800 BCE

Earliest Known Semi-Permanent Settlement in the Americas: Located in the lush landscapes of southern Chile, Monte Verde marks one of the earliest known human settlements in the Americas. Dating back to around 14,800 years ago, this site provides compelling evidence of early human ingenuity and adaptability far from the commonly accepted Eurasian cradles of civilization.

The archaeological remains at Monte Verde reveal a picture of a well-established community, whose inhabitants constructed semi-permanent structures using local materials such as wooden stakes and animal hides, combined with an array of insulating local vegetation. This level of architectural development suggests a shift from nomadic lifestyles to more settled, albeit seasonally influenced, habitation patterns.

Monte Verde is distinguished not only by its age but also by the variety of artifacts discovered on site, including tools, remnants of wooden structures, and evidence of medicinal plant use, indicating a sophisticated understanding of the local environment. The presence of these items points to a diversified economy, with a blend of hunting, gathering, and possibly early forms of plant processing that would precede true agriculture.

This settlement reflects a significant phase in human migration and adaptation, showcasing how early peoples in the Americas were able to create enduring communities in challenging new landscapes. Monte Verde stands as a testament to the resilience and resourcefulness of these early Americans, highlighting a pivotal moment in the march of civilization across continents.

Significance: Monte Verde challenges previous conceptions about the timing and progress of human settlements in the New World, pushing back the dates of human presence in the Americas and showing an advanced level of social and technological development long before the widespread adoption of agriculture. This site helps us understand the complexity of early human societies and their capacity to adapt to and thrive in diverse and distant environments.

Imagined Image: Monte Verde site around 14,800 BCE showing a thriving early human settlement in a lush forested environment, with semi-permanent structures and a community engaged in daily activities.

The Clovis Culture
The Clovis Culture
circa 13000 BCE

In what is now the United States, the Clovis culture, named after distinctive stone tools found near Clovis, New Mexico, represents one of the earliest known sophisticated societies in the Americas. Dating back to around 13,000 BCE, the Clovis people are believed to be among the first inhabitants of the continent, crossing the Bering Land Bridge from Siberia into Alaska during the last Ice Age. Their technology, characterized by finely crafted spear points, indicates advanced hunting strategies and social organization. The Clovis culture played a crucial role in the peopling of the Americas, setting the stage for thousands of years of diverse indigenous civilizations.

World Population: 4 Million
World Population: 4 Million
10,000 BCE
Estimates range from 2 to 5 million

Late Stone Age

Mesolithic Period: 10,000 BCE – 6000 BCE.

  • Africa-Middle East: 30% or 1.2 million peopleg
  • Asia: 40% or 1.6 million people
  • Europe-Mediterranean: 15% or 600 thousand people
  • The Americas: 10% or 400 thousand people
  • Oceana-Australasia: 5% or 200 thousand people
Glass Gem Flint Corn
Before 9000 BCE

In the highlands of Mexico, the story of maize, or corn, begins with its ancestor, teosinte. Through centuries of selective breeding, Indigenous peoples transform this humble grass into corn.

Mexico: Guilá Naquitz (Agrarian)
Mexico: Guilá Naquitz (Agrarian)
circa 8000 BCE
Americas Agrarian Society

Earliest known agrarian society in the Americas zone: In Oaxaca, Mexico, the site of Guilá Naquitz provides evidence of early plant domestication, particularly of squash, around 8000 BCE, with subsequent developments including maize and beans.

Imagined Image: An early agrarian society of Oaxaca, Mexico, circa 7900 BCE. It showcases small, temporary shelters, with indigenous people engaged in early farming practices.

Big History Thresholds: 1=Big Bang | 2=Stars&Galaxies | 3=Chemicals | 4=Solar System | 5=First Life | 6=TI | 7=Agrarian | 8=Science

Agriculture: The 7th threshold is agrarian societies which allowed for complex structured urban cities.

World Population: 15 Million
World Population: 15 Million
3000 BCE
Estimates range from 9 to 16 million

Stone Copper Age

Chalcolithic Period: 3,000 BCE – 500 BCE.

  • Africa-Middle East: 36% or 5 million people
    Early civilizations include Egypt and Mesopotamia with a relatively higher population density.
  • Asia: 36% or 5 million people
    Early civilizations include Indus Valley and ancient China. They saw early urban development and agriculture which supported larger populations.
  • Europe-Mediterranean: 14% or 2 million people
    Smaller due to the varied climatic conditions and the later development of agriculture compared to the Middle East.
  • The Americas: 7% or 1 million people
    More sparsely populated with many diverse hunter-gatherer communities and early agricultural societies, particularly in regions like Mesoamerica.
  • Oceana-Australasia: 7% or 1 million people
    These regions were among the least densely populated, with scattered tribal groups primarily leading hunter-gatherer lifestyles.
The Rise of the Maya Civilization
Aerial view of Chichen Itza
By 2600 BCE

The Maya civilization, emerging around 2600 BCE in what is now Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras, represents one of the most complex societies of ancient America. Renowned for their achievements in mathematics, astronomy, art, and architecture, the Maya developed a sophisticated calendar system and constructed towering pyramids and cities that blended harmoniously with the surrounding landscape. The Classic Period (250–900 CE) saw the peak of Maya civilization, with large city-states engaged in intricate political, economic, and military networks. The Maya’s contributions to knowledge, particularly their understanding of the cosmos and time, remain a lasting legacy of indigenous American ingenuity.

Cocoa powder and cocoa beans
Before 1900 BCE

In the tropical rainforests of Mesoamerica, the ancient Olmecs unlock the secrets of the cacao pod. By fermenting, roasting, and grinding the seeds, they create the bitter beverage chocolate. This divine elixir lays the foundation for chocolate’s enduring legacy, cherished by the Mayans and Aztecs as a ceremonial drink, a currency, and a medicine.

Olmec Hieroglyphs: Mexico
Olmec Hieroglyphs: Mexico
900 BCE
From before 900 BCE to 400 BCE.

Earliest known writing in the Americas zone. 

The Olmec civilization flourished in what is now the southeastern part of Mexico from around 1500 BC to about 400 BC. The Olmecs are often referred to as the “Mother Culture” of Mesoamerica, influencing later civilizations like the Maya and the Aztecs.

The Cascajal Block artifact, dated to around 900 BCE, bears 62 symbols carved into it that some researchers believe represent the earliest form of writing in the New World.


Mayflower Compact
Mayflower Compact

The Mayflower Compact set out rules for self-governance for the English settlers who traveled to Colonial America aboard the Mayflower ship in 1620. Of the 102 passengers aboard the Mayflower only 41 were Pilgrims. It was this minority body that established the rules for which they tried to force on all. The majority of passengers disagreed with and fought against the compact for many years–a rough start to American democracy. The document was signed by the 41 pilgrims, non of the other white male adults called “strangers” by the pilgrims signed it. 

Mike Prestwood Note: One of the Pilgrims and signers of the Mayflower Compact was my direct ancestor Richard Warren (my 10th great grandpa on my mom’s mom side).

Homann-Rudisill Note: My wife Lisa Jane Unsicker is a direct descendent of 4 Mayflower passengers John Tilley, his wife, and daughter are direct ancestors. Also, John Howland, the future husband of 13 year old Elizabeth Tilley is also a direct ancestor of Lisa’s.

Book: The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution
Book: The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution

In 1644, Williams published The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution. Historians consider it his most famous work. He wrote Bloudy after arriving in London in midsummer 1643. It was on sale by July 15, 1644. It is a fierce attack on religious and political intolerance in both Old England and New. He advocated for free thought and belief because he felt that punishing those that did not believe was not part of his faith and government should be separate from religion. Roger advocated for a “hedge or wall of Separation between the Garden of the Church and the Wilderness of the world” in order to keep the church pure. His ideas raised questions and challenges but his ideas endured over time.

Book: Christenings make not Christians

Subtitle: A Briefe Discourse concerning that name Heathen

Not only did Roger Williams write the first book on the local native americans, he supported them in ways that were 400 years ahead of his time.

In 1645 Roger Williams wrote this small 25 page book. In it he documented that the English and Dutch refer to native americans as heathens and not always just to mean non-christians.

The Great Quaker Debates!
The Great Quaker Debates!

The Great Quaker Debates occurred in 1672 on Aug 9, 10, 12, and 17 of August. Although Roger Williams welcomed those with differing opinions, he relished in the opportunity to present his viewpoint. Famously, in 1672 at the age of about 69 or 70, he rowed alone, all night from Providence to Newport to debate the Quakers at 9AM. The first session of the debate was held on the 9th, 10th, and 12th of August 1672 in Newport. His brother Robert was then a school master at Newport and helped with the debates. On the 17th, the debate continued one more day in Providence. Many attended both sessions. Roger presented 14 arguments during the debate.

Four years later he published a book on the debates titled, “George Fox Digg’d out of his Burrowes”.


Switch To: Africa & Middle East | The Americas | Asia | Europe-Mediterranean | Oceana-Australasia

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