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American History

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The history of the Americas is the collective history of the American landmass, which includes North and South America, as well as Central America and the Caribbean. It begins with people migrating to these areas from Asia during the height of an Ice Age. These groups are generally believed to have been isolated from peoples of the "Old World" until the coming of Europeans in the 10th and 15th centuries.

The ancestors of today's American Indigenous peoples are Paleo-Indians; they were hunter-gatherers who migrated into North America. The most popular theory asserts that migrants came to the Americas via the Bering Land Bridge, Beringia, the land mass covered by the cold ocean waters in the Bering Strait. Small lithic stage peoples followed now-extinct megafauna like bison, mammoth, and caribou, thus gaining the nickname big-game hunters. Groups of people may also have traveled into North America on shelf or sheet ice along the northern Pacific coast.

Cultural traits brought by the first immigrants later evolved and spawned such cultures as Iroquois on North America and Pirahã of South America. These cultures later developed into civilizations. In many cases, these cultures expanded at a later date than their Old World counterparts. Cultures that may be considered advanced or civilized include: Norte Chico, Cahokia, Zapotec, Toltec, Olmec, Maya, Aztec, Purepecha, Chimor, Mixtec, Moche, Mississippian, Totonac, Teotihuacan, Huastec people, Tarascan, Izapa, Mazatec, and the Inca. The specifics of Paleo-Indian migration to and throughout the Americas, including the exact dates and routes traveled, are subject to ongoing research and discussion.[1] The traditional theory has been that these early migrants moved into the Beringia land bridge between eastern Siberia and present-day Alaska around 40,000 - 17,000 years ago, when sea levels were significantly lowered due to the Quaternary glaciation.[1][2] These people are believed to have followed herds of now-extinct pleistocene megafauna along ice-free corridors that stretched between the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheets.[3] Another route proposed is that, either on foot or using primitive boats, they migrated down the Pacific Northwest coast to South America.[4] Evidence of the latter would since have been covered by a sea level rise of a hundred meters following the last ice age.[5]



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