It was about 13,000 years ago that the First Americans, people who came from Asia, worked their way past the melting glaciers of the last Ice Age and began spreading across North, Central, and South America – lands previously unscarred by humans and teeming with mammoths, giant bison, saber-toothed tigers, and beavers the size of a cow. But it’s only recently that scientists have pieced together the elusive, compelling saga of that epic migration. And the more we learn about them, the more we must marvel at the courage, adaptability, enterprise, and enduring resilience of the First Americans.
Most of us know little about the early Americans and the wonders they achieved. Some of them learned to hunt forty-ton whales from dugout canoes; others built a vast system of canals that irrigated crops on tens of thousands of acres. Fully a thousand years before the pyramids at Giza went up, people on the Mississippi River were constructing even larger pyramidal earthworks, and later, a thousand miles to the north, others built a city that would remain the largest in North America until after the Revolutionary War. In the cradle of civilization that evolved in Central America, the Olmecs, Mayans, and Aztecs built complex cultures and dazzling cities whose monumental structures and works of art still have the power to awe and inspire.
This book describes the peopling of North and Central America and examine their amazing societies – the farmers and cliff-dwellers of the Southwest United States, the mound-builders of the Midwest, the Northwest Coast whale-hunters with their potlatches and totem poles, and the mighty, gods-driven cultures of Mesoamerica. It is a saga as breathtaking as it is surprising.