U.S. History: Part 1 Beginnings
When you were in elementary school, you probably learned the phrase, “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” This rhyme was a quick way for teachers to help students remember who “discovered” America. However, thousands of years before Christopher Columbus set foot on lands across the Pacific Ocean, migrants from Asia and possibly Africa were already well-established cultures.
How did people get to America?
Did you guess skateboards? No! Archaeologists (people who study human history through the excavation of sites and the analysis of artifacts and other physical remains) have debated how the earliest Americans made their way to the continent. There are three theories as to how this land was originally populated:
1. Land Bridge. The most popular and widely-believed theory is that the first people traveled by foot in search of food over the Beiring Strait from Asia.
Here’s a picture of the land bridge that used to connect Asia and North America.
These archaeologist found artifacts (spearheads, bones, skulls, etc.) to support their belief that Siberian hunters migrated to North America using this route. These brave people not only went into Alaska and Canada, but they kept moving all the way to South America.
In our beloved state of Washington, a startling discover was made in 1996: Kennewick Man. Two college students wading in the Columbia River in Kennewick, Washington, stumbled over a human skull. Gross, but exciting! They called the police who eventually called a forensic investigator. After study, they found out that this skull was the oldest complete skeleton in North America. Some researchers thought the skeleton originated in Africa or even Europe, which meant the original Bering Ice Bridge theory might not be the only way people traveled to America. This led to a debate over whether people might have come over to America somehow from the Pacific - perhaps on boats?
3. Native American Creation Myths. Native Americans believe their ancestors theories of early humans in North America. They believe in creationist myths.
Cherokee creation story
The earth is a great island floating in a sea of water, and suspended at each of the four cardinal points by a cord hanging down from the sky vault, which is of solid rock. When the world grows old and worn out, the people will die and the cords will break and let the earth sink down into the ocean, and all will be water again. The Indians are afraid of this.
When all was water, the animals were above in Gälûñ’lätï, beyond the arch; but it was very much crowded, and they were wanting more room. They wondered what was below the water, and at last Dâyuni’sï, “Beaver’s Grandchild,” the little Water-beetle, offered to go and see if it could learn. It darted in every direction over the surface of the water, but could find no firm place to rest. Then it dived to the bottom and came up with some soft mud, which began to grow and spread on every side until it became the island which we call the earth. It was afterward fastened to the sky with four cords, but no one remembers who did this.
At first the earth was flat and very soft and wet. The animals were anxious to get down, and sent out different birds to see if it was yet dry, but they found no place to alight and came back again to Gälûñ’lätï. At last it seemed to be time, and they sent out the Buzzard and told him to go and make ready for them. This was the Great Buzzard, the father of all the buzzards we see now. He flew all over the earth, low down near the ground, and it was still soft. When he reached the Cherokee country, he was very tired, and his wings began to flap and strike the ground, and wherever they struck the earth there was a valley, and where they turned up again there was a mountain. When the animals above saw this, they were afraid that the whole world would be mountains, so they called him back, but the Cherokee country remains full of mountains to this day.
When the earth was dry and the animals came down, it was still dark, so they got the sun and set it in a track to go every day across the island from east to west, just overhead. It was too hot this way, and Tsiska’gïlï’, the Red Crawfish, had his shell scorched a bright red, so that his meat was spoiled; and the Cherokee do not eat it. The conjurers put the sun another hand-breadth higher in the air, but it was still too hot. They raised it another time, and another, until it was seven handbreadths high and just under the sky arch. Then it was right, and they left it so. This is why the conjurers call the highest place Gûlkwâ’gine Di’gälûñ’lätiyûñ’, “the seventh height,” because it is seven hand-breadths above the earth. Every day the sun goes along under this arch, and returns at night on the upper side to the starting place.
There is another world under this, and it is like ours in everything–animals, plants, and people–save that the seasons are different. The streams that come down from the mountains are the trails by which we reach this underworld, and the springs at their heads are the doorways by which we enter, it, but to do this one must fast and, go to water and have one of the underground people for a guide. We know that the seasons in the underworld are different from ours, because the water in the springs is always warmer in winter and cooler in summer than the outer air.
When the animals and plants were first made–we do not know by whom–they were told to watch and keep awake for seven nights, just as young men now fast and keep awake when they pray to their medicine. They tried to do this, and nearly all were awake through the first night, but the next night several dropped off to sleep, and the third night others were asleep, and then others, until, on the seventh night, of all the animals only the owl, the panther, and one or two more were still awake. To these were given the power to see and to go about in the dark, and to make prey of the birds and animals which must sleep at night. Of the trees only the cedar, the pine, the spruce, the holly, and the laurel were awake to the end, and to them it was given to be always green and to be greatest for medicine, but to the others it was said: “Because you have not endured to the end you shall lose your, hair every winter.”
Men came after the animals and plants. At first there were only a brother and sister until he struck her with a fish and told her to multiply, and so it was. In seven days a child was born to her, and thereafter every seven days another, and they increased very fast until there was danger that the world could not keep them. Then it was made that a woman should have only one child in a year, and it has been so ever since.
W. Powell, Nineteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1897-1898, Part I (Washington: 1900), 239-240.
Even though the debate goes on, most archaeologists believe human first arrived around 10,000 - 15,000 years ago, give or take a few years. We call these people Paleo-Indians (The first people to settle North America).
What is the timeline for these early Americans?
I’m so glad you asked! Because the early Americans were hunter-gatherers and didn’t have a written language, it is difficult to know much about their culture. From artifacts, archeologists group early Americans by time periods rather than specific tribes.
|Name of Period||Time Period||Lifestyle||Claim to Fame|
|PALEO-INDIAN||15,000 - 10,000 BCE||Nomadic||Arrived via land bridge from Asia|
|ARCHAIC||8,000 - 1,000 BCE||Nomadic||Adapted to Ice Age ending|
|MISSISSIPIAN||1000 BC - 1000 AD||Sedentary||Developed societies, languages, farming|
|WOODLAND||1000 - 1600 AD||Sedentary||First contact with European explorers|
PALEO-INDIAN 18,000 BCE - 8,000 BCE (Paleo means “ancient”)
The earliest arrivals and their physical and cultural descendants, collectively called “Paleo-Indians” (meaning “ancient” Indians), appear to have occupied the Americas, including the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, for 10,000 to perhaps 40,000 years – a period of time longer than that for all the succeeding cultures combined. They left a minimal and fragmentary record of their lives. The search for evidence of Paleo-Indians compares to a hunt for ghosts in a dense fog.
Probably throughout their history, the Paleo-Indians moved as nomadic bands across the landscape in response to the rhythm of the seasons and the availability of resources. Carrying their belongings on their backs, they traveled by foot in extended families of perhaps two dozen individuals, including grandparents, descendants, in-laws and a few children. Over time, bands scattered widely, throughout the Americas. They took shelter where they could find it, sometimes in rocky depressions like Pendejo Cave. They could have built rudimentary brush and skin shelters. Undoubtedly, they often slept in the open. They clothed their bodies with animal skins and plant fibers. Some evidence suggests that, like contemporary Asian and European cultures, the Paleo-Indians may have sprinkled ground hematite – ochre-colored iron ore – over their dead before burial as part of some unknown funereal ritual.
For thousands of years, they survived by foraging, possibly without even spear points for hunting. They may have trapped or bludgeoned smaller game. Bands may have gathered to drive big game herds over cliffs, killing many of the animals in a single event. Opportunists, they preyed on newborn, crippled, wounded, sick and aging animals. They appropriated fresh predatory animal kills. They harvested, processed and cooked edible plant seeds, roots and fruits. They probably ate insects, including the larvae.
earlyman The Paleo-Indians made simple stone tools, using “flint knapping,” or stone chipping, techniques similar to those of ancient people in northeastern Siberia to shape raw flint and chert into crude chopping, cutting, gouging, hammering and scraping tools. They fashioned other crude tools, including pointed implements, from the bones of animals. They used flat milling stones to process plant foods, grinding seeds, for example, into flour. They made other tools and camp and personal gear from sources such as wood, plant fibers, mammoth and mastodon tusks, large animal horns and intestines, but most such artifacts have perished and disappeared over time.
At some point, maybe 12,000 or 15,000 years ago, the Paleo-Indians invented or borrowed (possibly from eastern Siberian cultures) the revolutionary idea of using spears with stone points in the hunt. Armed with tipped spears, the Paleo-Indians changed over time, from primarily foragers into primarily big game hunters, preying on the Ice Age mastodons, mammoths, long-horned bison, horses, camels and giant sloths. Simultaneously, they raised the craft of flint knapping to a new level, producing some of the most beautifully worked stone projectile points and tools in all of American prehistory. They often used flint from stone quarries hundreds of miles distant, presumably having acquired the raw flint or chert through trade. Spear points would become the Paleo-Indian big game hunting cultures’ signature artifact.
Likely, hunters often laid in wait near a lake or a bog for quarry to come to water. Seldom able to inflict a fatal first strike with spears, they would have used their weapons to wound a big animal like a mastodon or a mammoth, and they would have tracked and harried the failing animal, continuing to inflict wounds as opportunities arose until they finally brought their quarry down. A hunter probably threw his spear as a projectile or used it as a lance to drive it into an animal’s flesh. Conceivably, he used a device called a throwing stick, or atlatl, to hurl his spear with greater propulsive force. (We know with certainty that later prehistoric hunters used the atlatl.)
Dangerous business and hard work, killing a mastodon or a mammoth with a spear, but it would have yielded a high profit: abundant meat, skin, ivory, bone, sinew, gut. Like the historic Plains Indians who preyed on the modern buffalo, the Paleo-Indians wasted little of a big game animal’s carcass.
The spear points labeled as “Clovis” and “Folsom” rank among the most well known of Paleo-Indian artifacts. The Clovis points, approximately 2 _- to 5-inch long, lanceolate-shaped, with a concave base and partially grooved, or “fluted,” sides, were first discovered, in association with Ice Age animals, at the famous Paleo-Indian Blackwater Draw site in eastern New Mexico, a few miles south of the city of Clovis. Possibly the oldest of the known Paleo-Indian spear tips, the 12,000- to 15,000-year-old Clovis points have since been found not only throughout our western deserts but across the northern hemisphere. Folsom points, similar to the Clovis points but generally smaller and more exquisitely made, were first discovered, in association with Ice Age bison bones, in northeast New Mexico, near the small community of Folsom. About 10,000 years old, Folsom points have been found most frequently on the Great Plains, but they occur in our western deserts as well. My wife, working with an archaeological team out of Fort Bliss, found a Folsom point on the eastern flank of the Franklin Mountains in far west Texas some years ago.
Based on the spear points, the other artifacts, extinct big game associations, site distributions and other evidence, archaeologists have postulated that the Paleo-Indian bands wandered, not aimlessly over the landscape, but in annual circuits. Bands would time their moves to capitalize on the seasonal availability of game and edible plants and the need for winter shelter. Individuals owned little, no more than they could carry in a move. Bands interacted with neighboring bands, hunting, trading, intermarrying, gossiping. They maintained a broad, if slow, communications network as evidenced by the continent-wide distribution of similar spear points. They became master naturalists as a matter of survival, intimately acquainted with the seasons and the animal and plant life of their environment. They buried their friends and relatives with love and care. They changed slowly over thousands of years, like the Ice Age glaciers.
We may never be sure of when or how the Paleo-Indians came to the Americas or what routes they followed across the continents, for example, into southwestern America and northern Mexico. We can do little more than guess about such things as their beliefs, their spirituality, their celebrations, their rituals, their medicines, their mournings, their music, their dance, their band structures, their language, their family relationships or their child rearing. Artifacts seldom speak clearly to those dimensions of life. The Paleo-Indians, who finally faded from the American scene some 8000 to 9000 years ago, are likely to remain as elusive as shadows in the night in American archaeology. https://www.desertusa.com/ind1/du_peo_paleo.html
ARCHAIC 8,000 BC- 1,000 BCE
- Developed during the end of the Ice Age
- Sea levels rise, ice melts
- Frozen plains turn to grasslands and forests
- Large animals die off, smaller more abundant thrive
- Live in caves and pit houses
- Hunt and fish with better stone tools
- Lived in small groups
- Learned to grow corn (this was HUGE!)
- Populations start to grow due to easier way of living
The Eastern Woodlands Indians were native American tribes that settled in the region extending from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Mississippi River in the west and from Canada in the north to the Gulf of Mexico in the south. See the map for location of Woodland Indians.
The Woodland Indians can be divided into two groups: Iroquian speakers and Algonquian. The Iroquoian tribes included the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, and Huron. The Iroquoian tribes were primarily deer hunters but they also grew corn, squash, and beans, they gathered nuts and berries, and they fished.
The Algonquian speakers included the Abenaki, Chippewa (or Ojibwa), Delaware, Mohegans (or Mohicans), and Pequot. The Algonquian tribes also cultivated corn, beans, and squash. While the northerly tribes relied more heavily on hunting, the tribes that settled in the fertile region of the Ohio River Valley and southward through the Mississippi Delta (the Cherokee, Choctaw, Natchez, and Seminole) developed a farming and trading economy.
The Eastern Woodlands Indians traveled on foot and in birch-bark canoes. In the north, they wore deerskin clothing and they painted their faces and bodies. In the southern region, they wore little clothing and they often tattooed their bodies. The Eastern Woodlands Indians of the north lived predominately in dome-shaped wigwams (arched shelters made of a framework of poles and covered with bark, rush mats, or hides) and in long houses (multi-family lodges having pole frames and covered with elm shingles). The tribes in the south lived in wattle and daub houses (wooden framed houses covered with reed mats and plaster). The Eastern Woodlands Indians built walls and fences around villages for protection. Warfare sometimes broke out among the tribes. The Indians used bows and arrows as well as clubs to defend themselves and their lands.
The Eastern Woodlands tribes that lived along the Atlantic Coast were the first native Americans that had contact with Europeans. Friendships were made; alliances forged; land deals struck; and treaties signed. But as settlers in increasing numbers encroached on tribal lands, conflicts arose. These conflicts were between white settlers and the Indians and between Indians and other Indians, as native inhabitants took sides in the conflicts. The Huron and some Algonquian groups allied themselves with the French. The fierce Iroquois League (made up of the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and Seneca tribes) sided with the British. When the American colonies waged a battle for freedom from Great Britain, the American Revolution (1775–83) divided the tribes of the Iroquois League. All but the Oneida allied themselves with the British. In the 1800s many Eastern Woodlands tribes were forced off their native lands by the U.S. government and were settled in Oklahoma and other western states. The 1838–39 migration of the Cherokee Nation is known as the Trail of Tears because not only did the Indians reluctantly leave their homeland, but many died along the way.
Mississippian Native Americans (1000 to 1700 AD)
Although the Mississipian Indians didn’t invent mound building, they definitely brought it back into fashion. They are known for their mound building. Most Mississippian mounds are rectangular, flat-topped earthen platforms upon which temples or residences of chiefs were erected. Mounds could be found standing alone or in clusters with as many as 20 mounds. Mississippian platform mounds range in height from eight to almost 60 feet and are from 60 to as much as 770 feet in width at the base. Mississipian Indians created these structures both as burial grounds and as fortified structures to protect their homes. They also built fences and walls to fortify (protect) their towns.
Present-day view of a Mississippian mound
Cahokia: Origin of peoples in North America
Mississippian people were horticulturalists. They grew much of their food in small gardens using simple tools like stone axes, digging sticks, and fire. Corn, beans, squash, sunflowers, goosefoot, sumpweed, and other plants were cultivated. They also ate wild plants and animals, gathering nuts and fruits and hunting such game as deer, turkeys, and other small animals. Mississippian people spent much of their lives outdoors. Their houses were used mainly for shelter from inclement weather, sleeping in cold months, and storage. These were rectangular or circular pole structures; the poles were set in individual holes or in continuous trenches. Walls were made by weaving saplings and cane around the poles, and the outer surface of the walls was sometimes covered with sun-baked clay or daub. Roofs were covered with thatch, with a small hole left in the middle to allow smoke to escape. Inside the houses the hearth dominated the center of the living space. Low benches used for sleeping and storage ringed the outer walls, while short partitions sometimes divided this outer space into compartments. By today’s standards Mississippian houses were quite small, ranging from twelve feet to thirty feet on a side.
Life in the Americas before European explorers arrived could be summed up in one word: Diverse. Depending on where Native Americans lived, their customs and livelihoods varied from those around them. Let’s look at the regions Native Americans populated:
Meso and South America
Meso means “middle” and South means “south” :) We will start with the oldest known civilization called the Olmec. Some historians refer to the Olmec as the “mother culture”. The time period the Olmec lived in Central America was between 1200 BCE and 400 BCE.
The Olmec developed a system of writing using glyphs or symbols. With these glyphs, the Olmec transcribed their history using pictures and symbols painted and etched in walls and stone. Not much is known about this ancient culture, but one of the most striking legacies they left behind were enormous stone heads. The Olmec were polytheistic (belief in many gods). Their gods were natural gods related to rain, wind, earth, etc. The civilizations who followed the Olmec would inherit their worship of many gods, and be influenced by their art and stone creations.
That’s one big head!
The Maya empire was at it’s height around 300 CE to 900 CE. In southeast Mesoamerica, around current day present-day southern Mexico, Guatemala, western Honduras, El Salvador, and northern Belize, limestone was plentiful. They used limestone to build temples, pyramids, plazas, and courts for playing ball games. They also created calendars, practiced mathematics, and studied astronomy. The little historians know about the Maya are discovered from the architecture and art unearthed over thousands of years.
Tikal, located in present-day _____ was their largest city. Although initially researchers thought this was a peaceful society of priests and scribes, later evidence suggested the Maya participated in human sacrifice and torture.
This early society was successful in so many ways: creating societies, building temples, studying mathematics, creating a calendar, but the mysterious part of the Maya is how they disappeared. Although there are several theories as to why their empire declined (drought, warfare, overuse of resources), no one knows for sure.
Around 1200 AD, the Aztecs developed an enormously powerful empire starting in present-day Mexico City. The name of the center of their society was Tenochititlan (tay-nawch-teet-LAHN). Say that three time fast! The Aztecs were like the Romans in that they conquered the people around them and demanded they pay tribute. They traded with their neighbors and developed a vast system of roadways.
The Aztec society was fairly complex and confusing to present-day people. On the one hand, the Aztec showed evidence of sophistication. They wrote poetry, had mandatory schooling for children, created beautiful art, and developed an advanced system of writing and record-keeping. They even grew crops and developed the cultivation of chocolate. They must have had a serious sugar rush, because they were known for sacrificing young girls to appease their Gods. The men practiced polygamy (marrying many wives) and children could be sold into slavery.
Before European explorers arrived, this society was thriving and the city of Tenochititlan’s population numbered 300,000. While this civilization is familiarly known as the Aztec, their real name is actually Mexica.
About 200 years after the Aztec society began, the Inca
North American Native Americans
Examine the three maps below. Each have depicted regions of Native Americans in North America. Which do you think is the most accurate?
North America in 1491
By the late 1400s, North America was home to numerous civilizations and tribes, some of which were sizeable, dominating large swaths of land. More than two hundred languages were spoken, among hundreds of different tribes. It was as if each of today’s cities spoke its own language and had unique social rituals. Diversity abounded in this land. So did conflict.
Some Social Similarities of Native North AmericansDespite the wide variety of lifestyles developed by the pre-Columbian peoples, there were some broad general similarities among the tribes in North America during the late 1400s. Most of the tribes, for instance, were based on a clan system, in which a tribe was divided into a number of large family groups. They were also mostly matrilineal, meaning that children typically followed the clan of their mother and that a man, when married, moved into the clan of his wife. Matrilineal societies usually develop when agriculture is the primary food source for a society. In these societies women are in charge of farming (Europeans were universally surprised to see women working in the fields). Thus Indian women maintained the tribe’s social institutions while men were hunting, fishing, or off to war. This system was by no means universal in Native North America, but it does signify a level of sexual equality absent from Europe at the time. Indeed, women were just as likely as men to wield political power in some of these societies.
The Pacific Northwest
Let’s start with the best region: The Pacific Northwest! Holla! You may remember from 7th grade the history of Pacific Northwest Native Americans. So I will briefly remind you of the basics:
As you can see from the map above, there are many tribes which constitute the Pacific coastal natives. To lump everyone together would be like saying North Tapps students are exactly like Mount Baker and Buckley students. Each tribe had their own cultures and traditions, clothing and tools. Some similarities include the following:
Potlatches: Most native tribes held ceremonies called potlatches. These were celebrations in which the chief would give valuable gifts to visiting peoples. By accepting the gifts, the visitors showed their respect for the chief’s authority. Great feasts also accompanied the potlatches, again to show the wealth of certain tribes or groups of tribes.
Totems: To honor their animal spirt gods, Pacific tribes carved images or totems into large trees and decorated the carvings with colorful ink.
Main food source: Fish! The Pacifc Indians were relatively wealthy in that the food sources were bountiful (lots of food!). They primarily ate salmon but also hunted sea otters and whales.
Climate: The climate as we know is temperate in the Northwest. Because people didn’t need to survive brutally harsh winters or crippling droughts, the populations grew and thrived and could be sedentary rather than nomadic to follow food sources.
Tribes: Tlingit, Nootka, Skokomish, Salish
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The West and Southwest
You may get tired of all the rain we receive, but rainfall was part of the reason it was more challenging to survive in the western and southwestern parts of North America. While coastal tribes fished like Pacific Indians, they had to adapt to the dry climate. This meant trapping food, usually small animals like rabbits and lizards.
Tribes in the area: Pueblo, Apache, Navajo, Modoc, Nez Perce, Flathead, Ute, Shoshone
Main Food Sources: Rabbit, fish, maize
Celebrations: The Pueblo Indians celebrated their gods in round ceremonial rooms called kivas.
League of the Iroquois: Mohawk (People of the Flint), Oneidas (People of the Stone), Onondagas (People of the Mountain), Cayugas (People at the Landing), and Senecas (Great Hill People).
Most famous chief: Hiawatha. Hiawatha was a chief who recognized that the disparate tribes needed to band together to become prosperous rather than continual warfare. He organized the League of the Iroquois and spoke these words to solidify their union:
"We bind ourselves together by taking hold of each other’s hands so firmly and forming a circle so strong that if a tree should fall upon it, it could not share nor break it, so that our people and grandchildren shall remain in the circle in security, peace and happiness.”
What was happening in the Middle East, Africa and Europe?
Around 610 A.D., in Mecca, which is located in Saudi Arabia, a new religion was born: Islam. Muhammed, the leader of this new religion, recorded having a vision from God or Allah. Much like Christianity, Islam shifted people from being polytheistic (belief in many gods) to monotheistic (belief in one god).
The Koran is the official holy book of Islam. A follower of Islam is called a Muslim. Islam is based on five tenets or beliefs:
In the Islamic faith, Muslims are expected to fulfill five fundamental acts of worship. The Five Pillars of Worship are the basic acts involved in being a believing and practicing Muslim.
5 Tenets of Islam
Shahada: A person becomes a Muslim by making the basic statement of testimony or witness. “I testify that there is no God but God, and I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of God.”
Salat: Muslims believe in praying to God five times a day. They are to face Mecca wherever they are and can take different forms of physical positions including touching one’s forehead to the ground.
Zakat: Muslims believe in tithing (giving money to religious leaders). Some Muslims donate 10% of their income to their religion.
Saum: Muslims engage in fasting once a year during the ninth month (Ramadan). Muslims are not supposed to eat or drink during this time period (from dawn to dusk only) and use this time of spiritual renewal.
Hajj: At least once in his or her life, if physically and financially able, each Muslim makes the pilgrimage to Mecca during the twelfth Muslim month.
Muhammed traveled and shared his beliefs on the Arabian peninsula and gathered many followers. Islam became popular during the Middle Ages and spread throughout the middle east and into Europe. This caused friction with the Catholic Church who had dominated much of Europe at the time.
Africans during the 16th century was a lot like the Americas in that they were widely diverse and tribal in nature. They also shared similar religious views in that they believed in a supreme god with lesser gods also playing a role. While Islam was spread to parts of Africa, most Africans were spiritual in nature rather than affiliated with Christianity or Islam.
Africa had extensive trading routes during this time and plentiful gold and natural resources. Ghana and Mali were two of the prominent
The Middle Ages was a pretty brutal time in Europe. Think Game of Thrones without any supernatural stuff and likely more bloody (ugh!). During this time, feudalism emerged as the form of government. Feudalism is a system of government based on relationships of power. In this system, people called vassals pledged their loyalty to the king in exchange for land.
Watch this video which is a quick overview of feudalism:
The Catholic Church was a powerful influence on life in Europe during the Middle Ages. The church owned land over much of Europe and the leaders of the church (priests, bishops, the Pope) were very influential over the people and rulers of the day. The church was the center of town life as people attended services not only on Saturday and Sunday, but also during the week. It was common for people to donate 1/10 of their income to the Catholic Church. This process is called tithing (giving part of your income to a religious institution).
The church spent money building cathedrals like Notre Dame in Paris, France. Laborers would often work 7 days a week with low to no pay to create these churches. The men who designed the churches frequently did not live to see them completed as it took years lots of money to construct. Monasteries were placed men went to devote their lives to God. They gave up all worldly belongings and worked for the church as scribes making copies of the Bible, recording history, tending the grounds, and even making beer! Women who wanted to devote their lives to god became nuns and lived in convents.
As mentioned earlier, Muslims were encroaching on Christian-held land. The Vatican, capital of the Catholic Church in Rome, began a series of Crusades in order to reclaim the land previous dominated by the Catholic Church.
Europeans began to trade with others creating extensive trade routes which carried goods, ideas, and disease. The new concept of mercantilism emerged. This system meant trading with various people in a vast network. Many people profited because more goods were available to be purchased.
The Black Death
Feudalism brought some stability and trading routes were developed, but in the 1300s, the Black Plague aka “The Black Death” swept across Europe killing an estimated 40-60% of the population. This plague destroyed much of the wealth and livelihood of Europeans.
The decline of feudalism
The decline of Catholic Europe
Europe in 1492
Leif Ericsson: Leif was one of the best-known Viking sailors from Scandanavia.
This dude has a complicated history.