"A World Apart" begins to address the recurring themes of freedom, equality, and identity by examining America before 1492. A diverse array of indigenous peoples occupied the area that would eventually become the United States of America long before they had any sustained contact with Europeans. Over time, these Native Americans adapted to the various ecosystems in which they lived and developed distinct cultures. Not all cultures survived until the late fifteenth century, but there is a lot to learn about and from them.
Researching Prehistoric Peoples
The experiences of Native Americans played a vital role in shaping America. How do experts reconstruct what life was like for indigenous peoples?
The primary source is, of course, archaeology, which is the only academic discipline which studies changes in human societies over very long periods of time. Another major source are the oral histories of Native Americans, passed down from generation to generation. The third source is historical records written by early European explorers. Another source people are using is linguistics. They’re looking at the history of Native American languages, and they’re also looking at Native American traditions because every Native American society had its own origin myths and tales."
—Brian Fagan, Professor of Anthropology, University of California at Santa Barbara
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