America Before Columbus

93 minutes 8.4/10 based on 12 votes

History books traditionally depict the pre-Columbus Americas as a pristine wilderness where small native villages lived in harmony with nature. But scientific evidence tells a very different story: When Columbus stepped ashore in 1492, millions of people were already living there.

Columbus found Cuba, though a few years later the sea explorer Amerigo Vespucci found the continent of (south) America. After Amerigo puplished his exploring finds, Martin Waldseemüller dubbed the new continent America; after the Italian explorer.

America wasn’t exactly a “New World,” but a very old one whose inhabitants had built a vast infrastructure of cities, orchards, canals and causeways.

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  • Matty

    I thoroughly enjoyed this. Very entertaining and educational, what more could you ask for.

  • Kees

    Interesting documentary which is educational and has great scenes. It focusses on something which hasn’t been told of that many in a documentary about the New world: the plants and animals both native and brought from the Old world.

  • Columbus wasn’t actually the first to discover America, the Vikings got there before him. According the Viking Saga’s, Leif Ericsson found he New World back in1000 AD, much of it has been confirmed by archeologists, he stated;

    “Now sailed they thence into the open sea with a northeast wind, and were two days at sea before they saw land, and they sailed thither and came to an island which lay to the eastward of the land, and went up there and looked round them in good weather, and observed that there was dew upon the grass.

    And it so happened that they touched the dew with their hands, and raised the fingers to the mouth, and they thought that they had never before tasted anything so sweet. After that they went to the ship and sailed into a sound which lay between the island and a promontory which ran out to the eastward of the land, and then steered westward past the promontory. It was very shallow at ebb tide, and their ship stood up so that it was far to see from the ship to the water.

    But so much did they desire to land that they did not give themselves time to wait until the water again rose under their ship, but ran at once on shore at a place where a river flows out of a lake. But so soon as the waters rose up under the ship, then took the boats, and rowed to the ship, and floated it up the river, and thence into the lake, and there cast anchor, and brought up from the ship their skin cots, and made there booths”.

    http://www.primarysourcebook.com/medieval/the-viking-discovery-of-america

  • Deep Reflection

    The thesis of this documentary is that environmental degradation in Europe ’causes’ the colonisation of the Americas. The case is not well made and the argument is totally unpersuasive. The population of England in the C15th was under 1 million people. There are about 70 million in the UK today and these islands are certainly not unsustainable in the same way that places like the Chaco Canyon became unsustainable for human life. To suggest that the situation in C15th Britain (and Europe as a whole) would drive anyone to colonisation is flatly ridiculous. Colonisation was not a reponse to environmental degradation. Whilst environmental issues may have had some impact on these events they can hardly be described as major causes. I am an anthropologist and when discussing prehistory and attempting to understand developments over thousands or millions of years we anthropologists will make arguments about adaptation in changing environments but this technique is of limited use for understanding historical events. For example, understanding the emergence of agriculture or the development of human settlements are processes which are affected by environmental conditions but when we are trying to understand what happened in a specific situation (e.g. the domestication of goats in the Middle East) then we have to start combining environmental data with other information (e.g. artefacts recovered through excavations) and thus come to some understanding of the mutual role of environment, culture, and historical specificity to attempt to give a coherent and persuasive account of how events have transpired (e.g. how goats were domesticated in specific geographical regions and how such developments play into the larger theoretical questions such as how did agriculture arise and what relationship does this have to civilisation). If we have to combine environmental data with other information in order to understand something which took thousands of years (e.g. domestication of plants and animals in the Middle East) then we certainly have to combine environmental information with other data to explain processes which took a mere few hundred years or less (e.g. the colonisation of the Americas). This is a pretty documentary with nice shots of wild life but it is intellectually more or less worthless.

    • Steve Lloyd

      There is no anthropologist with the name “Deep Reflection,” thus this opinion is, as you say, “worthless” – aside from its numerous misstatements of fact and logic. The documentary is about pre-invasion America, not the bogus “thesis” you posit, etc. etc. etc. But nice try.

    • clinton24

      yes! colonisation is the result of people feeling the pressure of land resources bieng taken or destroyed by people either through farming or resource depletion.

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