What were communities like in America before European colonization?

Humans are thought to have come to the North American continent from the "old" world from about 15,000 to 30,000 BCE. Paleo-Indians followed mega-fauna animals, like the woolly mammoth, for ages. After the decline of the ice-age animals, they started to settle and build communities based on agriculture. Some continued to be hunter gathers like the tribes on the plains, but most settled into communities that would equal those any where in the world. These communities would be called the Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian cultures of moundbuilders.

The Moundbuilding culture was vast and complex, and it was consider equal to Mayan, Aztec and Incan civilizations. For each moundbuilder chiefdom, populations varied from 100,000 to no more than a dozen. The moundbuilders, similar to the Nazca lines in South America, created shapes and animals that could be seen from the sky. The moundbuilders used what was readily available to them-- the earthen soil and the woods. Although many believe that the societies were a "stone age" culture, evidence of copper engravings have been found making them a "Copper Age" culture. Pottery was used to store prepared food making larger cities viable.

One of the largest Native American cities was Cahokia. It was located near present day St. Louis Missouri. Cahokia was larger than London, England in the 1400s with an high end estimate of 100,000. The homes were typically made of logs and thatched roofs of long blades of grass. Some of the larger homes stood 3 to 5 stories. Some historians believe the Mondbuilders had cities located through out the Eastern half of the United States. Most cities and villages were located on waterways (considered their "interstates") and was the easiest means of transportation via canoes which could be any where from a few feet to 100 feet long. Trade among various communities was extensive as evidence suggests sea shells from the Gulf of Mexico made it as far as the great lakes region and beyond.

Agriculture was based on the main three: Maize (corn), Squash, and Beans. Their diet also consisted of nuts, berries, and meats from various wild animals like fish, deer and buffalo. The dog was the main domesticated animal and served as a beast of burden and alerted communities of danger. Although the wheel was known in Central America, it wasn't developed enough in the New World.

The Moundbuilder's religion is believed to have centered around the sun. The sun was considered to be the channel to god and camp fires were a direct link to the sun as a representative.

Language also varied from each city, community, and village centers. There is no evidence of a developed written language although symbols and drawings are found on pottery, stone disks, badly detoriated wooden figures, and sea shells. These symbols and drawings may have served as informational stores rather than decrorative purposes.

After the decline of these complex ceremonial centers, larger groups divided and became many of the tribes we know today.