The Cultural Evolution Of American Indian Groups

The cultural evolution of the American indigenous groups went through several stages throughout history, beginning at the time when it is believed that they arrived in America and concluding with the arrival of the Spanish to the continent.

The timing and form of how human beings arrived on the American continent is, to this day, a matter of debate within the scientific community worldwide.

Indian cultural minority

However, the point where everyone seems to agree almost unanimously is that humans migrated to this continent from Asia, crossing the Bering Strait in search of food and following animal migrations.

The migrations of these first groups led them to move throughout the entire continent. When the European settlers arrived, they encountered indigenous groups that inhabited from northern Canada to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego in Argentina.

It is important to note that, thanks to the diversity of indigenous groups, there was also cultural diversity.

Not all groups reached the same level of development and only some stand out for having developed great civilizations, such as the Incas, Mayas, Chibchas and Aztecs.

Different stages of indigenous cultural evolution

Lithic or Paleoindian Stage

All the information collected on this time comes from archaeological findings that indicate that the first migrations of indigenous people to American territory occurred between 40,000 and 7,000 BC.

At this time, man was a nomadic being, that is, he did not inhabit any place permanently or permanently, and lived on what he could hunt or gather.

During this period, the man in America had to deal with adverse climatic conditions, large areas of rocky land and a wild nature, full of large animals such as bison and mammoths.

For this reason, it was common for them to find refuge in caves and to make weapons and tools with stone, such as spear points and macerators.

Throughout the Paleoindian, the inhabitants of America managed to move from the north to Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia, populating the entire continent with their descendants.

This nomadic and exploring period ended with the emergence of agricultural practices.

Characteristics of the indigenous groups of the Paleoindio

The indigenous groups of this historical period were characterized by the following aspects:

– They lived in small nomadic groups.

– They were engaged in fishing, hunting and gathering.

– They inhabited caves and small rustic huts.

– They made rustic tools and weapons with bones, stones and wood.

– They could get fire.

– They believed in the forces of nature.

– They knew shamanic techniques for curing diseases

Archaic or Proto-agricultural Stage

Olmec agriculture altarpiece

The beginning of this period is counted in the year 7,000 BC, with the appearance of agriculture; ending approximately between 1,500 and 500 BC with the appearance of the first villages.

During this stage, the indigenous groups of America developed instruments to work the land, they also developed ceramic pieces, textiles and baskets.

With the origin of agriculture, the diet of the indigenous tribes of America changed and became richer in the consumption of fruits and vegetables.

This was possible thanks to the acquisition of knowledge about the reproduction of different types of plant species. During this period, man also learned to domesticate some species of animals.

In America, the most popular plant and animal species during this period were corn, chicken, alpaca , llama, guinea pig, and turkey. The dog appears at this time as a domestic animal for companionship and in the service of human beings.

During this period, the dependence of human beings on the cultivated plant species is evidenced, since these allowed a nutritious and regulated diet.

This is how indigenous populations began to increase in size and specialized in the cultivation of certain inputs according to the area they inhabited (Diaz, 2013).

Preclassic Period

materials cultures mesoamerica

During the Archaic Stage, there was a moment of more accelerated development known as the Preclassic Period, which took place between approximately 1,500 and 300 BC. At this time sedentarism appears and the first villages are created.

The development of new techniques to work clay, natural fibers and animal and vegetable inputs also took place during this historical moment.

A particular characteristic of this historical moment is that the evolution of the most important tribes occurred in a relatively homogeneous way, giving way to the appearance of two cultural groups of greater importance in America: that of Mesoamerica and that of the Central Andes.

Characteristics of the indigenous groups of the Precásico

The indigenous groups of this historical period were characterized by the following aspects:

– They were semi-nomads.

– They develop and perfect agricultural techniques, such as irrigation and the cultivation of different plant species.

– They lived in large groups made up of families, reaching several hundred people.

– They develop the first temples of religious worship.

Advanced Agricultural Stage

It begins in 500 BC with the appearance of the first settlements and villages and continues until the arrival of the Spanish in America.

The most representative indigenous groups for this time were those of Mesoamerica in Mexico (Mayas), those of Central America (Aztecs), and those of the Andean Region (Incas).

During this period, indigenous groups evolved the techniques of intensive agriculture, with the invention of terraces and the use of fertilizers and irrigation systems.

On the other hand, they became great herders of domesticated mammal species, consumed within their diet and used as pack animals.

The first cities and states appear, also emerging a hierarchical social division of classes within cities. This is possible thanks to the fact that the peoples are already sedentary and the individuals that make them up are in charge of a trade or task.

The exploratory missions with a view to conquering other tribes appear at this historical moment in America. In the same way, the great states begin to develop and strengthen their military power.

To solve communication problems related to distance, the mail is invented. Also, advances in the architectural development of the communities are recognized, such as those seen to this day in Teotihuacán (Mexico) and Machu Picchu (Peru). Weaving and pottery work is common and highly developed.


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  2. Diaz, JA (May 25, 2013). Essay Club. Obtained from Cultural Evolution Of American Indian Groups:
  3. Guitian, E. (October 21, 2009). New Cidadania. Obtained from Cultural evolution of the indigenous Venezuelans:
  4. Jriver, I. (27 of 10 of 2013). My Notes on Social Studies. Reference material. Obtained from Cultural Evolution of the American Indian:
  5. (September 25, 2012). Lormaster’s blog. Obtained from cultural stages of America:

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