Ancient Civilizations of North America

Watch Ancient Civilizations of North America

  • 2018
  • 1 Season

Most of what we’ve been taught about the native cultures of North America came from reports authored by the conquerors and colonizers who destroyed them. Professor Edwin Barnhart, Director of the Maya Exploration Center, reveals the astounding true accomplishments of these ancient cultures - vibrant cities, agriculture, art, large-scale earthen pyramids, and more.

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The Iroquois and Algonquians before Contact
24. The Iroquois and Algonquians before Contact
June 22, 2018
At the time of European contact, two main groups existed in the northeast - the hunter-gatherer Algonquian and the agrarian Iroquois. Delve into how the Iroquois created the first North American democracy as a solution to their increasing internal conflicts. Today, we know much of the U.S. Constitution is modeled on the Iroquois' "Great League of Peace" and its 117 articles of confederation.
The Iroquois and Algonquians before Contact
24. The Iroquois and Algonquians before Contact
June 22, 2018
At the time of European contact, two main groups existed in the northeast - the hunter-gatherer Algonquian and the agrarian Iroquois. Delve into how the Iroquois created the first North American democracy as a solution to their increasing internal conflicts. Today, we know much of the U.S. Constitution is modeled on the Iroquois' "Great League of Peace" and its 117 articles of confederation.
Late Period Cultures of the Great Plains
23. Late Period Cultures of the Great Plains
June 22, 2018
The peoples of the Great Plains were broadly divided into the bison hunters in the west and the semi-sedentary farmers in the east. But with the European introduction of the horse, gun, and new diseases, you will shift your attention to how each of five main culture areas began to transform and how these changes shaped the homogenized, oversimplified view of American Indian cultures.
Late Period Cultures of the Great Plains
23. Late Period Cultures of the Great Plains
June 22, 2018
The peoples of the Great Plains were broadly divided into the bison hunters in the west and the semi-sedentary farmers in the east. But with the European introduction of the horse, gun, and new diseases, you will shift your attention to how each of five main culture areas began to transform and how these changes shaped the homogenized, oversimplified view of American Indian cultures.
Late Period Cultures of the Pacific Coast
22. Late Period Cultures of the Pacific Coast
June 22, 2018
From southern California to Alaska, witness a vast array of complex hunter-gatherer cultures that thrived along the Pacific Coast for centuries before European contact. In this most densely populated area of the continent, peoples developed highly stratified societies, sophisticated systems of resource distribution and trade, advanced methods of food storage, and unique artwork.
Late Period Cultures of the Pacific Coast
22. Late Period Cultures of the Pacific Coast
June 22, 2018
From southern California to Alaska, witness a vast array of complex hunter-gatherer cultures that thrived along the Pacific Coast for centuries before European contact. In this most densely populated area of the continent, peoples developed highly stratified societies, sophisticated systems of resource distribution and trade, advanced methods of food storage, and unique artwork.
The Periphery of the Ancient Southwest
21. The Periphery of the Ancient Southwest
June 22, 2018
As you delve further into the ancient Southwest, you will see why the ancient farming cultures of the region did not spread into surrounding areas where farming was either unnecessary or impossible. Instead, nearby groups lived a more nomadic life, relying on hunting and gathering, and minimal occasional farming. Over time, each group developed its unique artwork.
The Periphery of the Ancient Southwest
21. The Periphery of the Ancient Southwest
June 22, 2018
As you delve further into the ancient Southwest, you will see why the ancient farming cultures of the region did not spread into surrounding areas where farming was either unnecessary or impossible. Instead, nearby groups lived a more nomadic life, relying on hunting and gathering, and minimal occasional farming. Over time, each group developed its unique artwork.
Archaeoastronomy in the Ancient Southwest
20. Archaeoastronomy in the Ancient Southwest
June 22, 2018
The people of the ancient Southwest were skilled astronomers, incorporating astronomical alignments in their architecture with impressive displays of light and shadow. Learn how discoveries of the Sun Dagger and the Chimney Rock lunar observatory - as well as the alignment of Great Houses miles apart along lunar maximum lines - could help reveal the true purpose of Chaco Canyon.
Archaeoastronomy in the Ancient Southwest
20. Archaeoastronomy in the Ancient Southwest
June 22, 2018
The people of the ancient Southwest were skilled astronomers, incorporating astronomical alignments in their architecture with impressive displays of light and shadow. Learn how discoveries of the Sun Dagger and the Chimney Rock lunar observatory - as well as the alignment of Great Houses miles apart along lunar maximum lines - could help reveal the true purpose of Chaco Canyon.
The Chaco Phenomenon
19. The Chaco Phenomenon
June 22, 2018
Chaco Canyon contains the most sophisticated architecture ever built in ancient North America - 14 Great Houses, four Great Kivas, hundreds of smaller settlements, an extensive road system, and a massive trade network. But who led these great building projects? And why do we find so little evidence of human habitation in what seems to be a major center of culture? Answer these questions and more.
The Chaco Phenomenon
19. The Chaco Phenomenon
June 22, 2018
Chaco Canyon contains the most sophisticated architecture ever built in ancient North America - 14 Great Houses, four Great Kivas, hundreds of smaller settlements, an extensive road system, and a massive trade network. But who led these great building projects? And why do we find so little evidence of human habitation in what seems to be a major center of culture? Answer these questions and more.
The Ancestral Pueblo
18. The Ancestral Pueblo
June 22, 2018
The dominant culture of the southwest was the Ancestral Pueblo. For the past 1,300 years, their settlements have exhibited an apartment-like room block pattern, from small farmsteads to cities with thousands of people. Examine how both the architecture and the short lifespans of earlier villages reflected the reality of the area's scarce resource base.
The Ancestral Pueblo
18. The Ancestral Pueblo
June 22, 2018
The dominant culture of the southwest was the Ancestral Pueblo. For the past 1,300 years, their settlements have exhibited an apartment-like room block pattern, from small farmsteads to cities with thousands of people. Examine how both the architecture and the short lifespans of earlier villages reflected the reality of the area's scarce resource base.
The Hohokam: Masters of the Desert
17. The Hohokam: Masters of the Desert
June 22, 2018
Learn about the Hohokam, a people who made beautiful art, employed cooperative decision making with strong centralized leadership, and developed extensive public architecture. But see why their real claim to fame was building more than 700 miles of sophisticated irrigation canals, segments of which are still visible today.
The Hohokam: Masters of the Desert
17. The Hohokam: Masters of the Desert
June 22, 2018
Learn about the Hohokam, a people who made beautiful art, employed cooperative decision making with strong centralized leadership, and developed extensive public architecture. But see why their real claim to fame was building more than 700 miles of sophisticated irrigation canals, segments of which are still visible today.
The Mogollon Culture
16. The Mogollon Culture
June 22, 2018
As the Mogollon people increased reliance on agriculture, the size and density of their villages also grew, the largest having more than 100 pit houses arranged around multiple kivas. Take a look at how, while neighboring cultures were still experimenting with geometric designs, the Mogollon painted sophisticated scenes of animals, humans, and supernatural creatures.
The Mogollon Culture
16. The Mogollon Culture
June 22, 2018
As the Mogollon people increased reliance on agriculture, the size and density of their villages also grew, the largest having more than 100 pit houses arranged around multiple kivas. Take a look at how, while neighboring cultures were still experimenting with geometric designs, the Mogollon painted sophisticated scenes of animals, humans, and supernatural creatures.
The Basketmaker Culture
15. The Basketmaker Culture
June 22, 2018
Once natural selection produced a strain of drought-resistant corn, the peoples of the desert gave up their nomadic existence and began to build more permanent structures. Examine the first sedentary cultures of the American Southwest and understand why baskets significantly increased in importance as the only portable storage solution before the advent of pottery.
The Basketmaker Culture
15. The Basketmaker Culture
June 22, 2018
Once natural selection produced a strain of drought-resistant corn, the peoples of the desert gave up their nomadic existence and began to build more permanent structures. Examine the first sedentary cultures of the American Southwest and understand why baskets significantly increased in importance as the only portable storage solution before the advent of pottery.
The Ancient Southwest: Discovering Diversity
14. The Ancient Southwest: Discovering Diversity
June 22, 2018
Uncover what archaeology has revealed about the ancient peoples of the southwestern deserts. Survey the variety of strategies they used depending on their specific locale and how they developed into multiple distinct, but not isolated, cultures. See why today we recognize three core, and two peripheral, ancient cultures of the area.
The Ancient Southwest: Discovering Diversity
14. The Ancient Southwest: Discovering Diversity
June 22, 2018
Uncover what archaeology has revealed about the ancient peoples of the southwestern deserts. Survey the variety of strategies they used depending on their specific locale and how they developed into multiple distinct, but not isolated, cultures. See why today we recognize three core, and two peripheral, ancient cultures of the area.
De Soto versus the Mississippians
13. De Soto versus the Mississippians
June 22, 2018
In 1539, Hernando de Soto of Spain landed seven ships with 600 men and hundreds of animals in present-day Florida. Follow his fruitless search for another Inca or Aztec Empire, as he instead encounters hundreds of Mississippian cities through which he led a three-year reign of terror across the land - looting, raping, disfiguring, murdering, and enslaving native peoples by the thousands.
De Soto versus the Mississippians
13. De Soto versus the Mississippians
June 22, 2018
In 1539, Hernando de Soto of Spain landed seven ships with 600 men and hundreds of animals in present-day Florida. Follow his fruitless search for another Inca or Aztec Empire, as he instead encounters hundreds of Mississippian cities through which he led a three-year reign of terror across the land - looting, raping, disfiguring, murdering, and enslaving native peoples by the thousands.
The Wider Mississippian World
12. The Wider Mississippian World
June 22, 2018
After the fall of Cahokia, witness how Mississippian civilization flourished across eastern North America with tens of thousands of pyramid-building communities and a population in the millions. Look at the ways they were connected through their commonly held belief in a three-tiered world. Major sites like Spiro, Moundville, and Etowah all faded out just around 100 years before European contact.
The Wider Mississippian World
12. The Wider Mississippian World
June 22, 2018
After the fall of Cahokia, witness how Mississippian civilization flourished across eastern North America with tens of thousands of pyramid-building communities and a population in the millions. Look at the ways they were connected through their commonly held belief in a three-tiered world. Major sites like Spiro, Moundville, and Etowah all faded out just around 100 years before European contact.
The Mississippian City of Cahokia
11. The Mississippian City of Cahokia
June 22, 2018
Covering more than 3,000 acres and with an associated population of about 50,000, understand why Cahokia, the largest ancient city in what is now the U.S. and Canada, became a model for the region. Its fascinating and complex life included stratified social organization, burial mounds, sophisticated artwork, woodhenges to mark the solstices and equinoxes - and ritual human sacrifice.
The Mississippian City of Cahokia
11. The Mississippian City of Cahokia
June 22, 2018
Covering more than 3,000 acres and with an associated population of about 50,000, understand why Cahokia, the largest ancient city in what is now the U.S. and Canada, became a model for the region. Its fascinating and complex life included stratified social organization, burial mounds, sophisticated artwork, woodhenges to mark the solstices and equinoxes - and ritual human sacrifice.
The Origins of Mississippian Culture
10. The Origins of Mississippian Culture
June 22, 2018
About 1,200 years ago in eastern North America, populations gathered their farms and living structures behind defensive walls. Explore Mississippian culture and see how it introduced an increased use of the bow and arrow along with a large body of art, extensive trade networks, and mythological creation stories remembered today in bits and pieces by a multitude of surviving indigenous nations.
The Origins of Mississippian Culture
10. The Origins of Mississippian Culture
June 22, 2018
About 1,200 years ago in eastern North America, populations gathered their farms and living structures behind defensive walls. Explore Mississippian culture and see how it introduced an increased use of the bow and arrow along with a large body of art, extensive trade networks, and mythological creation stories remembered today in bits and pieces by a multitude of surviving indigenous nations.
The Hopewell and Their Massive Earthworks
9. The Hopewell and Their Massive Earthworks
June 22, 2018
Get to know the Hopewell culture, a civilization that thrived for over 700 years. You will see how they influenced all the peoples of eastern North America with trade networks, an art tradition, and the practice of burying their most important dead in earthen mounds. Their knowledge of mathematics and astronomy allowed them to build massive earthwork complexes in present-day Ohio.
The Hopewell and Their Massive Earthworks
9. The Hopewell and Their Massive Earthworks
June 22, 2018
Get to know the Hopewell culture, a civilization that thrived for over 700 years. You will see how they influenced all the peoples of eastern North America with trade networks, an art tradition, and the practice of burying their most important dead in earthen mounds. Their knowledge of mathematics and astronomy allowed them to build massive earthwork complexes in present-day Ohio.
Adena Culture and the Early Woodlands Period
8. Adena Culture and the Early Woodlands Period
June 22, 2018
In modern-day Ohio, the continent's first coherent civilizations evolved about 3,000 years ago, bringing together previously far-flung Archaic practices. Meet the Adena, the first ancient American culture with wide-ranging influence. Known for their conical burial mounds and shared concept of an afterlife, they also might have been the continent's first habitual tobacco smokers.
Adena Culture and the Early Woodlands Period
8. Adena Culture and the Early Woodlands Period
June 22, 2018
In modern-day Ohio, the continent's first coherent civilizations evolved about 3,000 years ago, bringing together previously far-flung Archaic practices. Meet the Adena, the first ancient American culture with wide-ranging influence. Known for their conical burial mounds and shared concept of an afterlife, they also might have been the continent's first habitual tobacco smokers.
Medicine Wheels of the Great Plains
7. Medicine Wheels of the Great Plains
June 22, 2018
Medicine wheels - wagon-wheel type arrangements of stones on the ground - vary in their number of spokes and size; are difficult to date; and although some are precisely aligned to the solstices, the majority have no known astronomical significance. Survey what we do know about their function and meaning, which almost certainly changed over time, just like the human populations who built them.
Medicine Wheels of the Great Plains
7. Medicine Wheels of the Great Plains
June 22, 2018
Medicine wheels - wagon-wheel type arrangements of stones on the ground - vary in their number of spokes and size; are difficult to date; and although some are precisely aligned to the solstices, the majority have no known astronomical significance. Survey what we do know about their function and meaning, which almost certainly changed over time, just like the human populations who built them.
Poverty Point: North America's First City
6. Poverty Point: North America's First City
June 22, 2018
About 3,500 years ago, while most North Americans were still nomadic, see how one group of ancient people developed a planned community on more than 900 acres to accommodate 4,000 to 5,000 inhabitants. Designed with exceptional engineering skills, the fascinating city of Poverty Point functioned for 1,000 years and included one of the oldest pyramids ever built on Earth.
Poverty Point: North America's First City
6. Poverty Point: North America's First City
June 22, 2018
About 3,500 years ago, while most North Americans were still nomadic, see how one group of ancient people developed a planned community on more than 900 acres to accommodate 4,000 to 5,000 inhabitants. Designed with exceptional engineering skills, the fascinating city of Poverty Point functioned for 1,000 years and included one of the oldest pyramids ever built on Earth.
Late Archaic Innovations
5. Late Archaic Innovations
June 22, 2018
See how, about 5,000 years ago, the creative, yet disparate, peoples of North America developed corn agriculture, permanent houses with storage and cooking pits, religion, art, pottery, ceramics, metallurgy, and basket weaving. Further explore the only innovation common to these many different cultures: an increase in cemetery sites and formalized treatment of bodies in burials.
Late Archaic Innovations
5. Late Archaic Innovations
June 22, 2018
See how, about 5,000 years ago, the creative, yet disparate, peoples of North America developed corn agriculture, permanent houses with storage and cooking pits, religion, art, pottery, ceramics, metallurgy, and basket weaving. Further explore the only innovation common to these many different cultures: an increase in cemetery sites and formalized treatment of bodies in burials.
The Archaic Period: Diversity Begins
4. The Archaic Period: Diversity Begins
June 22, 2018
When the megafauna died out across the continent about 10,000 years ago, Paleo-Indian culture began to diversify regionally. Better understand why some groups developed hunting and gathering culture, while others fished from temporary camps. See what DNA research reveals about one ancient sedentary people with resources plentiful enough to support 350 generations of habitation.
The Archaic Period: Diversity Begins
4. The Archaic Period: Diversity Begins
June 22, 2018
When the megafauna died out across the continent about 10,000 years ago, Paleo-Indian culture began to diversify regionally. Better understand why some groups developed hunting and gathering culture, while others fished from temporary camps. See what DNA research reveals about one ancient sedentary people with resources plentiful enough to support 350 generations of habitation.
Clovis Man: America's First Culture
3. Clovis Man: America's First Culture
June 22, 2018
Explore the very first American culture, which is identified by the Clovis point, a specialized megafauna-hunting tool that became the most widespread technology in the paleo-world. The Clovis populated the Americas from coast to coast, from Alaska to South America. See how some of the Clovis people evolved into the last Paleo-Indians, the Folsom.
Clovis Man: America's First Culture
3. Clovis Man: America's First Culture
June 22, 2018
Explore the very first American culture, which is identified by the Clovis point, a specialized megafauna-hunting tool that became the most widespread technology in the paleo-world. The Clovis populated the Americas from coast to coast, from Alaska to South America. See how some of the Clovis people evolved into the last Paleo-Indians, the Folsom.
The First Human Migrations to the Americas
2. The First Human Migrations to the Americas
June 22, 2018
DNA evidence points to Asia, and only Asia, as the origin of all human migration to North America. While there were many migration episodes, each episode involved passage across the Bering Strait. Sites of ancient habitation have been found all across the continent, under water and on dry land. See why, even with current technologies, scientists cannot yet agree on the ages of these sites.
The First Human Migrations to the Americas
2. The First Human Migrations to the Americas
June 22, 2018
DNA evidence points to Asia, and only Asia, as the origin of all human migration to North America. While there were many migration episodes, each episode involved passage across the Bering Strait. Sites of ancient habitation have been found all across the continent, under water and on dry land. See why, even with current technologies, scientists cannot yet agree on the ages of these sites.
The Unknown Story of Ancient North America
1. The Unknown Story of Ancient North America
June 22, 2018
Pyramids. State-of-the-art highways. Productive scientists, artists, and engineers. These, and much more, were ancient North America. But having left no written record, and considered of no value by European conquerors many centuries later, these societies seemed destined to remain a mystery. Now, we are finally able to reveal their fascinating truths. #History
The Unknown Story of Ancient North America
1. The Unknown Story of Ancient North America
June 22, 2018
Pyramids. State-of-the-art highways. Productive scientists, artists, and engineers. These, and much more, were ancient North America. But having left no written record, and considered of no value by European conquerors many centuries later, these societies seemed destined to remain a mystery. Now, we are finally able to reveal their fascinating truths. #History
Description

Most of what we’ve been taught about the native cultures of North America came from reports authored by the conquerors and colonizers who destroyed them. Professor Edwin Barnhart, Director of the Maya Exploration Center, reveals the astounding true accomplishments of these ancient cultures - vibrant cities, agriculture, art, large-scale earthen pyramids, and more.

Ancient Civilizations of North America is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (48 episodes). The series first aired on June 22, 2018.

Where to Watch Ancient Civilizations of North America

Ancient Civilizations of North America is available for streaming on the The Great Courses Signature Collection website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch Ancient Civilizations of North America on demand at Apple TV+, Amazon Prime, Amazon and Hoopla.

  • Premiere Date
    June 22, 2018