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Prehistoric civilizations along the Amazon River

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Details: Discuss the following questions:

How are scholars able to find out how early people with no written records lived?
What was prehistoric society like around the Amazon?
What ensured European domination in the New World?
How do you think an entire prehistoric group of people could simply disappear, such as the people around the Marajo of the Amazon?

Please list any references or web sources.

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Question 1. "How are scholars able to find out how early people with no written records lived?"

Consider the following ideas:

Archaeologists are in agreement that people throughout history have shared the same basic needs and desires. These needs can be placed in the following general categories: food and water (economics), protection from the elements (clothing and shelter), the need to reproduce the culture (marriage, education, social structure) and the need for explanation (science, religion, philosophy). (p.9 from ERIC resource ED404196)

Pre-historic people, though they did not leave a written record did leave a physical record. Artifacts of a physical nature fall into the broad categories mentioned above. Because pre-historic man had a need to store food and water archaeologists may find pottery or pieces of pottery. Because pre-historic man needed clothing and shelter we find evidence of foundations for buildings, walls, articles of clothing (sometimes complete sets of clothing on mummified remains). Because pre-historic man needed to reproduce their culture we find shells that may have been used as currency, and other artifacts that are not believed to be for hunting or religious purposes. Because pre-historic man needed to explain and define his existence we have many examples of religious artifacts symbolizing deities and/or fertility cults and we find ruins of temples or other religious sites.

Finding these artifacts however, is only the first step in understanding early man.

It is important to understand the difference between observation and inference when thinking about and studying early mankind. Pages 13-15 of the ERIC resource give some good illustrations of the difference between observation and inference. The short answer is that unless early man left a written record we can never be certain that we have a clear view of how they lived.

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Solution Summary

This solution provides a discussion of prehistoric cultures around the Amazon River Basin. Specific items discussed include: how scholars study early cultures who left no written records, what was prehistoric culture like in the area surrounding the Amazon River and what factors contributed to the European domination of the New World.

Original work (over 1,100 words of text) along with an ERIC attachment and links to three websites are included.