The Truth About Native Americans before Europeans Arrived | The Old New World

Hello Internet, Archaeologists are finding that the Americas before Columbus were very different than we initially believed. New discoveries in a wide variety of fields are finding that long standing concepts of the pre-Colombian world are very different from what we thought. So what has changed? First of all, the population of the Americas was way higher than even the most generous estimates we had before, and earlier than we thought. There was not simply one migration over the Bering strait, but many migrations, and not all of them over the land bridge. Some of them came from Polynesia, which I discuss here, and some came by boat. The estimates now put the pre-contact population of the Americas as high as 100 million people. Our earlier estimates of when the first Humans came to the Americas comes from carbon dating of the earliest human remains we can find. However, doing these tests again as well as genetics of those living in Siberia show that the 13,000 year ago estimate might be off by as much as 10,000 years. We think that the exposure to European diseases moved ahead of the Europeans, and gave them a warped view of what populations were like in the Americas. We also now believe that diseases played a bigger role in the decline of native societies than warfare with Europeans. For example, people for a long time thought that horses helped Francisco Pizarro beat the Incas. When you look at where the Incas lived, up in the mountains relying on stairways, you immediately see the issue here. Second, the level of cultural advancement and the settlement range of native groups was much larger than we thought. Partly to blame is that many innovations came from Mesoamerica, or modern day Mexico, but their geographic isolation meant that not a ton of their technologies left the region. That inability to share ideas, and access to large beasts of burden hindered many developments that Eurasians had access to. Take for example our ideas about guns. We commonly think that the European colonists bringing guns gave them a huge advantage. In fact, natives mocked these noisemakers, which were loud, cumbersome, and much harder to aim than a bow and arrow. The famous John Smith yes THAT John Smith, wrote that “the awful truth…it [gun] could not shoot as far as an arrow could fly.” Another great example would be the genetic miracle that is corn. Maize developed from an inedible grass, but native farmers genetically engineered it through selective breeding into the huge varieties of corn we have today. And if you don’t live in Latin America, you really don’t know just how many crazy cool varieties of corn have been developed. This led to the rise of civilizations like the Olmec. Other technologies of native societies surpassed what the Europeans had. Moccasins for example, were more comfortable, and sturdy than European boots. Everyone wanted them because the padding made them move silently which helped in hunting and war. Canoes were faster, and could maneuver better than any European small boats. Lastly, the new world was not the wilderness we imagined it was. Native groups across the Americas shaped the ecology to their benefit, mostly through the use of selective fires. Take the Mayans for example. Many blame their collapse on the overloading the carrying capacity of their environment, showing that they had huge impacts on their environment. There’s plenty of evidence that many Native groups used slash and burn techniques to shape the landscape for their needs. Burning down forests encouraged grasslands that could be cultivated, or attract game animals. They domesticated fewer animals, and cultivated plants in a different way than Europeans, but no less intensely. European settlers simply were unable to appreciate this. Likely due to language issues and good old fashioned racism. This had been going on for so long, that Natives became a keystone species in the ecosystem, and the mass deaths from disease actually led to huge ecological changes to the continent still happening today. Their decline likely led to large population explosions for bison and passenger pigeons, as well as the reforestation of most of the continent. All in time for Europeans to show up in a region and claim that the natives weren’t using the land. As the inspiration for this video Charles Mann said, they used the entire continent as a garden. These developments get me a special kind of excited. I became a historian because I get thrilled when I find out something we took for granted for centuries turns out to be a gross misunderstand of something far more amazing. I should also mention that this video is heavily inspired by Charles Mann’s amazing book 1491. If this blows your mind as much as it did mine, I could not recommend it more. I will see you guys next time. If you have any similar stories of your concepts of the world being turned completely around, let me know down in the comments. And be sure to subscribe for more history videos like this one.

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. What we call the "new" world is actually really ancient with lots of amazing history often not given attention. This series tells those stories:

  2. There's an Indian word for river that's the same word in Greek. Also, all kinds of evidence of European visitation before Columbus. Pot and cocaine is detected in many different kinds of bog bodies and Egyptian mummies, and both were from the new world.

  3. "Genetically engineered it(corn) through selective breeding"
    Selective breeding is not a form of genetic engineering, the two are not the same process and there is no evidence that native americans knew anything about genetic engineering.
    Good video, thank you

  4. I find it so funny that the Anglos still think they know more than anyone else. You need to look at how the english lived in the same age. In the cities they waided through human waste daily

  5. Geez so many people are confused about the 100 million number. Clearly unable to understand this is spread across two continents, not just what is the modern US (since the number is being compared to 350 million). Also extreme cultural bias in that "Well we were only able to do it today so it couldn't be possible for them." But the Aztecs used chinampas that were so successful in growing crops they kept doing it after transforming from a village to an empire. And who knows what other farming methods were used we don't know about because the culture died out.

  6. F*ck colombus. He was a horrible man who never discovered America.
    Just slaughtered alot of people.

  7. Why is everyone so triggered by this video? Honestly all he's saying is that Native civilizations were more advanced than we realize at first. Even if you don't like it, facts are facts and they trump your useless feelings. So stop acting like SJWs, and grow a fucking pair.

  8. The Americans like the British are the biggest killers on the planet since WW2 the USA have killed over 25 Million through bombing and invasions and also the proxy wars .
    While the USA are nothing to there allies the British who have killed over 150 Million natives in the British Empire .

  9. It’s a sad state of the world when I have to question truthfulness of this video. It only cites one person and directly says that Europeans were racists. All of it could be the truth, but I have to ask- are you or is the author you’re citing a non-binary, gender studies, astrology, cyber quantum crossover speaker? Is all truth relative and all cultures the same and merely different?

    Either way, it is an interesting video. It would be really interesting to hear why we haven’t heard about any of this before socially constructed truth and alternative facts started dominating the day. Non-binary bs really made me very suspicion of honesty if not intelligence of far too many. I apologize if it does not apply to you. Have a like in the meantime.

  10. Diamond's "Guns, Germs and Steel" does an excellent job of explaining the conquests of the Americas. I agree that disease played a major part in the collapse of Meso America but I will bet on steel, swords, guns , armor and well practiced treachery defeating obsidian and wood clubs most every time.

  11. Let's not hypocrites. The Taino, Arawak and especially Carib were warlike slave picking brutal cannibalistic bastards. The Spaniards were just better at it.

  12. lol good grief, dieses spread ahead of the Europeans? What? Did they suddenly become airborne and travel years and hundreds of miles ahead? So much so that the Indians had time to bury the dead of a mass pandemic and the settlers to not notice?

  13. They won't tell us about history of our land we now occupy. The New York Times talked about "Extermination." We're still taking their land. Trump did it with the Dakota pipeline: That's Native American territory. New Yorkers apparently wanted them dead, as cited above. I don't see why people wanted to exterminate our population and erase their history!!!

  14. As a war of 1812 historical reenactor I can confirm that muskets are not a trump card on the battlelfield. They're dirty, hard to maintain even off the field, not to mention that their reliability is hampered by humidity and prolonged firefights. Even during the napoleonic wars they mostly fired a few volleys and did most of the work with their bayonettes, and that was centuries of relatively fast progress after the spanish attacked the americas.

  15. The thing I have the hardest time believing is that they had like 50 to a hundred million people living here that could get really unsanitary with that many people here and no Plumbing

  16. They were better off than before Europeans arrived. Can you imagine an outside force invading, colonizing, N disrupting your normal life.?…., then removing You 2 reservations N or concentration camps…

  17. But the Europeans didn’t help…Europeans murdered systematically with a primitive form of bio-ware (small pox blankets) to kill a massive amount of people…

  18. I recently purchased 1492 and it is amazing. One of my favorite books. Glad to hear someone else enjoyed it as much as I have.

  19. The advantage of the musket over the bow is that it's easier to learn. You can teach a man to reliably use a musket in a couple of days. It takes much longer to learn to use a bow.

    It's also much easier to make musket balls than it is to make arrows. Making an arrow requires a lot of time and skill, whereas any idiot can pour lead into a mold.

  20. Natives didn't die from disease. They died from good old fashioned European genocide.

    The first epidemic didn't start until after 1617. You whites had already wiped out 90% of the population on hispaniola by that time.

    So no. It was not disease. It was plain violence and evil.

  21. Lost me at "population of 100 million". Not a fucking chance. Not with the agriculture technology and practices they used. They'd never be able to feed that many people.

  22. This is a really silly video, with a TON of problems..

    I doubt those 'new improved' population estimates of North American natives are anything like accurate because you don't get populations like that without you know proper cities, and an argo base to support them. Some cities (mounds) existed in Northern Louisiana… they're remarkable because cities existed there, and NOT elsewhere. When I think of similarly nomadic peoples… The entire population of Mongolia, TODAY, is 3 million, even while it's less nomadic now than historically has been. Without massive agro base, how do you expect a population without the modern benefits of imported food to achieve a population more than 30x greater than todays? Just how many deer, berry gathering, and home gardens, do you expect 100 million people to survive on? The population of the ROMAN EMPIRE under Augustus was barely more than HALF what this video claims the North American population to be, and look at what the Roman Civilization left as evidence of it's existence… evidence which – hint- doesn't exist in the slightest to support this video's claims of "100 Million"

    Jumping to Middle/South America where some agro existed, "Genetically Engineered Corn" … through selective breeding. OK. Just like Europeans "genetically engineered" cows, and other things. But spoken/delivered as an introduction of proofs of "Technology", as if they had technicians in lab coats experimenting with the genome, is silly. Natives did impressive things with what they had, there's no need to pump up/ validate them with technological achievement inflation. You could probably put some of them on an alright technological footing by citing celestial observations and having their own calendar, like the Euros.

    The Irony, also, of citing land cultivation [to the point of excess] as a "positive" thing, is enormous…. and the Europeans are racists- and I presume a plague on the planet, for whatever interventions they've had…. but Natives, who wiped out entire ecosystems.. the Natives transcended to become "Keystone species of the ecosystem"… Like, totally one with nature. Thats a really bizarre tact to take. Hows that any different than Euros being "keystone species" because they wiped out /took the slots of natural predators like wolves or bears? Just weird argument to make. I don't actually ascribe to Keystone species theory anyway.

    The European guns varied in quality and usefulness. Their trade-offs were quite well known -before any comments by Smith. Smooth Bore accuracy was at a short range, but firearms required almost zero training, and they could generally be lethal to fully armored and trained soldiers [admittedly , armor which natives didn't have , because they didn't really have Iron Working: wood can effectively deflect softer metals.] If arrows were so great, why did Natives trade eagerly to have guns?

    'Proving' inferiority by showing Boots with heels is a really thin straw to grasp at as – the variety shown in the video [With SPURS], are *designed for those horses which were disparaged earlier, and they're plenty comfortable for what they're designed for.

    The video also tries to have it both ways. They were using the land… but they were using the land "as a garden". OK. A continent garden. 'Natural' aesthetic to the arrangements. Either way, you had heap big land, heap few people, almost no technology (which is only relevant because they were relatively easy to conquer- its not a valid moral argument), and then you had a time when Conquest was a normal way of going about business cough cough something all those natives understood quite well, north and South America…. constantly waging war and enslaving (or sacrificing) one another. They were laughing at the noise makers, right? Because their weapons were so superior. No need to claim these were pacifist angels, after puffing up their wartime bonefides.

    The Video finally explained its motivation- sort of – at the end: The author gets really excited when he has a pretense to stick it (or revisionist-it) to those White Racists who get everything wrong and destroyed everything beautiful. I suggest It's possible to admire things about the natives which were admirable, no differently than the Europeans. Endowing them with GAIA-Level Environmental validity, inventing technological superiority where clearly none existed [Might as well say Smoke signals are more effective than telegraph: look, no power needed!], or imagining up populations where none existed, is totally unnecessary… AS IS the whole tone of the video, IMO: none of these things has anything to do with why civilizations come and go, and why they come and go has little to do with their innate Virtue, or Technology, or Arts.

  23. Loved this video! Im currently reading about the potomac river and how the native americans were savvy trade merchants. Definitely going to look into that book recommendation

  24. Thumbs Down for Lying. The Universe is not Provably any older than the 1611 Holy Bible says=6000 yrs. STOP LYING.

  25. The shear number of dislikes despite this video having near perfect accuracy is laughable. Things like burning down forests and building structures would leave behind hard evidence. What, can't take the truth?

    We also know early guns where very inaccurate and had a long reload time. That vs trained archers would have decimated the Europeans… had it not been for all the diseases they carried because of how they formed cities and the ease at which disease spread over Europe.

    Damn, you have to feel for the natives. They lost two continents and nearly all the people on them. First from foreigners bringing their disease, then by massacring the population left behind.


  26. It’s funny I’m from South Central LA aka the ghetto now I moved around a lot and I’ve noticed white boy are scarred of those gang members but idk why they created Em. CIA brought guns Nd drugs into our communities but it back fired because the gangs in LA only multipled

  27. native Americans did more than gardening they built beautiful homes into mountains made wells from springs and respected the land they used if they ever destroyed anything it was prayed for but one things certain too they dont forgive.

  28. soooo 8k years ago some farmer said…"son, we are going to inbreed this here grass. And after careful work in 250 years we'll be able to eat. ". Really? try it at home. Ask a corn genetics expert how long it would take to corn from grass by getting just 2-3 crops a year.

  29. skipped right over all the Indian wars they fought against each other before Europeans arrived, guess this guy is not an archeology intrest

  30. If what if the Carib people of the Caribbean hadn't been so kind to Columbus and ended him and his entire crew.

  31. Reading "Black Elk Speaks" it sounds like the rear loading rifle is what truly out classed Native American bow.

  32. Geez man. Good old fashioned racism….I bet the native populous felt the same way. I bet you think Howard Zinn is a genius too.


  34. Good afternoon people of the YouTube comment section. Does anyone knows how many Native American mass graves are in the USA? I’m asking for a comrade of mine.

  35. Why do European keep thinking that they migrated here they keep pushing this lie they keep saying the America’s where discover no no no people where in the America’s since the beginning of time let’s say that the Native Americans migrated to Europe 3 million years ago how is this not possible but how is it possible that Europeans migrated to the Americas this people keep pushing the bullshit lies. Get out of here with that bs.

  36. The British army dumped bows and arrows in favour of guns in 1595. Was that a mistake? Genetic engineering is a laboratory process. How did neolithic native Americans manage that? Perhaps you mean selective crossing.

  37. All these butthurt European/and or White People 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

  38. Fantasy. THIS guy has clearly never walked in moccasins. He should try it. they seem so cool but are not. there flat and give no foot support. really bad compared to lovely boots. Europeans had moccasins since time began called slippers. he makes no mention of the Caucasians that inhabited central america for century's. no mention?. the south american Caucasian have buried mummies and are proof they are the oldest mummies on earth. the Caucasians of central america disappeared around 1700's. they built amazing structures in Peru. the north american Indian tribes were not peaceful folk.. the tribal wars between tribes are famous, brutal, routine and lasted forever. Indians are mostly nomads.. lived in teepees and pack up teepees to move, these teepees were horrific to live in like when winters were cold. when feet of snow piles up fell all over them, in summer rains, wet ground, tree shattering thunderstorms high winds torn it up. pooping was usually done where? bugs, flies, ticks were everywhere better keep your meat inside a way from wolves……

  39. The advantage of guns is the ability to use them with very little training. It’s the same reason why you can go to the shooting range and get a crash course in shooting for a fun afternoon, but archery is a hobby that takes weeks to months to be able to do well.

    It was known to everyone that guns were less effective than a longbow, less accurate than a longbow, and individually in every way a worse weapon.

    The only advantage is you could give guns to an army of peasants and make larger volleys than you could with longbows. Longbowmen were up there with Calvary in terms of individual value per “soldier” (can we call middle age armies soldiers?) and required years of training, and this a high price for their service.

  40. Almost none of this is validated! There are contravening ideas regarding many of these issues but the idea that entirety of previous research has been overturned is utter nonsense!

  41. The Ignorant and Racist comments here are typical of the European Colonial mindset, the sad part is the average former European has no concept how First Nations peoples of Turtle Island aka: the Americas, saved their sorry asses, in 1491 Europe was a shit hole at best, and if you do not like how First Nations saved your ass in 2019, pack your bags and go back to the failed country or hovel your family came from, like right now, chop chop!

  42. Wow, look at all the white power kiddos getting all but hurt! How dare history, science and cartoons mock your precious white privilege! Funny how it doesn't hurt or offend a fully white-bread guy like me. Maybe StepBack will make a special "Nazi Babies" episode so you can remember back to the good old days!
    Great episode again, by the way. Love your channel, despite the comment section!

  43. I can not but find it ironic that ignorant people say that a book, awarded with the National Academies Communication Award
    is not a valid source, but they dont give a single history academic article or source to support their claims. Theres a reason why public opinion is not taken into consideration in history or science matters, if we were to listen to what ignorants have to say about important matters whe would still be living in caves and eating raw food, if not extinct.
    If they were to decide which book to award i guess they would choose any pseudoscientific fictional book, because they cant tell the difference.

    The video might not be 100% accurate but that doesnt mean your bullshit is, in fact, you have no credibility at all without recognized sources.

  44. Evidence of a huge city is all around the Cincinnati area on both sides of the Ohio River. There are stone walls and foundations everywhere here. Some are still being used where people just built on top of them. Most people just think they were built by early settlers but they actually date all the way back to around 9000bp

  45. One thing in history that still blows my mind is the Clovis point. It's one of, if not the, earliest flint knapping technology found in the Americas, and it does prove, as you said, that the earliest migrations happened about 10,000 years earlier than formerly speculated.
    Some theories on the Clovis point, however, state that it also proves that those earliest migrants to the Americas didn't come from West of the Americas, as once believed, but from the East, in prehistoric Europe.

  46. Ugh, the hagiography that colonizes the minds of settler colonialists is astounding and look what astoundingly faulty race realism and the subsequent eliminationism it hath wrought

  47. I think the hundred million figure on the population is grossly high. If smallpox brought by Europeans preceded their physical presence by wiping out tens of millions of natives this would at the very least be represented in the historical accounts of natives.

  48. I love your video. sadly its by far one of the most if not the most accurately informational video on its subject

  49. could you do a history of Hispaniola type thing like you did with Ethiopia, Sudan, etc. ? Including what led to Haiti and the Dominican Republic split, i believe there is not much info on youtube.

  50. Another fun fact: The Native Americans weren't the first people to come to America. A race of Giants predated them.

  51. Fixating on disease doesn't give the whole picture to me – I compare that with the introduction of invasive species, regional warfare, and other disruptions Europeans brought to the Americas

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