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LET'S EXPLORE American history

Who were the first Americans?

A city built by first Americans in around 1400 BCA city built by first Americans in around 1400 BCThe history of the first Americans, the first people who settled in the Americas, dates back to around 26,000 years ago. European settlers came much later, after Christopher Columbus landed in the Bahamas in 1492. The Europeans found a continent inhabited by many hundreds of nations and tribes that make up the Native American population (also known as American Indians, Amerindians or, in Canada, First Nations). They were all descendants of people who had crossed into North America from Siberia during the Ice Ages: the first Americans.

People walking into North AmericaPeople walking into North America

Ice Age wanderers

The Ice Ages began around 2.6 million years ago, and lasted until about 11,500 years ago. During this time, the climate became so cold that ice sheets spread out from the poles and covered huge areas of the world. Humans lived in lands just to the south of the ice sheet, hunting mammoth and other animals. They did not live in one place, but wandered far and wide searching for prey.

During the Ice Ages, so much of the Earth's water had turned to ice that there was very little rain. The oceans shrank, leaving behind new areas of land. In those days it was possible to walk from northeastern Siberia to Alaska—and that is exactly what some people did. They followed their prey who also made their way into North America via this route. Centuries later, as the ice sheets melted, these people, the first Americans, headed south.

Around 30,000 years ago, sea levels were around 120 metres (400 ft) below what they are today. Many parts of what makes up the seabed today were then dry land.

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