Compare the great advancements—agriculture, writing, architecture, science, math, government, and exploration—by peoples on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Then trace the course of Spanish conquest and colonization in the New World after 1492.
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The world's earliest civilization, Sumer, arises in Mesopotamia; they later invent city-states, the plow, the wheel, irrigation systems, and the world's first system of law.
Circa 5000 BC
Farmers in Mesoamerica successfully domesticate maize (corn) from teosinte, a wild grass.
Circa 4000 BC
America's first urban center, Norte Chico, consisting of at least 25 cities, arises along the Pacific Ocean just north of present day Lima, Peru. The temple in Huaricanga (built between 3200 and 2500 BC) was among the world's tallest buildings.
Circa 3500 BC
Sumerians develop the world's first system of writing, which they use to track animals, crops, and other goods.
Circa 3100 BC
Permanent agricultural villages spread in Middle America; Mayan settlements form in areas now in Belize.
Circa 2500-1500 BC
Olmec civilization arises in Mesoamerica.
Circa 1500 BC
Earliest known writing in Mesoamerica, one of only two or three times in history that a culture developed writing independently.
Circa 750 BC
First world map drawn by Greek mapmaker Hecateus.
Circa 510 BC
Outside present-day Mexico City, inhabitants of Teotihuacan, one of the world's largest urban centers, begin constructing the world's third-largest pyramid.
Circa 100 AD
Mayan civilization flourishes. They create calendars and make significant advances in mathematics and astronomy.
Circa 300 - 900 AD
Gunpowder is invented in China.
Circa 800 AD
Cahokia, the only city north of the Rio Grande, is established near present-day St. Louis, Missouri, and eventually grows to 15,000 inhabitants, similar in size to London at that time. Until the 1800s, it was the largest city in the territory that is now the United States.
Leif Ericson, a Viking sailor, explores Vinland and establishes a short-lived settlement in present day Newfoundland, Canada.
Oraibi, the oldest continuously occupied settlement in the United States, is founded by Hopi Indians in present-day Arizona.
The Mexicas begin building Tenochtitlan on an island in Lake Texcoco. When the Spanish arrived in 1519, the city, with its canals, aqueducts, wide avenues, and botanical gardens, was larger than Paris, Europe's largest city.
Rise of the Incan empire, which would become the largest empire on earth by 1491 with the biggest road system on the planet (~25,000 miles).
8,000 feet high in the Andes Mountains, the Incas build Machu Picchu, believed to be a royal estate for their leader Pachacuti. The site features 700 terraces, an underground drainage system, canals, and fountains.
Mayas abandon their cities Uxmal and Chichen Itza.
Gutenberg prints his first Bible.
Spanish take Granada, the last Moorish area of the Iberian Peninsula; commanding three ships, Christopher Columbus embarks on his first voyage.
Spanish found Santo Domingo on Hispaniola (now Dominican Republic).
Columbus returns from second voyage.
Spanish Crown begins program of forced baptisms for the Muslims of Granada.
African slaves introduced into Hispaniola (now the Dominican Republic).
Spanish leaders Isabella and Ferdinand order Muslims in Granada to convert or leave the city.
Columbus returns from his last voyage on November 7; Queen Isabella dies later that month.
Columbus dies, a largely forgotten man.
Martin Waldseemüller's world map includes a new continent, which he names "America," in honor of explorer Amerigo Vespucci.
Martin Luther launches the Protestant Reformation in Europe.
Smallpox epidemic on Hispaniola wipes out one-third of the indigenous population.
Hernán Cortés and indigenous allies capture and raze Tenochtitlán, capital of the Mexican empire.
On a hillside overlooking Mexico City, the Lady of Guadalupe appears to Juan Diego, an indigenous convert to Catholicism.
Mayan revolt crushed by Spanish troops.
Archbishopric of Mexico founded.
Bartolomé de las Casas debates the treatment of the New World people with Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda.
Bishop of the Yucatan Diego de Landa burns five thousand Mayan religious images and at least twenty-seven Mayan books.
Spain occupies the Philippines and formally organizes treasure fleets to carry New World treasure back to Europe.
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés founds St. Augustine in present-day Florida, the first permanent European settlement in what is now the United States.
Tupac Amaru, the last Incan leader, is killed.
Garcilaso de la Vega's The Royal Commentaries of the Inca is published.
An uprising brought on by famine, popular discontent, and frustration explodes in Mexico City. Indigenous people, along with blacks, mulattoes, and poor Spaniards, burn the Viceroy's palace and burn and sack much of the central plaza or Zócalo.
Charles II's death marks the end of the Hapsburg dynasty in Spain; the Bourbon dynasty, beginning with Philip V, institute reforms based on French institutions and the ideas of the enlightenment.
Tupac Amaru II leads a rebellion against the Spanish in Peru; he is defeated and executed in 1781.
Haiti proclaims its independence from France, becoming the second independent state in the Western Hemisphere and the first free black republic in the world.