New World Technology Before Columbus | The Old New World

Hey folks,
What kinds of technology did the pre-columbian of the Americas master? Stay tuned to find out about the great constructions
of the original people on this land. If you’re like me, and my channel analytics
say you are, you have an interest in what the the Americas were like before colonization. As I’ve talked about before on this channel,
the indigenous inhabitants of this vast continent weren’t like the old textbooks say. Today, with the help of my buddy Soliloquy,
we’re going to look at the technologies developed by American indigenous peoples. Just a note before we dig in, these inventions
might not be solely from indigenous people. Some of these inventions were either invented
in other places independently, or were invented by indigenous people after the columbian exchange. That aside, let’s dig in! We have to begin with some of the most amazing
ways indigenous peoples made their homes. Our first example comes from what would become
the South-West United States. Here, the Anasazi people invented ancient
apartment blocks. One of these apartments discovered, called
Pueblo Bonito, shows that this technology is at least a thousand years old. This predates the first apartments in the
United States by seven centuries. Some of these apartment complexes still stand
strong today. In fact, some of the Pueblo people in New
Mexico, still live in some of these Anasazi apartment blocks. Seriously, thousand year old apartments. We then have to go north, way north, even
more north than that. Excellent! Yes, the humble igloo is quite a famous piece
of architecture. Arguably the most famous inuit cultural product. It is a remarkable invention! The igloo can be built in just a few hours
with literally nothing more than the ice that’s around you, and in the arctic with deadly
weather, an impromptu shelter can really come in handy. Without any changes, an igloo can keep temperatures
above zero, even when it’s brutally cold outside. The melting ice on the inside actually refreezes
and makes it even stronger believe it or not! Furthermore, some central inuit people will
line the inside of the igloo with animal furs, raising the internal temperature from about
2 degrees to about 10 to 20 degrees celsius. For you yankees down in murica, that’s moving
from 36 degrees to 50 to 68 degrees fahrenheit. Another innovative home comes from the great
planes of the United States. This, is a tipi, not a wigwam. We’ll do wigwams next. The tipi is a perfect home for the prairie
dweller on the go. If your livelihood comes from following the
movements of herds of Buffalo, you want a shelter that you can put up and take down
easily. The tipi is warm and durable, but its real
selling point is that it , can be set up or taken down within an hour. A wigwam is a completely different type of
dwelling. These dwellings are found in both coastal
areas of modern day Canada and the United States. They may be made from simple materials, but
these were and are sturdy structures. What makes them stand out is the simple idea
of using bent sticks with material built over top comes in many different varieties depending
on the culture that makes (pay attention to tense agreement) it. So much so, that I was able to find about
14 different names for this type of structure . These were great homes for what we’d call
semi-sedentary people. They did move, but more like once every decade
or so, rather than the tipi dwelling people of the great plains who moved much more often. The impressive construction projects of the
indigenous peoples is not limited to smart home design, but also includes large infrastructure
projects. People living throughout the Andes mountain
range in south America, as well as people in central mexico constructed intricate aqueduct
systems. People such as the Chimu and Moche used the
aqueducts to live in very dry regions that they might not have been able to settle otherwise. They also built roads throughout the Andes
region that the Incans would later expand into over 32,000 kilometers ( or 20,000 miles)
of road. These would cross from Colombia over mountains,
deserts, rivers, rainforests, and plains into Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, and Chile. This road system allowed for goods, and messages
to pass through a growing empire. All roads lead to Cusco I guess. This advanced infrastructure allowed for massive
civilizations to thrive. The Aztecs also used aqueducts to keep their
imperial capital city of Tenochtitlan hydrated. At the time of contact Tenochtitlan was home
for 212,500 people, making it the fourth largest city on earth. Outside of construction, indigenous peoples
from across the continents were able to domesticate a wide variety of animals and plants. However, they were a little lacking when it
came to animals ripe for domestication. However, they did manage to make a few species
work for them. The Andean peoples in south America managed
to domesticate a few local species. The alpaca and the llama can carry some things,
but also provide wool for those chilly mountain nights. If they got hungry, somewhere between 11,
and 9 thousand years ago, they raised, and ate guinea pigs. Not to mention further north different groups
domesticated turkeys, and I think many of us are grateful for that. North America had dogs, and so a handful of
dog breeds can trace their origins back to indigenous groups. Mexicans bred dogs into the coyote, mexican
hairless dog and the Chihuahua. In the carolinas, the natives there bred the
California dog. Lastly, up north the Alaskan natives bred
the Alaskan malamute. Since the American continent runs north to
south, there are a lot of different biomes, and a lot more crop diversity than in Eurasia. Let’s see if I can list all the plants they
domesticated in one breath. Avocado, beans, corn, cranberries, papaya,
peanuts, peppers, pineapples, potatoes, pumpkins, quinoa, squash, sunflower, tobacco, tomatoes,
vanilla, and yams. Plants are not an easy thing to domesticate,
it sometimes requires years of coaxing to be something you are going to want to eat. It involves some fancy sciencey stuff, so
I brought over my friend Soliloquy, from the channel… Soliloquy, to explain how this process works
Compared to modern crops wild plants are small potatoes, literally small potatoes in the
case of potatoes. But with a little effort, farmers, even ancient
farmers can improve a plant’s performance. The basis of genetic change is mutations;
random changes to the organism’s genetic code. Sometimes these changers are bad, but other
times these are beneficial. In the case of Darwin’s Natural Selection
this benefit is to the organism’s reproductive success in the natural environment; but the
selection pressure needs not be natural; man can meddle with the game – evolution can be
driven by artificial selection! And this is what our ancient farmers did. With no prior genetic knowledge people simply
selected plants with particularly desirable characteristics, and used these individuals
for propagation, resulting in an accumulation of valuable traits over time. With modern genetics we have refined this
process; by backcrossing we can introduce specific traits from one plant into another,
we can accelerate the rate of mutation, and use molecular techniques to track our changes
at the level of DNA. But these more advanced techniques are not
required to turn small potatoes into a feast or a practically inedible grass into corn
on the cob. Just the act of selecting your best performing
plants to produce the next year’s crop can slowly create a prized yield to feed a city;
and, you might be surprised at how easy that change actually is. But, I’ll leave that for the video over
on my channel, so you can hit the “i” or at the end of this video you’ll find
it on an end card. Thanks Soliloquy. He also made his own video to come out alongside
this one on the specific case of corn. It has come a long way from being an inedible
grass, and he has the story right there if you click up in the corner. With all these plants and animals, there were
a lot of foods to choose from. The bitter cocoa bean would be harvested by
the Mexicans and turned into a frothy drink. The Europeans would at first think it tasted
awful, but with a bit of coaxing they turned it into chocolate. The native Mexicans also invented salsa and
tortillas before Europeans arrived. In both Mexico and New England, people would
take thick sap from latex or spruce trees and chew on it, inventing chewing gum at least
twice independently. Nomadic buffalo hunters would need to make
their meat last, and be portable, so with a bit of smoking and drying they invented
jerky. A common food around Canada and parts of the
United States was Pemmican, made with whatever you had pressed and cooked into a bar to make
it mobile and energy dense. I want to finish up this video talking a little
bit about rubber. I mentioned that Mexicans would chew on the
sap of the latex tree, but they had another use. It was them who invented the ball. Like the first actual rubber ball. Europeans who watched them play with them
would write strange accounts of how the balls would leap excitedly when hitting the ground,
because they didn’t really have the words for that degree of bouncing. Rubber actually had a lot of other uses as
well, and information about using it spread around south America. This would lead to many different inventions,
including the rubber balloon, which was invented 3,700 years ago in the Yucatan. I hope though that this demonstrates that
the Americas were not the primitive foragers they’re portrayed to be, but a sophisticated
mosaic of inventive civilizations that continue to this day. I only touched the surface, and will have
to mention even more of these inventions sooner rather than later. Are you dying for part two of this series? Be sure to tell me down in the comments. If you share with some like-minded friends,
the avalanche will get me back here before long. Thank you all for watching, I’d like to
thank these patrons as well as Don and Kerry Johnson. I’d also like to thank @LizMacaroon on twitter
for sharing my last video. If this is your first time here and you made
it this far make sure to subscribe for more Step Back.

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58 thoughts on “New World Technology Before Columbus | The Old New World

  1. I want to thank Soliloquy for participating in this project with me. You can find his video here:

    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. Pre-Colombian Americans had technology? I thought they just sat in caves and ate raw—wait, crap, there are probably people who think that.

  3. Actually, they knew almost all the technology that Europeans knew, but they didn't want to use it. Why? I don't know. Maybe religion.
    It's like romans, who knew steam machines, but they had slaves, so why would they want a machine?

  4. I thought the chineese invented the rubber ball, I'm worried you might be overexaggerating the natives technological prowess, tho I don't have not much knowledge on the americas.

  5. I would love to see part 2. On my ideas for future video list I've been toying with the idea of what would the Americas look like technologically speaking if Europeans never arrived. Would the use of llamas as pack animals make there way to the Appalachians? Would native dog breeds get big enough that Plains tribes would use them to pull chariots? Would we see triremes patrolling the Mississippi? Just some thoughts I've been playing around with and this video is especially helpful.

  6. Fascinating, but I do think that this subject is a bit too broad for one video. It remained a bit shallow.
    Can you do a video completely on Tenochtitlan some time?

  7. dieing to see a part 2!! I'v herd that some tribes in northern canada even got as far as useing primitive Copper tools. could you maybe shead some light that as well?

  8. Awww, you guys forgot to bring up the sophisticated Tlingit/Haida lodges and Algonquin Longhouses. Also some of the magnificent structures like the Calusa Shell Mounds and Mississippian Culture mounds that were made of mud dirt and clay. And used the Mississippi River as a means to irrigate water to the center of the mound so it didn't dry and crack and fall apart. Smithsonian Institute has great videos on it. But in general guys, great video! Love that your going out here talking about the forgotten history.

  9. Great video! This will be useful for if I ever want to do a followup on my "Vikings in America" video. BTW What about the agricultural and mound-building innovations of the Mississipian cultures?

  10. Did you use a Southern accent to sound like a yankee?? Yankees are the ones that live up near the border by you buddy.

  11. Quick point of correction: While the Pueblo made somewhat similar structures to the Anazasi and there's some evidence or speculation of an ancestral connection (depending on who you ask), the architecture and means of construction are distinct.


    Also, I've been to Mesa Verde National Park and I've been inside those cave apartments. They were also awesome.

  13. I'm pretty sure yams were native to Africa and Asia, not the Americas. I may be wrong, but it's worthy to check that.

  14. You're obviously interested in the technologies and culture of indigenousness Americans. May I suggest as a subject a criticism of the Eurocentric solutrean hypothesis or the Afrocentric idea that they were the Olmecs. There's not a ton of material on those subjects and I'd sure like to see it. My friend Michael Redcrow would like it too.

  15. my people were mostly hunter gatherers. we were semi nomadic and would go between a few village sites that had permanent pit houses during the winter and summer seasons.

  16. boy this is about time.  your channel is REFRESHING.  Now, I know some of this stuff.  But what I am happy about is that you are telling others about this.  Most people do not know a bout humans not staying stupid over many years just  because OTHERS say humans are stupid savages because they think they are superior.  History is written by the victors.  But in Ancient America, long ago, was known.  A long time ago, there was an author named Barry Fell who wrote America BC.   Thank you for teaching others that pre Columbians were not embeciles.  Eg.  The Incas knew about the wheel, but didn't want to mass produce it for spiritual reasons and  because they did not want things easy for their workers in their culture.

  17. Now if they can find evidence of knowledge of use of Hot-Air (NOT THAT KIND) one mystery of the Nazca Lines' construction is solved! Is that in part 2? (sorry for the spoiler then)

  18. Hmmm may I specify that one cannot make an igloo with ice? Or at least good luck with it… While fluffy snow has very good insulating properties, blocks of the beautiful, flawless solid ice they get up there have none and will melt as soon as you start a fire inside your shelter. Plus, the snow they get feels more like Styrofoam than anything else, hence
    the guy just walking away with a big block in the video. No one can do that with solid ice.
    ~ Just my Northern Canadian genes kicking in for a detail 😉 thanks for the videos!

  19. Do more about the Tarascan and their mettalurgy, the Aztec school system, aztec slave system which was surprisingly very well used, the aztec and mayan calenders, and agriculture practices

  20. Learn how to pronounce "Mexico Tenochtitlan" (link to audio)

  21. It didn't take years to breed wild plants into something palatable; for teosinte, it took millennia before we'd recognize it as maize. The grains and other staple crops of the Americas make Eurasian cereal crops look simple to domesticate; the fact that they did so, fast enough to do incredible things with their now-productive agriculture before the Conquistadores brought their guns, germs, and steel is an achievement of its own.

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