Traditions and Encounters, AP Edition (Bentley), 5th Edition

Chapter 6: Early Societies in the Americas and Oceania


The cultures of the Americas and Oceania developed in relative isolation to the other early complex societies. Nevertheless, they too developed an agricultural base sufficient to support growing populations, specialized labor, political institutions, diverse societies, and long-distance trading networks. Less is known of these cultures than those in other parts of the world primarily because either writing systems did not develop or written documents perished or were destroyed. The fragments of writing and archeological findings indicate that these societies were complex and developed rich cultural traditions.

The early societies in the Americas:

  • Built elaborate ceremonial centers that reflected both a complex religion and a powerful political authority
  • Left a rich artistic legacy that included pottery, sculpture, metalwork, and painting
  • Developed sophisticated knowledge of astronomy and mathematics

The early societies of Oceania:

  • Saw the gradual dissemination of agricultural technology spread by Austronesian seafarers who traded and settled throughout the Pacific
  • Formed a well-integrated society known as Lapita that stretched from New Guinea to Tonga
Traditions & Encounters, 5e
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