Who Discovered America?

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Who Discovered America?


Infographic elaborating the discovery of Americas.

The remarkable thing about the contemporary era, is the influential role played by the United States in shaping the behaviors of the interconnected international system and the non-state actors constituting it. The emergence of America as a ‘hegemony’ in a unipolar world post the cold war, had paved a way towards the Great America of the present.

Christopher Columbus – the Italian explorer, in 1492, was hoping to find the route to India, by sailing across the Atlantic Ocean. Instead, he discovered the Americas and began its colonization. He was indeed the first to build a lasting European contact with the continent.

However, the Americas were originally explored many years before the Spanish expedition by Columbus. The carving of boundaries of the country, is a result of vast and complex events which can be broadly broken down into periods.


Theorists propounded that the first residents of what is constituted as the United States, emigrated from Asia, by a land and ice bridge called the Beringia. The bridge existed between 45,000-12,000 BC and led to a migration of hunter-gatherers from Eurasia to North America. The land was connected from present day Russia to Alaska, via what is now known as the Bering Strait. The presence of Beringia during the Ice Age, was due to solidification of earth’s water, which exposed the shallow lands due to the dropping of sea levels.

Pre-Columbian era-

Literally referring to the time preceding the voyages of Christopher Columbus, the Pre-Columbian Era denotes the times before European alterations and explorations. The stabilizing of the temperatures of Northern America led to south migration of these early inhabitants and spreading throughout the American landmass, with cultural and tribal distinctions. As early as 6500 BC, the complex societies arose in the Americas with the domestication, breeding and cultivating activities. The widespread use of tools and agriculture led to a slow transition towards settlement of various civilizations over the American landmass. Few of these civilizations were the Archaic culture (9200-500 AD), the Mississippi culture (200 AD), Mesoamerica: the Olmec, Teotihuacan, the Toltec, the Mexica and the Maya civilizations.

The Viking theory-

Historical and archaeological evidence support the existence of a trans-oceanic contact, suggesting interactions of the Americas with people from Asia, Africa, Europe, even before the Columbian expedition.

Norse journeys to Greenland and Canada led to a Norse settlement in L’anse Aux Meadows. It is the only site accepted as an evidence of a trans-oceanic contact prior to the Columbian visit, and also as a world-heritage site by the UNESCO. Erik the Red, for three years, sailed around and explored the southern tip of Greenland. Arriving with 14 boats and 350 colonizers, it opened doors for occasional traversing of this area. His son, Leif Erikson, led the Viking expeditions and is believed to be the first European to reach North America. Excavations point to the Viking origin dating to around 1000 AD, sometime before Columbus touched the US soils.

Age of exploration-

With the dawn of the 15th century until the 17th  century, the Europeans engaged into intensive exploration, establishing direct contact with the other continents. The Portuguese and Spanish travelled long distance in search of alternative trade routes.

Systematically began in 1492, a Spanish expedition headed by Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, to discover trade routes in the West and ended up landing in the so called “New World”. After three voyages, the Europeans started to colonize the areas. He was followed by other explorers from England and Portugal.

The period of Columbian exchange, post 1492, witnessed widespread transfer of plants, animals, cultures, human populations, technology and ideas between the Old World and the New World.

Colonization of the Americas

The British colonization reached its peak by establishing colonies throughout America, in the 17th century. These were of three types- charter colonies, proprietary colonies, and royal colonies. The American Revolutionary War, also called the U.S. War of Independence, broke open to revolt against the British colonization of America. This resulted in the Declaration of Independence for 13 American colonies, forming the United States of America.

The United States, stands today proudly as a global leader and a free democratic nation. But today, the Native American population is a mere shadow of what it was, and now only a small percentage of Native Americans remain. There are approximately five million native Americans in the USA, with many residing on ‘reservations.’ These federally-recognized tribes have rights to form their own governments and to enforce their own laws. It were these Native American self-determination movements, that resulted in the exercise of self-governance and decision making.

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