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LEARN NC is no longer supported by the UNC School of Education and has been permanently archived. On February 1st, 2018, you will only be able to access these resources through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. We recommend that you print or download resources you may need before February 1st, 2018, after which, you will have to follow these instructions in order to access those resources.

  1. Credits & acknowledgments
  2. Introduction
  3. About this "digital textbook"
  1. 1 The land
    1. 1.1
      Natural diversity
      North Carolina has within its borders the highest mountains east of the Mississippi River, a broad, low-lying coastal area, and all the land in between. That variety of landforms, elevations, and climates has produced as diverse a range of ecosystems as any state in the United States. It has also influenced the way people have lived in North Carolina for thousands of years.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 0
    2. 1.2
      The natural history of North Carolina
      If the five billion years of the earth's history were condensed into a single day, humans would have arrived in North Carolina just two tenths of a second before midnight! This article summarizes the major biological and geological events in North Carolina's history and explains how the land and environment of today came to be.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 0
    3. 1.3
      How the world was made
      This Cherokee creation story, written down in the 1800s, describes how the earth was created from soft mud "when all was water."
      • Format:
      • Relevant dates: 0
    4. 1.4
      The creation and fall of man, from Genesis
      The creation story from the biblical Book of Genesis describes how God created heaven and earth, plants, animals, and people; and later how the first people were cast out of the Garden of Eden as punishment for eating from the "tree of knowledge of good and evil."
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      • Relevant dates: 0
    5. 1.5
      The golden chain
      This creation story told by the Yoruba of West Africa describes how Olorun (the all-powerful being) lived with heavenly beings called orishas around a young baobab tree in the sky, until a curious orisha asked permission to create something solid in the watery world below.
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      • Relevant dates: 0
  2. 2 Native Carolinians
    1. 2.1
      First peoples
      Beringia was a wide land bridge between Alaska and Siberia that was periodically exposed during the last Great Ice Age. According to a widely-held theory, the first people to live in North America were Asians who followed animal herds across Beringia. The Paleoindians living in North Carolina by 9000 BCE were descendents of these first North Americans. Nobody knows how long it took before the first Paleoindians reached North Carolina, but the few artifacts they left create an image of their past.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: -9000–7000
    2. 2.2
      The mystery of the first Americans
      In the second half of the twentieth century, archaeologists agreed that those “first Americans” migrated from Asia across Beringia and into North America between fourteen and twenty thousand years ago. Recently, though, new evidence has come to light that has led some archaeologists to doubt that theory and to suggest new possibilities.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 0
    3. 2.3
      Shadows of a people
      Archaeologists divide North Carolina's prehistory -- the time before contact with Europeans -- into four periods: Paleoindian, Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: -10000–1600
    4. 2.4
      Peoples of the Piedmont
      In the years between 1000 and 1200 CE, Native life in the north and central Piedmont hadn’t changed much from prior Woodland times. People still lived in small hamlets whose houses strung out along river and stream banks. At times, the hamlets sat empty when people left to hunt and gather wild foods. But times were about to change. Around 900 CE, corn agriculture began. As a result, population began to grow, people began gathering in larger villages, and conflicts erupted.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 0
    5. 2.5
      Peoples of the mountains
      During the Mississippian period, corn agriculture became more important in the mountains of North Carolina. More productive agriculture supported larger populations and provided opportunities for accumulating wealth. This brought about increased social ranking and political centralization. The Mountain region was creating its own identity -- an identity that archaeologists tie to the modern-day Cherokee. Archaeologists have given the names Pisgah and Qualla to these Cherokee ancestors.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 0
    6. 2.6
      Peoples of the Coastal Plain
      When Europeans arrived in the late 1500s, North Carolina’s northern Coastal Plain was home to two different cultures. Speakers of Algonkian languages lived closest to the Atlantic edge, in the Outer Coastal Plain or Tidewater. Iroquoian speakers lived more inland, on the Inner Coastal Plain. Based on the distinctive items each group left, archaeologists call the Algonkian speakers Colington and the Iroquoian speakers Cashie.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 0
    7. 2.7
      Maintaining balance: The religious world of the Cherokees
      In the 1880s, Cherokee elders in the North Carolina mountains allowed a white man named James Mooney to observe and record information about their culture. The Cherokee myths that Mooney gathered and wrote down in English help explain the world of the Cherokees. These myths show that, for the Cherokees, the world was primarily a relationship of proper balance.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 0
    8. 2.8
      Cherokee women
      Before the arrival of Europeans in North America, women enjoyed a major role in the family life, economy, and government of the Cherokee Indians. Cherokee society was organized according to a matrilineal kinship system, and women were the heads of households. Women also did most of the farming and had a voice in government.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1490–1800
    9. 2.9
      Native peoples of the Chesapeake region
      The Chesapeake Bay has been home to Native Americans for over 10,000 years. Throughout their histories — even to the present day — these societies have adapted to difficult circumstances and unforeseen changes. Chesapeake natives have faced wars, epidemic diseases, loss of land, and treaty violations.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1600–1800
    10. 2.10
      The importance of one simple plant
      The natives of America could trace the history of maize to the beginning of time. Maize was the food of the gods that had created the Earth. It played a central role in many native myths and legends. And it came to be one of their most important foods. Maize, in some form, made up roughly 65 percent of the native diet. When European settlers reached the New World, they learned to cultivate Indian corn from their native neighbors.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1500–1750
    11. 2.11
      The process of archaeology
      Archaeologists use several processes to address questions about the past. They may gather new data by conducting regional surveys to locate archaeological sites. Occasionally sites are partially or completely excavated to address specific research questions or to salvage information prior to disturbance by a development project. All data recovered are thoroughly analyzed following scientific inquiry procedures before conclusions are reached.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 0
  3. 3 Spanish exploration
    1. 3.1
      Spain and America: From Reconquest to Conquest
      In 1491, no European knew that North and South America existed. By 1550, Spain -- a small kingdom that had not even existed a century earlier -- controlled the better part of two continents and had become the most powerful nation in Europe. In half a century of brave exploration and brutal conquest, both Europe and America were changed forever.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1400–1600
    2. 3.2
      Where am I? Mapping a New World
      Early European travelers to the Americas reported bits and pieces of information back to Europe. Over the centuries, mapmakers assembled these reports into maps. As time went by, explorers and mapmakers compiled an increasingly accurate understanding of the Americas and of the world. To do so, they had to invent new tools for mapmaking, embrace radical new ideas about the shape of the world, and discard cherished beliefs.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1400–1800
    3. 3.3
      The De Soto expedition
      Hernando De Soto’s expedition through the southeastern United States in 1539–43 was one of the earliest of the early contacts between Europeans and native peoples. While historical documents tell the story of do Soto's journey, advances in both history and archaeology have enabled researchers to reconstruct the de Soto route.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1539–1542
    4. 3.4
      Juan Pardo, the Indians of Guatari, and first contact
      The Guatari Indians lived in an influential settlement near Trading Ford and were led by a female chief. In 1567, they encountered Spanish explorers led by Captain Juan Pardo who came through the North Carolina Piedmont with grand hopes of creating a powerful empire.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1560–1600
    5. 3.5
      Spanish had many reasons for Pardo expedition
      What spurred the Spanish to set up a territorial capital on the South Carolina coast in the 1560s and launch Juan Pardo’s expedition into the Southeastern interior? The reasons range from the self-serving (protecting an enormously profitable silver mine) to the spiritual (converting the Indians to Christianity) to the anxious (reducing the capital’s population to lower the demand for food).
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1560–1600
    6. 3.6
      Spanish empire failed to conquer Southeast
      Juan Pardo’s expedition erected six forts in the Southeastern interior, including one at Guatari. Most of them seem to have fallen in short order. That result wasn’t surprising. The forts were isolated, lightly garrisoned in most cases, dependent on the Indians for food, and prone to trigger Indian resentment.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1560–1600
  4. 4 From England to America
    1. 4.1
      England's flowering
      The reign of England's Queen Elizabeth (1558–1603) was marked by a proliferation of the arts, an expansion of private markets, and a dedication to world exploration and privateering.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1485–1603
    2. 4.2
      Merrie olde England?
      Many residents of Elizabethan England did not enjoy the abundance that accompanied Queen Elizabeth’s reign. The dawn of the age of exploration gripped people’s imaginations and caused many to dream of travel, and the New World offered the promise of a fresh start without the problems of the old country.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1585–1607
    3. 4.3
      Fort Raleigh and the Lost Colony
      England's first two settlements in the New World differed in character and purpose: The first short-lived colony, inhabited entirely by men, was set up as a stake in the newly discovered Americas and a base of privateering against French and Spanish shipping. The second was intended as a permanent colony and was settled by men, women and children. Their disappearance is a mystery that remains unsolved nearly 400 years later.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1584–1602
    4. 4.4
      The search for the Lost Colony
      No one knows what happened to the “Lost Colonists” of Roanoke Island -- but that has only made their story more interesting. Over the past 400 years, historians, archaeologists, storytellers, and outright liars have developed a number of theories about the vanished settlers.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 0
    5. 4.5
      Amadas and Barlowe explore the Outer Banks
      On April 27, 1584, Captains Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe left the west coast of England in two ships to explore the North American coast for Sir Walter Raleigh. The party of explorers landed on July 13, 1584, on the North Carolina coast just north of Roanoke Island, and claimed the land in the name of Queen Elizabeth. Captain Barlowe's report describes the land and the people he encountered.
      • Format: journal
      • Relevant dates: 1584
    6. 4.6
      John White searches for the colonists
      In this excerpt from the report of his voyage, John White explains how he and the crew of two ships searched for the lost colonists on Roanoke Island but could not find them.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1590
  5. 5 Contact and consequences
    1. 5.1
      The Columbian Exchange
      When Christopher Columbus and his crew arrived in the New World, two biologically distinct worlds were brought into contact. The animal, plant, and bacterial life of these two worlds began to mix in a process called the Columbian Exchange. The results of this exchange recast the biology of both regions and altered the history of the world.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1492–1800
    2. 5.2
      The Columbian Exchange at a glance
      Countless animals, plants, and microorganisms crossed the Atlantic Ocean with European explorers and colonists in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. This chart lists some of the organisms that had the greatest impact on human society worldwide.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 0
    3. 5.3
      Disease and catastrophe
      Of all the kinds of life exchanged when the Old and New Worlds met, lowly germs had the greatest impact. Europeans and later Africans brought smallpox and a host of other diseases with them to America, where those diseases killed as much as 90 percent of the native population of two continents. Europeans came away lucky -- with only a few tropical diseases from Africa and, probably, syphilis from the New World. In America, disease destoyed civilizations.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 0
    4. 5.4
      Smallpox
      Smallpox is a serious, contagious, and sometimes fatal infectious disease caused by the variola virus. Historically, smallpox had a mortality rate of as much as 30 percent. In the Americas, it killed as much as 90 percent of the indigenous population after contact with Europeans introduced the disease. Smallpox is now eradicated after a successful worldwide vaccination program.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 0
    5. 5.5
      The lost landscape of the Piedmont
      The Piedmont region of North Carolina is unrecognizable compared to the landscape of 400 years ago. Where man-made lakes now sit were huge bottomland forests. While pine trees accounted for only a small percentage of Piedmont acreage, they now dominate the region's forests -- a result of clearing hardwoods to create farmland. Other once-prominent landscapes include areas of grassland known as “Piedmont prairie,” and upland depression swamps where the clay soils often kept moisture on the land’s surface.
      • Format: article
      • Relevant dates: 1560–1600
  1. Appendix A. Reading Primary Sources: An Introduction for Students
  2. Teacher's Guide: Using the Digital Textbook
  3. Glossary
  4. Index