When Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean Sea in 1492, he thought he was in Asia. He called the people he encountered “Indios,” because he was convinced he had reached one of the islands of southeast Asia—land many Europeans called the Indies. Although Columbus likely died believing he reached Asia, we know today that he stumbled on what his fellow Europeans would eventually call a New World.
Through trade routes or war, the people of the Old World—Europe, Asia, and Africa—had been trading goods, ideas, and even diseases for thousands of years before the Colombian voyage. The Native Americans, however, developed their civilizations far from the influences of the Old World.
The oldest agreed-upon evidence of advanced civilization in the Americas comes from 13,500-year-old spear points near Clovis, New Mexico. By 10,000 years ago—long before the development of civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China, humans occupied every section of North and South America, from modern Alaska to the Caribbean Islands and the southern tip of South America.