Educational resources

Pre-Columbian technologies

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This page contains animated explanations of technological processes.

Driven by a variety of needs and desires—the necessity of survival, a desire to mark social distinctions, and/or to produce musical instruments that made specific sounds, among many others—pre-Columbian peoples explored a vast array of crafting and engineering technologies. While some of these are unique to the Americas, a significant number are similar to technologies used by preindustrial cultures around the world. However, most technologies used since America was first colonized more than 15,000 years ago developed independently from those in the Old World.

Some of these technologies are remarkably simple and efficient; producing a sharp knife from a rock, for example, enabled ancient Americans to survive in some of the most hostile environments on the planet. Other more refined techniques, such as the manufacture of bronze bells that produce a certain sound, were employed by experts possessing special knowledge that was considered sacred.