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Early American Explorers
and the Age of Discovery
How did it all begin?
Lesson Objectives
To explain the Age of Discovery/Age of Exploration.
To understand the causes and effects of European
colonization in the United States.
To understand location and patterns of settlements
and the geographic factors that influence where people
To understand the economic patterns of early societies.
Explorer Vocabulary
Explorer – someone who travels to gain geographic or scientific
New World – Western Hemisphere including North and South America.
Age of Discovery – A period of time between the 15th and 17th century,
when Europeans explored and mapped the world.
Colony – A group of people that settle far from home and maintain ties
to their home country.
Colonize – To establish a colony.
Cartographer - Mapmaker
Conquer – To defeat in combat (war).
Aztecs – South American people conquered by Cortes.
St. Augustine – The oldest, permanently settled city in the United States.
Reasons for Exploration
Curiosity – what’s out there?
Money and Power
National Pride
Religion –spreading Christianity
Trade – buying and selling foreign goods
New, shorter trade routes
Obstacles Faced by Explorers
Fear of the unknown
The Sea of Darkness/terrifying monsters
Poor maps and navigational tools
Lack of good supplies – water and fruit
Disease, starvation and lots of hard work
Bad weather.
What Countries Sent Explorers?
Explorer Timeline
1st century AD
Chinese invent the first compass.
Eric the Red discovers Greenland.
Leif Ericson discovers North America.
Prince Henry the Navigator builds school for sailors.
Turkish Empire cuts off the land route for spices from Asia to Europe. Search for sea route begins.
Columbus sails to the New World.
John Cabot discovers Newfoundland while he searches for the Northwest Passage.
Amerigo Vespucci returns from his explorations of the New World. American continents named after him by
German mapmaker.
Vasco Nunez de Balboa discovers the eastern shore of the Pacific Ocean. Juan Ponce de Leon searches
for the Fountain of Youth in Florida.
1519 - 1522
Ferdinand Magellan and his crew sail around the world.
Hernando Cortez Spanish explorer who defeats the Aztec Empire.
Francisco Pizarro defeats the Inca Empire.
Jacques Cartier discovers the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes.
1539 - 1542
Hernando De Soto explores the southeastern United States.
Francisco asquez de Coronado explores the southwestern United States and discovers the Grand Canyon.
Trying to find Cibola – the Seven Cities of Gold.
Sir Francis Drake becomes the first Englishman to sail around the world.
Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet explore the Mississippi River.
Rene-Robert de La Salle explores the Mississippi River from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.
So, what’s going on in 1492?
Christopher Columbus’ first exploration in 1492
marked the beginning of the Age of Discovery, also
known as the Age of Exploration.
King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I did not have
the funds available to finance Columbus’ expedition,
but felt they needed to keep Columbus from offering
his services to other countries. They borrowed money
from several other royal accounts to finance the
There’s more…
Europeans had three goals in exploration: gold (money),
glory (land and power) and God (introduction of
Christianity to the New World).
The great powers (countries) worked frantically to explorers
to the New World as quickly as possible.
Explorers were given permission to claim land in anyway
possible, even if that meant taking slaves or prisoners, or
engaging in battles.
Some explorers continued to search for a northwest passage
as a shortcut to Asia. Though none were successful in
finding such a path.
Spain, France and England all established themselves firmly
in the New World by the 17th Century