Native Americans certainly came from Asia by the Bering strait. The archeological record shows traces of human inhabitation from 12,000, but researchers suggest an earlier date, perhaps as long as 50,000 years ago. As early as 982 Erik Thorvaldsson, known as "Erik the Red", came from Iceland and landed in Greenland. This first contact on a more temperate coastline than today will be followed by the establishment of colonies that have left many traces. It is certain that the expeditions from Greenland in the year 1000 reached America, the Vikings settled in the "Vinland". The excavations made it possible to locate the vestiges of their villages at the northern tip of Newfoundland. But these expeditions destined to seek new fisheries, will scarcely leave traces, in the way to see the world, in the Middle Ages: it was a simple discovery. The "discovery" of a new world will undoubtedly be to the credit of Christopher Columbus (1492). From 1497 Jean Cabot in the service of the English find the Vinland. In 1500 Portugal take possession of a part of the future Brazil. Amerigo Vespucci completes the recognition of the littoral as far as Patagonia, and it is a geographer of Saint-Die who takes again his name to baptize the new world. The Spanish conquistadors will encounter the Aztec and Inca Empires, both undermined by defeatist prophecies. Spanish success will lead to a complete transformation of geography: in less than 20 years from 1519, Cortes, Pizarro and others, revealed to the Old World the main lines of the mountainous regions between California and the southern Andes . The immense regions apart from the two great empires are, simply traveled by adventurers. Their adventures advance the geographical knowledge, but very roughly and often much later. These include Cabeza de Vaca, which goes from Florida to the Gulf of Mexico, and to the south of the Rockies; Coronado to the desert of Arizona; Quesada recognizes the north of South America in search of "el Dorado". Orellana by meeting the Native Amerindians, descends an immense river which he names Amazone (1541). The Portuguese engage only later inside their Brazil, with the "bandirantes" slave hunters. In North America very large regions are recognized very late. If the French Cartier and Champlain in the 16th century, go beside the st Lawrence, the regions around (the Great Lakes) will be explored only in the 17th. The Mississippi will be recognized entirely by Cavalier de la Salle only in 1682, the plains further west to the Rockies will be traversed notably by Vérendrye only in the 18th. It is not until the early 19th century that the northern Pacific coast is mapped (La Perouse and Vancouver), and that the Rocky Mountains are studied by Mackenzie and Lewis. The great north will not really be known until the 19-20th century.
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