In this alternate scenario, man created the bow and arrow BEFORE leaving Africa. From what I had read, this can result in many technological revolutions while the Earth was still in the grip of an ice age. So man used horses, elephants and camels as draft animals, built the wheel and began writing before the climate chaos that is The Younger Dryas.

The basis of this question is that while the Old World basked in the glories of Egypt, Rome, China and Japan, the Americas had very few evidence of civilization. The following evidence is as such:

  • Cahokia enter image description here

  • Cliff Palace enter image description here

  • Tikal enter image description here

  • Machu Picchu enter image description here

In OTL, the reasons settlements like these were not so common in North or South America is that they did not have the pack animal or the wheel. If man became archers before leaving Africa, maybe the pre-Columbian Americans could have plenty of both. These two could potentially result in empires with a scope to match that of Rome or at least Ptolemaic Egypt.

But this raises yet another problem. In North America, there are 562 federally identified Native American tribes and perhaps as many in South America.

If the Native Americans did have the tools and technology to build empires large enough to cover good portions of either North or South America, would the number of tribes still be the same? Or will mass empire-building drop that number to a noticeable degree?

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    $\begingroup$ Read the book Guns, Germs, and Steel. It's also made into a TV miniseries. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Mar 16, 2016 at 3:27
  • $\begingroup$ A draft animal is one which will pull a heavy load, such as a plow. It does not mean a pack animal. So camels are not draft animals, and elephants are only sporadically useful in that role. $\endgroup$ Mar 16, 2016 at 3:46
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps you need to re-think the "big pointy buildings are the epitome of civilization" meme? See for instance the Iroquois Confederacy. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Mar 16, 2016 at 4:33
  • $\begingroup$ I don't entirely understand the question. If Native Americans were archers much earlier, therefore pack or draft animals and the wheel? How does that follow? $\endgroup$
    – CAgrippa
    Mar 16, 2016 at 18:50

3 Answers 3


Would the rise of a nation-level empire cut down the number of tribes or would they remain the same?

The number of tribes would most probably remain the same if not increase as a result of a nation-wide empire. Take for example, the case of Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. These countries have had several national-level dynasties. India alone had Slave Dynasty, Mughal Dynasty, Ashoka Dynasty among several others, and was also a british colony for more than a century. Yet such a history of national unity has not cut down their castes. There are more than 40 castes (main family lines) in India alone and another 40 in Pakistan.

Tribes are a much smaller unit of identification than caste and a single caste can maintain more than a dozen tribes in an area. For example, there are more than 40 Bhatti tribes in Pakistan alone.

Tribes and castes were used not due to a lack of national empire, but for the sake of identity and introduction in historic times. This was also a good measure of immediately knowing what ancestory and caliber (in general) does the person have. Having a nation-wide empire does not cull these factors. It is only when tribal unity is dispersed and there is mass immigration from rural settlements to cities, that caste system slowly fades. Take for example, the fact that caste system is still widely prevailant in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, although castes are considered lesser important for a measure of personal caliber and social status in cities, than it is in villages and other rural settlements.


The Americas did have civilizations that had construction projects that matched and even exceeded "Old World" achievements. The llama is and was used as a pack animal, and its range did reach into the far southwest of North America anciently (I'm unsure about the time frame for this). Dogs were also used as pack-beasts to some small extent.

I believe it is also likely that the wheel was used on more than just a few toys. The pre-Incan roads in the Andes are way over engineered for just foot traffic. While there is a lack of archaeological evidence so far, there is only slightly more archaeological evidence of, for example, chariots in biblical territory. Wooden objects simply don't often survive for any significant length of time.

For the majority of the American continents, the European explorers and settlers were essentially wandering through a post-Apocalypse world in which about 90-95% of the population had been wiped out by plague.

  • $\begingroup$ The plague part might be a little bit of an exaggeration, depending. $\endgroup$ Mar 16, 2016 at 4:24
  • $\begingroup$ If so, not by much. Whether it was the Plague plague, or a cocktail of several other European diseases, death preceded the explorers and settlers, leaving a very small percentage of natives alive to encounter them. $\endgroup$ Mar 16, 2016 at 18:37
  • $\begingroup$ Well, which area are you talking about? There is a lot of variance in how many were killed. $\endgroup$ Mar 16, 2016 at 18:48

With the right resources you and the right leader tribal people will unite and conqueror an Empire.

The Mongols our classic of example. But Asia is full of other tribes who did the same thing.

The reasons why the American Indians didn't do this was because, they lacked two important resources. First they lacked horses ( without horses it is unlikely that a they could have been much of threat to a powerful Empire.

The tribes would also need a powerful Empire or some other enemy to unite against. Genghis Khan had China and other nations of Asia, he used the dream of conquering these nations to keep the Mongol tribes united under that vision.

Another thing you would have to change would be geography of North America. The Inca and Aztec empires never traded or Ward with each other because he was separated by the Andes.

The spread of ideas Technologies and resources usually come by trade or Conquest. One nation will invent an idea or technology it will spread to another Nation Where it will be improved. If you want a historical example look at guns. They were made in Asia but perfected by Europeans. This wasn't an option in America as for what few Empires that were but either too far away to trade with one another or separated mountain ranges or other barriers.

To sum it all up give the Indians horses and other Beast of Burden, eliminate the natural barriers and yes you would have more empires in the new world.

  • $\begingroup$ That didn't really answer the question. Would the Americas still boast hundreds of tribes, or would empire-building cut that number? $\endgroup$ Mar 16, 2016 at 2:37
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnWDailey. Give them horses and eliminate natural barriers and yeah you would have more Empires in the Americas $\endgroup$ Mar 16, 2016 at 13:04

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