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South America

South America Images Index

<AmericaSouthLarge.html> A larger map of South America. (241kb)
<AmericaSouth2Large.html> The largest map of South America. (479kb)
<AmericaSouthWater.html> South America - with Rivers and Lakes Included.

Central America (map)

North America (map)

Oceania (map)

Full color elevation map of South America.
Click here to return to main world map.

Click here for a larger map of South America. (241kb)
Or click here for the largest map of South America. (479kb)


NASA/JPL/NIMA. “WorldSRTM-noPoles-giant” Online Image. Earth Observatory. 16 May 2005 <>

South America

This image was created from a larger Public Domain world map produced from data obtained by NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM). The world map was cropped to the South America and resized to 600 pixels wide using a trial version of Adobe Photoshop. Using Google's free Picasa2 program, the color and lighting were then enhanced and finally sharpened to obtain the image above. The original image can be viewed at the NASA link above.

The vast majority of South America was comparatively underdeveloped for most of its history. At first glance this is surprising since by 2000BC, intensive agriculture had emerged in three different locations, roughly the same level of development as Europe or China. A few cultures flourished here, including the important Chavin culture, 900-200BC, but the geography of the region was extraordinarily difficult. The interior lands east of the Andes Mountains never developed significantly any more than the interior jungles of Africa or most of tropical Oceania. To the West, tribes' lifestyles were well adapted to fishing on the narrow coast between the Andes and Pacific Ocean, or they were adapted to life in the high mountains. It was historically very difficult for tribes to extend their influence from one zone to the other, much less expand. The first state in South America was the Moche in 100BC; by this time there were still only pockets of intensive agriculture lost in a vast sea of less advanced cultures. So in almost 2000 years, South America produced only one small state, while Europe was ruled by the Roman Empire and China was ruled by the Han dynasty.

The first empire in South America at Lake Titicaca was the Tiahuanaco Empire around 400AD. The Huari Empire emerged just north of Tiahuanaco around 500BC and spread north up the coastal and mountain zones while Tiahuanaco spread south. Both empires collapsed round 1000AD initiating a period of decentralization until the Inca Empire emerged in 1200AD. In 1470, the Incas sacked Chan Chan, the capital of the Chimú Empire destroying the last viable state capable of resisting them with any success. The Incas were at their peak when the Europeans arrived. And while the Aztecs peaked because Europeans intervened in their conquests, the Incas had reached the natural extent of their own geographic boundaries. The only way for the Incas to expand would have been to assimilate less developed populations in the Amazon basin which Europeans have still not completely reached even today.

In 1532AD, Francisco Pizarro conquered the Inca and the Portuguese had established their first colony in Brazil. In 1572, all Inca resistance to the Spanish was effectively crushed and the Portuguese had colonized significant stretches of the Brazilian coast. Despite inroads by Spain’s European rivals in the Caribbean and North America. Spain and Portugal shared S. America in relative harmony. The Portuguese and Spanish empires in South America followed similar patterns to the US. Slave owning plantations provided economic opportunities and dislocated millions of Africans. The European colonists rapidly overwhelmed the native populations demographically. And like the US, it rebelled. In 1819 Simon Bolivar defeated the Spanish at the Battle of Boyaca. Within 6 years, Brazil had established its independence from Portugal and the Spanish controlled states were also free. The independent republics which were established have followed more or less rocky paths in the years since, but they have continued to exist into the Information Age.

Author: chroniclemaster1 Date Received: 2006/01/02
Editor: chroniclemaster1 First Date Posted: 2006/01/02
Proofreader: chroniclemaster1 Last Date Revised: 2006/01/02
Researcher(s): chroniclemaster1
Subjects: Maps
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