Lesson Plan - Get It!
The Europeans of the sixteenth century imagined all kinds of strange things about the New World of the Americas. After all, they couldn't just check the Internet to get the latest updates. What do you think they pictured America to be like?
There were no photographs, no video cameras, and no telephones with which travelers could communicate the sights, sounds, and events of the Americas.
Sometimes, the people back home would have to “fill in the blanks” with their imaginations. Otherwise, they would have to wait for the months and years to pass for the travelers' reports to make their way back home.
Painting and other visual arts played a big role in communicating to Europe exactly what this “Brave New World” was really like. Nowadays, these images are not only really interesting to look at, but they give us a lot of information about the early Americas as they appeared to European explorers, or what eager Europeans imagined things to be like on the other side of the ocean.
Take a look at this photo from The Harvard University Press. Without knowing anything specific about the subject of this image, write a paragraph to describe exactly what you see in the picture. Pretend you are describing the picture to someone on the phone — you know the other person can't see a thing, so you have to be quite specific and clear in your description.
Share the image and your writings with your parent or teacher. Then, reflect on the following questions and discuss:
- What do you think is going on in the image?
- What historical details could you gather from the image?
- What do you think this image can tell us about the early history of the Americas?
The paintings and engravings that came out of New World exploration are sometimes full of wonder, and also sometimes full of brutality. It was a dangerous time and place, and many people lost their lives through disease, conflict, enslavement, and other causes. Explorers also excited Europeans with seemingly fantastic tales and pictures of never-before-seen creatures. Imagine seeing an alligator for the first time!
In the Got It? section, apply your analytical skills to pictures of the early Americas you select on your own.