North America


January 24, 2022

North America (also North America, North America, North America or North America) is the part of the American continent located north of the Isthmus of Panama: in the Italian geographical literature, Western Europe (excluding the British Isles) and of Latin America, it is considered a subcontinent, forming part of the continent of America, while according to the geographical literature of English, Chinese and Russian culture it would instead be a continent in its own right. Contained completely in the northern hemisphere, it is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea, to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean. It covers an area of ​​approximately 24709000 km² which corresponds to approximately 4.8% of the earth's surface and approximately 16.5% of the emerged lands. Considered as a continent, by surface it is the third in the world (after Asia and Africa) and the fourth by population, after the two mentioned and Europe. The name North America is also used to indicate only the subcontinent with the exception of Central America. If this distinction is made, which is of a substantially political and non-geographical nature, North America has a slightly smaller extension than that described above and is bordered to the south by the southern border of Mexico.


Commonly accepted that North America and South America were named in honor of the Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci by the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller, Vespucci was the first European to suggest that the Americas were not the East Indies, but a different territory, previously not yet discovered and he was also the first to discover South America, linking his discoveries with those of Christopher Columbus. The etymology was further complicated by the need of cartographers to arrive at a name that, parallel to that of the other continents, was female (Europe, Asia, Africa); the convention was to use the surname for the naming of the discoveries, except in the case of copyright or when a derivation (as in the case of Amerigo "Vespuccio") could be problematic.


Pre-Columbian America and European explorations

Before the arrival of the Europeans, North America was populated by innumerable indigenous tribes not very evolved who were distinguished in large groups, all presumably descended from Asian peoples who crossed the Bering Strait 40,000 years ago: the Indians of the areas closest to the Mexico were more evolved, and came to build real cities with mud, in desert areas. It was probably here that the Aztecs were born before migrating south. The other populations were instead more primitive, and often knew neither agriculture nor pastoralism, but they were hunters and gatherers, like the Indians of the Great Plains, whose survival was always intimately linked with the bison herds. The first to arrive in North America from Europe were certainly the Vikings, who landed near Labrador (Canada) around the year 1000. However, for unknown reasons, they did not settle there for long and soon abandoned the only settlement losing the memory of the colony. North America was thus rediscovered by Giovanni Caboto in the service of Great Britain, that on 24 June 1497 he reached the island of Newfoundland and believed he was in Asia. He is considered the first European to have landed in continental America (until then Columbus had only explored the Caribbean islands), provided he was not preceded by Amerigo Vespucci in South America. The interest of England, however, was short-lived also because during his second voyage (1498) Caboto disappeared. Therefore the classification of North America as a continent, and not as a small group of islands or as part of Asia, was delayed.

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