Most American schoolchildren learn about Christopher Columbus, his patronage from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, and his three ships that came to the New World. But few of us know very much about what that “world” was like when Columbus arrived. Here’s a fun quiz to test your knowledge.


1. The New World got the name “America” from …?

A. The Latin word for “Amazing Land”

B. A tribute to Queen Amelia of the Netherlands

C. The explorer Amerigo Vespucci

D. A mineral commonly found in its soil


2. Based on the best current estimates of demographers, how many people lived in the Americas when Columbus arrived?

A. 4 million

B. 40 million

C. 400 million

D. Fewer than a million


3. How many men sailed with Columbus on the Pinta, Nina and Santa Maria?

A. 90

B. 100

C. 125

D. 150


4. When the Europeans arrived, the dominant force on the continent was …?

A. The Mayan Empire

B. The Iroquois Confederacy

C. The Olmecs

D. The Aztec Empire


5. Before Columbus arrived, which of the following was not available to the people of the Americas?

A. Horses

B. Coffee

C. Wheat

D. All of the above


6. Which of the following was not available in Europe until Columbus reached the New World?

A. Corn

B. Potatoes

C. Chocolate

D. All of the above


7. The “Pinta” was not the ship’s formal name, but a nickname given by the sailors. It meant:

A. “Painted one” or “prostitute.”

B. “Pony”

C. It was short for “pinata.”

D. A reference to the pine in the ship’s construction.


8. The Europeans in Central America faced warriors who wielded the “atlatl.” What sort of weapon was it?

A. A curved sword.

B. A primitive firearm.

C. A device that flung darts and spears.

D. A lasso.


9. While 1492 may have been his most famous trip, how many voyages did Columbus make to the New World?

A. One

B. Two

C. Three

D. Four


10. Columbus spent most of the last year of his life …?

A. Living like a king in Spain

B. Exploring the coastline of the Americas

C. Castaway on Jamaica waiting for rescue

D. Building his family home in Hispaniola


ANSWERS:  1-C, 2-B, 3-A, 4-A, 5-D, 6-D, 7-A, 8-C, 9-D, 10-C