This unit is designed as a prequel to a middle school U.S. history course, drawing out some of the background to the conflicts underpinning the early United States through the lens of the Age of Exploration, while also familiarizing students with a wide range of maps and cartographical techniques. The unit catalogues a period of history beginning in ancient times and ending in the Seven Years' War. The unit begins with early cartography and the beginnings of shipwright and overseas trade and conflict. This includes the explorations of the Vikings, the trade routes along the Silk Road and in Northern Africa, and the Crusades. The lens then shifts towards transatlantic colonization and addresses the conflicts between colonists and the Mesoamerican empires from a "Guns, Germs, and Steel" lens. The unit analyzes major factors in French, British, Spanish, and Portuguese colonization, including the establishment of the thirteen colonies and the lead-up to the Seven Years' War. Each lesson includes a do now, activities, and an exit ticket. A summative assessment is included, as well as answer keys for each lesson.