Mesoamerica

Ancient Civilizations

Olmec

  • The Olmec Civilization was the first elaborate pre-Columbian civilization.
  • The Olmec people were thought to have set many fundamentals used by American Indians.
  • In modern terms Olmec means rubber people or people of the rubber country because the Olmec people harvested latex from rubber trees and mixed it with juices from local vine to make rubber.
  • The Olmec people lived in hot, humid low lands along the Gulf Coast.
  • Sculptures created by the Olmec people were thought to be of their various rulers. most of these sculptures had the same features: round faces, thick features, heavy lidded eyes, and down turned mouths. These sculptures are referred to as were-jaguars.
  • Olmec writings may be the oldest example of writing in the Americas.
  • Construction, monuments, and art are all examples of how complex the Olmec society was.
  • The Olmec people developed a wide trading network.
  • In 400 B.C.E the Olmec stylistic influence disappeared.




The picture to the left is an example of the sculptures that the Olmec people created.


Teotihuacans

  • With a population estimated to be 125,000-200,00 people, the Teotihuacan civilization is considered to be the largest city of pre-Aztec Central America.
  • The area was settled in 400BC but the city didn't experience large scale urban growth until three centuries later.
  • The city became large in number when Cuicuilco refugees fled to the area after a volcano destroyed their city.
  • Around 750 AD a majority of the Teotihuacan city was burned down possibly during a civil war. After the civil war parts of the city was still occupied but most of it was in ruins. Centuries later the city was reestablished by Aztec pilgrims.
  • The origin and language of these people is unknown.
  • The city's cultural influence spread through Mesoamerica as a result of the people trading with distant regions.
  • The city's people used obsidian (volcanic glass) to make tools, weapons, and ornaments.
  • About two-thirds of the population was involved in farming. A large number of the population were immigrates from other areas which resulted in a large amount of merchants.
  • Priest-rulers who governed the city, staged religious ceremonies and pageants which often involved human sacrifice.


Mayans

  • In the early 21st century over 70 Mayan languages were spoken by 5 million people whom were bilingual.
  • The Mayans settled in villages where they practiced and developed agriculture based on the cultivation of corn, beans and squash, built great stone buildings and pyramid temples, worked gold and copper, and used hieroglyphics which have largely been deciphered.
  • The Mayans began building ceremonial centers which later developed into cities containing temples, pyramids, palaces, courts for playing ball, and plazas.
  • Modern day Mayans are generally Roman Catholic and Christian.



The picture to the right is the Mayan Calendar. The Mayan Calendar is an ancient dating system and is also the bases of modern day calendars.


Toltecs

  • The Toltecs had power over what is now Central America


  • The name Toltec has many meanings such as urbanite, a cultured person, and translates to the literal meaning of reed person which derived from their urban center, Tollan (Place of the Reeds)


  • The Toltec people attacked and burned the city of Teotihuacan
  • These people formed a number of small states of various ethnic origins into an empire later in the 10th century.
  • The rise of the Toltecs marked the rise of militarism in Mesoamerica.
  • They also were noted as builders and craftsmen and have been credited with the creation of fine metalwork, monumental porticoes, serpent columns, gigantic statues, carved human and animal standard-bearers, and peculiar reclining Chac Mool figures.

7. Beginning in the 12th century, the invasion of the nomadic Chichimec destroyed the Toltec hegemony in central Mexico. Among the invaders were the Aztecs or Mexica, who destroyed Tollan about the mid-12th century



The picture to the left is Toltecs representation of their warriors.