The History of the Native Peoples of the Americas/Mesoamerican Cultures

IntroductionEdit

Mosaico de Mesoamérica.jpg

Mesoamerica or Meso-America is a region and culture area in the Americas, extending approximately from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, within which a number of pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Prehistoric groups in this area are characterized by agricultural villages and large ceremonial and politico-religious capitals. This culture area included some of the most complex and advanced cultures of the Americas, including the Olmec, Zapotec, Teotihuacan, Maya, Mixtec, Totonac and Aztec among others.

The term Mesoamerica—literally, "middle America" in Greek—was first used by the German ethnologist Paul Kirchhoff, who noted that similarities existed among the various pre-Columbian cultures within the region that included southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, western Honduras, and the Pacific lowlands of Nicaragua and northwestern Costa Rica. In the tradition of cultural history, the prevalent archaeological theory of the early to middle 20th century, Kirchhoff defined this zone as a culture area based on a suite of interrelated cultural similarities brought about by millennia of inter- and intra-regional interaction (i.e., diffusion).

These included sedentism, agriculture (specifically a reliance on the cultivation of maize), the use of two different calendars (a 260-day ritual calendar and a 365-day calendar based on the solar year), a base 20 (vigesimal) number system, pictographic and hieroglyphic writing systems, the practice of various forms of sacrifice, and a complex of shared ideological concepts. Mesoamerica has also been shown to be a linguistic area defined by a number of grammatical traits that have spread through the area by diffusion.

CulturesEdit

Mesoamerica stretches from Central Mexico through Central America. Today this includes the countries of Mexico, Belize, Nicuragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and El Salvador.
The most ancient of the Mesoamerican civilizations is known by the name Olmec. They laid many of the foundations for the civilizations that followed. Among other "firsts", there is evidence that the Olmec practiced ritual bloodletting and played the Mesoamerican ballgame, hallmarks of nearly all subsequent Mesoamerican societies...
The Zapotec civilization was an indigenous pre-Columbian civilization that flourished in the Valley of Oaxaca of southern Mesoamerica. Archaeological evidence shows their culture goes back at least 2500 years. They left archaeological evidence at the ancient city of Monte Albán in the form of buildings, ball courts, magnificent tombs and grave goods including finely worked gold jewelry. Monte Albán was one of the first major cities in Mesoamerica and the center of a Zapotec state that dominated much of what we know of as the current state of Oaxaca...
The word Toltec in Mesoamerican studies has been used in different ways by different scholars to refer to actual populations and polities of pre-Columbian central Mexico or to the mythical ancestors mentioned in the mythical/historical narratives of the Aztecs. It is an ongoing debate whether the Toltecs can be understood to have formed an actual ethnic group at any point in Mesoamerican history or if they are mostly or only a product of Aztec myth...
The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period (c. 2000 BC to 250 AD), according to the Mesoamerican chronology, many Maya cities reached their highest state development during the Classic period (c. 250 AD to 900 AD), and continued throughout the Post-Classic period until the arrival of the Spanish. At its peak, it was one of the most densely populated and culturally dynamic societies in the world...
The Aztec people were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a period referred to as the late post-classic period in Mesoamerican chronology...
Chichimeca was the name that the Nahua peoples of Mexico generically applied to a wide range of semi-nomadic peoples who inhabited the north of modern-day Mexico and southwestern United States, and carried the same sense as the European term "barbarian". The name was adopted with a pejorative tone by the Spaniards when referring especially to the semi-nomadic hunter-gatherer peoples of northern Mexico. In modern times only one ethnic group is customarily referred to as Chichimecs, namely the Chichimeca Jonaz, although lately this usage is being changed for simply "Jonáz" or their own name for themselves "Úza"...
The Tarascan state was a state in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, roughly covering the geographic area of the present-day Mexico|Mexican States of Mexico|state of Michoacán. At the time of the Spanish conquest of Mexico it was the second-largest state in Mexico. The state was founded in the early 14th century and lost its independence to the Spanish in 1530. In 1543 it officially became the governorship of Michoacán, from the Nahuatl language|Nahuatl name for the Tarascan state, Michoacán ("place of those who have fish"). In P'urhépecha, language of the Tarascans, the name of the state was Iréchecua Tzintzuntzáni, the "lands of Tzintzuntzan"...
Teotihuacán (Nahuatl: "place of those who have the road of the gods") was, at its height in the first half of the 1st millennium CE, the largest city in the Americas. The name Teotihuacan is also used to refer to the civilization that this city was the center of, which at its greatest extent included much of central Mexico. Its influence spread throughout Mesoamerica; evidence of Teotihuacano presence, if not outright political and economic control, can be seen at numerous sites in Veracruz and the Maya region...

AppendicesEdit

ReferencesEdit

Last modified on 11 September 2013, at 22:00