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AP World History: Mesoamerican Civilizations. Period 1: Technological and Environmental Transformations, to c. 600 B.C.E. Key Concept 1.3. The Development and Interactions of Early Agricultural, Pastoral, and Urban Societies Themes: ______________. The First People in the Americas.

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ap world history mesoamerican civilizations
AP World History: Mesoamerican Civilizations

Period 1: Technological and Environmental Transformations, to c. 600 B.C.E.

Key Concept 1.3. The Development and Interactions of Early Agricultural, Pastoral, and Urban Societies

Themes: ______________

the first people in the americas
The First People in the Americas

A) Land Bridge Theory: During the last major ice age (15,000 – 11,000 years ago), the ocean level was lower. Siberia and Alaska were connected by land. People from Siberia walked to Alaska, following herds of animals.

B)Clovis points (a type of spear point) have been found in North America that date from 11,500 to 11,000 BCE. *This fits in with the Land Bridge Theory.

C) But there is not 100% proof of an ice free passage where Siberians could have walked from Alaska into the Americas. Also, the oldest archaeological site in the Americas is Monte Verde in South America!

D) Therefore, it is possible that people from Asia also came to the Americas by boat.

mesoamerica geography
Mesoamerica Geography

Mesoamerica is divided into highland areas (1,000+ meters above sea level) and lowland areas (between 1,000 meters and sea level). Lowland areas tend to be hot and tropical, while highland regions are generally much cooler.

the olmecs 1775 400 bce
The Olmecs 1775 – 400 BCE

“Olmec” has been translated to mean “rubber lpeople” or “mouth of the jaguar” in Nahuatl (a language also spoken by the Aztecs who settled in the area much later). They were the first major civilization in Mesoamerica, and therefore often referred to as the “mother civilization” of later pre-Columbian civilizations. They lived in the Gulf Coast area.

mother culture or only a sister
Mother Culture, or Only a Sister?

Last month, the simmering pot of mother-sister controversy was stirred anew by Dr. Jeffrey P. Blomster, an Olmec archaeologist at George Washington University… Dr. Blomster's team analyzed the chemistry of 725 pieces of pottery decorated with symbols and designs in the Olmec style and collected throughout the region. The researchers compared the composition of the ceramics with local clays. They determined that most of these were not imitations of the Olmec style made by local potters. In a significant number of pots, the clay matched the chemistry of material found around San Lorenzo. "The evidence is overwhelming that San Lorenzo, the first Olmec capital, was doing the exporting," Dr. Blomster said. "The Olmecs were disseminating their culture and it was something of great interest to others.“… But Dr. Diehl, a proponent of the mother school and the author of "The Olmec," published last year, said in an interview that the "connections we are seeing may not have lasted more than a generation, perhaps the time of a particular ruler, and at most, not more than a century or century and a half.“ … Dr. Grove disputed Dr. Blomster's conclusions, saying that the research demonstrated only that Olmec pottery was traded, not that the trade disseminated Olmec political and religious concepts around the region. Others questioned the assertion that no pottery of other cultures had found its way to San Lorenzo… – John Noble Wilford, NY Times March 15, 2005

What would it mean if the Olmec pottery was only traded? Would that mean that the Olmecs were not a “mother culture” of Mesoamerica?


“It was massive, one of the first great cities of the Western Hemisphere. And its origins are a mystery. It was built by hand more than a thousand years before the swooping arrival of the… Aztec in central Mexico. But it was the Aztec, descending on the abandoned site, no doubt falling awestruck by what they saw, who gave it a name: Teotihuacan. A famed archaeological site located fewer than 30 miles (50 kilometers) from Mexico City, Teotihuacan reached its zenith between 100 B.C. and A.D. 650. It covered 8 square miles (21 square kilometers) and supported a population of a hundred thousand, according to George Cowgill, an archaeologist at Arizona State University and a National Geographic Society grantee. "It was the largest city anywhere in the Western Hemisphere before the 1400s," Cowgill says. "It had thousands of residential compounds and scores of pyramid-temples and was comparable to the largest pyramids of Egypt.“ Oddly, Teotihuacan, which contains a massive central road (the Street of the Dead) and buildings including the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon, has no military structures—though experts say the military and cultural wake of Teotihuacan was heavily felt throughout the region.” –www.natgeo.com [*Scholars are still unsure if the Toltec or another culture built it.]