Mesoamerican Civilizations Chronology Early Excavations Predominant Cultures
Early Excavations • Matthew Williams Stirling (1896-1975) • In 1938, Stirling made an expedition to southern Mexico to excavate Olmec artifacts. After discovering colossal heads and taking pictures of them he sent the photos to the National Geographic Society. • Later he was advised to apply for grants from the NGS which he received and was supported by the NGS and the Smithsonian Institution between 1938 and 1946. http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/information/biography/pqrst/stirling_matthew.html
Early Excavations con’d • Dr. Alfonso Caso, a Mexican archaeologist, led one of the first explorations and restorations of this archaeological zone. • His project, completed in 18 stages, began in 1931 and finished in 1953. • Based on studies of the architecture of the buildings, tombs, ceramics, and jewelry, he determined that the history of Monte Alban could be divided into distinct epochs based on social organization, population density, and exchange systems. In this manner he established 5 epochs designated as Monte Alban I, II, III, IV and V http://www.mexonline.com/oaxaca/oxarc101.htm
Marshall Saville • Marshall Saville, the first Curator of Mexican and Central American Archaeology at the AMNH (1894-1907). • He used the relatively new technology of the camera to great effect in documenting his excavations. http://archaeology.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?zi=1/XJ&sdn=archaeology&zu=http%3A%2F%2Fanthro.amnh.org%2Fanthropology%2Fresearch%2Farchaeo.htm
Sonora, Mexico • The Sonora-Sinaloa Archaeological Survey Project directed by Gordon F. Ekholm (1937-1940). http://archaeology.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?zi=1/XJ&sdn=archaeology&zu=http%3A%2F%2Fanthro.amnh.org%2Fanthropology%2Fresearch%2Farchaeo.htm
Linda Schele • Linda Schele was a Mesoamerican scholar who died in 1998. • She is best know for her work on translations of Maya hieroglyphs and has written several great books which include "Maya Glyphs: The Verbs" (Schele 1982), the "Palenque Bodega" book (Schele and Mathews 1979), "The Blood of Kings" (Schele and Miller 1986), "A Forest of Kings" (Schele and Freidel 1990), "Maya Cosmos" (Freidel, Schele, and Parker 1993), and "The Code of Kings" (Schele and Mathews 1998). http://www.famsi.org/research/schele/
Mesoamerican Chronology • Contact ca. AD 1500 • Late Post-Classic Period AD 1200-1500 • Early Post-Classic Period AD 900-1200 • ------- • Late Classic Period AD 600-900 • Early Classic Period (Mexico: AD 150-650/Maya: AD 250-600) • ------- • Late Formative (Pre-Classic) Period 300 BC - AD 300 • Middle Formative (Pre-Classic) Period 900-300 BC • Early Formative (Pre-Classic) Period 1500/1800-900 BC • ------- • Archaic (Incipient Farming) Period 7000± - 2000± BC • ------- • Early Hunters 11,000± - 7,000± BC
Early Hunters • Hunter-Gatherers • Mobile • Small groups • Pre-ceramic, pre-writing
Archaic • Early hunter-gatherers transitioning to horticulture. • Beginning sedentism • Pottery begins late
Pre-Classic (Formative) • Nation States • Development of cities • Olmec • Also Zapotec and early Maya (Late Formative)
Olmec • 1939 Matthew Stirling was sent by the Smithsonian and National Geographic to investigate giant stone carvings. • Olmec lived in this area between 1500 B.C. and 100 A.D.
Characteristic Traits • Building of clay pyramids and temple mounds • Particular sculptural style • weeping or snarling jaguar/human infant • were-jaguar • colossal heads • basalt monuments • Fine jade carving • Basic Mesoamerican civilization • Artifacts with Olmec traits found in preclassic horizons throughout Mesoamerica. • “Cult of the Jaguar” considered a basic Olmec trait.
Important sites • Tres Zapotes • Cerro de las Mesas • San Lorenzo, Veracruz • Oldest Olmec site • Occupied by 1500 B.C. • Pottery found from earliest period • La Venta, Tabasco • Contemporaneous to later phases of San Lorenzo • Oriented on a n-s axis on an island in the Rio Tonala • Includes mounds, plazas, tombs, basalt slab enclosures, and pyramid. • Buried stone offerings • jade and serpentine celts
Classic: Teotihuacan • Teotihuacan grows to a metropolis and its empire dominates Mesoamerica. • The greatest era of the cities of the Maya southern lowlands, such as Tikal, Palenque, and Copán. • The Classic Era ended earlier in Central Mexico, with the fall of Teotihuacan around the 7th century, than it did in the Maya area, which continued for centuries more. • The late period of continued Maya development is sometimes known as the Florescent Era.
Teotihuacan • Size and Construction • At its height, around 125,000 people and covering 22 sq kilometers. • More ceremonial centers than any other prehispanic site. • Planned and laid out along a rectilinear network of roads and paths. • Avenue of the Dead-major north to south axis. • East and West Avenues divided the city into quadrants. • The “citadel” was at their center. • In front of this was the great compound.
Temples and Pyramids • Constructed with Talud-tablero architecture • cut stone facing • Framed panels (tablero) • sloping basal elements (talud) • 5000 known structures. • Pyramid of the Sun • 212 ft high, 700 ft wide, 35,000,000 cu ft of fill (equivalent to 10 modern oil tankers). • cave located underneath with sacred objects in it. • Pyramid of the Moon • located at the north end of the avenue of the dead. • Temple of the Feathered Serpent (at the Citadel) • Residential structures • apartment compounds
Decline of Teotihuacan • During the period from 600-900 A.D. • Site not abandoned, but population decreased. • Some buildings burned between 600-700 A.D. • may be symbolic as in the case of the Olmec destroying heads, associated with the loss of power.
Maya • Slow, gradual change. • Did not develop overnight. • Due to several factors resource concentration, population growth, beginnings of cultural variability, development of ideologies, migration of ideas from other cultures • Small Kingdoms, No centralized state. • succession of regional centers • not really dominant over neighbors • Productive agriculture
Regions • Pacific Coastal Plain • Izapa-elaborate stone carvings • Monte Alto-collosal heads (contact with Olmec), also pot belly boulders. • Southeast Periphery • Copan-evidence of interaction with western areas of MesoAm during the preclassic (700-500 B.C.). • Southeastern Highlands • Chalcuapa-one of the important highland centers,important for trade in pottery. • Tikal investigations in the 1950s, national park around the site, 300 B.C. to 300 A.D. developed into a huge city. • Uaxactun basic chronological sequence of pottery for area. • Yucatan Peninsula and Belize • Cerros-exploited marine resources, adopted kingship by 50B.C.
Agriculture Patterns • Localized intensive agriculture • gardening took place in zones of good moisture. • Expansive Cultivation (900 B.C.) • shifting cultivation • corn farming with swidden or slash/burn, family of five needs 3,000 pounds of corn per year. • Wetland cultivation (Extensive-Intensive) • being increasingly pressed by population. • Chinampas-swamps were being drained and drainage canals built., located with radar imagery. • the largest cities are located on the edges of these swamps.
The Mesoamerican Ballgame • Called tlachtli by the Aztecs, game played with hard rubber ball. • Spanish document stone rings as goals, but those dating before 700 A.D. do not have them. • Typically i-shaped courts, balls weighing up to 5 pounds. • ball had to be kept in motion • could not be hit with hands or feet • associated with fertility, death, militarism and sacrifice. • sacrifice of defeated team members documented in late accounts.
Watch a Ballgame • http://www.ballgame.org/sub_section.asp?section=3&sub_section=1
Mayan Writing • Maya codices • most elaborate of writing medium, must have existed in the thousands, but only a few left. • made out of bark paper, or deer skin. • prepared from the inner bark of trees, fibers soaked in lime and then beaten smooth. • once dry it was white-washed with a thin coat of limestoneor gypsum paste. • Stelae • Stone carvings • Most common today
Calendar System • Calender Round • basic unit was a day, not broken down further. • two recurring cycles of time 260-day and 365-day ran simultaneously making up a period of 52 years. • 260-day cycle (Maya:Tzokin, Aztec:Tonalpohualli) • primarily religious and divinatory • guidance of daily affairs • 20 named days, combined with numbers 1-13, in which the exact combination of name and number would recur every 260 days. • not based on natural phenomenon. • 365-day cycle (Maya:Haab, Aztec:Xihuitl) • 18 named months of 20 days each, plus 5 additional days of apprehension and bad luck at the end of the year. • Days numbered from 0-19, and to return to any given date, 52 years would have to pass. • Prophesy that “this world” will end in 2012.
Collapse of the Maya • Circa A.D. 800-900 • Monumental architecture ends • Depopulation of large centers • Theories: • Drought • Warfare