Mesoamerikanske civilisationer

Mesoamerikanske civilisationer


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Ancient Mesoamerica (nutidens Mexico og Mellemamerika) var vidne til en ekstraordinær blomstring af kulturer fra begyndelsen af ​​Olmec-civilisationen omkring 1200 f.Kr., gennem Maya-civilisationen og videre til den katastrofale fald af aztekernes civilisation i det 16. århundrede CE. Store byer blev bygget med tårnhøje pyramider, imperier blev smedet og kunst blev produceret i alt fra turkis til eksotiske muslingeskaller.

I denne samling undersøger vi nogle af disse store folk i Amerika. Vi betragter deres oprindelse, religion, krigsførelse, materielle kultur og deres sidste respektive fald på grund af krig, klimaets luner og i sidste ende ankomsten af ​​udlændinge fra hele havet. Mens hver kultur var unik, fletter mange tråde sig gennem disse civilisationer, såsom deres skabelsesmyter, guder, religiøse skikke, kunst og arkitektur. Tilsammen har disse folk efterladt en af ​​de rigeste og mest originale kulturelle arv i verdenshistorien.

På mystisk vis, omkring 600 e.Kr., blev Teotihuacans store bygninger bevidst ødelagt af ild, og kunstværker og religiøse skulpturer blev smadret i det, der må have været en fuldstændig ændring af den herskende elite. Destroyerne kan have været fra den voksende by Xochicalco eller indefra i et oprør motiveret af mangel på ressourcer, måske forstærket af omfattende skovrydning, jorderosion og tørke. Uanset årsagen forblev byen efter denne klimatiske begivenhed befolket i yderligere to århundreder, men dens regionale dominans blev kun et minde.


Mesoamerikansk civilisation

Udtrykket Mesoamerika betegner den del af Mexico og Mellemamerika, der var civiliseret i før-spansk tid. I mange henseender var de amerikanske indianere, der beboede Mesoamerica, de mest avancerede indfødte folk på den vestlige halvkugle. Den nordlige grænse for Mesoamerica løber vest fra et punkt på Mexicos golfkyst over den moderne havn i Tampico, og dipper derefter syd for at udelukke meget af den centrale ørken i højlandet Mexico og møde Stillehavskysten modsat spidsen af ​​Baja (Nedre) Californien . I sydøst strækker grænsen sig fra det nordvestlige Honduras på Caribien til Stillehavskysten i El Salvador. Således er omkring halvdelen af ​​Mexico, hele Guatemala og Belize og dele af Honduras og El Salvador inkluderet i Mesoamerica.

Geografisk og kulturelt består Mesoamerica af to stærkt kontrasterede regioner: højland og lavland. Det mexicanske højland dannes hovedsageligt af de to Sierra Madre -områder, der fejer ned mod øst og vest. Liggende for dem er en vulkansk cordillera, der strækker sig fra Atlanterhavet til Stillehavet. De høje dale og indlandske bassiner i Mexico var vigtige centre for præ-spansk civilisation. I den sydøstlige del af Mesoamerika ligger det delvis vulkanske Chiapas - Guatemala højland. Lavlandet er primært kystnære. Særligt vigtigt var den kystnære slette, der strakte sig sydpå langs Den Mexicanske Golf og udvidede til at omfatte Petén-Yucatán-halvøen, Maya-folks hjemland.

Landbruget i Mesoamerika var avanceret og komplekst. Der blev plantet rigtig mange afgrøder, hvoraf majs, bønner og squash var de vigtigste. I højlandet var hakke dyrkning af mere eller mindre permanente marker reglen, hvor sådanne intensive former for landbrug som kunstvanding og chinampas (de såkaldte flydende haver genvundet fra søer eller damme) praktiseres i nogle regioner. I modsætning hertil var lavlandet landbrug ofte af skiftende sort, en plet jungle blev først udvalgt, fældet og brændt mod slutningen af ​​den tørre sæson og derefter plantet med en gravestok i tide til de første regner. Efter et par års beplantning blev marken forladt til skoven, da konkurrence fra ukrudt og faldende jordfrugtbarhed resulterede i faldende udbytter. Der er imidlertid gode beviser på, at dyrkningssystemet med skråstreg og brænding ofte blev suppleret med dyrkning af "hævet mark" i lavlandet, disse kunstigt konstruerede jordbakker, der er bygget i lavvandede søer eller sumpede områder, ikke var ulige chinampas i mexicaneren højland. Derudover blev terrasser konstrueret og ansat til landbrug i nogle lavlandsregioner. Ikke desto mindre var det demografiske potentiale for landbrug sandsynligvis altid større i højlandet end i lavlandet, og dette blev påvist i de mere omfattende byudviklinger i det tidligere område.

Den ekstreme mangfoldighed i det mesoamerikanske miljø frembragte det, der er blevet kaldt symbiose blandt dets underregioner. Interregional udveksling af landbrugsprodukter, luksusartikler og andre varer førte til udviklingen af ​​store og velregulerede markeder, hvor kakaobønner blev brugt til penge. Det kan også have ført til stor politisk enhed og endda til stater og imperier. Høj landbrugsproduktivitet resulterede i en ikke -landbrugsklasse håndværkere, der var ansvarlige for en avanceret stenarkitektur med konstruktion af trinerede pyramider og for højt udviklede stilarter af skulptur, keramik og maleri.

Det mesoamerikanske tankesystem, der er nedfældet i bøger med foldet skærm af hjorteskind eller barkpapir, var måske af endnu større betydning for at modvirke dem fra andre New World-folk. Dette system var i sidste ende baseret på en kalender, hvor en rituel cyklus på 260 (13 × 20) dage blandede sig med et "vagt år" på 365 dage (18 × 20 dage plus fem "navnløse" dage), hvilket gav en 52-årig Kalenderrunde. Det religiøse liv var gearet til denne cyklus, som er unik for dem. Den mesoamerikanske pantheon var forbundet med kalenderen og indeholdt en gammel, dobbelt skabergud, en gud af kongelig afstamning og krigsførelse en solgud og mångudinde en regngud, en kulturhelt kaldet den fjervormede slange og mange andre guder. Også karakteristisk var et lagdelt system med 13 himle og ni underverdener, hver med sin præsiderende gud. Meget af systemet var under kontrol af et præstedømme, der også fastholdt en avanceret viden om astronomi.

Cirka syv mesoamerikanske sprogfamilier og tre sprogisolater blev fundet i Mesoamerika. Garífuna, en senere import, er et arawakansk sprog. De fleste mesoamerikanske sprog er grupperet i en af ​​fire familier: Uto-Aztecan, Maya, Mixe-Zoquean og Otomanguean. En dominerende rolle blev spillet af Uto-Aztecan, især af talere fra de Nahua-grupper, hvor Náhuatl, officiel tunge i aztekernes imperium, var den vigtigste. Maya -familien indeholder en række indbyrdes uforståelige sprog, hvoraf i hvert fald nogle blev talt af indbyggerne i de store ceremonielle centre i Maya. Den moderne mexicanske delstat Oaxaca er nu centrum for den heterogene Otomanguean phylum, men de eneste sproglige grupper i den familie, der spillede en stor rolle i den mesoamerikanske civilisation, var Mixtec og Zapotec, der begge havde store, magtfulde kongeriger på tidspunktet for Spansk erobring. Tarascan, modersmål for et "imperium" i det vestlige Mexico, der med succes modstod aztekernes indgreb, betragtes nu som et sprogisolat, det vil sige, at det ikke har nogen kendte slægtninge. Huave og Cuitlatec er også sprogisolater.


Oprindelsesteorier om de mesoamerikanske civilisationer

Lige siden opdagelsen af ​​“ tabte ” byer i junglerne og regnskove i Mellemamerika har teorier om oprindelsen til de mesoamerikanske civilisationer spredt sig i stor hast, og der er ingen ende i sikte. Bøger, artikler, internetopslag om den formodede oprindelse for Olmecs, Mayaerne, aztekerne og andre er blevet til en rentabel forretning for nogle og en kilde til forvirring for andre. Hvilken mening kan vi få af det hele?

Lad os først definere vores vilkår. “Middle America ” er en geografisk-geologisk betegnelse, der omfatter omkring ni store kulturelle områder, såsom det vestlige Mexico, Mexicons bassin, Oaxaca, Maya-lavlandet og højlandet. Dette er det generelle område, der er besat af de moderne nationalstater i Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador og Belize. Mesoamerica ” er et kulturelt begreb defineret i en artikel fra Kirchoff fra 1943, der beskriver området præget af et fælles kulturelt grundlag og fælles traditioner. Geografisk strækker det sig fra det centrale Mexico til det centrale Honduras og det vestlige Costa Rica, mere specifikt fra Soto La Marina -floden i Tamaulipas og Fuerte -floden i Sinaloa mod syd. Ca. 50 kulturelle træk blev opført, selvom denne klassifikation har sine begrænsninger. Blandt disse funktioner er det rituelle flyvespil, visse former for selvopofrelse, boldbaner med ringe og hieroglyfeskrift for blot at nævne nogle få. Dette omfatter nu det vestlige Mexico, som i lang tid blev betragtet som uden for den mesoamerikanske indflydelsessfære.

Sammenligninger mellem den gamle og den nye verden var uundgåelig fra begyndelsen af ​​europæisk kontakt med oprindelige folk i Mellemamerika. Bernal Diaz del Castillo, kroniker af den spanske invasion af Mexico, beskrev glødende udtryk Tenochtitlans vidundere. Aztekernes hovedstad blev endda sammenlignet med den europæiske Venedig, som om aztekerne ikke var i stand til sådanne civiliserede resultater alene. Spanierne var meget mindre imponeret over resterne af den klassiske Maya -civilisation. Men selv her blev arkitekturen og monumenterne tilskrevet egypterne, israelitterne, kaldæerne og alle andre end mayaerne. Søgningen efter oprindelsen til de mesoamerikanske civilisationer var i gang.

Af historiske årsager plejer mere opmærksomhed at være fokuseret på aztekerne og mayaerne end på andre lige så vigtige oprindelige folk i Mellemamerika. Den klassiske maya -civilisation ophørte århundreder før spaniernes ankomst, men mayaerne efterlod fantastiske arkitektoniske og monumentale påmindelser om deres tidligere herlighed. På trods af de fanatiske spanieres næsten totale ødelæggelse af Maya -hieroglyfernes kodekser, har de seneste fremskridt inden for dechifrering af Maya -scriptet åbnet nye kapitler i mayaernes historie. Aztekernes civilisation blev bragt til en brat og voldelig ende ved den spanske erobring. Men kort efter ødelæggelsen af ​​Mexico-Tenochtitlan registrerede Franciscan Sahagun og andre religiøse og sekulære kronikere og historikere klassisk Nahuatl samt mange aztekeriske traditioner og ceremonier. Selvom de religiøse skribenters grundlæggende formål var at ødelægge alle rester af den indfødte kultur, bevarede de meget af det på trods af sig selv. Derfor har vi meget mere faktisk dokumentation for aztekerne og mayaerne end for de fleste andre kulturelle grupper i Mellemamerika.

Historien om den mesoamerikanske forskning er fyldt med farverige karakterer udstyret med levende fantasi. De tidlige opdagelsesrejsende var ikke uddannede arkæologer og kan derfor undskyldes for deres uhæmmede entusiasme og vilde spekulationer. Den sene 1800 -tals forfatter Augustus Le Plongeon overbeviste sig selv om, at den gamle Maya ikke kun var udsprunget fuldt udviklet fra det tabte kontinent Atlantis, men at de derefter førte Mayakulturen tilbage til Middelhavsområdet. En anden tidlig opdagelsesrejsende, grev Frederick Waldeck, så præ-columbianske elefanter overalt i gamle Maya-ruiner. Han konkluderede derfor, at mayaerne må have kendt til elefanter fra deres forfædre, som naturligvis skal være kommet med skib fra Afrika eller Asien med forudgående kendskab til elefanter. Waldeck var så dygtig til at opdage elefanter, at han skitserede dem, hvor ingen andre kan se noget, der ligner en elefant. På hans teori blev regngudens, Chacs bagagerumslignende stenæse, på facaden af ​​den berømte Codz-Pop eller Palace of Masks i Kabah, Yucatan, omdannet til en elefants stamme. På samme måde ser nogle nyere “alternative ” historikere en mand med “Asian ” funktioner og hovederne på to elefanter med turbanede mahouts, der læner sig op ad dem på Stela B, et stenmonument i Copan, Honduras, dateret til AD 731. I i dette undersøgelsesfelt kender den menneskelige fantasi ingen grænser.

Elefantteorien illustrerer, hvad der sker, når fakta og fantasi begynder at krydse grænser. Der er intet i sig selv umuligt i tanken om præ-columbianske trans-oceaniske rejser. Men inden vi går ind i ubegrundede spekulationer, bør vi i det mindste først se på de tilgængelige beviser.

Resterne af to kejserlige mammutter, sammen med flinten og obsidianvåben, der blev brugt til at dræbe og slagte dem, blev fundet ved Santa Isabel Iztapan i Mexicons bassin, tæt på den dengang sumpede kystlinje ved Lake Texcoco. Disse fund er i øjeblikket dateret til omkring 7700 til 7300 f.Kr. Der er således ingen tvivl om, at den tidlige mand i Mexico havde kendskab til mammutter. Men selvom revisionistiske historikere måske anerkender eksistensen af ​​mammutter og mammutjægere i Mellemamerika, går de langt ud over beviserne, når de hævder, at mayaerne må have brugt modeller og skildringer af elefanter, som de havde med sig fra Afrika eller Asien. Selvom det kan tænkes, at mayaerne kan have bevaret en slags stammemindelse om mammutjagt i ældre tid, følger det ikke af, at nogen af ​​deres umiddelbare forfædre krydsede havet og havde kendskab til afrikanske eller asiatiske elefanter med sig. Dette er typisk for de fejlagtige argumenter, som pseudo-historikere og pseudo-arkæologer brugte til at#8220bevise ” deres oprindelsesteorier.

Ifølge den ortodokse akademiske opfattelse krydsede små grupper af jægere og samlere over Beringstrædet via en bro mellem de asiatiske og nordamerikanske kontinenter under istiden i Wisconsin, som sluttede for omkring 10.000 år siden. Præcise datoer kan dog ikke angives, og estimaterne er meget forskellige. Denne bredt accepterede teori har også sine begrænsninger, nogle gange rejser flere spørgsmål, end den besvarer. Men i øjeblikket har denne forklaring mere at anbefale den end vilde spekulationer og udokumenterede teorier om tabte kontinenter og overlegne tabte civilisationer eller besøgende fra det ydre rum. Derfor er der skarp uenighed mellem professionelle arkæologer og visse populære forfattere om folks tidlige bevægelser og oprindelsen af ​​civilisationer i Amerika. Alternative eller revisionistiske historikere afviser hurtigt, hvad de betragter som “ traditionelle ” eller hårdføre akademiske synspunkter med den begrundelse, at professionelle forskere har en interesse i at skjule “-sandheden ” for den vildfarne offentlighed.

Bøger af Erich von Daniken, Graham Hancock, Robert Temple, Zecharia Sitchen og andre populære forfattere om oprindelsen af ​​civilisationer og menneskeheden sælger millioner af eksemplarer. I mellemtiden forsvinder omhyggeligt forskede akademiske undersøgelser om de samme emner på forskningsbiblioteker, ulæste undtagen af ​​andre specialister og helt ukendte for offentligheden. De bedst sælgende forfattere om mesoamerikanske emner udnytter denne kendsgerning. Hvem vil pløje gennem en kedelig tome på den keramiske sekvens fra Uaxactun, når du kan læse, hvordan udenjordiske brugte cenoten ved Chichen Itza som affyringsrampe for deres rumskibe? Personligt ville jeg blive fascineret, hvis der skulle findes et forladt rumskib på en bjergtop i Peru, men indtil det er tilfældet, foretrækker jeg at forsøge at give mening ud af de foreliggende beviser.

For at understøtte deres teorier om præ-columbianske trans-oceaniske rejser påpeger revisionistiske historikere undertiden, at ikke alle skeletresterne fra de tidligste menneskelige indbyggere i Amerika er af den strengt mongolide type. Dette tages som bevis på, at forskellige racetyper fra mange forskellige dele af verden nåede Amerika i århundreder før Columbus. Selvfølgelig udfordrer det også Bering Straits -teorien. Dette er naturligvis en vigtig forskningslinje, der involverer geologi, paleontologi, fysisk antropologi og andre forskningsområder. Vi er imidlertid her primært optaget af oprindelsen til de store civilisationer i Mellemamerika.

Mesoamerikansk forskning har taget to hovedretninger: diffusionisme og uafhængig opfindelsesisme. Som et legitimt antropologisk udtryk refererer “diffusionisme ” til undersøgelsen af ​​kulturelle egenskabers oprindelse og deres spredning fra et samfund til et andet. Den ekstreme version hævder, at alle kulturer stammer fra et hovedcenter for højkultur. En mere fornuftig opfattelse er, at der var mere end ét stort kulturcenter eller oprindelsessted, men at tværkulturelle påvirkninger fandt sted over tid. Uafhængig opfindelsisme er derimod den opfattelse, at den pågældende kultur eller civilisation, som den klassiske Maya, udviklede sig mere eller mindre uafhængigt af enhver større indflydelse udefra. Enhver ekstern indflydelse, der fandt sted, ville have haft minimal effekt på udviklingen af ​​den pågældende kultur.

Hyper-diffusionisme ” er en ekstrem form for diffusionistisk teori. Dette er den fremgangsmåde, der generelt anvendes af det, vi kan kalde pseudo-arkæologer eller pseudo-historikere, forskere og forfattere, hvis teorier om oprindelsen til de mesoamerikanske civilisationer er baseret på meget mere end blot spekulation og tvivlsom manipulation af det tilgængelige bevis. Desværre for den brede offentlighed er mange af disse hyper-diffusionister eller alternative historikere ikke kun meget overbevisende forfattere, men de giver også indtryk af at have undersøgt emnet omhyggeligt. Men ved nærmere undersøgelse falder de fleste af deres teorier fra hinanden under deres egen vægt eller mangler simpelthen noget konkret bevis for at understøtte dem.

I anden del skal vi se på nogle specifikke diffusionistiske teorier om oprindelsen til de mesoamerikanske civilisationer og de forfattere, der har disse uortodokse synspunkter.


15 fakta om Maya -civilisationen

På tværs af Mesoamerika i dag kan du finde vidtstrakte gamle byer med tårnhøje pyramider, boldbaner, saunaer, monumentale skulpturer og gådefulde hieroglyffer - alt takket være Mayaerne. Her er 15 ting, du måske ikke ved om denne gamle civilisation.

1. DERES PYRAMIDER OG BYER BLIVER STADIG OPDATERET.

Det er fantastisk at tænke på, at noget så stort som en pyramide kunne undvige arkæologer i dag. Men det var kun et par år siden, at en Maya -pyramide mere end 1000 år gammel blev opdaget ved Toniná i den mexicanske delstat Chiapas. Det var blevet skjult under det, man troede var en naturlig bakke. I 2015 sagde forskere, at dette nyfundne monument faktisk var Mexicos højeste pyramide med en højde på 246 fod (75 meter) og overgik den 213 fod lange solpyramide ved Teotihuacan. Ruinerne af to Maya -byer skjult af tyk vegetation blev også for nylig opdaget i Mexicos delstat Campeche.

2. DE VAR SJOKOLADEETER.

For over 3500 år siden blev Olmecs i Mesoamerica sandsynligvis de første til at indse, at man med noget arbejde kunne forbruge chokolade, men mayaerne gjorde det til en kunstart. Arkæologiske beviser tyder på, at mayaerne forarbejdede kakao for mindst 2600 år siden, de kemiske signaturer af kakao er blevet fundet i Maya -keramiske skibe i Guatemala, der dateres tilbage til 600 fvt. Men den drink, de producerede, lignede ikke den varme chokolade, vi drikker i dag. Mayaerne ville blande kakao med vand, honning, chilipeber, majsmel og andre ingredienser for at lave en skummende, krydret drink. Mayakunst og hieroglyffer tyder på, at drikke kakao var en vigtig del af fester og ritualer, Dresden Codex viser for eksempel et billede af næringsguden K’awil, der holder et kar med kakaobønner.

3. DE HAR ET KOMPLIKATERET SYSTEM AF HIEROGLYPER.

Maya -skrift, der stammer fra den sene præklassiske periode (300 fvt til 100 e.Kr.), bevares på bygninger, stenmonumenter, sjældne bøger og keramik. Mens ord på det engelske sprog er dannet med kombinationer af 26 bogstaver, er skrevne mayaord dannet af forskellige kombinationer af mere end 800 hieroglyfer, der hver repræsenterer en stavelse. Systemet menes at være det mest sofistikerede af sin art i Mesoamerika. Kun i de sidste årtier har mayanister fået evnen til at læse de fleste glyfer.

4. EN UHELDIG ARKAEOLOG SPRAKKEDE MAYANSK HANDSKRIFT.

Tatiana Proskouriakoff, en sibirisk født amerikaner, uddannet til arkitekt. Da hun ikke kunne få et job inden for sit felt, begyndte hun at skitsere til en kurator på Penn Museum i Philadelphia i 1930'erne, og hun blev inviteret på en ekspedition til Piedras Negras Maya -stedet i Guatemala. På trods af hendes mangel på formel akademisk uddannelse blev Proskouriakoff til sidst en mayanist i sig selv. I midten af ​​det 20. århundrede havde der ikke været mange fremskridt med at tyde Maya-glyfer. Den har ikke den mest sexede titel, men Proskouriakoffs papir fra 1960 "Historical Implication of a Pattern of Dates at Piedras Negras, Guatemala" var en bombe. Hun var den første til at erkende, at mayaernes "opadgående frø" -tegn repræsenterede fødslen, og at deres "tandpine" -teg var repræsenteret den dato, kongen steg op til tronen, hvilket førte til identifikation af fødsels- og dødsmeddelelser samt navnene på herskerne for et maya -dynasti.

5. MAYA SKRIVTE BØGER… OG EUROPÆERNE BRANDE DEM.

Mayaerne skrev bøger i deres udførlige hieroglyfiske skrift på lange strimler af holdbart papir fremstillet af den indre bark af figentræer. Men der er kun tre Maya -kodekser, der overlever i dag: Dresden Codex, Madrid Codex og Paris Codex. (Der er også den fragmentariske Grolier Codex, men forskere bestrider dens ægthed.) Mange flere Maya -bøger blev ofre for de fugtige forhold i Mesoamerika - eller ankomsten af ​​europæere, der målrettet ødelagde Maya -tekster. Diego de Landa, en franciskaner friar fra Spanien, der ankom til Yucatan i 1540'erne, beskrev en sådan scene: "Vi fandt et stort antal bøger i deres breve, og fordi de ikke havde noget, hvor der ikke var djævelens overtro og løgne, vi brændte dem alle sammen, hvilket de beklagede i forbløffende grad, og som forårsagede dem sorg. ”

6. DERES KALENDER, UDEN SAMMEN KOMPLEKS, FORudsagde IKKE VERDENS SLUT.

Der var meget snak i visse paranoide hjørner af Internettet om, at dommedag, som forudsagt af Maya -kalenderen, ville komme den 21. december 2012. Datoen kom og gik, og apokalypsen blev aldrig til noget, men enhver mayanist kunne have fortalt dig det du havde ikke noget at bekymre dig om. 21. december 2012 faldt lige tilfældigt sammen med afslutningen på en fuld cyklus på 5125 år i Mayas såkaldte Long Count-kalender. Denne kalender var imponerende, fordi den brugte nul som en pladsholder - en af ​​de tidligste anvendelser af nul som et matematisk begreb i historien. Og det var kun en af ​​de kalendere, Mayaerne brugte. De havde også en 260-dages hellig kalender, eller Tzolk’in, som blev brugt til at planlægge religiøse ceremonier samt en 365-dages solkalender kendt som Haab '.

7. DE HADDE TÆNDIGE INTENSE SKØNHEDSREGIMER.

Mayaerne var ikke tilfredse med bare at tage tøj og makeup på for at gøre sig smukke. I barndommen havde både mænd og kvinder hovedet bundet til kunstigt at deformere deres kranier til en aflang form, hvilket sandsynligvis betød deres sociale status. Mayaerne borede også huller i deres fortænder og indlagt dem med jade, pyrit, hæmatit eller turkis. De opfandt grundlæggende grillen.

8. DE TAGTE RITUELLE FEJLER.

For Mayaerne var forbrugende hallucinogener og rusmidler den bedste måde at tale med ånder på. De drak stoffer som balché, som var lavet med fermenteret (og muligvis psykedelisk) honning. Men for at blive hurtigere beruset og måske undgå at kaste op, kan de have givet alkohol og psykoaktive midler gennem rektalruten. Der er mange scener på Maya -keramik, der skildrer lavementer i en rituel kontekst. Forskere, der undersøgte virkningerne af en gammel rituel lavement i 1980'erne, foretog nogle selveksperimenter og forsøgte det selv og rapporterede, at deres resultater "bestemt understøtter det teoretiske forslag om, at alkohol absorberes godt fra et lavement."

9. DE MALDE Menneskelige Ofringer BLÅ.

Det levende pigment kendt som Maya Blue har længe fascineret arkæologer, fordi det er utroligt modstandsdygtigt og overlever i århundreder på stenmonumenter selv under de barske forhold i mesoamerikanske jungler. Men den muntre farve blev også brugt i menneskelige ofre. Da Mayaerne ville glæde regnguden, malede de menneskelige ofre blå og skar deres hjerter ud på stenaltere eller smed dem ned i brønde.

10. DE VURDEREDE EN GOD SWEAT.

Mayaerne byggede sauna-lignende strukturer af sten eller adobe, der blev brugt til sundhedsmæssige formål og rituel rensning. Svedhuse er fundet på steder som Tikal i Guatemala og Joya de Cerén, en Maya -landsby, der blev begravet i vulkansk aske i El Salvador omkring 600 CE. Det tidligste kendte svedbad blev afsløret i Cuello, i det nordlige Belize. 3000 år gammel går det forud for de berømte bade i den romerske civilisation.

11. DE SPILDE EKSTREM SPORT.

Ballcourts indtager fremtrædende fast ejendom i Maya-byer som Chichen-Itza i Mexico. Det er her Mayaerne iscenesatte et spil kendt som pitz. Spillere ville forsøge at passere en tung gummibold (omtrent på størrelse med en fodbold) uden at bruge deres hænder, mens de havde udstyr på for at beskytte deres ribben, knæ og arme. Det endelige mål var at få bolden gennem en meget høj stenbøjle. At dyrke sporten var ikke ligefrem et tidsfordriv, men derimod et vigtigt ritual, og tab kunne resultere i menneskelige ofre. Ifølge Maya -skabelseshistorien i deres episke tekst kendt som Popol Vuh, liv på jorden blev først muligt, efter at to bror -guder besejrede underjordens overnaturlige herrer i et boldspil.

12. DE KAN HAVE TEMPERKYRKER.

Nu et symbol på amerikansk Thanksgiving, kan kalkuner først have været tæmmet af Mayaerne. Kalkuner blev ikke kun brugt til mad Mayaerne brugte også fuglenes dele som knogler og fjer til at skabe fans, værktøjer og musikinstrumenter. Mexicanske kalkunben, der dateres til den præklassiske Maya -periode, blev opdaget på det arkæologiske sted El Mirador i Guatemala. Denne placering var langt uden for artens rækkevidde i naturen, hvilket fik arkæologer til at konkludere, at mayaerne havde tamme kalkuner på dette tidspunkt.

13. Arkæologer debatterer stadig, hvorfor civilisationen gik i nedgang.

Civilisationen ramte virkelig sit skridt på toppen af ​​den klassiske Maya -periode (300 til 660 CE). Men tingene begyndte at gå sydpå i det 8. og 9. århundrede. Maya -byer i det sydlige lavland, der engang pralede befolkninger op til 70.000 mennesker, blev forladt. Forskere og arkæologer har peget på en række syndere for at forklare, hvad der skete, herunder tørke, voldsomt raid og krigsførelse mellem Maya-bystater, migration til stranden og overbefolkning eller måske en dødelig kombination af disse ting.

14. DE FORSIGTEDE IKKE.

Nok var mange af de store Maya -byer mystisk øde, men folket forsvandt ikke [PDF]. Mayas efterkommere er stadig i dag, mange af dem bor i deres forfædres hjemland, ligesom Guatemala, hvor maya -folk faktisk udgør et flertal af befolkningen. "Maya" er virkelig en paraplybetegnelse for mange forskellige indfødte etniske grupper, der kan tale forskellige maya -sprog som Yucatec, Quiche, Kekchi eller Mopan.

15. DERES ARTIFAKTER OG MONUMENTER ER I FARE.

I Guatemala og Belize bruger lokalbefolkningen tilsyneladende ordet huecheros- stammer fra Maya -ordet for bæltedyr, eller huech- at tale om mennesker, der plyndrer arkæologiske steder. Ulovligt udgravede vaser, statuer og andre artefakter fra Maya -steder har fundet vej til det ulovlige antikviteter, og plyndreres tunneller ødelægger arkæologiske steder i processen. I et slående eksempel blev en pyramide halveret af plyndrere i Maya -byen Xultún i Guatemala. I nogle tilfælde er Maya -antikviteter blevet returneret til deres oprindelsesland. Denver Kunstmuseum returnerede en udskåret trædørliste til Guatemala i 1998, da artefakten viste sig at være taget fra El Zotz, en Maya -bosættelse lige vest for storbyen Tikal.


Zapotec

Zapotec-civilisationen udviklede sig i nutidens Mexico og varede fra cirka det 6. århundrede fvt til det 16. århundrede e.Kr.

Læringsmål

Forklar kulturen, religionen, ekspansionen og dødsfaldet i zapotec -civilisationen

Vigtige takeaways

Centrale punkter

  • Zapotec -civilisationen opstod i de tre centrale dale i Oaxaca i slutningen af ​​det 6. århundrede fvt.
  • Der er fem forskellige Zapotec -perioder, betegnet Monte Albán 1-5 (efter oprindelsesstedet).
  • Zapotecerne var polyteister, der udviklede et kalender- og logosyllabisk skriftsystem.

Nøglebegreber

  • Mitla: Zapotec -kulturens vigtigste religiøse by. Udførlige bygninger og kunstværker viser Zapotec -eliteens religiøse liv.
  • Monte Alban: Oprindelsesstedet for Zapotec -civilisationen.
  • Cocijo: Zapotec -civilisationens lyn og regngud. Han var den vigtigste af de religiøse figurer og blev antaget at have skabt universet med hans ånde.

Zapotec -civilisationen opstod i de tre centrale dale i Oaxaca i slutningen af ​​det 6. århundrede fvt. Dalene blev delt mellem tre samfund i forskellige størrelser, adskilt af ingenmandsland i midten, i dag besat af byen Oaxaca. Arkæologiske beviser fra perioden, såsom brændte templer og ofrede fanger, tyder på, at selvom de tre samfund delte sproglige, kulturelle og religiøse traditioner, konkurrerede de også mod hinanden.

Panorama fra Monte Albán: Udsigten fra Zapotec -herskernes oprindelsessted, der udvidede magten ud over de centrale dale i Oaxaca.

Fem faser

Zapotec -staten blev dannet ved Monte Albán. Denne konsolidering af magten begyndte udadgående politisk ekspansion under den sene Monte Albán 1 -fase (400-100 fvt) og i hele Monte Albán 2 -fasen (100 fvt -200 e.Kr.). Zapotec-herskere fra Monte Albán greb kontrollen over provinser uden for Oaxaca-dalen med deres overlegne militære og politiske slagkraft, som hurtigt overhalede mindre udviklede lokale enheder. Ved 200 CE, slutningen af ​​Monte Albán 2 -fasen, havde zapotecerne udvidet deres indflydelse, fra Quiotepec i nord til Ocelotepec og Chiltepec i syd. Den religiøse og kulturelle by Monte Albán var blevet den største by i det, der i dag er det sydlige mexicanske højland. Denne magtfulde by beholdt denne status indtil cirka 700 e.Kr.

Monte Albán faser: Historiske Monte Albán -faser og varigheden af ​​hver fase.

Udvidelse og tilbagegang

Mellem Monte Albán fase 1 og 2 var der en betydelig udvidelse af befolkningen i Oaxaca -dalen. Efterhånden som befolkningen voksede, voksede graden af ​​social differentiering, centralisering af politisk magt og ceremoniel aktivitet. En anden effekt af dette befolkningsboom og militærets politiske ekspansion under Monte Albán 1-2 var udviklingen af ​​fragmenterede, uafhængige stater. These areas developed regional centers of power with distinct leaders and linguistic dialects. However, the Zapotec rulers retained control over vast swaths of the region. Some archeologists argue that the building centered on the main plaza of Monte Albán contains depictions of elaborate heads, which represent the rulers of conquered provinces.

Jade warrior mask from Monte Albán: This jade replica illustrates the fierce military presence that initially expanded the Zapotec holdings during Monte Albán phase 2.

The Zapotecs were ultimately destroyed by Spanish invaders. Having lost militarily to the Aztecs in battles from 1497–1502, the Zapotecs tried to avoid confrontation with the Spaniards, and hopefully the tragic fate of the Aztecs. The Spaniards took advantage of this pacifist stance and ultimately defeated the Zapotecs after five years of campaigns ending in 1527. The arrival of new diseases and steel weapons also weakened any attempts at a revolt from the Zapotec population. There were some subsequent uprisings against the new rulers, but for all intents and purposes, the Zapotecs were conquered. However, the seven Zapotec languages, and hundreds of Zapotec dialects, still survive with populations that have spread throughout Mexico and also Los Angeles, California.

Zapotec Writing and Religion

The Zapotecs developed a calendar and a logosyllabic system of writing that used a separate glyph to represent each of the syllables of the language. This writing system is thought to be one of the first writing systems of Mesoamerica and a predecessor of those developed by the Maya, Mixtec, and Aztec civilizations.

Like most Mesoamerican religious systems, the Zapotec religion was polytheistic. Two principal deities included Cocijo, the rain god (similar to the Aztec god Tlaloc), and Coquihani, the god of light. These deities, along with many others, centered around concepts of fertility and agriculture. It is likely that the Zapotec practiced human sacrifices to these gods of fertility, and also played elaborate and ritualistic ball games in the court at Monte Albán. They also practiced dedication rituals, which cleansed a new space. Fine pieces of rare jade, pearl, and obsidian were found in a cache in Oaxaca, and were probably used to cleanse religious sites or temples upon the completion of construction.

The ball court at Monte Albán: A religious ball game utilizing a rubber ball was practiced throughout Mesoamerica by young men playing for sacred, and often sacrificial, purposes.

According to historic, as well as contemporary, Zapotec legends, their ancestors emerged from the earth or from caves, or turned into people from trees or jaguars. Their governing elite apparently believed that they descended from supernatural beings that lived among the clouds, and that upon death they would return to the same status. In fact, the name by which Zapotecs are known today results from this belief. The Zapotecs of the Central Valleys call themselves “Be’ena’ Za’a”—the Cloud People.

A funerary urn in the shape of a “bat god” or a jaguar: c. 300–650 CE. Height: 9.5 in (23 cm).

Mitla

Evidence of the central role of religion in the Zapotec cultural hierarchy is pronounced at the religious city of Mitla. It is the second most important archeological site in the state of Oaxaca, and the most important of the Zapotec culture. The site is located 44 kilometers from the city of Oaxaca. While Monte Albán was most important as the political center, Mitla was the main religious center, as evidenced by the elaborate buildings and artwork throughout the city. The name “Mitla” is derived from the Nahuatl name “Mictlán,” which was the place of the dead or underworld. Its Zapotec name is Lyobaa, which means “place of rest.” The name “Mictlán” was Hispanicized to “Mitla” by the Spanish.

Fretwork on a building in the religious capital of Mitla: This complex fretwork illustrates the religious importance of this ancient city in the Zapotec culture.

What makes Mitla unique among Mesoamerican sites is the elaborate and intricate mosaic fretwork and geometric designs that cover tombs, panels, friezes, and even entire walls. These mosaics are made with small, finely cut and polished stone pieces, which have been fitted together without the use of mortar. No other site in Mexico has this.


Postclassic

The Postclassic Period is that period roughly between the fall of the Classic period cultures and the Spanish conquest. The Classic period saw larger states and empires replaced by small polities of a central town or city and its hinterland, ruled by kings and a small hereditary elite based at palaces, a marketplace, and one or more temples.

Early Postclassic (900/1000–1250): The Early Postclassic saw an intensification of trade and strong cultural connections between the northern Maya area and Central Mexico. There was also a flourishing of a constellation of small competing kingdoms, that competition expressed by warfare-related themes in arts. Some scholars refer to the Early Postclassic as the Toltec period, because one likely dominant kingdom was based at Tula. Sites are located in Central Mexico (Tula, Cholula), Maya area (Tulum, Chichen Itzá, Mayapan, Ek Balam), Oaxaca (Tilantongo, Tututepec, Zaachila), and the Gulf Coast (El Tajin).

Late Postclassic (1250–1521): The Late Postclassic period is traditionally bracketed by the emergence of the Aztec/Mexica empire and its destruction by the Spanish conquest. The period saw increased militarization of competing empires across Mesoamerica, most of which fell to and became tributary states of the Aztecs, with the exception of the Tarascans/Purépecha of Western Mexico. Sites in Central Mexico are (Mexico-Tenochtitlan, Cholula, Tepoztlan), in the Gulf Coast (Cempoala), in Oaxaca (Yagul, Mitla), in the Maya region (Mayapan, Tayasal, Utatlan, Mixco Viejo), and in West Mexico (Tzintzuntzan).


Episode 52: The Precolumbian Civilizations of Mesoamerica

It’s become more and more widely known that, before first contact with Europe, the Americas were populated by advanced civilizations with complex systems of writing, government, and technological innovation. A number of these civilizations were clustered in the area known as Mesoamerica, which presented geographic difficulties for its inhabitants due to its harsh climate and environment, and yielding few natural resources. So, how did Mesoamerican civilizations thrive?

Guest Ann Twinam from UT’s Department of History discusses three of the major Mesoamerican civilizations: the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec (Mexica), and their once-forgotten contributions to human civilization.

Gæster

  • />Ann Twinam Professor of History, University of Texas at Austin

Hosts

  • />Joan Neuberger Professor of History, University of Texas at Austin

Let’s just start with a definition: what is Mesoamerica?

I think, broadly, we can define Mesoamerica as an area that includes Mexico and Central America. In that area, when we talk about pre-contact civilizations, we’re talking about the Olmec, the Maya, and the Aztec (as three of the major civilizations there are many others).

And when you say pre-contact, you mean before the Europeans arrived to the new world.

Det er rigtigt. I like to say that better than conquest.

Good. Let’s start with the lay of the land. What are some of the key characteristics of geography, what kind of natural resources, and how did they shape Mesoamerica for the centuries before Europeans arrived?

I think that’s a great question. I think the first thing that you need to do is imagine the topography. One way is to think of Mexico and Mesoamerica is to imagine it as a 3D pyramid and then chop it off horizontally, about halfway down, and then look at it from the side. That’s kind of what Mexico looks like. In the center, we have this high plateau, with mountains that are running north and south, and then the sides of Mexico and Central America sort of slope downward to the sea level areas, including the ports of Veracruz on the Caribbean and Acapulco in the Pacific.

And why is the topography important? Has it had a historical impact?

The topography is critical because it meant that there were different resources in the highlands than on the coast. There were areas for trade and it brought about conquest as well. The central area, the high area, produced obsidian, which is really critical. It’s a black volcanic stone and it’s as sharp as surgical steel—so it was clearly an important trade artifact. And the lowlands produced seashells and feathers from tropical birds, and these were considered to be very valuable for rituals. Also, the topography is important because the mountains on that central plateau are running north and south. What that meant was that there was an easy corridor for tribes migrating southward. And the history of Mesoamerica is really the history of people on the move, as people are moving from north to south.

Another key characteristic, unlike what we’re familiar with in North America or the US, is the absence of navigable rivers. So it’s very difficult to move goods from one place to another. And this was made even harder because there were really no animal resources in Mesoamerica. There were no large domesticated animals. There were no beasts of burden. If you moved something in Mesoamerica, it moved either on the backs of men or in canoes if you were situated on a lake.

Colossal Olmec Head #1, Museo Antropológico de Xalapa, Veracruz

Let’s turn to talk about the people. What are the key groups of people or key civilizations of Mesoamerica?

There are many, but the three that I thought I’d talk about were the Olmec, the Maya, and the Aztecs. We can look at those in chronological order. One of the earliest Mesoamerican people were the Olmecs who arose during what we call the formative period, from about 1500 BCE to 400 BCE, and they established settlements both in the Mexican highlands and along the coast. And they’re really important — they’re called the Mother Culture of the Americas. They’re associated with a number of characteristics that then later passed on to other Mesoamerican civilizations such as the Maya and the Aztec. These included a lot of things: one was monumental sculpture. The Olmecs are known for their huge carved heads. These were six to fifteen feet high, they weighed tons, and they were very characteristic. They had slanted eyes, sort of squished noses, and flattened lips. If you see one, you know it’s Olmec.

They’re also known for their ceremonial complexes. The Olmecs were the first to build central places for worship with defined avenues. Another thing the Olmecs were known for was constructing some of the first pyramids. Later civilizations also had pyramids, although they looked somewhat different from the Olmec, who were the first.

They were also the first in sports. The Olmecs were the ones who started, or are associated with starting, the complex ball game that Mesoamerican peoples played. You would try to put a rubber ball through high hoops. These civilizations created ball courts for people to sit and watch these games. The first of these ceremonial complexes appears in the Olmecs.

The other thing the Olmecs did was count really well. We used to think it was the Maya, who lived centuries later, who invented the calendar, but now we know it originated with the Olmecs. They invented two calendars, the solar calendar of 365 days and the lunar one of 260 days. And every 52 years, the first day of a lunar and solar calendar coincided. This is critical because Mesoamerican peoples think in 52-year chunks, just as we think in decades or centuries, they think in fifty-two year chunks. So it was, we think, the Olmecs who begin to think about the fifty-two year chunk thinking, which also becomes very important later on for the Maya and even as important for the Aztecs. So this was another thing that they pioneered.

We used to think—the poor Maya are getting dissed here a bit—that the Maya developed writing, but now we know that it began with the Olmec too. These are important reasons, given their architecture, and their ball courts, and the calendar, why they are the Mother Culture of the Americas.

So did the Olmec civilization simply disappear? Did it merge into later cultures? What happened?

Well, when we don’t know. Weknow a series of things that might of happened: peoples revolting, environmental reasons, in this case there might have been a volcanic eruption, there could have been climate change. It’s one of those mysteries we still haven’t solved.

Let’s turn then to talk about the second great group, the Maya. When did they become important, or when did they appear in Mesoamerica?

The Maya appeared around 0 BCE, and they were a pre-contact civilization, which is important, through 800, but unlike the Olmecs, the Maya continue to exist today. In modern Guatemala, in Mexico, in Yucatan, in Belize, and Honduras there are still people who descended from the Maya and who still speak Maya dialects.

Although picturesque, the Mayan site of Tulum, in the state of Quintana Roo, is actually small in comparison to major Maya sites such as Chichen Itzá or Uxmal.

And were they similar to the Olmecs? You talked about things that we thought were originated by the Maya, but were in fact older.

Ja. As I said, the Olmecs are the Mother Culture, but then later civilizations, like the Maya, also picked up some of these characteristic things. For example, just like the Olmec (perhaps even more impressive than the Olmec), the Maya built ceremonial centers. These are now, of course, important tourist sites like Uxmal and Chichen Itza and Tikal. However, the Maya pyramids are very distinctive from other Mesoamerican pyramids because they’re really steep and really narrow. But the Maya also had the same ball courts or had ball courts like the Olmec and they also used the same version of the Mesoamerican calendar. They too had this view of time and divided their chronology into these fifty-two year cycles. They innovated though in that they developed a way of counting back. So they counted each individual fifty-two year cycle as it went back. This is something called the long count, which made it possible for them to count back thousands of years in their history. And, of course it was these kinds of cycles and counting that we associated a few years ago with false worry that the Maya calendar predicted that the world was going to end in 2012. It was part of these cyclical counts that that idea arose.

So what happened was, after the classic Maya civilization collapsed around 900, although the Maya themselves didn’t disappear, they largely abandoned many of their ceremonial centers. And so when the Spanish arrived in the early 16c, although many of these centers still existed, the Maya themselves couldn’t read the writings on their codices, or the inscriptions that were carved throughout the temples or on their obelisks. Their history was effectively lost. As time went on, many of their centers were covered with jungle and trees. They were only discovered by explorers such as John Stevens in the early 19c. Or, more recently, infrared satellites have been used to try to locate Maya ruins. The first interpretations were essentially that they were the intellectuals of the Americas — and remember we gave them all these accomplishments, like writing and the calendar and all these things, which we now know they didn’t pioneer. But it was clear that they had a sophisticated form of writing. The theory developed that they were this peaceful, intellectual civilization with a particular interest in mathematics and astronomy. So one of the great challenges of the 20c, and actually still ongoing, was to try to decipher the Maya script and to find more about this civilization in their own words.

How has learning to read their texts changed what we know about them? What do we know about them now that we didn’t know before?

Well their lists told us everything. They told us their histories. We now know who their leaders were, we know about their wars, we know more about their religion. We know that, far from being the peaceful stargazers we thought, we now know they engaged in constant combat. Nor was their religion non-bloody or ethereal. They forwarded and continued this Mesoamerican propensity for offering blood as a gift for the gods—especially the Mayan nobles, both men and women. We have pictures of these we see them now in paintings of them doing this. They were expected to offer blood to the gods. The women often put spines through their tongues and blood would come and they would sacrifice the blood. Men had some instruments that allowed them to prick even more sensitive reproductive parts. You could look at those pictures as well. The Maya were not as peaceful or otherworldly as we previously thought. But they really pale compared to the more current understandings of the Mexica, or as we call them more commonly, the Aztecs.

So then when did the Aztecs appear, and how did they fit into this picture of civilizations in Mesoamerica?

The Aztecs are really part of this whole Mesoamerican theme—the theme of migration that I talked about, of migrating peoples, moving from north to south. We have in the Aztec codices, their history as they engaged in this migration. We know they moved down into the central valley and what was a lake system, which is now around Mexico City, around the 1320s. And this area was already settled by numerous other city-states. In the early years, the Aztecs were subordinate to these other city-states. Eventually they founded their capitol, Tenochtitlan, which was located on an island in the lake system. The center of Tenochtitlan is now modern Mexico City. Like the Olmecs and the Maya, the Aztecs built pyramids, ball courts, they had ceremonial centers, and they also used the fifty-two year calendar.

Circular calendar of the Mexica (Aztec), Museo Nacional de Antropologia, Mexico City.

How were they different from the earlier peoples?

The Aztecs really were the most successful expansionists in the pre-contact period. They conquered from the Pacific coast to the Caribbean. They were demanding tribute from conquered populations. This of course is related to this idea that, as populations grew, and this was an environment where it was resource-scarce, the conquered civilizations would try to get food and other kinds of tribute flowing into the center to get their own population to grow. Conquest became an important part of Aztec history.

Of course what’s most well known about the Aztecs is that conquest went along with their practice of bloodletting. They carried it to the Mesoamerican extreme, transferring this to tens of thousands of people who were killed through human sacrifice. To understand why this happened: it’s a pretty gory thing to think the Aztecs were so involved in human sacrifice that sometimes tens of thousands of people could be killed as in one case, at the dedication of the great temple at Tenochtitlan. But you have to understand it from the Aztec perspective, from the Aztec religion or their view of where they were in the world. And sort of critical to this was their creation myth. The Aztecs believed the world had been created and destroyed four times before they had lived. They believed they lived in the fifth world that had been created they called it a sun. At the start of the fifth sun, according to their legends, the world was in darkness so the gods met to create the world. They asked one god to throw himself in the fire and let the world begin, but the god chickened out. So then they asked another god, and he was a lesser god, and so he finally threw himself into the fire so that the world might be created. Then the first god was ashamed so he jumped into the fire as well. Then the story goes that the gods waited around the fire for the sun and the moon to rise, and when they didn’t, they asked why the two gods hadn’t turned themselves into the sun and the moon and created the new world. The gods said they were waiting for sacrifice. So as the legend goes, one by one the gods threw themselves into the fire and as they did so the sun and the moon began to rise and the world was created again. And this established the fundamental idea that sacrifice to the gods was essential to keep the world going first sacrifice of gods themselves and then later human sacrifice.

These were quite large-scale sacrifices. Who were the victims? What did they think of this? Where do they come from?

The victims came from various different groups. Many of them were warriors. When the Aztecs fought other city-states to demand tribute, they would fight to capture, not to kill. They would bring the victim back and he would be sacrificed on the pyramid. His body would then be thrown down the pyramid and his captor would engage in ritual cannibalism. This was a mutual kind of thing because if soldiers from Tenochtitlan were captured, they would also find themselves led up the pyramid of another city-state to be sacrificed. This was a very common practice in the Aztec areas of conquest.

And there were many who really believed in this. For example there was a famous warrior who taken captive and he was such a good soldier they agreed not to sacrifice him if he would fight for them. He agreed to do that for many years, but then he returned and asked to be sacrificed. There were other people sacrificed as well. Women were not taken up to the top of the pyramid. The Aztec sacrifice was particularly gory. They would use obsidian knives to cut out the living hearts of their victims and then offer the blood to gods. Women were not led up the pyramid that way. They usually did a dance at the bottom of the pyramid and then they would be beheaded. There were some particularly gory ceremonies where crying children were sacrificed to Tlaloc, who was the rain-god. When children cried it was assumed that was good.

Is there any sense in which the mass sacrifice of the population was connected with some kind of population control?

There have been a number of theories about that, but when you think about it, it doesn’t really make sense. If you really want to control population, you want to control the women who are producing young children. What you’re doing is sacrificing the warriors, who when they come back, are agriculturalists. So actually no, it didn’t make a demographic sense to sacrifice mostly men. You’re also sacrificing not your own people. You’re sacrificing people from the periphery.

So then what happens to the Aztecs? Do they die out before the Europeans come? Are they there?

Oh no, the Aztecs are fully there when the Europeans arrive. Tenochtitlan is a wonder. It is described in amazing detail by the conquistadors. Cortez was very lucky to be able to conquer Tenochtitlan. Some Spaniard would have done it eventually, given the technology that the Europeans had: the ability to move a lot of people across the Atlantic, the use of steel, horses. There were many advantages Europeans had, but that first band of conquistadors had to win every single battle. This again goes back to the human sacrifice. They had a lot Indian allies, allies on the coast, because what Cortez did was pick up many Indian groups who rejected the Aztecs, because they didn’t want to send people for human sacrifice. They saw the Spaniards as someone to ally with. So by the time Cortez arrives at Tenochtitlan, he has an army of thousands and thousands of Indian warriors as well as Spaniards.

OK, I have one final question. Is Quidditch the modern day version of the basketball game of Mesoamerica?


ANCIENT MAYA CIVILIZATION

The ancestral Maya dates back 4,000 years, around 2000 BCE. Major change all over Mesoamerica began after 2000 BCE in the Preclassic or Formative period. The Maya began as nomadic farmers and eventually transitioned to more settled life villages are known to have spread throughout the Maya lowlands by 1000BCE . By the Late Preclassic period (

300 BCE), regional centers had formed in the southern Maya lowlands.

For more on the Maya, check out some of these resources !

ISBER / MesoAmerican Research Center
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Santa Barbara, CA 93106-2150
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The Lost Zapotec: Vibrant Mesoamerican Civilization of The Cloud People

In the Valley of Oaxaca, located in the Southern highlands of Mesoamerica, an indigenous, pre-Columbian civilization, known as the Zapotec civilization or the “Cloud People”, flourished around 2,500 years ago. They left behind impressive ruins and provided a lasting influence to the many cultures that superseded them.

During the Monte Alban 1 phase (400–100 B.C.), the Zapotec civilization began to form in the Oaxaca Valley. They were the largest indigenous group in Oaxaca, with populations reaching approximately 350,000 at their height. Members of the Zapotec civilization created and developed a powerful state system that went through periods of development and decline. The Zapotecs can be divided into three distinct groups - the Valley Zapotec (in the Valley of Oaxaca), the Sierra Zapotec (to the north), and the Southern Zapotec (in the south and east, near the Isthmus of Tehuantepec). The peoples were primarily peasant farmers, living in communities of approximately 5,000.

A funerary urn depicting a seated figure from the Zapotec culture – 100 -700 A.D. Wikimedia, CC

Altogether, the Zapotecs lived in farming villages, mountain settlements, scattered ranches, rural areas, and two urban centers, Juchitán and Tehuantepec. A typical Zapotec community contained government buildings, a place of worship, school buildings, dry-goods stores, and possibly a health building or clinic. Their houses were made of stone and mortar. The Zapotec were hunters, and were believed to have hunted antelope, deer, jackrabbits, squirrels, fox, rats, and quail. They did their hunting with darts and spears. They strategized hunting by disturbing bushes to drive squirrels and rabbits to a central location.

Detail of an ancient Zapotec mosaic. Public Domain

The languages of the Zapotec civilization belong to an ancient family of Mesoamerican languages known as the Oto-manguean language family. Around 1,500 B.C., the Oto-manguean languages began to split off, creating differing languages across the regions. The Zapotec language is a tone language, which means that the meaning of a word may vary based upon the tone with which the word is spoken. Today, the Zapotec language is still heard in parts of the Northern Sierra, the Central Valleys, the Southern Sierra, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, along parts of the Pacific Coast, and in parts of Mexico.

The Zapotecs developed their own logosyllabic system of writing, which assigned a symbol to each syllable of their language. This is believed to be one of the first writing systems created in Mesoamerica, and a predecessor of the Mayas, Mixtec, and Aztec writing systems. Their writings were to be read in columns, from top to bottom. The Zapotec used their writing system to record important events in their civilization’s history. Archaeologists have found many Zapotec writings, but a number of them still remain to be deciphered.

The religion of the Zapotecs was polytheistic, with two primary deities. The deities included rain god Cocijo, and Coquihani, the god of light. Their lower-level deities were both male and female, often focusing on agriculture and fertility. The males wore breechclouts and capes, and the females wore skirts. There is some variation as to what the Zapotecs believed of their origins. Archaeological evidence suggests that they believed their ancestors emerged from the earth or caves, or that they formed from jaguars or trees. Alternatively, there is some indication that they believed to have descended from supernatural beings living among the clouds, a status they would return to upon death.

Mesoamerican sculpture, said to be a Bat God of the Zapotec religion. Public Domain

The Zapotecs are an example of an ancient civilization that experienced periods of both thriving and struggling. There is no trace of a violent destruction, and the reason for their decline is unknown, although it occurred during a time of much conflict in the area. Their location was later adopted by the Mixtec as a sacred site, and royal burial location, and can still be visited to this day.


Relationship with Other American Civilizations

The Aztecs incorporated many elements from the cultures around them into their traditions. Their calendar was in use by others in the area before they arrived, but they refined and recorded it on huge, carved stones. Their calendar was based on a 365 day solar cycle they had learned about from earlier cultures. They also developed a second, 260 day calendar for their religious rituals which became widely used by neighboring people.

© Justin Ennis - Aztec Relief

Before the Aztecs civilization, the Toltec people had lived in the area and built pyramids, temples, and small cities. When the Aztecs took over, they continued using the pyramids and temples built by the Toltec culture, and they began worshiping some of the Toltec gods.

The Aztecs had a complex relationship with other groups of people in central Mexico. They adopted some of the ways of the older cultures who had been there before them. They also transformed traditions, religious beliefs, and technologies over time, creating a unique culture of their own.


Se videoen: Meso Compounds


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