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a breif history of prehispanic mexico

HISTORÍA PREHISPÁNICA
(Pre-Hispanic History of México)

The earliest recorded period of Mexico's history
before the year 1519 and the arrival of the Spanish.

2500 BC
1200 BC
400 BC
150/200 AD
650 AD
900 AD
1200 AD
M E S O A M É R I C A
PRECLÁSICO
CLÁSICO
POSCLÁSICO
Temprano
Medio
Tardío
Temprano
Tardío
Temprano
Tardío

When Spanish explorers first arrived in Mexico in 1519, an estimated 10 million Indian inhabitants were already here. And they had an organized social structure - a true civilization - that was over 3,000 years old. This civilization was a force to be reckoned with. The Spanish quickly realized that it couldn’t be swept aside. So they built their Colonial empire upon the existing Indian culture. Which is why Mexico's past wasn't erased. Instead, the Indian culture merged with Spain's. The result is that there are over 20 million Native Mexicans here, speaking nearly 60 languages and dialects. And they are all descendants of these ancient civilizations.

Olmec headOlmecas
Mother Tribe to all Mexican Indians - their name means "rubber", for which they are responsible for discovering. They were a theocratic society - god centered, their main god was a jaguar. The Olmecs (1200 B.C. until 200 A.D.), Mexico's first established culture, developed in the coastal states of Veracruz and Tabasco. This was a particularly influential culture, since subsequent groups borrowed heavily from the Olmec's religious, architectural and artistic traditions. Despite the absence of a local supply of stone, they developed massive buildings (La Venta, San Lorenzo, Tres Zapotes). They also created an advanced calendar that included the concept of zero. This culture is particularly mysterious, since we know little about its origin, political structure, or reason for disappearance.

 


pyramid of the sun

Teotihuacan
Located 30 miles northeast of Mexico City - the name means "place of the gods" abandoned almost three thousand years before the Aztecs arrived. Main buildings: Pyramid of the Sun (built over a cave), Pyramid of the Moon, Temple of Quetzalcoatl (covered with imagery of Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc - god of rain) and the street of the dead. The city was completely in line with the planet Venus. Quetzalcoatl (lord of peace) - was the feathered serpent god, his human form was light skin and a light complexion, had a long beard and hair. He gave the people fire and hated human sacrifice. He got into a fight with Tezcatlipoca-Smoking Mirror-and he lost and was banished from Mexico, but he said that he would return on his birthday the first year of the reed. He was last seen leaving Mexico in a boat-sailing to the east from Veracruz. His birthday occurs once every 52 years.

Mayas
First appearing in about 1200 B.C. this culture developed in three distinct periods, each corresponding to a different region of Central America and Mexico. The Mayan are most noted for their complex systems of mathematics and astrology, prolific city-building and Baroque architecture. By 1400 A.D. the Mayan state had splintered and almost disappeared, leaving an incredible collection of ceremonial centers and ancient cities.

The sacred book of the Mayans "Popul Vuh" The Popol Vuh tells of: creation, flood, monkeys used to be men, the Hero Twins, Xibalba, Ballgames. The sacred tree of the Mayans was the Ceiba tree. The Mayan Calendar is off one day out of every 3,333 1/3 days. The Mayan Number System was a base of 20 Hieroglyphics:
   Dot = one
   Line or bar = five
   Shell = zero

The religious calendar and sun calendar together made up the 52 year cycle - very important in all Indian cultures of Mexico.
   Sun Calendar = 18 months of 20 days (+ 5 unlucky or sacred days)
   Religious calendar = 13 of 20 days
   Together = 52 year cycle

 



Chichen-Itza - in the state of Yucatan has many Toltec influences and is the only Mayan city with a Chac-Mool. Toltec Influence: Serpent Columns, Chac-mool, Tulum ruinsTemple of the Warriors (with the 1,000 Columns of 16 ft tall warriors) The Temple of Kukulcan - Quetzalcoatl has a descending staircase on the spring
equinox-March 21 (It has 4 sides of 91 stairs).

Tulum - built like a fortress, walled-off by the cliff overlooking the pacific ocean on the Yucatan peninsula.

Zapotecas / Mixtecas
First appearing in the valley of Oaxaca in around 900 B.C. the Zapotecs were great city builders and artisans who created notable temples, burial chambers, pottery, and metal work. The Mixtec culture conquered the Zapotecs and developed around Mitla and Yagul. They revived Monte Alban, though it was only used as a site for burial tombs. By the early 1400's the Mixtecs became vessels of the mighty Aztec empire. These two cultures continue their existence today in the State of Oaxaca, which is inhabited by some 2 million of their descendants.

Toltecas
Tula excavationsThese mighty warriors occupied the northern reaches of the Valley of Mexico from around 950-1300 a.d. They built one of Mexico's most impressive cities - Tula and were master craftsmen. The Toltecs went to war with the Mayans and eventually defeated them, creating a cross Toltec-Mayan religion and society. The Toltecs are believed to have developed the art of melting metals (metalurgica), like silver and copper.

Aztecas
This civilization dominated Mexico for nearly 200 years (1345-1521) and was flourishing when Spanish conquerors arrived in 1519. The Aztecs used an elaborate system of taxing and patronage to subjugate an enormous empire that stretched well into Central America. They too were master builders and imitators of Mexico's previous cultures. They borrowed heavily from their Olmec, Toltec, and Mayan predecessors to develop a complex linguistic, religious, artistic, architectural and military heritage. The mighty empire came to a sudden and tragic end in 1521, though much of its influence is still evident today in the culture of the Central Plateau region.

Lake Texcoco Tenochtilan - "place of the cactus"
El Calendario Azteca - "La Piedra del Sol" - 12 ft high and weighting 24 tons.


After the fall of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) in 1521, Spain embarked on a period of exploration and conquest to consolidate its control of the rest of Mesoamerica. Millions of natives fell victim to western disease, for which they had no resistance.

casa de mexico on facebookSpain and the Catholic church imposed their authority to create an economy that reflected many of the worst features of colonialism and religious authoritarianism (including the Inquisition). Spain and its European creditors derived tremendous wealth from their Indian work force, which worked on enormous agricultural estates and huge mining operations. Colonial society was broken into a tight caste system reminiscent of European feudalism.



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