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The Development of Complex Societies in Mesoamerica.docx

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Western University
Anthropology 2100
Peter Timmins

March, 04, 2013 The Development of Complex Societies in Mesoamerica Discredited Pseudoscientific Theories of Pre-Columbian Origins: -Eric von Daniken said that the Americas were visited by astronauts from outer space who built the pyramids in Mesoamerica -Barry Fell said the Americas were settled by colonists from Europe and North Africa about 3000 years ago -Ivan Van Sertima and Clyde Winters said New World civilizations were influenced by diffusion from Africa and they thought the Nubians contacted the Olmecs in 700 BC Characteristics of Pseudoscientific Theories: -They rely almost exclusively on outdated or secondary sources -They rely on the pseudoscientific research of others -They claim linguistic and cultural influences between far-flung cultures separated by thousands of years without any evidence of intermediate cultures -They try to appeal to authority by pointing out the credentials of the sources they cite -They argue by assertion rather than demonstration -They are usually racist, inasmuch as they argue that indigenous people were technologically incapable of constructing impressive sites Mesoamerican Cultural Chronology: -Archaic (go from hunter gatherers to farming) 7000 - 1500 BC -Preclassic (more complexity) 1500 BC - 250 AD -Early Preclassic (Olmec) 1500 - 1000 BC -Middle Preclassic (Olmec) 1000 BC - 300 BC -Late Preclassic (Zapotec) 300 BC - 250 AD -Classic (Maya, Teotihuacán) 250 AD - 900 AD -Early Classic 250 AD - 650 AD -Late Classic 650 AD - 900 AD -Post Classic (Toltecs, Aztecs) 900 AD - 1521 AD Agriculture: -They had garden plots called milpas and it involved shifts to new locations as soil nutrients are exhausted -Agricultural intensification involved draining of swamps, building raised fields, irrigation canals, reservoirs (which was done by the Maya), pot irrigation, terracing fields (done by the Zapotecs), and chinampas (which were used by the Aztecs) The Preclassic Period – 1500 BC – 250 AD: -The Early Preclassic (1500-1000 BC) saw villages increase in size although most were still under 2 ha with 10 to 12 houses and a population of 50 - 60 -They were small chiefdoms with hereditary elites and they had small shrines and temples in examples of the first public architecture and differential grave goods indicate a developing social hierarchy The Olmec – 1500-500 BC: -They were a series of chiefdoms with widespread trading contacts on the South Gulf Coast and they had monumental architecture and agricultural intensification -Their art included the colossal heads and stelae carved out of basalt in a very distinctive style, as well as jade figurines and many sculptures of people who look like babies -They ate fish, birds, dogs, toads, crocodiles and one toad, Bufo marinus, is known to produce hallucinations -They were not very urbanized and most of the people lived in small hamlets -San Lorenzo controlled an area of about 600 square km with four secondary centres, 50 farming villages and 150 smaller hamlets and the monumental buildings and most impressive art works are found at ceremonial centres San Lorenzo – 3200-2800 BP: -It was a ceremonial centre with a core area mound (100 x 600 m) -There were 40 ton basalt sculptures that were transported 100 km -There are artificial ponds an aqua-duct system and they perhaps had a population of 2500 people March, 04, 2013 La Venta – 2800-2400 BP: -It was another ceremonial centre and it was built on a small coastal island and it covers 5 square km -It has mounds, platforms, pyramids, and the colossal heads extend for 1.6 km -The Olmec traded pottery, obsidian, jade, iron ore, shark teeth, sting ray spines and other exotics through Mexico and
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