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Field Trip Study Material: Mexico...History and Culture
Transcript of Field Trip Study Material: Mexico...History and Culture
Aztec religion was based on the belief that the universe required the constant offering of human blood to continue functioning; to meet this need, the Aztec sacrificed thousands of people. This belief is thought to have been common throughout Nahuatl people. In order to acquire captives in times of peace, the Aztec resorted to a form of ritual warfare called flower war.
The Tlaxcalteca, among other Nahuatl nations, were forced into such wars. Aztec warriors as shown in the Florentine Codex. The Mayan Glyph for "Cocoa." Ancient Mexico The Aztecs, Toltecs, Mayans, Olmecs, and the other people of Mesoamerica developed the first great city states of North America in ancient times Ancient Mexico-Toltecs to Aztecs Ancient Mexico-The Olmec A giant Olmec head
of a warrior at La Venta The most dramatic achievement of the Olmecs were the building of massive stone heads. We aren't sure who is represented by these heads, but archaeologists believe that they may be Olmec kings. Around 300 BC, the Olmec vanished for reasons that vanished with them. We do know, however, that much of their culture and social structure was absorbed by other peoples. The Olmecs, as far as we can tell, are the first chain in the development of Mesoamerican culture. The earliest civilization in Central America—and possibly the earliest civilization in the Americas—was the Olmec civilization which arose sometime between 1200 and 1000 BC. They originally lived in the Gulf Coast region of southern Mexico, but soon expanded into Guatemala. Olmec society was very simple. It was essentially divided into two groups: the elite group lived in the small urban centers (towns, really) and the common people lived in the rural areas. The Olmecs were overwhelmingly an agricultural people. The elite lived off of the agriculture of the common people, but they probably didn't rule over the agricultural populations. Instead, they carried out religious ceremonies centered in the towns and carried out commercial trade in luxury and artistic items. The Teotihuacan (200 BC-700 AD) The Temple of the Sun at Teotihuacan, the largest pyramid in the world Other scholars have put forth the Totonac people as the founders of Teotihuacan, and the debate continues to this day. There is evidence that at least some of the people living in Teotihuacan came from areas influenced by the Teotihuacano civilization, including the Zapotec, Mixtec and Maya peoples. The culture and architecture of Teotihuacan was influenced by the Olmec people, who are considered to be the "mother civilization" of Mesoamerica. The earliest buildings at Teotihuacan date to about 200 BCE, and the largest pyramid, the Pyramid of the Sun, was completed by 100 CE. Teotihuacan is an enormous archaeological site in the Basin of Mexico, containing some of the largest pyramidal structures built in the pre-Columbian Americas. Apart from the pyramidal structures, the archaeological site of Teotihuacan is also known for its large residential complexes, the so-called "street of the dead", and its colorful well-preserved murals. Teotihuacan was, at its apogee in the first half of the 1st millennium CE, the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas. During its zenith it may have had more than 100,000 inhabitants placing it among the largest cities of the world in this period. The civilization and cultural complex associated with the site is also referred to as Teotihuacan or Teotihuacano. Although it is a subject of debate whether Teotihuacan was the center of an empire, its influence throughout Mesoamerica is well documented; evidence of Teotihuacano presence, if not outright political and economic control, can be seen at numerous sites in Veracruz and the Maya region. The ethnicity of the inhabitants of Teotihuacan is also a subject of debate and possible candidates are the Nahua, Otomi or Totonac ethnic groups. Often it has been suggested that Teotihuacan was in fact a multiethnic state. The early history of Teotihuacan is quite mysterious, and the origin of its founders is debated. For many years, archaeologists believed it was built by the Toltec. This belief was based on colonial period texts such as the Florentine Codex which attributed the site to the Toltecs. However, the Nahuatl word "Toltec" generally means "craftsman of the highest level" and may not always refer to the archaeological Toltec civilization centered at Tula, Hidalgo. Since Toltec civilization flourished centuries after Teotihuacan, they cannot be understood as the city's founders. The Toltecs The standing warrior lintels at Tula, the capitol of the Toltecs The Toltecs conquered large areas controlled by the Maya and settled in these areas; they migrated as far south as the Yucatán peninsula. The culture borne out of this fusion is called the Toltec-Maya, and its greatest center was Chichén Itzá— on the very tip of the Yucatan peninsula. Chichén Itzá was the last great center of Mayan civilization. The Toltec-Maya cultures greatly expanded the cultural diffusion of Mayan thought, religion, and art north into the Valley of Mexico. Teotihuacán was conquered by northern tribes in 700 AD and began to rapidly decline in its influence over the Mexican peoples. For two hundred years following the decline of Teotihuacán, the region had no centralized culture or political control. Beginning around 950, a culture based in northern Mexico at Tula began to dominate Central America. These people were known as the Toltecs. They were a war-like people and expanded rapidly throughout Mexico, Guatemala, and the Yucatán peninsula. At the top of their society was a warrior aristocracy which attained mythical proportions in the eyes of Central Americans long after the demise of their power. Around 1200, their dominance over the region faded. They were important as transmitters of the culture of Teotihuacán, including religion, architecture, and social structure. Their name, in fact, is not a tribal name (the original Toltec tribal names have been lost to us); the word, toltecatl , simply means "craftsman" in the Nahua languages. Toltec was simply the word used to distinguish the Mexican peoples which retained the culture and much of the urban characteristics of the culture of Teotihuacán from other peoples; even the Aztecs primarily referred to themselves by either their tribal name (Tenochca) or as "Toltecs." The Toltecs expanded the cult of Quetzalcoatl, the "Sovereign Plumed Serpent," and created a mythology around the figure. In Toltec legend, Quetzalcoatl was the creator of humanity and a warrior-god that had been driven from Tula, but would return some day. The Toltecs also originated the Central American ball-game, which was played on a large stone court with a rubber ball. The game was primarily a religious ritual celebrating the victory of god-heroes over the gods of death; as a religious ritual, it involved the human sacrifice of the loser. The Castillo at Chichen Itza Unlike the cultures of the Valley of Mexico, the only period in which the urban centers were important to the Mayas was during the Classic period from 300 to 900 AD. The culture of the Mayas, however, has little changed from the classic period to the modern period, for Maya culture was largely tribal and rural all throughout the Classic period. What distinguishes Classic from post-Classic Maya culture was the importance of urban centers and their structures in the religious life of the Mayas and the extent of literate culture. The Mayas were never a "true" urban culture; the urban centers were almost entirely used as religious centers for the rural population surrounding them. Therfore, the decline of the urban centers after 900 AD did not involve titanic social change so much as religious change; it is believed by some scholars that the abandonment of the cities was primarily due to religious proselytizing from the north. Nevertheless, the Classic period saw an explosion of cultural creativity all throughout the region populated by the tribes we call "Mayan." They derived many cultural forms from the north, but also devised many cultural innovations that profoundly influenced all subsequent cultures throughout Mesoamerica. Much of Maya culture, particularly the religious reckoning of time, is still a vital aspect of Native American life in Guatemala and Honduras. Classic Maya culture developed in three regions in Mesoamerica. By far the most important and most complete urban developments occurred in the lowlands in the "central region" of southern Guatemala. This region is a drainage basin about sixty miles long and twenty miles wide and is covered by tropical rain forest; the Mayas, in fact, are only one of two peoples to develop an urban culture in a tropical rainforest. The principal city in this region was Tikal, but the spread of urbanization extended south to Honduras; the southernmost Mayan city was Copan in northern Honduras. In the Guatemalan highlands to the north, Mayan culture developed less fully. The highlands are more temperate and seem to have been the main suppliers of raw materials to the central urban centers. The largest and most complete urban center was Palenque. The other major region of Mayan development was the Yucatan peninsula making up the southern and eastern portions of modern-day Mexico. This is a dry region and, although urban centers were built in this region, including Chichen Itza and Uxmal (pronounced "Oosh-mal"), most scholars believe that this was a culturally marginal area. After the abandonment of the Classic Mayan cities, the Yucatán peninsula became the principal region of a new, synthetic culture called Toltec-Mayan which was formed when Toltecs migrating from the north integrated with indigenous Maya peoples. The Maya civilization shares many features with other Mesoamerican civilizations due to the high degree of interaction and cultural diffusion that characterized the region. Advances such as writing, epigraphy, and the calendar did not originate with the Maya; however, their civilization fully developed them. Maya influence can be detected as far as central Mexico, more than 1000 km (625 miles) from the Maya area. Many outside influences are found in Maya art and architecture, which are thought to result from trade and cultural exchange rather than direct external conquest. The Maya peoples never disappeared, neither at the time of the Classic period decline nor with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores and the subsequent Spanish colonization of the Americas. Today, the Maya and their descendants form sizable populations throughout the Maya area and maintain a distinctive set of traditions and beliefs that are the result of the merger of pre-Columbian and post-Conquest ideologies. A detail of the Dresden Codex, one of only 6 Mayan codices , or painted books, to survive the Conquest Maya codices (singular codex) are folding books stemming from the pre-Columbian Maya civilization, written in Maya hieroglyphic script on Mesoamerican paper, made from the inner bark of certain trees, the main being the wild fig tree or Amate (Ficus glabrata).
Paper, generally known by the Nahuatl word amatl, was named by the Mayas huun. The folding books are the products of professional scribes working under the patronage of the Howler Monkey Gods. The Maya developed their huun-paper around the 5th century, the same era that the Romans did, but their paper was more durable and a better writing surface than papyrus. The codices have been named for the cities in which they eventually settled. The Dresden codex is generally considered the most important of the few that survive. A Mayan Vase One aspect of Mayan art is often overlooked, and that is the tremendous variety of excellence in style and design that it contains. Ancient Greek vase paintings are equally excellent but in comparison to the Mayan are monostylistic. Mayan art gave almost free reign to the artist, who was not required to produce a product that fit "the canon of the culture" in every way. In its encouragement of individual genius and its variations from one workshop to another, the products of which were intended in good part to be given or sold to the royalty of other cities, Mayan vase paintings are more akin to the art of the modern period than the art of any other pre-modern people. The principal valuation seems to have been on artistic quality rather than adherence to standardized forms. Furthermore, like Greek and Chinese artists, Mayan painters and sculptors sometimes signed their work. Accordingly, their work was not a "cultural product" or a "city's product" but a person's product. It appears that literacy was confined to the elite (as in all pre-modern cultures) and artists and the literate were of the same class; indeed, it is probable that Mayan artists were often the younger sons and daughters of the ahaus, the rulers, of Mayan cities. The Maya had specific techniques to create, inscribe, paint, and design pottery. To begin creating a ceramic vessel the Maya had to locate the proper resources for clay and temper. The present-day indigenous Maya, who currently live in Guatemala, Belize and southern Mexico still create wonderful ceramics. Prudence M. Rice provides a look at what the current Guatemalan Maya use today for clay. Highland Guatemala has a rich geological history comprised mainly from a volcanic past. The metamorphic and igneous rock, as well as the sand and ash from the pumice areas provide many types of tempering. In the area, there are a range of clays that create varied colors and strengths when fired. Today's Maya locate their clays in the exposed river systems of the highland valleys. It is hypothesized that the ancient people obtained their clay by the same method as today's Maya. The clays are located in exposed river systems of the highland valleys. Most likely, due to the climatic similarities over the last millennia it is likely that these same deposits or similar ones could have been used in early times. A Mayan Jade pendant http://www.theancientweb.com/features/mexico/conquest/ An accurate reconstruction of ancient Aztec jaguar warrior armor The Aztec god of death, a rather frightful image to the Spanish An Aztec warrior sacrifice from a colonial manuscript Overview of the Aztecs:
The Aztecs is the collective name given to a group of allied but ethnically different city states who lived in central Mexico and controlled much of central America from the 12th century AD until the Spanish invasion of the 15th century. The main political alliance creating the Aztec empire was called the Triple Alliance, including the Mexica of Tenochtitlan, the Acolhua of Texcoco, and the Tepaneca of Tlacopan; together they dominated most of Mexico between 1430 and 1521 AD.
The capital city of the Aztecs was at Tenochtitlan-Tlatlelco, what is today Mexico City, and the extent of their empire covered almost all of what is today Mexico. At the time of Spanish conquest, the capital was a cosmopolitan city, with different ethnic groups from all over Mexico. The state language was Nahuatl and written documentation was kept on bark cloth manuscripts (most of which were destroyed by the Spanish). A high level of stratification in Tenochtitlan included both nobles and commoners. There were were frequent ritual human sacrifices, part of the military and ritual activities of the Aztec people, although it is possible and perhaps likely that these were exaggerated by the Spanish clergy. The Aztec Pyramid at St. Cecilia Acatitlan, Mexico State. The End... Thank you...