Published on February 16, 2014
Selected Pre-Columbian American Civilizations Glory, Ruin, and Loss Janet Pareja, Signature School, Evansville, Indiana
1. Cahokia: 600 – 1400 CE • Mississippian Culture • Height: 1200 • No written records survive • Strategic location for trade & manufacture – Decorative copper – Iron tools (hoes) – Pottery • Largest settlement north of Mesoamerica – 6,000-40,000
Traits of Mississippian Culture • Centralized Rule - Chiefdoms – Politico-religious control by one/small group – Earthwork Mounds – buildings atop • Economy – Maize-based agriculture Maize – Widespread trade networks • Rocky Mts., Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean • Institutionalized social inequality
Man-made Mounds Early Religious / Political Centers? Fortresses?
“Chunkey” Variations played throughout N. America: Cherokees, Choctaws, Chicasaws •Huge 47 acre arenas? •Roll a disc-shaped stone; try to place the spear as close to the stopped stone as possible •Gambling! Suicide if lose?
2. Earliest Civilizations in Americas • Olmec – Mesoamerica • 1400 BCE- 400 BCE • “Rubber People” • Norte Chico– Andes Mountains: Caral in the Supe Valley
Olmec Urban Centers / Regional Religious Centers? • 1200 BCE: Central raised BCE mounds. • • 900 BCE: La Venta’s Great Pyramid was the largest structure in the Americas.
Olmec: Alluvial Soil Drainage of water! but no evidence of irrigation. Varied by season: Too dry / Floods & Hurricanes • San Lorenzo Stretched as far South as Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica…125 x 50 miles. • • • Tenochtitlán La Venta Tres Zapotes
• No evidence of complete writing system… but they started… • Calendar later societies copied & perfected
Early Meso American Agriculture • Slash & Burn • Beans, chilis, avocados, gourds, tomatoes • Maize!! • No evidence of irrigation. • No large animals to domesticate • Dogs, Turkey, Guinea Pigs…
Regional Trade • Artifacts of jade, obsidian, and magnetite came from distant locations – for animal skins? LUXURIES! • Suggests access to extensive trading network: 150 – 250 network miles range.
Shamanism – Shaman was able to assume powers of certain animals •Nahuales – spirit guides – Combining spirituality & intellect of man, w/ ferocity & strength of jaguar •Birth of mankind/gods from underground •10+ distinct gods, including corn god •Corn God •Tree of Life
• Self-sacrifice rites involved drawing blood from several parts of the body. •Height: 38 cm Width: 3 cm Bloodletting was performed by the ruler to ensure the fertility of the land and the well-being of the community. • • Olmec Jade Perferators It was also a means of communication with the ancestors and was vital to sustain the gods and the world. These rituals were common throughout Mesoamerica. Olmec jade perforators are often found in graves as part of the funerary offerings. • Some bloodletting implements were also fashioned out of bone, flint, greenstones, stingray spines and shark teeth. They vary in form and symbolism. Handles can be plain, incised with a variety of symbols associated to certain deities, or carved into the shape of supernatural beings. The blades, ending in a sharp point, are sometimes shaped into the beaks of certain birds, such as the hummingbird, or into a stingray tail.
17 Monolithic Basalt Heads Decorative Objects: •Jade, Obsidian, Magnetite •NO METALLURGY •Masks, knives, figures, jewelry Olmec Art
“The Ball Game” starts here! Balls have been found dating to 1600 BCE
Olmec Math • Long Count Calendar dates to Sept. 3, 32 BCE • Concept of Zero • Base 20
Disappeared “Mysteriously” Mysteriously Systematically destroyed their own ceremonial centers at San Lorenzo & La Venta? •Deserted the sites. •Broken and buried statues.
3. Norte Chico/ Caral-Supe • 3000 – 1800 BCE – Same time as Egypt and Sumer were developing – 2000 years before Olmec- why? • Central Coast of Peru • Ruth Shady, 1997, Peruvian Archaeologist
Norte Chico • Cities- Small • Some economic specialization Agriculture: Cotton • Squash, beans, guava grown by inland people in irrigated river valleys Trade: • Sardines & Anchovies from coastal people for Fishing Nets made of cotton • No pottery, no writing… Quipu • Few sculptures, carvings…Flutes!
Change… or Continuity? • • • • • Writing Calendar from Olmec Monolithic Architecture Bloodletting The Ball Game • Kingly lines tied to Jaguar lore Professional Mayan Scribe Class
Priestly Class • Rituals, ceremonies • Math, Astronomy • Calendar – Ritual Year – Solar Year – Alignment = Possible Catastrophe
Monolithic Architecture • • • • Temples Palaces Observatories City Centers Chichen Itza
Shield Jaguar Lady Xoc
Maya Class System
Classical Maya Technology, Art, Intellectual • • • • Tools, Weapons Architecture Agriculture Writing • Concept of zero • Calendar • Murals • No metallurgy, wheel
Agricultural Economy, Regional Trade • • • • • • CORN (maize) Beans Squash Chili Peppers Fruit Sweet Potatoes • COTTON
Sea & Land Trade: •Jade •Salt •Cacao •Obsidian •Cotton •Feathers •Basalt •Ceramics •Tools •Animal Skins •Honey
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