The Zapotec civilization was an indigenous pre-Columbian civilization that flourished in the Valley of Oaxaca in Mesoamerica. Archaeological evidence shows; the Zapotec left archaeological evidence at the ancient city of Monte Albán in the form of buildings, ball courts, magnificent tombs and grave goods including finely worked gold jewelry. Monte Albán was one of the first major cities in Mesoamerica and the center of a Zapotec state that dominated much of the territory that today belongs to the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Zapotec civilization originated in the Central Valleys of Oaxaca in the late 6th Century BC; the three valleys were divided between three different-sized societies, separated by 80 square kilometres “no-man’s-land” in the middle, today occupied by the city of Oaxaca. Archaeological evidence, such as burned temples and sacrificed captives, suggests that the three societies competed against each other. At the end of the Rosario phase, the valley's largest settlement San José Mogote, a nearby settlement in the Etla valley, lost most of their population.
During the same period, a new large settlement emerged in the “no-man’s-land” on top of a mountain overlooking the three valleys, called Monte Albán. Early Monte Albán pottery is similar to pottery from San José Mogote, which suggests that Monte Albán was populated by the people who left San José Mogote. Although there is no direct evidence in the early phases of Monte Albán's history and fortifications around the site during the archaeological phase Monte Alban 2 suggest that the city was constructed in response to a military threat. Archaeologists Joyce Marcus and Kent V. Flannery liken this process to what happened in ancient Greece -: a centralization of smaller dispersed populations congregated in a central city to meet an external threat; the Zapotec state formed at Monte Albán began to expand during the late Monte Alban 1 phase and throughout the Monte Alban 2 phase. During Monte Alban 1c to Monte Alban 2, Zapotec rulers seized control of the provinces outside the valley of Oaxaca because none of the surrounding provinces could compete with the valley of Oaxaca politically and militarily.
By 200 AD, the Zapotecs had extended their influence, from Quiotepec in the North to Ocelotepec and Chiltepec in the South. Monte Albán had become the largest city in what are today the southern Mexican highlands, retained this status until 700 AD; the expansion of the Zapotec empire peaked during the Monte Alban 2 phase. Zapotecs colonized settlements far beyond The Valley of Oaxaca. Most notably, this expansion is visible in the sudden change of ceramics found in regions outside the valley; these region's own unique styles were replaced with Zapotec style pottery, indicating their integration into the Zapotec empire. Archaeologist Alfonso Caso, one of the first to do excavations in Monte Albán, argued that a building on the main plaza of Monte Albán is further evidence for the dramatic expansion of the Zapotec state. What today is called Building J is shaped like an arrowhead and displays more than 40 carved stones with hieroglyphic writing. Archaeologists interpreted the glyphs to represent the provinces controlled by the Zapotecs.
Each glyph group depicts a head with an elaborate head dress carved into the slabs. These are assumed to illustrate the rulers of the provinces. Heads turned upside down are believed to represent the rulers of those provinces taken by force, while the upright ones may represent those who did not resist colonization and had their lives spared. For this reason, Building J is called “The Conquest Slab”. Marcus and Flannery write about the subsequent dramatic expansion of the Monte Albán state: "a great disparity in populations between the core of a state and its periphery, it may only be necessary for the former to send colonists to the latter. Small polities, may accept a face-saving offer. Larger polities unwilling to lose their autonomy may have to be subdued militarily. During the expansion of Monte Alban 2 state, we think we see both colonization and conquest"; the name Zapotec is an exonym coming from Nahuatl tzapotēcah, which means "inhabitants of the place of sapote". The Zapotec referred to themselves by some variant of the term Be'ena'a, which means "The Cloud People".
The Zapotec languages belong to a language family called Oto-manguean, an ancient family of Mesoamerican languages. It is estimated that today's Oto-manguean languages branched off from a common root at around 1500 BC; the Manguean languages split off first, followed by the Oto-pamean branch while the divergence of Mixtecan and Zapotecan languages happened still. The Zapotecan group includes the Zapotec languages and the related Chatino. Zapotec languages are spoken in parts of the Northern Sierra, the Central Valleys as well as in parts of the Southern Sierra, in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and along parts of the Pacific Coast. Due to decades of out-migration, Zapotec is spoken in parts of Mexico City and Los Angeles, CA. There are over 100 dialects. Zapotec is a tone language, which means that the meaning of a word is determined by voice pitch, essential for understanding the meaning of different words; the Zapotec languages features up to 4 distinct tonemes: high, low and falling. Between Monte Alban phases 1 and 2 there was a considerable expansion of the population of the Valley of Oaxaca.
As the population grew, so did the degree of social differentiation, the centralization of political power
A stairway, stairwell, flight of stairs, or stairs, is a construction designed to bridge a large vertical distance by dividing it into smaller vertical distances, called steps. Stairs round, or may consist of two or more straight pieces connected at angles. Special types of stairs include ladders; some alternatives to stairs are elevators and inclined moving walkways as well as stationary inclined sidewalks. A stair, or a stairstep, is one step in a flight of stairs. In buildings, stairs is a term applied to a complete flight of steps between two floors. A stair flight is a run of steps between landings. A staircase or stairway is one or more flights of stairs leading from one floor to another, includes landings, newel posts, handrails and additional parts. A stairwell is a compartment extending vertically through a building. A stair hall is the stairs, hallways, or other portions of the public hall through which it is necessary to pass when going from the entrance floor to the other floors of a building.
Box stairs are stairs built between walls with no support except the wall strings. Stairs may be in a straight run, leading from one floor to another without a turn or change in direction. Stairs may change direction by two straight flights connected at a 90 degree angle landing. Stairs may return onto themselves with 180 degree angle landings at each end of straight flights forming a vertical stairway used in multistory and highrise buildings. Many variations of geometrical stairs may be formed of circular and irregular constructions. Stairs may be a required component of egress from buildings. Stairs are provided for convenience to access floors, roofs and walking surfaces not accessible by other means. Stairs may be a fanciful physical construct such as the stairs that go nowhere located at the Winchester Mystery House. Stairs are a subject used in art to represent real or imaginary places built around impossible objects using geometric distortion, as in the work of artist M. C. Escher. "Stairway" is a common metaphor for achievement or loss of a position in the society.
Each step is composed of riser. Tread The part of the stairway, stepped on, it is constructed to the same specifications as any other flooring. The tread "depth" is measured from the outer edge of the step to the vertical "riser" between steps; the "width" is measured from one side to the other. Riser The vertical portion between each tread on the stair; this may be missing for an "open" stair effect. Nosing An edge part of the tread that protrudes over the riser beneath. If it is present, this means that, measured horizontally, the total "run" length of the stairs is not the sum of the tread lengths, as the treads overlap each other. Many building codes require stair nosings for commercial, industrial, or municipal stairs as they provide anti-slip properties and increase pedestrians safety. Starting step or Bullnose Where stairs are open on one or both sides, the first step above the lower floor or landing may be wider than the other steps and rounded; the balusters form a semicircle around the circumference of the rounded portion and the handrail has a horizontal spiral called a "volute" that supports the top of the balusters.
Besides the cosmetic appeal, starting steps allow the balusters to form a wider, more stable base for the end of the handrail. Handrails that end at a post at the foot of the stairs can be less sturdy with a thick post. A double bullnose can be used. Stringer, Stringer board or sometimes just String The structural member that supports the treads and risers in standard staircases. There are three stringers, one on either side and one in the center, with more added as necessary for wider spans. Side stringers are sometimes dadoed to receive treads for increased support. Stringers on open-sided stairs are called "cut stringers". Winders Winders are steps, they are used to change the direction of the stairs without landings. A series of winders form a spiral stairway; when three steps are used to turn a 90° corner, the middle step is called a kite winder as a kite-shaped quadrilateral. Trim Various moldings are used in some instances support stairway elements. Scotia or quarter-round are placed beneath the nosing to support its overhang.
A decorative step at the bottom of the staircase which houses the volute and volute newel turning for a continuous handrail. The balustrade is the system of railings and balusters that prevents people from falling over the edge. Banister, Railing or Handrail The angled member for handholding, as distinguished from the vertical balusters which hold it up for stairs that are open on one side; the term "banister" is sometimes used to mean just the handrail, or sometimes the handrail and the balusters or sometimes just the balusters. Volute A handrail end element for the bullnose step that curves inward like a spiral. A volute is said to be right or left-handed depending on which side of the stairs the handrail is as one faces up the stairs. Turnout Instead of a complete spiral volute, a turnout is a quarter-turn rounded end to the handrail. Gooseneck The vertical handrail that joins a sloped handrail to a higher handrail on the balcony or landing is a
Copán is an archaeological site of the Maya civilization in the Copán Department of western Honduras, not far from the border with Guatemala. It was the capital city of a major Classic period kingdom from the 5th to 9th centuries AD; the city was in the extreme southeast of the Mesoamerican cultural region, on the frontier with the Isthmo-Colombian cultural region, was surrounded by non-Maya peoples. Copán was occupied for more than two thousand years, from the Early Preclassic period to the Postclassic; the city developed a distinctive sculptural style within the tradition of the lowland Maya to emphasize the Maya ethnicity of the city's rulers. The city has a historical record that spans the greater part of the Classic period and has been reconstructed in detail by archaeologists and epigraphers. Copán was a powerful city ruling a vast kingdom within the southern Maya area; the city suffered a major political disaster in AD 738 when Uaxaclajuun Ub'aah K'awiil, one of the greatest kings in Copán's dynastic history, was captured and executed by his former vassal, the king of Quiriguá.
This unexpected defeat resulted in a 17-year hiatus at the city, during which time Copán may have been subject to Quiriguá in a reversal of fortunes. A significant portion of the eastern side of the acropolis was eroded away by the Copán River, it is thought that the ancient name of Copán was Oxwitik, meaning the "Three Witiks", although the meaning of the word witik itself remains obscure. Copán is in western Honduras close to the border with Guatemala, it lies within the municipality of Copán Ruinas in the department of Copán. It is in a fertile valley among foothills at 700 meters above mean sea level; the ruins of the site core of the city are 1.6 kilometers from the modern village of Copán Ruinas, built on the site of a major complex dating to the Classic period. In the Preclassic period the floor of the Copán Valley was undulating and prone to seasonal flooding. In the Early Classic, the inhabitants flattened the valley floor and undertook construction projects to protect the city's architecture from the effects of flooding.
Copán had a major influence on regional centres across western and central Honduras, stimulating the introduction of Mesoamerican characteristics to local elites. At the peak of its power in the Late Classic, the kingdom of Copán had a population of at least 20,000 and covered an area of over 250 square kilometers; the greater Copán area consisting of the populated areas of the valley covered about a quarter of the size of the city of Tikal. It is estimated that the peak population in central Copán was between 6000 and 9000 in an area of 0.6 square kilometers, with a further 9,000 to 12,000 inhabitants occupying the periphery—an area of 23.4 square kilometers. Additionally, there was an estimated rural population of 3,000 to 4,000 in a 476-square-kilometer area of the Copán Valley, giving an estimated total population of 18,000 to 25,000 people in the valley during the Late Classic period. Little is known of the rulers of Copán before the founding of a new dynasty with its origins at Tikal in the early 5th century AD, although the city's origins can be traced back to the Preclassic period.
After this, Copán became one of the more powerful Maya city states and was a regional power in the southern Maya region. However, it suffered a catastrophic defeat at the hands of its former vassal state Quirigua in 738, when the long-ruling king Uaxaclajuun Ub'aah K'awiil was captured and beheaded by Quirigua's ruler K'ak' Tiliw Chan Yopaat. Although this was a major setback, Copán's rulers began to build monumental structures again within a few decades; the area of Copán continued to be occupied after the last major ceremonial structures and royal monuments were erected, but the population declined in the 8th and 9th centuries from over 20,000 in the city to less than 5,000. This decrease in population took over four centuries to show signs of collapse, showing the stability of this site after the fall of the ruling dynasties and royal families; the ceremonial center was long abandoned and the surrounding valley home to only a few farming hamlets at the time of the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century.
References to the predynastic rulers of Copán are found in texts, but none of these texts predate the refounding of Copán in AD 426. The fertile Copán River valley was long a site of agriculture before the first known stone architecture was built in the region about the 9th century BC; the city was important before its refounding by a foreign elite. There is an inscription that refers to the year 321 BC, but no text explains the significance of this date. An event at Copán is linked to another event that happened 208 days before in AD 159 at an unknown location, mentioned on a stela from Tikal, suggesting that it is a location somewhere in the Petén Basin the great Preclassic Maya city of El Mirador; this AD 159 date is mentioned in several texts and is linked to a figure known as "Foliated Ajaw". This same person is mentioned on the carved skull of a peccary recovered from Tomb 1, where he is said to perform an action with a stela in AD 376; the city was refounded by K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo', establishing it as the capital of a new Maya kingdom.
This coup was organized and launched from Tikal. Texts record the arrival of a warrior named K'uk' Mo' Ajaw, installed upon the throne of the city in AD 426 and given a new royal name, K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo' and the ochk'in kaloomte "Lord
Cantona (archaeological site)
Cantona is a Mesoamerican archaeological site in Mexico. It is located between 2,450 and 2,600 meters above sea level in the state of Puebla, on the border with the state of Veracruz; the site lies about an hour's drive from the city of Puebla and about an hour and a half from Xalapa, Veracruz. Limited archaeological work has been done at the site, it is estimated. At its peak, Cantona was a fortified city with a high level of urbanization, its original inhabitants are unknown, but it is speculated that it was founded by Olmec-Xicalanca groups towards the late Classical Period. Cantona sat astride an old trading route between the Gulf Coast and the Central Highlands and was a prominent, if isolated, Mesoamerican city between 600 and 1000 CE, it was abandoned after AD 1050. Its maximum apogee is placed at the epiclassical Mesoamerica period, that is, the period during which Teotihuacan ceased to be the main power center in the region and small regional states sought to gain control of the various trade routes.
Cantona was one of these regional centers, controlled Sierra Madre Oriental resources. The Pre-Columbian settlement area occupies 12 km², distributed in three units, of which the largest is at the south, with a surface of five km² surface. In Cantona 24 ballgame courts have been discovered, more than in any other mesoamerican site, as well as a series of small pyramids; the Zaragoza obsidian mine is located nearby. It has an elevated Acropolis over the rest of the city in which the main buildings of the city were built; this was used for the ruling elite and priests, was where the temples of the most important deities where located. The site comprises a road network with over 500 cobblestone causeways, more than 3,000 individual patios, residences, 24 ball courts and an elaborate acropolis with multiple ceremonial buildings and temples; these impressive buildings were constructed with carved stones without cement mortar. Its population is estimated at 000 inhabitants at its peak, it is believed.
It was built with a definite urban design and walkways connecting each and every part of the city. The "First Avenue" is 563 meters in length. Cantona was contemporary of Teotihuacan, its inhabitants were agricultural farmers and traders for obsidian, obtained from Oyameles-Zaragoza mountains surrounding the city. Additionally, they may have been supplying the lowlands with a derivative of the maguey plant, pulque. After Chichimec's invasions in the 11th century, Cantona was abandoned. So far, 27 ballgame courts have been found in Cantona, a quantity that symbolizes the power maintained over other peoples by managing the largest ceremonial center of their time, where the losers in the game were slaughtered, a source of pride for the people. Henri de Saussure claimed to have discovered Cantona in 1855 after a lengthy and prolonged search, Nicolás León, based on a Saussure publication, visited the zone in the early 1900s and explored the site, he left a full and comprehensive description of structures and surface objects at that time.
Cantona is derived from the Nahuatl word Caltonal which means "House of the Sun". In 1938, Paul Gendrop mentions that Cantona occupies an area of 20 km long by 12 kilometers wide; as far the site architectonic elements distribution, he noted that it is formed by numerous rectangular rooms 20 to 30 meters long by 12 to 20 meters wide, delimited by thick stone walls straight and well preserved. Eduardo Noguera, in 1958, after a tentative study of ceramics and constructive systems, noted that Cantona occupies only half the size of what was calculated by Paul Gendrop and locates it, chronologically in the preclassical horizon, coinciding with data available then. In 1980 archaeologist Diana Lopez de Molina, based on aerial photographs, made a sketch of the settlement and dug some stratigraphic wells that allowed her to propose a tentative timeline to the occupation of the area. Previous studies allow the assumption that this prehispanic city submitted was occupied from the late preclassical horizon to the early classic, which makes it one of the oldest cities of the country.
According to investigation, Cantona would be chronologically situated between 600 and 1000 AD. The site covers about 12 square kilometers; the site is made up by many patios of 50 x 40 meters, or larger. According to García Cook, rural people settled in low lands, leaving people with social rank the intermediate areas and at the top were temples, ball games, the houses of chiefs and leaders. Evidence indicate, its architecture is absent of stucco as decoration element, although mud was used to join volcanic rock in addition to the technique of placing ston
Tikal is the ruin of an ancient city, to have been called Yax Mutal, found in a rainforest in Guatemala. It is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization, it is located in the archaeological region of the Petén Basin in. Situated in the department of El Petén, the site is part of Guatemala's Tikal National Park and in 1979 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tikal was the capital of a conquest state that became one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya. Though monumental architecture at the site dates back as far as the 4th century BC, Tikal reached its apogee during the Classic Period, c. 200 to 900 AD. During this time, the city dominated much of the Maya region politically and militarily, while interacting with areas throughout Mesoamerica such as the great metropolis of Teotihuacan in the distant Valley of Mexico. There is evidence that Tikal was conquered by Teotihuacan in the 4th century CE. Following the end of the Late Classic Period, no new major monuments were built at Tikal and there is evidence that elite palaces were burned.
These events were coupled with a gradual population decline, culminating with the site’s abandonment by the end of the 10th century. Tikal is the best understood of any of the large lowland Maya cities, with a long dynastic ruler list, the discovery of the tombs of many of the rulers on this list and the investigation of their monuments and palaces; the name Tikal may be derived from ti ak'al in the Yucatec Maya language. The name was applied to one of the site's ancient reservoirs by hunters and travelers in the region, it has alternatively been interpreted as meaning "the place of the voices" in the Itza Maya language. Tikal, however, is not the ancient name for the site but rather the name adopted shortly after its discovery in the 1840s. Hieroglyphic inscriptions at the ruins refer to the ancient city as Yax Mutal or Yax Mutul, meaning "First Mutal". Tikal may have come to have been called this because Dos Pilas came to use the same emblem glyph; the kingdom as a whole was called Mutul, the reading of the "hair bundle" emblem glyph seen in the accompanying photo.
Its precise meaning remains obscure. The closest large modern settlements are Flores and Santa Elena 64 kilometres by road to the southwest. Tikal is 303 kilometres north of Guatemala City, it is 19 kilometres south of the contemporary Maya city of Uaxactun and 30 kilometres northwest of Yaxha. The city was located 100 kilometres southeast of its great Classic Period rival, 85 kilometres northwest of Calakmul's ally Caracol, now in Belize; the city has been mapped and covered an area greater than 16 square kilometres that included about 3,000 structures. The topography of the site consists of a series of parallel limestone ridges rising above swampy lowlands; the major architecture of the site is clustered upon areas of higher ground and linked by raised causeways spanning the swamps. The area around Tikal has been declared as the Tikal National Park and the preserved area covers 570 square kilometres, it was created on 26 May 1955 under the auspices of the Instituto de Antropología e Historia and was the first protected area in Guatemala.
The ruins lie among the tropical rainforests of northern Guatemala that formed the cradle of lowland Maya civilization. The city itself was located among abundant fertile upland soils, may have dominated a natural east–west trade route across the Yucatan Peninsula. Conspicuous trees at the Tikal park include gigantic kapok the sacred tree of the Maya. Regarding the fauna, white-nosed coatis, gray foxes, Geoffroy's spider monkeys, howler monkeys, harpy eagles, ocellated turkeys, toucans, green parrots and leafcutter ants can be seen there regularly. Jaguars and cougars are said to roam in the park. Tikal had no water other than what was stored in ten reservoirs. Archaeologists working in Tikal during the 20th century refurbished one of these ancient reservoirs to store water for their own use; the average annual rainfall at Tikal is 1,945 millimetres. However, the arrival of rain was unpredictable, long period of drought could occur before the crops ripen, which threatened the inhabitants of the city.
Population estimates for Tikal vary from 10,000 to as high as 90,000 inhabitants, with the most figure being at the upper end of this range. The population of Tikal began a continuous curve of growth starting in the Preclassic Period, with a peak in the Late Classic with the population growing from AD 700 through to 830, followed by a sharp decline. For the 120 square kilometres area falling within the earthwork defenses of the hinterland, the peak population is estimated at 517 per square kilometer. In an area within a 12 kilometres radius of the site core, peak population is estimated at 120,000. In a region within a 25 kilometres radius of the site core and including some satellite sites, peak population is estimated at 425,000 with a density of 216 per square kilometer; these population figures are more impressive because of the extensive swampland
Xochicalco is a pre-Columbian archaeological site in Miacatlán Municipality in the western part of the Mexican state of Morelos. The name Xochicalco may be translated from Nahuatl as "in the house of Flowers"; the site is located 38 km southwest of Cuernavaca, about 76 miles by road from Mexico City. The site is open to visitors all week, from 10 am to 5 pm, although access to the observatory is only allowed after noon; the apogee of Xochicalco came after the fall of Teotihuacan and it has been speculated that Xochicalco may have played a part in the fall of the Teotihuacan empire. The architecture and iconography of Xochicalco show affinities with Teotihuacan, the Maya area, the Matlatzinca culture of the Toluca Valley. Today the residents of the nearby village of Cuentepec speak Nahuatl; the main ceremonial center is atop an artificially leveled hill, with remains of residential structures unexcavated, on long terraces covering the slopes. The site was first occupied by 200 BC, but did not develop into an urban center until the Epiclassic period.
Nearly all the standing architecture at the site was built at this time. At its peak, the city may have had a population of up to 20,000 people. Of special interest are sculptured reliefs on the sides of some buildings; the Temple of the Feathered Serpent has fine stylized depictions of that deity in a style which includes apparent influences of Teotihuacan and Maya art. The high taluds of the pyramid bear relief carvings that depict towns that paid tribute to Xochicalco as well as several seated figures that look Mayan, it has been speculated that Xochicalco may have had a community of artists from other parts of Mesoamerica. Other monuments at the site include several other step-pyramid temples, three ballcourts, sweat-baths, an unusual row of circular altars, a cave with steps carved down into it; the site has some free-standing sculptured stelae. Xochicalco was founded in about 650 AD by the Olmeca-Xicallanca, which are a Mayan group of traders from Campeche, at a site that gave them an excellent position along several of the major Mesoamerican trade routes.
The city-state had a population of 10,000 to 15,000 people, many of whom were engaged in craft production and long-distance trade. It was an important fortressed commercial and religious center following the decline of the great Meso-American city states; the poor farming conditions in the area show that it was built for defense purposes and trading. The ruins were first described by explorer Antonio Alzate in 1777. Alexander von Humboldt published illustrations and a description of Xochicalco in 1810. Emperor Maximilian of Mexico visited the ruins; the Temple of the Feathered Serpent was restored by Mexican archaeologist Leopoldo Batres in 1910. Major archaeological excavations and further restorations were done in a project from the 1940s through the 1960s by Eduardo Noguera and César Saenz. Jaime Litvak King worked at the site. In 1976 archaeologist Kenneth Hirth of Pennsylvania State University began a multi-season fieldwork project in which he mapped the entire site and conducted excavations of houses and obsidian workshops.
In 1988 a large-scale program of excavation of monumental architecture was initiated by Norberto González Crespo and Silvia Garza of the INAH. A new museum was built to house the spectacular finds of this project. At some point around AD 900 the city of Xochicalco was destroyed. Many of the excavated houses and temples have layers of burning and destruction that cover the deposits from the main Epiclassic occupation. Underneath destruction layers, numerous objects were left in place in the houses, indicating that the site was destroyed and abandoned quickly. A small remnant population lived on, however, on the lower slopes of the hill. Around 1200, the site was recolonized by the Nahuatl-speaking Tlahuica peoples, ancestors to the Nahuatl-speaking populations of the modern state of Morelos. Xochicalco is a tourist destination; the site has a well-stocked museum. The observatory is a cave modified to allow study of the movement of the sun; the cave was covered with stucco and painted black and red with a chimney that measured from the base to the surface 8.7 meters, and, hexagonal in the top.
The chimney has a slight slope allowing the sun's rays to be to projected on the floor of the cave. In the 105 days running from 30 April to 15 August, the sun shines into the cave. In the sun's movement towards the Tropic of Cancer and upon their return on 14/15 May and 28/29 July, the sun is at its zenith and the astronomical noon, the beam of light falls directly through the chimney showing the image of the sun on the floor of the cave. Taking advantage of the solar phenomenon, the site was used for religious ceremonies; the Temple of the Feathered Serpent has fine stylized depictions of that deity in a style which includes apparent influences of Teotihuacan and Maya art List of archaeoastronomical sites sorted by country List of Mesoamerican pyramids de la Fuente, Silvia Garza Tarazona, Norberto González Crespo, Arnold Leboef, Miguel León Portilla and Javier Wimer La Acrópolis de Xochicalco, Instituto de Cultura de Morelos, Cuernavaca. González Crespo, Silvia Garza Tarazona, Hortensia de Vega Nova, Pablo Mayer Guala and Giselle Canto Aguilar "Archaeological Investigations at Xochicalco, Morelos: 1984 and 1986", Ancient Mesoamerica 6:223–236.
Hirth, Kenneth G. Archaeological Research at Xochicalco, Volume 1, Ancient Urbanism at Xochicalco: The Evolution and Organization of a Pre-Hispanic So
Mesoamerica is a historical region and cultural area in North America. It extends from central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and northern Costa Rica, within this region pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas. In the 16th century, European diseases like smallpox and measles caused the deaths of upwards of 90% of the indigenous people, it is one of five areas in the world where ancient civilization arose independently, the second in the Americas along with Norte Chico in present-day Peru, in the northern coastal region. As a cultural area, Mesoamerica is defined by a mosaic of cultural traits developed and shared by its indigenous cultures. Beginning as early as 7000 BCE, the domestication of cacao, beans, avocado, vanilla and chili, as well as the turkey and dog, caused a transition from paleo-Indian hunter-gatherer tribal grouping to the organization of sedentary agricultural villages. In the subsequent Formative period and cultural traits such as a complex mythological and religious tradition, a vigesimal numeric system, a complex calendric system, a tradition of ball playing, a distinct architectural style, were diffused through the area.
In this period, villages began to become stratified and develop into chiefdoms with the development of large ceremonial centers, interconnected by a network of trade routes for the exchange of luxury goods, such as obsidian, cacao, Spondylus shells and ceramics. While Mesoamerican civilization did know of the wheel and basic metallurgy, neither of these technologies became culturally important. Among the earliest complex civilizations was the Olmec culture, which inhabited the Gulf Coast of Mexico and extended inland and southwards across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Frequent contact and cultural interchange between the early Olmec and other cultures in Chiapas and Oaxaca laid the basis for the Mesoamerican cultural area. All this was facilitated by considerable regional communications in ancient Mesoamerica along the Pacific coast; this formative period saw the spread of distinct religious and symbolic traditions, as well as artistic and architectural complexes. In the subsequent Preclassic period, complex urban polities began to develop among the Maya, with the rise of centers such as El Mirador and Tikal, the Zapotec at Monte Albán.
During this period, the first true Mesoamerican writing systems were developed in the Epi-Olmec and the Zapotec cultures, the Mesoamerican writing tradition reached its height in the Classic Maya hieroglyphic script. Mesoamerica is one of only three regions of the world where writing is known to have independently developed. In Central Mexico, the height of the Classic period saw the ascendancy of the city of Teotihuacan, which formed a military and commercial empire whose political influence stretched south into the Maya area and northward. Upon the collapse of Teotihuacán around 600 AD, competition between several important political centers in central Mexico, such as Xochicalco and Cholula, ensued. At this time during the Epi-Classic period, the Nahua peoples began moving south into Mesoamerica from the North, became politically and culturally dominant in central Mexico, as they displaced speakers of Oto-Manguean languages. During the early post-Classic period, Central Mexico was dominated by the Toltec culture, Oaxaca by the Mixtec, the lowland Maya area had important centers at Chichén Itzá and Mayapán.
Towards the end of the post-Classic period, the Aztecs of Central Mexico built a tributary empire covering most of central Mesoamerica. The distinct Mesoamerican cultural tradition ended with the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. Over the next centuries, Mesoamerican indigenous cultures were subjected to Spanish colonial rule. Aspects of the Mesoamerican cultural heritage still survive among the indigenous peoples who inhabit Mesoamerica, many of whom continue to speak their ancestral languages, maintain many practices harking back to their Mesoamerican roots; the term Mesoamerica means "middle America" in Greek. Middle America refers to a larger area in the Americas, but it has previously been used more narrowly to refer to Mesoamerica. An example is the title of the 16 volumes of The Handbook of Middle American Indians. "Mesoamerica" is broadly defined as the area, home to the Mesoamerican civilization, which comprises a group of peoples with close cultural and historical ties. The exact geographic extent of Mesoamerica has varied through time, as the civilization extended North and South from its heartland in southern Mexico.
The term was first used by the German ethnologist Paul Kirchhoff, who noted that similarities existed among the various pre-Columbian cultures within the region that included southern Mexico, Belize, El Salvador, western Honduras, the Pacific lowlands of Nicaragua and northwestern Costa Rica. In the tradition of cultural history, the prevalent archaeological theory of the early to middle 20th century, Kirchhoff defined this zone as a cultural area based on a suite of interrelated cultural similarities brought about by millennia of inter- and intra-regional interaction. Mesoamerica is recognized as a near-prototypical cultural area, the term is now integrated in the standard terminology of pre-Columbian anthropological studies. Conversely, the sister terms Aridoamerica and Oasisamerica, which refer to northern Mexico and the western United States have not entered into widespread usage; some of the significant cultural traits defining the Mesoamerican cultural tradition are: sedentism based on maize agricultu