1. Olmec – The Olmecs were the first major civilization in Guatemala and Mexico following a progressive development in Soconusco and modern southwestern pacific lowlands of Guatemala. They lived in the lowlands of south-central Mexico, in the present-day states of Veracruz. It has been speculated that Olmec derive in part from neighboring Mokaya and/or Mixe–Zoque, the population of the Olmecs flourished during Mesoamericas formative period, dating roughly from as early as 1500 BCE to about 400 BCE. They were the first Mesoamerican civilization, and laid many of the foundations for the civilizations that followed, among other firsts, the Olmec appeared to practice ritual bloodletting and played the Mesoamerican ballgame, hallmarks of nearly all subsequent Mesoamerican societies. The aspect of the Olmecs most familiar now is their artwork, the Olmec civilization was first defined through artifacts which collectors purchased on the pre-Columbian art market in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Olmec artworks are considered among ancient Americas most striking, the name Olmec comes from the Nahuatl word for the Olmecs, Ōlmēcatl or Ōlmēcah. This word is composed of the two words ōlli, meaning rubber, and mēcatl, meaning people, so the word means rubber people, the Olmec heartland is the area in the Gulf lowlands where it expanded after early development in Soconusco. This area is characterized by swampy lowlands punctuated by low hills, ridges, the Tuxtlas Mountains rise sharply in the north, along the Gulf of Mexicos Bay of Campeche. Here the Olmec constructed permanent city-temple complexes at San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, La Venta, Tres Zapotes, in this region, the first Mesoamerican civilization emerged and reigned from c. The beginnings of Olmec civilization have traditionally been placed between 1400 and 1200 BCE, past finds of Olmec remains ritually deposited at El Manati shrine moved this back to at least 1600–1500 BCE. It seems that the Olmec had their roots in early farming cultures of Tabasco and these shared the same basic food crops and technologies of the later Olmec civilization. What is today called Olmec first appeared fully within the city of San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, the rise of civilization was assisted by the local ecology of well-watered alluvial soil, as well as by the transportation network provided by the Coatzacoalcos River basin. This environment may be compared to that of other ancient centers of civilization, the Nile, Indus, and Yellow River valleys and this highly productive environment encouraged a densely concentrated population, which in turn triggered the rise of an elite class. The elite class created the demand for the production of the symbolic, the state of Guerrero, and in particular its early Mezcala culture, seem to have played an important role in the early history of Olmec culture. Olmec-style artifacts tend to appear earlier in some parts of Guerrero than in the Veracruz-Tabasco area, in particular, the relevant objects from the Amuco-Abelino site in Guerrero reveal dates as early as 1530 BC. The city of Teopantecuanitlan in Guerrero is also relevant in this regard, the first Olmec center, San Lorenzo, was all but abandoned around 900 BCE at about the same time that La Venta rose to prominence. A wholesale destruction of many San Lorenzo monuments also occurred circa 950 BCE, which may indicate an internal uprising or, less likely, an invasion. The latest thinking, however, is that changes may have been responsible for this shift in Olmec centersOlmec – Olmec Head No. 3 from San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan 1200–900 BCE
2. Maya civilization – The Maya civilization developed in an area that encompasses southeastern Mexico, all of Guatemala and Belize, and the western portions of Honduras and El Salvador. The Archaic period, prior to 2000 BC, saw the first developments in agriculture, the first Maya cities developed around 750 BC, and by 500 BC these cities possessed monumental architecture, including large temples with elaborate stucco façades. Hieroglyphic writing was being used in the Maya region by the 3rd century BC, in the Late Preclassic a number of large cities developed in the Petén Basin, and Kaminaljuyu rose to prominence in the Guatemalan Highlands. Beginning around 250 AD, the Classic period is defined as when the Maya were raising sculpted monuments with Long Count dates. This period saw the Maya civilization develop a number of city-states linked by a complex trade network. In the Maya Lowlands two great rivals, Tikal and Calakmul, became powerful, the Classic period also saw the intrusive intervention of the central Mexican city of Teotihuacan in Maya dynastic politics. In the 9th century, there was a political collapse in the central Maya region, resulting in internecine warfare, the abandonment of cities. The Postclassic period saw the rise of Chichen Itza in the north, in the 16th century, the Spanish Empire colonized the Mesoamerican region, and a lengthy series of campaigns saw the fall of Nojpetén, the last Maya city in 1697. Classic period rule was centred on the concept of the divine king, kingship was patrilineal, and power would normally pass to the eldest son. A prospective king was expected to be a successful war leader. Maya politics was dominated by a system of patronage, although the exact political make-up of a kingdom varied from city-state to city-state. By the Late Classic, the aristocracy had greatly increased, resulting in the reduction in the exclusive power of the divine king. Maya cities tended to expand haphazardly, and the city centre would be occupied by ceremonial and administrative complexes, different parts of a city would often be linked by causeways. The principal architecture of the city consisted of palaces, pyramid-temples, ceremonial ballcourts, the Maya elite were literate, and developed a complex system of hieroglyphic writing that was the most advanced in the pre-Columbian Americas. The Maya recorded their history and ritual knowledge in screenfold books, there are also a great many examples of Maya text found on stelae and ceramics. The Maya developed a complex series of interlocking ritual calendars. As a part of their religion, the Maya practised human sacrifice, the Maya civilization developed within the Mesoamerican cultural area, which covers a region that spreads from northern Mexico southwards into Central America. Mesoamerica was one of six cradles of civilization worldwide, the Mesoamerican area gave rise to a series of cultural developments that included complex societies, agriculture, cities, monumental architecture, writing, and calendrical systemsMaya civilization – El Castillo, at Chichen Itza
3. Maya script – The earliest inscriptions found which are identifiably Maya date to the 3rd century BCE in San Bartolo, Guatemala. Maya writing was in use throughout Mesoamerica until the Spanish conquest of the Maya in the 16th and 17th centuries. Maya writing used logograms complemented by a set of syllabic glyphs, modern Mayan languages are written using the Latin alphabet rather than Maya script. It is now thought that the codices and other Classic texts were written by scribes, usually members of the Maya priesthood, there is also some evidence that the script may have been occasionally used to write Mayan languages of the Guatemalan Highlands. However, if languages were written, they may have been written by Ch’olti’ scribes. Mayan writing consisted of an elaborate set of glyphs, which were laboriously painted on ceramics, walls or bark-paper codices, carved in wood or stone. Carved and molded glyphs were painted, but the paint has rarely survived, about 90% of Mayan writing can now be read with varying degrees of certainty, enough to give a comprehensive idea of its structure. The Mayan script was a logosyllabic system, individual glyphs could represent either a word or a syllable, indeed, the same glyph could often be used for both. For example, the calendaric glyph MANIK’ was also used to represent the syllable chi, there was polyvalence in the other direction as well, different glyphs could be read the same way. For example, half a dozen apparently unrelated glyphs were used to write the common third person pronoun u-. However, in the case of Mayan, each tended to correspond to a noun or verb phrase such as his green headband. Also, glyphs were sometimes conflated, where an element of one glyph would replace part of a second, conflation occurs in other scripts, For example, in medieval Spanish manuscripts the word de of was sometimes written Ð. Another example is the ampersand which is a conflation of the Latin et, in place of the standard block configuration, Mayan was also sometimes written in a single row or column, L, or T shapes. These variations most often appeared when they would fit the surface being inscribed. For example, the logogram for fish fin, came to represent the syllable ka, for example, balam jaguar could be written as a single logogram, BALAM, complemented phonetically as ba-BALAM, or BALAM-ma, or ba-BALAM-ma, or written completely phonetically as ba-la-ma. Phonetic glyphs stood for simple consonant-vowel or bare-vowel syllables, when these final consonants were sonorants or gutturals they were sometimes ignored, but more often final consonants were written, which meant that an extra vowel was written as well. This was typically an echo vowel that repeated the vowel of the previous syllable and that is, the word fish fin would be underspelled ka or written in full as ka-ha. A more complex spelling is ha-o-bo ko-ko-no-ma for they are the guardians, a minimal set is, ba-ka ba-ki ba-ku = ba-ke ba-ke-le Despite depending on consonants which were frequently not written, the Mayan voice system was reliably indicatedMaya script – Pages 6, 7, and 8 of the Dresden Codex, showing letters numbers and the images that often accompany Maya writing.
4. Mesoamerican writing systems – Mesoamerica, along with Mesopotamia, Egypt, India and China, is among the five known places in the world where writing has developed independently. Mesoamerican scripts deciphered to date are a combination of logographic and syllabic values and they are often called hieroglyphs due to the iconic shapes of many of the glyphs, a pattern superficially similar to Egyptian hieroglyphs. The best documented and deciphered Mesoamerican writing system, and the most widely known, is the classic Maya script, an extensive Mesoamerican literature has been conserved partly in indigenous scripts and partly in the postconquest transcriptions in the Latin script. Early Olmec ceramics show representations of something that may be codices, suggesting that amatl bark codices and it was also long thought that many of the glyphs present on Olmec monumental sculpture, such as those on the so-called Ambassador Monument, represented an early Olmec script. This suspicion was reinforced in 2002 by the announcement of the discovery of similar glyphs at San Andres and this block was discovered by locals in the Olmec heartland and was dated by the archaeologists to approximately 900 BCE based on other debris. If the authenticity and date can be verified, this will prove to be the earliest writing yet found in Mesoamerica, another candidate for earliest writing system in Mesoamerica is the writing system of the Zapotec culture. Rising in the late Pre-Classic era after the decline of the Olmec civilization, on a few monuments at this archaeological site, archaeologists have found extended text in a glyphic script. Some signs can be recognized as calendric information but the script as such remains undeciphered, the earliest known monument with Zapotec writing is a Danzante stone, officially known as Monument 3, found in San Jose Mogote, Oaxaca. It has a relief of what appears to be a dead, first dated to 500–600 BCE, this was earlier considered the earliest writing in Mesoamerica. However doubts have been expressed as to dating and the monument may have been reused. The Zapotec script went out of use only in the late Classic period, a small number of artifacts found in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec show examples of another early Mesoamerican writing system. They can be seen to contain calendric information but are otherwise undeciphered, the longest of these texts are on La Mojarra Stela 1 and the Tuxtla Statuette. The writing system used is very close to the Mayan script, using affixal glyphs and Long Count dates and it has been suggested that this Isthmian or Epi-Olmec script is the direct predecessor of the Mayan script, thus giving the Mayan script a non-Mayan origin. Another artifact with Epi-Olmec script is the Chiapa de Corzo stela which is the oldest monument of the Americas inscribed with its own date, in a 1997 paper, John Justeson and Terrence Kaufman put forward a decipherment of Epi-Olmec. In the highland Mayan archaeological sites of Abaj Takalik and Kaminaljuyú writing has been dating to Izapan culture. It is likely that in this area in late Pre-Classic times an ancient form of a Mixe–Zoquean language was spoken, some glyphs in this scripts are readable as they are identical to Mayan glyphs but the script remains undeciphered. The advanced decay and destruction of archaeological sites make it improbable that more monuments with these scripts will come to light making possible a decipherment. The earliest inscriptions in an identifiably Maya script date back to 200–300 BCE, early examples include the painted inscriptions at the caves of Naj Tunich and La Cobanerita in El Petén, GuatemalaMesoamerican writing systems – Monument 3 at San Jose Mogote. The two shaded glyphs between his legs are likely his name, Earthquake 1