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Lithic PeriodArchaic PeriodEarly PreClassicePreclassic PeriodPreclassic Period IIPreclassic Period IIIClassic PeriodClassic Period IIClassic Period IIIPostclassic PeriodColonia PeriodModern PeriodModern Period II
Olmecs Olmecs
The dominant Mesoamerican civilization of the Preclassic period was the Olmecs (1,500 - 400 B.C.) in the Gulf Coast Region, to the northwest of the Maya region. The Olmecs believed they were descended from jaguars and believed in 'were-jaguars' half-human, half-jaguar combinations of transformation similar to werewolf legends. The height of the Olmec civilization was 900 - 300 B.C. Contributions include astronomy, sculpture, writing, and possibly an early calendar system.
Teotihucuan Teotihucuan
The city of the Teotihucuan, (300 B.C. to 600 A.D.) built by ancestors of the later Aztec, rivaled ancient Rome in size and was the first great urban metropolis of the western hemisphere. The Patio of the Jaguars is part of the Pyramid of the Moon complex on the Street of the Dead. The Teotihucuan most likely influenced Maya development through conquest and trade.
The Izapan (300 B.C.–300 A.D.) lived in the Chiapas region and are considered by some scholars to be the intermediaries between the Olmecs and Maya. The Izapa worshiped precursors to the Maya gods. Izapan style is evident in Izapa and the great Preclassic city of Kaminaljuyú. Teotihucuans invaded Kaminaljuyú around 250 A.D.
Zapotecs Zapotecs
Evidence of Zapotec culture in Oaxaco, Mexico dates to 1,500 B.C. Their capital city, Monte Albán, reached its zenith between 300 to 700 A.D. During the Late Classic period, the jaguar was believed to be the symbol of this city of 24,000 people.
Mixtecs Mixtecs
The Mixtecs (zenith 900 A.D.–1400 A.D) were headed by aggressive, warring kings who, in the 13th century, took control of Zapotec cities, including Monte Albán.
Toltecs Toltecs
The Toltecs (900–1187 A.D.) were a militaristic people from northern Mexico who captured Chichén Itzá and introduced the god Quetzalcoatl and an increase in human sacrifice. They subsequently blended with the Maya population.
Aztecs Aztecs/Mexica
The Aztecs -- probable descendants of Teotihucuan, Zapotec and Mixtec peoples -- had two kinds of warrior elite: the Jaguar Warriors of the night, and the Eagle Warriors of the day. The Aztec empire had no influence on the Maya, other than that their easy defeat by the Conquistadors left open the western door to the Maya region. Toward the end of the Aztec empire, human sacrifice may have consumed 20,000 people a year.
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