16 julio, 2024

Mesoamerica timeline (periods)

The Mesoamerica timeline It is the way in which we organize and tell the story of the great civilizations that developed until the arrival of the conquistadors, in a region that included the southeastern center of Mexico and the north of Central America.

There are records of human presence in Mesoamerica from 10,000 BC. C., a period that some historians call Paleo-Indian, although the great Mesoamerican cultures begin to emerge from 2500 BC. c.

In the next 4,000 years, the Olmecs, Teotihuacans, Mayans, Zapotecs, and Aztecs, among others, will raise great architectural monuments, and build cities and empires with their gods, languages, and traditions.

To facilitate its study, the history of Mesoamerican cultures has been divided into three major periods: preclassic, classic, and postclassic.

1. Preclassic period (2500 BC-200 AD)

It is also known as the formative period, because it is in this long period that the dominance of crops such as maize expands, villages become cities, societies divide into classes or castes, and religious systems become more complex.

Other characteristic elements of Mesoamerican cultures, such as the construction of pyramids, the worship of the jaguar, human sacrifices, and calendars are from this period, in which the Olmec culture flourished especially, in Tabasco and Veracruz, with sites such as La Venta, San Lorenzo and Teopantecuanitlan.

The Zapotecs also flourished in this period in Oaxaca, and the first Mayan cities developed on the Isthmus of Chiapas, whose culture would spread to Yucatan and Guatemala.

In the preclassic, astronomy and the first forms of writing also developed, especially between the Olmecs and the Zapotecs.

2. Classic period (200-900)

Between 200 and 900, in barely seven hundred years, Mesoamerica experienced the rise of various cultures that grew demographically, founded city-states, built religious centers, and interacted with each other, not always peacefully.


One of the most significant cultures, and one that still retains much of its mystery, is that of the founders of Teotihuacán, who between 200 and 700 AD occupied the Valley of Mexico and significantly influenced the rest of the Mesoamerican cultures. .

At its time Teotihuacán, with 100,000 inhabitants, could have been one of the largest cities in the world. However, already in 900 it was abandoned. Its magnificent architectural style, considered today a cultural heritage of humanity, influenced the style of the rest of the Mesoamerican cities.


In Oaxaca, Monte Albán was the most influential city-state in the region, until its decline in 850.


Among the Maya it was a period of extraordinary growth in Yucatan and Guatemala. Cities such as Tikal, Calakmul, Copán, Palenque and Uxmal, among others, stand out. Sometimes allies, sometimes enemies, often interacting with Teotihuacán, almost all of these cities collapse and are abandoned around 900.

It is not known with certainty what were the reasons why so many Mesoamerican cities, especially the Mayans, were abandoned more or less suddenly, but it is believed that it could have been due to an ecological collapse, combined with climatic changes and the increasing wars between city-states.

Arts, writing and commerce

But earlier, the classical period was characterized by refinement in arts such as architecture and relief sculpture, mural painting, and ceramics. Societies became more complex, and commerce and multi-ethnic cities (with groups of different languages ​​and cultures living in the same city) were common.

It is also the period in which the Maya developed the numeration inherited from the Olmecs, perfected the calendar, and in the main cultures, the use of writing became general.

3. Postclassic period (900-1697)

This period has been characterized by several outstanding events: strong migratory movements from the north to central and southern Mexico, numerous wars between cities, with the consequent rise of warriors above the priestly class, the rise of the Mexica empire and the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors at the beginning of the 16th century.

Toltecs and Aztecs

Among the Nahua peoples who came from the north were the Toltecs, founders of the city of Tula, from where they came to dominate almost all of central Mexico for almost four centuries (from 667 to 1051).

With them also came the Aztecs, various Nahua groups that claimed to originate from Aztlán, and among which were the Tlaxcaltecas, Xochimilcas, Colhuas and the Mexicas, among others.


The Mexicas were a group that settled on Lake Texcoco, where they founded Mexico-Tenochtitlán, a city that would become the center of an empire in Mesoamerica, and also one of the most populous cities in the entire West (including London and Paris). .

The Mexica empire would last a little over two centuries, being interrupted by the arrival of Hernán Cortés and his men, in 1519.

Mayas, Tarascans and Mixtecs

On the other hand, before this political, military, social and cultural event of the first order, as was the encounter of Europeans with Mesoamericans, the Mayans experienced the rebirth of various city-states in Yucatan and, above all, in Guatemala. Cities such as Chichen Itza and Uxmal in Mexico, and Q’umarkaj in Guatemala belong to this period.

Other important peoples during this period were the Tarascans in Michoacán, and the Mixtecs in Oaxaca. The first ones strongly resisted the Mexica expansion, and possibly had contact with South American cultures, from where they learned to work copper.

In general, the different cultures continued to have intense cultural and commercial relations, allowing the emergence and strengthening of a new class, that of traveling merchants, the Pochtecas, who extended Mesoamerican trade to regions as far away as New Mexico, to the north, and Nicaragua to the south.

In the construction of their empire, the Mexicas created many enemies, who preferred to ally themselves with the Spanish to defeat them. But the fall of Tenochtitlán and the Mexica empire in 1521 did not end with resistance in Mesoamerica; in fact, the last Mayan kingdom was defeated more than a century and a half later, Tayasal, in 1697.

And although the city-states disappeared and a colonial government was installed, Mesoamerican culture continued to live under new processes of social and cultural miscegenation that have shaped nations like Mexico and Guatemala.


See the timeline of Mesoamerican cultures. Taken from greelane.com
Mesoamerica. Taken from es.wikipedia.org.
Mesoamerican civilization. Taken from Britannica.com.

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