Ancient Civilization of the Americas
Pre-Columbian civilizations refer to the indigenous cultures that lived and built civilizations in Mesoamerica (Middle America) before the European conquests. Though many lump these cultures together, the Olmecs, Maya, Toltecs, Aztecs, Nazca and other cultures were very distinct groups of people. Though these cultures and civilizations were very close in proximity, had similar characteristics, and lived during similar time periods, it is important to note that these cultures were distinct, intelligent and sophisticated and not just bloody barbarians.
The first signs of a complex society in Mesoamerica were the Olmecs, an ancient Pre-Columbian civilization living in the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico. Though not much is known about the Olmec culture, it is known as one of the most prominent civilizations of the Early Formative period. It is believed the Olmec first appeared in sites like the city of San Lorenzo and La Venta, around 1500 B.C.E. and developed into a prominent civilization by 1200 B.C.E which included public buildings, extensive pavements and a drainage system. The rise of civilization in this area was assisted by the local ecology however the basalt stone for the structures had to be brought in from miles away and would have required a huge labor force. The civilization in San Lorenzo flourished until 900 B.C.E. when it went into a decline. The site at La Venta then rose to prominence flourishing from 900 B.C.E. to 400 B.C.E. Though the population at San Lorenzo and La Venta was never larger than 1,000 people, there is evidence of intelligence and trade as Olmec goods have been found in other parts of Mesoamerica.
Many believe that the Maya were a group of blood thirsty people that all lived in one area, however the Maya were never a single unified civilization. They were divided into several city-states, much like ancient Greece. Some of the city-states arose in southern Mesoamerica...