It appears that such villages were economically self-contained and politically autonomous , with an egalitarian social order. But rather quickly after this—between about and bce —the building of large earthen pyramids and platforms and the carving of monumental stone sculptures signaled significant changes in this heretofore simple social and political order.
These changes first appeared in the southern Gulf coast region of what is now Mexico ; and the sculptures, rendered in a style now called Olmec , are presumed to depict chiefs or rulers. From these and other archaeological indications it has been inferred that a class-structured and politically centralized society developed. There appeared subsequently other large capital towns and cities in neighbouring regions that also displayed a similar Olmec art style. This Olmec horizon i. These lasted until c.
While sharing a common Olmec heritage, they also displayed many differences. Among these competitors were the Toltecs of Tula , in central Mexico, who held sway from perhaps to the Early Postclassic Period. After their decline in the Late Postclassic Period , another interregnum of warring states lasted until , when the Aztec defeated the rival city of Azcapotzalco and emerged as the dominant force in central Mexico. In the Andean area, the threshold of a successful village agricultural economy can be placed at c. The oldest primary food crops there were the lima bean and the potato , which had long histories of domestication in the area, although corn appeared soon after the beginnings of settled village life.
Indications of a more complex sociopolitical order—huge platform mounds and densely populated centres—occurred very soon after this c. This period of regionalization called the Early Intermediate Period saw the florescence of a number of large kingdoms both on the Pacific coast and in the Andean highlands; among them were the Moche , Early Lima, Nazca , Recuay , and Early Tiwanaku. The period was brought to an end by the Tiwanaku— Huari horizon Middle Horizon; — , which was generated from the highland cities of Tiwanaku in modern northern Bolivia and Huari in central highland Peru.
There is evidence—such as the construction of new centres and cities—that this Tiwanaku—Huari phenomenon, at least in many regions, was a tightly controlled political empire. The horizon and its influences, as registered in ceramics and textiles, died away rather gradually in the ensuing centuries, and it was replaced by the several regional styles and kingdoms of what has become known as the Late Intermediate Period — The terminal date of the Late Intermediate Period marked the beginning of the Inca horizon and of the Inca conquests, which spread from the Inca capital, Cuzco , in the southern highlands of what is now Peru.
By , when Francisco Pizarro and his cohorts took over the empire, it extended from what is now the Ecuador — Colombia border to central Chile. The synchroneity of horizon unifications and alternating regionalizations in Mesoamerica and the Andean region is striking and prompts the question of communication between these two areas of pre-Columbian high civilization. Although it is known that there were contacts—with the result that knowledge of food plants, ceramics, and metallurgy was shared between the two areas—it is also highly unlikely that political or religious ideologies were so spread.
Rather, the peoples of each of these major cultural areas appear to have responded to their own internally generated stimuli and to have followed essentially separate courses of development. There are fundamental differences between the two cultural traditions. Thus, in Mesoamerica there was, from early on, a profound interest in hieroglyphic writing and calendar making.
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