Tuesday, 17 April 2012


The first people entered the American continent from Asia between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago. Scientists and archaeologists tried very hard to pinpoint a more specific date to their arrival but failed so far. However, it is established that human being has spread out all over the globe by 40,000 BC. It is assumed that they crossed the land-bridge which linked Siberia and Alaska in those days. Unfortunately, so far no evidence had been found.a
The first people of America were, presumable, hunters, followed the game and they spread all over the continent. Eventual they reach the most southern part, Terra del Fuego, in around 9, 000 BC
Thousand years later the ice-caps melted and the land-bridge disappeared. The Bering Strait was formed. The ancient Eskimos went later, by boat, to Alaska. After that, people in America developed, isolated from the rest of the world. Although they didn't achieve great advantages in technology, such as inventing the wheel, they nevertheless created a civilization with great cities, societies and complex achievements in art and science. They didn't develop an alphabetical writing but picture writing. Yet they were extremely advanced in mathematics and astronomy. For these reasons, the civilisations of the Olmecs, which were the first known, Maya, Aztecs and Incas were completely different from those in Europe and many aspects still seem mysterious today.
North of Mexico City, are the ruins of Teotihuancan which is the first real city of America. There are pyramids, palaces, houses and workshops. This city was built a few centuries after the end of the Olmec empire. The largest monument, the Pyramid of the Sun, is over 60m high. The people who built it are not known. After many centuries the Aztecs used it as their place of pilgrimage.

The first know civilization in Central America were the Olmec. It was in eastern Mexico and its centre was a large area of tropical forest and swamps. It seems an unusual place to build a city-like ceremonial centres. There were huge earthen mounds on which they built their temples. Even so their centres were huge; they weren't cities. A large amount of people came there to witness the ceremonies but the total number of people living there were no more than a few hundred priest and workers.

The temples were built from wood and therefore they disappeared. However, huge Olmecs' stone carvings survived including smaller ones made from jade, basalt and obsidian, a volcanic stones. They usual were pictured from jaguars, eagles and sharks crossed with human elements and looking fearsome. The Olmec culture spread from 1200BC over Central America and ended up by 800BC on the Pacific coast. For unknown reason it collapsed four centuries later. Olmecs, monumental building, carvings and gods are found times and times again which proves they were a powerful and continuous culture. Unfortunately, no writing has ever been found so far. Soon after the collapse of their civilisation picture writing had been developed,                               

A few centuries later, around 150AD, the first true city in Central American had been built. The ruins of Teotihuacan are 30 miles from Mexico City. It was in the north of the Omec territory. The people who built it have never been identified. The complex is more than impressive. There are pyramids, palaces, houses and workshops all laid out in a regular 'grid' plan. A plan of parallel sets of streets crossing at right angles. The largest monument is the Pyramid of the Sun and still 60m high.

The city was certainly a great trading centre and maybe a holy city. Yet it remains a great mystery because no written records were found. It was finally destroyed in 700AD. The Aztec emporer made pilgrimage to the monument, centuries later.


We know a lot more about the Maya civilization because they used picture writing with fixed dated and commemorate episodes in their history. The Maya culture lived in Yucatan (Mexico) and what are now Guatemala, Belize and Honduras. All these areas are tropical and must have been a hard job to clear it and keep it at bay. After their decline, the jungle overgrew the cities and was only discovered in modern times.
Many of their building complexes were more ceremonial centres than cities. However, their cities and sizes were incredible. Stone was used for their pyramids, temples, tombs and courtyards.

The Mayan capital, Chichen Itza, and other sites prove that it must have been a well organized society and dominated by religion. Mayan's greatest achievement was their mathematical and astronomical knowledge which was used to make a calendar spanning over thousands of years.

However, Mayan craftsmen produced supernatural beings in their pictures and sculptures. It was the general belief in Central America and in that the Mayans did not differ. Their craftsmanship reached a high during AD300-800.
Later on, after the invasion of the Toltecs from Mexico, The Mayas adopted the sacrifices of prisoners. The decline started and the Mayan culture survived till the Spanish invader destroyed it, in the 16th century.





AZTECSthe follow time there were wars and migrations for a long time. In the valley of Mexico the Toltecs were overrun by the Aztecs. Gradually the Aztecs were conquering every tribe in Central American and kept them oppressed with their powerful military machine; from 1300 onwards till the Spanish arrived.

The Aztecs greatest achievement was the building of their capital Tenochtitlan on a group of islands in Lake Texcoco. They linked IT with a broadly built causeway. The city was great pyramids and temples. It supported a large population and was a thriving trade centre. It had canals and was busy with canoes.
The Aztecs are also known for the horrific bloody sacrifices. It could amount to thousands of victims sacrificed in one single occasion. Victims were prisoners of war and to keep up the supply for these sacrifices the Aztecs had to go to war and conquer, all the time. It created hatred amongst people who were forced into the acknowledgement of their supremacy.

At the same time as the Aztecs developed their empire in Central America, the Incas developed theirs in South America. It reached from Ecuador to Central Chile. The Aztecs and Incas came from a long development from the Andean People. The Andean Peoples farmed their land in cutting giant steps into mountains, reinforced them with stones and had an intricate drainage system. They produced colourful textiles, pottery, silver and gold ware.
Other cultures were the great Tiahuannaco Empire during AD500-1000 who lived at a high altitude.
Some coastal people like the Moche and Chimu flourished in the region over the centuries.

From all these various cultures, tribes and civilization the Incas developed. They organized their state or empire with great efficiency. The emperor, Sapa Inca, enforced all his rules. They built thousands of miles of good roads and reached even the furthest region. Messages were send by relays runners who were stationed at intervals en route. To send his messages they developed a system of knots on colourful strings which was called a quipu.
Their people were properly organized. They were not allowed to move from their home, paid taxes, performed military and labour service. In return for that they felt save under state power and had a good distribution of food.
Incas were great builders. The city of their capital Cusco and the mountain city Machu Picchu are the proof of it.  The stones are so exactly cut and assembled without mortar; you can’t put a knife in between. 

Christopher Columbus arrival in 1492 and had a disastrous effect on the Aztecs, Incas and other American Indian.

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