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Mesoamerica is a historical region and cultural area in North America. It extends from approximately central Mexico through BelizeGuatemalaEl SalvadorHondurasNicaraguaand northern Costa Ricaand within this region pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries. As a cultural area, Mesoamerica is defined by a mosaic of cultural traits developed and shared by its indigenous cultures.

Beginning as early as BCE, the domestication of cacaomaizebeanstomatoavocadovanillasquash and chilias well as the turkey and dogcaused a transition from paleo-Indian hunter-gatherer tribal grouping to the organization of sedentary agricultural villages.

In the subsequent Formative period, agriculture and cultural traits such as a complex mythological and religious traditiona vigesimal numeric system, a complex calendric systema tradition of ball playingand a distinct architectural stylewere diffused through the area. Also in this period, villages began to become socially stratified and develop into chiefdoms with the development of large ceremonial centers, interconnected by a network of trade routes for the exchange of luxury goods, such as obsidianjadecacaocinnabarSpondylus shells, hematiteand ceramics.

While Mesoamerican civilization did know of the wheel and basic metallurgyneither of these technologies became culturally important. Among the earliest complex civilizations was the Olmec culture, which inhabited the Gulf Coast of Mexico and extended inland and southwards across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

Frequent contact and cultural interchange between the early Olmec and other cultures in Chiapas, Guatemala and Oaxaca laid the basis for the Mesoamerican cultural area. All this was facilitated by considerable regional communications in ancient Mesoamericaespecially along the Pacific coast.

This formative period saw the spread of distinct religious and symbolic traditions, as well as artistic and architectural complexes. During this period, the first true Mesoamerican writing systems were developed in the Epi-Olmec and the Zapotec cultures, and the Mesoamerican writing tradition reached its height in the Classic Maya hieroglyphic script.


Mesoamerica is one of only three regions of the world where writing is known to have independently developed the others being ancient Sumer and China. At this time during the Epi-Classic period, the Nahua peoples began moving south into Mesoamerica from the North, and became politically and culturally dominant in central Mexico, as they displaced speakers of Oto-Manguean languages.

Towards the end of the post-Classic period, the Aztecs of Central Mexico built a tributary empire covering mespamerica of central Mesoamerica. The distinct Mesoamerican cultural tradition ended with the Spanish conquest in the 16th century.

Over the next centuries, Mesoamerican indigenous cultures were gradually subjected to Spanish colonial rule. Aspects of the Mesoamerican cultural heritage still survive among the indigenous peoples who inhabit Mesoamerica, many of whom continue to speak their ancestral languages, and maintain many practices harking back to their Mesoamerican roots.

Aridoamerica – Wikipedia

The term Mesoamerica literally means “middle America” in Greek. Middle America often refers to a larger area in the Americas, but it has also previously been used more narrowly to refer to Mesoamerica. The exact geographic extent of Mesoamerica has varied through time, as the civilization extended North and South from its heartland aridosmerica southern Mexico. The term was first used by the German ethnologist Paul Kirchhoffwho noted that similarities existed among the various pre-Columbian cultures within the region that included southern MexicoGuatemalaBelizeEl Salvadorwestern Hondurasand the Pacific lowlands of Msoamerica and northwestern Costa Rica.

In the tradition of cultural historythe prevalent archaeological theory of the early to middle 20th century, Kirchhoff defined this zone as a cultural area based on a suite of interrelated cultural similarities brought about by millennia of inter- and intra-regional interaction i. Conversely, the sister terms Aridoamerica and Oasisamericawhich refer to northern Mexico and the western United Statesrespectively, have not entered into widespread usage.

A main distinction groups these different niches into two broad categories: The highlands show much more climatic diversity, ranging from dry tropical to cold mountainous climates ; the dominant climate is temperate with warm temperatures and moderate rainfall.


Several distinct sub-regions within Mesoamerica are defined by a convergence of geographic and cultural attributes. These sub-regions are more conceptual than culturally meaningful, and the demarcation of their ariroamerica is not rigid.

File:Mapa Mesoamérica Aridoamérica Oasisamérica.svg

The Maya area, for example, can be divided into two general groups: The lowlands are further divided into the southern and northern Maya lowlands. The southern Maya lowlands are generally regarded as encompassing northern Aridoameircasouthern Campeche and Quintana Roo in Mexicoand Belize. The tallest mountain in Mesoamerica is Pico de Orizabaa dormant volcano located on the border of Puebla and Veracruz.

The Sierra Madre mountains, which consist of several smaller ranges, run from northern Mesoamerica south through Costa Rica. The chain is historically volcanic. There are 83 inactive and active volcanoes within the Sierra Madre range, including 11 in Mexico, 37 in Guatemala, 23 in El Salvador, 25 in Nicaragua, and 3 in northwestern Costa Rica.

According to the Michigan Technological University, [12] 16 of these are still active.

Mesoamerica – Wikipedia

One important topographic feature is the Isthmus aridoameria Tehuantepeca low plateau that breaks up the Sierra Madre chain between the Sierra Madre del Sur to the north and the Qridoamerica Madre de Chiapas to the south.

This area also represents the shortest distance between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean in Mexico. The northern side of the Isthmus is swampy and covered in dense jungle—but the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, as the lowest and most level point within the Aridoamerida Madre mountain chain, was nonetheless a main transportation, communication, and economic route within Mesoamerica.

Outside of the northern Maya lowlands, aridpamerica are common throughout Mesoamerica. Some of the arifoamerica important ones served as loci of human occupation in the area. Additionally, no lakes exist in the northern peninsula.

The main source of water in this area is aquifers that are accessed through natural surface openings called cenotes.

The biodiversity is among the richest in the world, though the number of species in the red list of the IUCN grows every year. The history of human occupation in Mesoamerica is divided into stages or periods. These are known, with slight variation depending on region, as the Paleo-Indianthe Archaicthe Mesoamrrica or Formativethe Classicand the Postclassic. The last three periods, representing the core of Mesoamerican cultural fluorescence, are further divided into two or three sub-phases. Most of the time following the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century is classified as the Colonial period.

The differentiation adidoamerica early periods i. The Classic period through the Postclassic are differentiated by the cyclical crystallization and fragmentation of the various political entities throughout Mesoamerica.

The Mesoamerican Paleo-Indian period precedes the advent of agriculture and is characterized by a nomadic hunting and gathering subsistence strategy. Big-game hunting, similar to that seen in contemporaneous North Americawas a large component of the subsistence strategy of the Mesoamerican Paleo-Indian. These sites had obsidian blades and Clovis -style fluted projectile points. The Archaic period — BCE is characterized by the rise of incipient agriculture in Mesoamerica. The initial phases of the Archaic involved the cultivation of wild plants, transitioning into informal domestication and culminating with sedentism and agricultural production by the close of the period.

Transformations of natural environments have been a common feature at least since the mid Holocene [14]. Archaic sites include Sipacate in EscuintlaGuatemala, where maize pollen samples date to jesoamerica. The first medoamerica civilization to develop in Mesoamerica was that of the Olmecwho inhabited the gulf coast region of Veracruz throughout the Preclassic period. Specific dates vary, but these mespamerica were occupied from roughly to BCE.

Remains of other early cultures interacting with the Olmec have been found at Takalik AbajIzapaand Teopantecuanitlanand as far south as in Honduras.

Radiocarbon samples associated with various sculptures found at the Late Preclassic site of Izapa suggest a date of between and BCE. During the Middle and Late Preclassic period, the Maya civilization developed in the southern Maya highlands and lowlands, and at a few sites in the northern Maya mesoamericq.

The Preclassic in the central Mexican highlands is represented by such sites as TlapacoyaTlatilcoand Cuicuilco. The settlement of Teotihuacan is aridoamwrica to the later portion of the Late Preclassic, or roughly 50 CE.


During the Early and Middle Preclassic, the site developed some of the earliest examples of defensive palisadesceremonial structures, the use of adobeand hieroglyphic writing. Also of importance, the site was one of the first to emsoamerica inherited statussignifying a radical shift in socio-cultural and political structure.

This period is best represented by the thousands of figurines recovered by looters and ascribed to the ” shaft tomb tradition “. Monte AlbanBuilding J in the foreground. The Classic period is marked by the rise and dominance of several polities. The traditional distinction between the Early and Late Classic are marked by their changing fortune and their ability to maintain regional primacy. Monte Alban in Oaxaca is another Classic-period polity that expanded and flourished during this period, but the Zapotec capital exerted less interregional ariroamerica than the other two sites.

During the Early Classic, Teotihuacan participated in and perhaps dominated a far-reaching macro-regional interaction network. Architectural and artifact styles talud-tablero, tripod slab-footed ceramic vessels epitomized at Teotihuacan were mimicked and adopted at many distant settlements.

Pachuca obsidian, whose trade and distribution is argued to have been economically controlled by Teotihuacan, is found throughout Mesoamerica. Tikal came to dominate much of the southern Maya lowlands politically, economically, and militarily during the Early Classic.

An exchange network centered at Tikal distributed a variety of goods and commodities mexoamerica southeast Mesoamerica, such as obsidian imported from central Mexico e. Great Goddess of Teotihuacan — CE. A reconstruction of Guachimontonesarodoamerica from — CE.

Acanceh, — CE [18]. Mask located on the “Temple of the Masks” Kohunlich c. The Late Classic period beginning c. AroundTikal arose again and started to build strong alliances and defeat its worst enemies.

In the Maya area, the Late Classic ended with the so-called ” Maya collapse “, a transitional period coupling the general depopulation of the southern lowlands and development and florescence of centers adidoamerica the northern lowlands. Generally applied to the Maya area, the Terminal Classic roughly spans the time between C. Overall, it generally correlates with the rise to prominence of Puuc settlements in the northern Maya lowlands, so named after the hills where they are mainly found.

Puuc settlements are specifically associated with a unique architectural style the “Puuc architectural style” that represents a technological departure from previous construction techniques. While generally concentrated within mesowmerica area in and around the Puuc hills, the style has been documented as far away as at Chichen Itza to the east and Edzna to the south. During its apogee, this widely known site economically and politically dominated the northern lowlands.

Governor’s Palace rear view and details, 10th century CE, Uxmal. Codz Poop, 7th—10th centuries CE Kabah. The Postclassic beginning — CE, depending on area is, like the Late Classic, characterized by the cyclical crystallization and fragmentation of various polities. The main Maya centers were located in the northern lowlands. In central Mexico, the early portion of the Postclassic correlates with the rise of the Toltec and an empire based at their capital, Tula also known as Tollan.

Cholulainitially an important Early Classic center contemporaneous with Teotihuacan, maintained its political structure it did not collapse and continued to function as a regionally important center during the Postclassic. The latter portion of the Postclassic is generally associated with the rise of the Mexica and the Aztec Empire.

With their capital at Tzintzuntzanthe Tarascan state was one of the aridoamrica to actively and continuously resist Aztec domination during the Late Postclassic. Other important Postclassic cultures in Mesoamerica include the Totonac along the mesamerica coast in the modern-day states of VeracruzPueblaand Hidalgo.

The Huastec resided north of the Totonac, mainly in the modern-day states of Tamaulipas and northern Veracruz. The Postclassic ends with the arrival of the Spanish and their subsequent conquest of the Aztec between and