The term pre-Columbian refers to different American Civilizations before significant European influence (referring to the era before Christopher Columbus).
What are the most important pre-Columbian civilizations?
- Maya civilization
The period between 250 C.E. and 650 C.E. was a time of intense flourishing of Maya civilized accomplishments. While the many Maya city-states never achieved political unity on the order of the central Mexican civilizations, they exerted a tremendous intellectual influence upon Mexico and Central America. The Maya built some of the most elaborate cities on the continent, and made innovations in mathematics, astronomy, and calendrics. The Mayans also evolved the only true written system native to the Americas, using pictographs and syllabic elements in the form of texts and codices unscripted on stone, pottery, wood, or highly perishable books made from bark paper.
Image source: https://www.tes.com/lessons/PqmGB4S99cu7Cg/i-maya
The Aztecs were the rulers of much of central Mexico by about 1400 , having subjugated most of the other regional states by the 1470s. At their peak, 300,000 Mexica presided over a wealthy tribute-empire comprising about 10 million people (almost half of Mexico’s 24 million people). The modern name “Mexico” comes from their name.
Their capital, Tenochtitlan, is the site of modern-day Mexico City. At its peak, it was one of the largest cities in the world, with population estimates of 300,000. The market established there was the largest ever seen by the conquistadors, when they arrived.
- Inca civilization
Holding their capital at the great cougar-shaped city of Cusco, the Inca civilization dominated the Andes region from 1438 to 1533. Known as Tawantin suyu, or “the land of the four regions,” in Quechua, the Inca civilization was highly distinct and developed. Inca rule extended to nearly a hundred linguistic or ethnic communities, some 9 to 14 million people connected by a 25,000 kilometer road system. Cities were built with precise, unmatched stonework, constructed over many levels of mountain terrain. Terrace farming was a useful form of agriculture. There is evidence of excellent metalwork and even successful brain surgery in Inca civilization.
What is the most important architectural work of Precolumbian civilization?
Despite the towering reputation of Egypt’s Great Pyramids at Giza, the Americas actually contain more pyramid structures than the rest of the planet combined. Civilizations like the Olmec, Maya, Aztec and Inca all built pyramids to house their deities, as well as to bury their kings. In many of their great city-states, temple-pyramids formed the center of public life and were the site of much holy ritual, including human sacrifice.
The most famous single pyramid in Latin America is the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacán, Mexico.
The Teotihuacán built the Pyramids of the Sun and of the Moon between A.D. 1 and 250. Like many Mesoamerican pyramids, each was constructed around a core of rubble held in place by retaining walls. The walls were then faced with adobe bricks, and then covered with limestone. The base of the Pyramid of the Sun measures 730 feet per side, with five stepped terraces reaching a height of some 200 feet. Its massive size rivals that of the Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza. Within the current pyramid is another, earlier pyramid structure of almost the same size.
The Pyramid of the Moon, though similar, was built on a smaller scale.
Info and image source: http://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/pyramids-in-latin-america
The lust for gold spans all eras, races, and nationalities. To possess any amount of gold seems to ignite an insatiable desire to obtain more, for this reason it has occurred colonization of MesoAmerica.
Through the centuries, this passion gave rise to the enduring tale of a city of gold. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Europeans believed that somewhere in the New World there was a place of immense wealth known as El Dorado. Their searches for this treasure wasted countless lives.
The origins of El Dorado lie deep in South America. And like all enduring legends, the tale of El Dorado contains some scraps of truth. When Spanish explorers reached South America in the early 16th century, they heard stories about a tribe of natives high in the Andes mountains in what is now Colombia. When a new chieftain rose to power, his rule began with a ceremony at Lake Guatavita. Accounts of the ceremony vary, but they consistently say the new ruler was covered with gold dust, and that gold and precious jewels were thrown into the lake to appease a god that lived underwater.
The Spaniards didn’t find El Dorado, but they did find Lake Guatavita and tried to drain it in 1545. They lowered its level enough to find hundreds of pieces of gold along the lake’s edge. But the presumed fabulous treasure in the deeper water was beyond their reach.
Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Dorado
What did the ancient Maya wear?
The ancient Maya are well-known for their exotic, vibrant, appearances and practice of unusual body modifications. They exploited the materials available to them in their tropical environments to manufacture colourful textiles and striking ornamentation. They produced a wide range of outfits for different occasions, including lavish dress for large public events; vibrant dance costumes; protective armour for conflicts; sporting attire; and simpler, yet no less sophisticated, clothing for everyday situations.
Archaeologists often recover pieces of jewellery such as earrings, necklaces, and rings made from durable material such as shell, bone, precious stone, and even metal. Additionally, body modifications such as elongated heads and shaped and decorated teeth are recovered from ancient Maya burials. Unfortunately archaeologists rarely find evidence of textiles or attire made from perishable materials because the hot, humid, environment of the Maya region causes them to disintegrate. Fortunately, information about clothing that does not survive in the archaeological record can be seen in a wide range of Maya art including murals, ceramics, sculpture, figurines, and books . These images show many elite Maya individuals but there is little information about the dress of lower classes, because they are not often portrayed in the art.