Mesoamerican Archaeology

Mesoamerican Task List

Prehispanic Mesoamerican archaeology spans the dawn of early agricultural villages to the rise of the Aztec empire. When Cortez and his conquistadores landed on the east coast of Mexico in 1519, they encountered a remarkably diverse landscape of cultures and environments, a world of enormous linguistic and ethnic differences. In this section, we will explore the diversity represented in this prehispanic world. The indigenous populations spoke many languages, employed a wide range of farming and water-control strategies, and lived in towns and cities of diverse form and function. Yet the peoples of Mesoamerica shared a great deal, including a reliance on similar staple foods, widespread trade, and related religious systems. Their shared ceremonial realm included a calendar, stepped pyramids, ritual sacrifice of blood, writing systems, and specific style of dress. The dietary trinity of corn, beans, and squash provided a nutritious diet, despite the lack of domesticated animals. We will also take an in depth look at one Mesoamerican center, Xunantunich, and examine how this one center fit into the overall social and political structure of its time.

Focus Questions

Were all states in indigenous Mesoamerica similar in organization? If so, explain. If not, how were they different?

What is the relationship between population size and agricultural intensification in ancient Mesoamerica?

What are the factors that lead to collapse of ancient Maya society?

What was the nature of the collapse?

Key Learning Objectives

See Vista calendar for due dates

Print up the Glossary

Practice Glossary Terms (Flash Cards, Matching, Crossword, etc.)


Price, T. Douglas and Gary M. Feinman
2006 Chapter 8: Mesoamericans. In Images of the Past, 5th Edition.

Tikal, pp. 353-356
Wetland Fields, pp. 357-358
Tikal’s Monument Record, pp. 359-360
Writing and Calendars, pp. 365-366
Palenque, pp. 361-364
Tula, pp. 367-369
Chichen Itza, pp. 370-373
Teotihuacan, pp. 346-351

Technochtitlan, pp. 374-378
Aztec Markets, pp. 379
Human Sacrifice and Cannibalism, pp. 380-381

Web Resources (optional)

Technochtitlan and Aztec Video

Mysterious Maya Queen Video

Extensive information about Mesoamerican peoples and sites.

The art, culture, and history of ancient Mesoamerica
Another site with extensive information about Mesoamerican civilizations and sites located in Mexico.

The Maya Astronomy Page
This site provides information about the writing, calendar, astronomy, and mathematics of the Mayan culture.

The Aztec Calendar
More information about the Aztec calendar can be found here.

Olmec Civilization
Information about the Olmec can be found by following the link above.

Archaeology of the ancient Maya civilization of Mesoamerica
Extensive information about the Mayans can be found here.


Mesoamerican Reading Online Quiz