I. Prehistoric Times > N. Chiefdoms and States in the Americas (c. 1500 B.C.E.–1532 C.E.) > 2. Mesoamerican Civilizations
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  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
 
 
2. Mesoamerican Civilizations
 
By 2000 B.C.E. sedentary village farmers were common in most of Mesoamerica. These societies became more complex as time passed, as groups of villages formed alliances and long-distance trade routes linked the lowlands and the Gulf of Mexico with the highlands inland. Small shrines appeared in larger villages, as social ranking became commonplace in Mesoamerican society.  1
 
a. Olmec
 
This trend toward social complexity took hold throughout the region, but the most famous of these newly more complex societies is that of the Olmec on the Mexican south Gulf Coast. Olmec culture flourished from about 1500 to 500 B.C.E., a society of tropical farmers who traded extensively with one another and peoples on the highlands. Major ceremonial centers at La Venta and San Lorenzo boasted of earthen mounds, temples, and plazas, and a distinctive art style of snarling jaguars and animal humans.  2
Olmec society was a manifestation of a much more complex social and political order. It comprised a series of chiefdoms who maintained contacts with other lowland and highland societies. Art motifs, religious symbols, and ritual beliefs were shared with many other Mesoamerican peoples. This complex process of interaction over many centuries produced the complex and sophisticated traditions of Mesoamerican civilization in later centuries.  3
 
 
 
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

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