"Mesoamerica" includes most of the mainland of Central America from a line north of Mexico City to a southern boundary cutting through Honduras and El Salvador (as in map).Cultural developments here prior to the arrival of Europeans were not significantly influenced from elsewhere. Because of this, Mesoamerican cultural dynamics are relatively self-contained and can be understood with minimal reference to other regions.

Cultures and languages evolved more or less independently here while sharing a number of features.  Some centres strongly influenced others. Teotihuacan, for example, exerted some kind of presence throughout the whole region from the first to the seventh century A. D.

Numerous features distinguish Mesoamerica from other cultures of the Americas. Outstanding ones include hieroglyphic writing, urbanization and the power possessed by rulers. Mesoamerican cultures developed true cities and true hieroglyphic writing.  Rulers exercised much greater power here than elsewhere in the New World and were able to control political entities like small states. Only the Andean region of South America rivaled Mesoamerica in these respects. Aztecs and Incas presided over large state systems verging on empires.

The term "Mesoamerica" was initially coined by Paul Kirchoff in 1943. He included a list of numerous cultural traits in addition to those few mentioned above.

A basisc reference to consult is The Aztecs, Maya, and Their Predeccessors (2nd ed) by Muriel Porter-Weaver.

If you find any material that is questionable in any way, outdated, unclear, or wrong, please let us know about it through the Forum page or e-mail to sloten@sympatico.ca.

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