Mexico Early History


Olmec civilization, Mesoamerican culture considered the mother of the later cultures of the Mayans and Aztecs.

According to, the territory of Mesoamerica [3] includes the center and south of the current Mexican territory and Central America. In this area, with a great variety of natural wealth and habitat types (tropical forests, high mountains, deserts, mangroves, valleys, savannas, etc.), pre-Hispanic Mexican civilizations settled. The specialists and scholars of the ancient history of Mexico divide this territory into different regions in which a particular culture predominated [3] :

  • Central Highlands: Tolteca, Mexica, Teotihuacana
  • Mayan Area: Mayas
  • Gulf of Mexico: Olmeca, Totonaca
  • West: Purépechas
  • Oaxaca Valley: Zapotec and Mixteca

Despite the little information about the period in which these civilizations inhabited, historians have established three major periods that are detailed in the following table: [3]

Period Years Civilizations
Preclassic 2500 BC – 200 Olmec, Zapotec and Mayan
Classic 200 – 900 Zapotecs, Teotihuacanos and Maya
Postclassic 900 – 1521 Mayans, Toltecs, Mixtecs, Purépachas and Mexica

Preclassic Period

During the beginning of the Early Preclassic or Preclassic [4] the displayed ceramic, new crops of corn and sedentary lifestyles. In the intermediate pre-classic period, the construction of large complexes began, such as religious temples. Small villages become centers of important politics and religion. With the passage of time they become large cities.

In the year 800 BC emerges in the Gulf of Mexico the people Olmeca, the most important culture of this period. Other peoples of this era, the Zapotecs, innovate in the methods used for agriculture and construction in general, with the use of stones, which represented an important evolution in these branches. They developed a writing system and showed deep astronomical knowledge. (The first calendars were found that are believed to be the basis of the famous Mayan calendars).

In the late pre-classic period an important ceremonial center arises in Monte Albán that had a great Olmec influence. Some small ceremonial centers also appear in the Maya lowlands. The pyramid of Cuicuilco is built and Teotihuacan begins to be erected.

Classical period

The classical period is between the years 200 to 900 of our era. It is characterized by the evolution of the social and political institutions developed in the previous period. the religion it continues to be the center of power of the dominant cities, in a society that is known to be highly stratified. The lord of a city was a man-god who embodied in his person one of these divinities. These residents deeply obedient to gods more powerful and important than the previous period owed the same servility to their representative on earth: the high priest to whom we referred. This is a stage marked by sacrifices and offerings of all kinds. Commercial relations are established between the most important cities such as Tlaxcala, Coliman, Oaxaca, Teotihacan, Mexico and Puebla.

It is necessary to emphasize the role of Teotihuacan as a religious and commercial center of Mesoamerica and the world. Together with China, India, Peru and Egypt they represent the first complex states in human history. By the year 400 of our era, it is believed that it had around 200,000 residents, who gave the city a splendor that it would enjoy for 300 years, suddenly disappearing due to causes that still have no exact explanations today.

Postclassic Period

The post-classical period is between the years 800 until the Spanish conquest (1521). In this stage, several peoples called Chichimecas, residents of the area beyond the northern limit of Mesoamerica, advance south in search of the resources of which, for different reasons, they were deprived. The 300-year-long process caused structural changes in the political and social geography of the territories. Tula, center of one of the Chichimeca peoples: the Toltecs, imposed the veneration for Quetzalcoatl, which will have great significance at the time of the Spanish conquest. Around 1320 the Mexica (the first people in history to introduce compulsory and egalitarian education) carry out the construction, upon seeing a snake being eaten by an eagle, of one of the most spectacular cities in known history: Tenochtitlan, whose hegemony will soon be imposed over the central area of these territories and that will extend to the south.

Thanks to ingenious constructions on the surrounding lakes, they turn this city into a militarily impregnable bastion. Its economy was based on agriculture and the tributes of the subject peoples. The Aztec empire was ruled by Moctezuma Ilhuicamina, succeeded by Axayacatl, Tizoc and Ahuizotl. The subjugation of neighboring towns was also justified by the human sacrifices they carried out, for which they needed prisoners. Seventy buildings surrounded the Templo Mayor, many of them reserved for government and worship, and some with a pyramidal shape; great streets and aqueducts. Tenochtitlan was an empire that seemed to have no rivals. Its last ruler, Moctezuma II was a true tyrant, who succumbed together with his gods to the new ones after the Spanish conquest.

Mexico Early History