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Warfare played a significant role in Mesoamerican culture. Apart from fighting for political and territorial reasons, the cult of the warrior became increasingly important during the Late Classic (c. 600–c. 900 CE) and Postclassic (c. 900–1521 CE) periods, when societies of “knights” were formed, with their own rituals and meeting-places. Warfare was more ritualized in concept than in Western Europe. There were no standing armies. Warriors were led by the elite and were drawn from all able-bodied men. Weapons and armor were kept by individuals, or in central storehouses in the case of the Aztecs. “Foreign” mercenaries were sometimes used for particular campaigns—for example, the Cocom Itza used Mexican warriors in the conquest of Mayapán in the Late Postclassic period (c. 1200–1521). Fighting was hand-to-hand after initial bombardment with arrows, darts, and spears. Most “wars” were decided by a single battle, although continual warfare was the rule, especially in the Late Postclassic empire-building of the Aztecs....

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See also Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.

Metallurgy was unknown in Mesoamerica until introduced from areas further south in the centuries between c. 500 and c. 800 CE. The two main points of entry were the southern frontier of Mesoamerica (the Maya region) and the west coast of Mexico, which was the northern terminus of Pacific trade routes extending to Central and South America. The same basic repertory of manufacturing techniques as those developed in northern South America was also introduced. Once Mesoamerican craftsmen had assimilated the new technology, they began to produce objects that reflected the aesthetic canons and belief systems of the Mesoamerican world, with all its regional diversity. Three metallurgical provinces can be defined: the Maya region, the Central and Southern Highlands, and West Mexico.

See also Pre-Columbian South America: Greater Central America, §VIII and Pre-Columbian South America: Central Andean Area, §VIII.

The Maya zone lies on the frontier between two distinct metalworking traditions, one centered on Mexico, the other on the Isthmus of Central America, and it is the only region where these two traditions came into direct and continuous contact with one another. Mexico and the Isthmus exported metal items to the Maya zone, and local schools of metalworking had emerged in Maya territory no later than 900 CE....

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Sinú  

Warwick Bray

Archaeological zone and style of metalwork produced in the three great 16th-century chiefdoms of Fincenú, Pancenú, and Cenúfana in the Caribbean lowlands of Colombia during the millennium before the Spanish Conquest. The Sinú style also extended to the San Jorge Basin and the lower Cauca and Nechí drainages. Many of these lowland areas are seasonally flooded but were turned into prime farmland by the construction of more than 500,000 ha of ridged and drained fields linked by a canal network. Besides landscape architecture, the Sinú zone is noted for its goldwork (see fig.). Burial mounds, looted from Colonial times to the present, have yielded bells, human, and animal pendants, breastplates, nose ornaments, fan-shaped dangling ear ornaments produced by the ‘false filigree’ technique (see South America, Pre-Columbian, §VIII, 5), and socketed staff heads surmounted by human figures, animals, or birds. With these are found incised and modelled pottery, shell jewellery, clay figurines, and fine textile fragments. The origins of the Sinú style go back to the early centuries ...