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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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Christian F. Feest, José Alcina Franch, Roberto Rivera y Rivera, and Anthony Alan Shelton

See also Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.

The earliest use of bone for tools and as a medium of plastic expression in Mesoamerica dates from c. 12,000–c. 8000 BCE. Bone tools were used to perforate hide, work obsidian, and stitch basketry, while notched shoulder-blades, usually from deer, were used as a rasping device and provided one of the earliest forms of musical instrument. A sacrum of an extinct species of camelid, dated to c. 12,000–10,000 BCE, was carved to resemble the head of a coyote and probably used as a mask (Mexico City, Mus. N. Antropol.); this constitutes the first evidence for the ritual use of bone in this area. Bone was undoubtedly used for ornament, needles, handtools, and musical instruments throughout Mesoamerican prehistory, but distinct traditions are not usually identified before the 1st–2nd centuries CE in the Maya region and considerably later in areas further north.

Bone-carving had a long history in the ...

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See also Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.

In the context of Mesoamerica, the term mosaic is used for decoration made up of small pieces of hardstones and other materials applied not only to architectural surfaces (as in the Greco-Roman mosaic tradition of Europe) but also to a variety of prized objects, including vessels, shields, masks, human skulls, and knife handles.

The earliest supposed Mesoamerican mosaic ornament is a group of turquoise chips found in an Early Preclassic (c. 2000–c. 1000 BCE) grave at El Arbolillo, Basin of Mexico. Three large-scale mosaic pavements (each c. 4.5 × 6.0 m) composed of square and rectangular serpentine blocks (c. 485 blocks each) depicted stylized jaguar faces at the Olmec site of La Venta. Each was an offering, deliberately buried under c. 1 m of clay and adobe. A wooden Olmec mask encrusted with jade was found at Cañón de la Mano, Guerrero, dated to ...