Island between the mouth of the River Amazon and the Rio do Pará, Brazil. It covers an area of approximately 48,000 sq. km and is almost completely flat, apart from a few low hillocks; its south-western half is covered in forest, while the rest is open country, with some forested tracts in the littoral areas and along the rivers. In the rainy season poor drainage turns the fields into an immense lake. Over a long period Marajó’s archaeological wealth attracted explorers, whose expeditions resulted in several collections now in various museums. The earliest systematic investigation was by Betty Meggers and Clifford Evans in 1948–9 and resulted in the first complete survey of the prehistoric occupation of the island. Excavations carried out for the Museu Paranese Emilio Goeldi, Belém, in the 1960s under the direction of N. Figueiredo and M. Simões complemented and enlarged upon these findings. Archaeological evidence suggests that the island was the site of successive occupations represented by a sequence of five phases beginning ...
Fernanda de Araujo Costa and Trent Barnes
John R. Topic
Site of Pre-Columbian culture, flourishing c.
Max Uhle visited the site in 1900 and made the first scientifically recorded collections; in 1941 Theodore D. McCown made an extensive study of the ruins, collecting more artefacts. Both their collections are housed in the Robert H. Lowie Museum of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. John P. Thatcher conducted surveys in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and a Canadian project directed by John and Theresa Topic, with the collaboration of ...
Mary Ellen Miller
Pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican peoples, whose culture flourished in parts of what are now Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador from 3000
Jeff Karl Kowalski and Trent Barnes
Site of Pre-Columbian
Maya city of the Late Post-Classic period (c.
Robert D. Drennan, H. B. Nicholson, Elizabeth Baquedano, Peter W. Stahl, Eloise Quiñones Keber, Christine Niederberger, Muriel Porter-Weaver, David M. Jones, Paul Gendrop, Richard F. Townsend, H. Stanley Loten, Phil C. Weigand, Emily Umberger, Beatriz de la Fuente, Elizabeth Hill Boone, Nelly Gutiérrez Solana, Elizabeth K. Easby, Anthony Alan Shelton, Christian F. Feest, Warwick Bray, Kieran Costello, Roberto Rivera y Rivera, José Alcina Franch, Patricia Rieff Anawalt, Lawrence G. Desmond and Hasso Von Winning
Term used to designate the Pre-Columbian region comprising present-day central and central-southern Mexico, the Yucatán Peninsula, Guatemala, Belize and El Salvador, and parts of Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Culturally it was one of two New World areas where civilization developed (the other being the central Andes, home of the Incas; see South America, Pre-Columbian, §III). In Mesoamerica a set of technological, social, economic, religious and political traits was shared by several different cultures, including the Aztec, Huastec, Maya, Mixtec, Tarascan, Teotihuacán, Toltec, Totonac, West Mexican and Zapotec. This set of cultural traits is recognizable as early as 1500
The northern boundary of Mesoamerica corresponded approximately to the northern limit of sufficient rainfall for reliable agriculture, and this was always the most clearly defined of its frontiers (...
Maria-Isabel Silva, Colin McEwan and Trent Barnes
Pre-Columbian culture that developed in the Guayas River basin of coastal Ecuador during the period c.
Elizabeth P. Benson and Trent Barnes
Site of Pre-Columbian
Maya city in the lowland forests of northern Petén, Guatemala. It flourished c. 150
John Paddock and Trent Barnes
Site of a Pre-Columbian
Mixtec city in the eastern arm of the Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico. Much confusion about Mitla has resulted from what Fray Francisco de Burgoa wrote about it some 150 years after the Spanish Conquest. Burgoa was deceived by the biased account he received from its colonial rulers, who recalled the name of only one Pre-Columbian ruler—a Mixtec. Excavations have revealed that Mitla was a small Zapotec town around
Mitla (Nahuatl: ‘Arrow place’, a corruption of ‘Miquitla’, ‘Death place’, which was a rough translation of Zapotec ‘Lyobaa’, ‘Inside-tomb’) comprises groups of surviving palaces and platforms that are a late part of the ancient community, most of which lies under the modern town. The area has been inhabited at least since ...
Term commonly used for a people and an aesthetic tradition that flourished during the Late Post-Classic period (c.
In late Pre-Columbian times Mixtec speakers were organized into a series of essentially autonomous city states. This political fragmentation was probably related, at least in part, to the mountainous, broken topography of much of their territory. Often in conflict, they were also frequently confederated by dynastic alliances. By the time of the Spanish Conquest most Mixtec city states had been conquered by the ...
H. B. Nicholson
Stylistic and iconographic tradition in Mesoamerica during the Post-Classic period (c. 900–1521).
The term was coined in 1938 by the American archaeologist George Vaillant for what he variously defined as a ‘culture’, ‘civilization’ or ‘culture complex’ that developed after the Teotihuacán collapse in the region of the modern Mexican state of Puebla and the western portion of Oaxaca, an area known as the Mixteca (from the predominant indigenous language of the region). He hypothesized that Mixteca–Puebla diffused into the Basin of Mexico during what he termed the ‘Chichimec’ period, providing ‘the source and inspiration of Aztec civilization’. He believed that aspects of the complex spread widely throughout Mesoamerica during its final major era, the Post-Classic, which he suggested should be labelled the ‘Mixteca–Puebla period’.
Although Vaillant never defined his concept with precision, he clearly had in mind a distinctive artistic style and its concomitant iconography, particularly exemplified by the members of the ‘Codex Borgia group’ of ritual and divinatory screenfolds (...
Christopher B. Donnan, Izumi Shimada and Theresa Lange Topic
Pre-Columbian culture and art style that evolved on the north coast of Peru approximately a thousand years before the beginning of the Inca empire. It is also the name given to the site of the Pre-Columbian city that existed in the Moche Valley, near present-day Trujillo. The Moche had no writing system, yet they produced a vivid artistic record of their activities and their environment. The realism and subject-matter of Moche art make it one of the most appealing of all Pre-Columbian styles. (For general discussion of the Pre-Columbian art of the region see South America, Pre-Columbian, §III.)
The Moche lived in one of the world’s driest deserts. Human life in the area is confined to the river valleys that cut across this desert, draining rainfall from the Andes back into the Pacific Ocean.
The Moche style began c.
John Paddock and Trent Barnes
Site in Mexico, in the Valley of Oaxaca. It was an important Pre-Columbian Zapotec city, later occupied by Mixtec. At the convergence of the Valley of Oaxaca’s three arms, on a small range of hills (c. 600 m), Monte Albán was founded by peoples from neighbouring villages c. 600
The ancient city grew by stages but apparently not at first with a long-term plan, except that a grand work of art was clearly intended. An enormous plaza, measuring 400 m (north–south) by 250 m (east–west), was laid out, and calendrical inscriptions were incorporated into a wall. As problems in construction and settlement arose, remedies were improvised, and the hilltops of the range were gradually modified as the urban centre grew. While major public buildings, monuments, and élite residences were built around the hilltop plaza, ...
Elizabeth P. Benson and Trent Barnes
Site of Pre-Columbian
Maya culture, c. 20 km south-west of Escuintla, on the Pacific slopes of Guatemala. It was probably occupied from the 8th century
The sculpture of the Pacific slopes is relatively little known. Although much has been found, the pieces are almost always in the context of former ceremonial centres, but often smashed and reused. Boulder sculptures, plain stone stelae, and plain round altars have all been found at Monte Alto. The boulder sculpture probably dates from the Late Pre-Classic period (...
Warwick Bray and Trent Barnes
Pre-Columbian people of the high plateaux of the Eastern Cordillera of
Colombia, around Bogotá and Tunja. They flourished from c.
Andrea Stone and Trent Barnes
Maya cave shrine in the Lowland Maya area, c. 30 km east of Poptún in Petén, Guatemala. Naj Tunich (Maya: ‘stone house’) lies at an elevation of 650 m along part of a spectacular upland karst zone (limestone terrain characterized by water-formed caverns) containing some of the longest caves in Central America. It was rediscovered in 1980, and archaeological work began in 1981. The 3 km of broad passages yielded a wealth of ancient remains including rock-cut architecture and artefacts of pottery, jade, shell, obsidian, and other materials. The major find, however, was a remarkable collection of Late Classic period (c.
Pre-Columbian culture and art style of the south Peruvian coastal area, named after the modern town of Nazca. The culture flourished between c. 400
The Nazca culture area comprises the valleys of the Chincha, Pisco, Ica, Nazca and Acari rivers in the narrow strip of the western coastal desert of South America that runs from Ecuador to northern Chile. Between the rich, narrow valleys lie segments of elevated desert known as the pampa. The Nazca valley had been inhabited more or less continually for 3000 years before European contacts. During the period of Nazca culture, as still today, the economy was agricultural, based principally on cotton but also including maize, grapes, tobacco, barley, squash, melons and tubers; it had a strong dependence on irrigation and the control of water in general. The mountains, which reach a height of over ...
An Inka royal estate and colonial period town. Straddling the picturesque Patakancha River, Ollantaytambo was one of several private estates of Pachacuti, the Sapa Inka. Situated c. 72 km northwest of Cuzco in a narrow and lush valley downstream from the confluence with the Vilcanota–Urubamba Rivers, the settlement of Ollantaytambo was commissioned by Pachacuti after his conquest of the local population.
As is typical of all Inka royal estates, Ollantaytambo was not a singular bounded entity, but instead consisted of a collection of distinct landholdings that belonged to a ruler. Ollantaytambo was the core of Pachacuti’s royal estate as it housed his private residential quarters. This allowed Ollantaytambo to have functioned as both his private residence as well as a temporary capital. Nearby were agricultural terraces, ritual centers, storage facilities, quarries for building, guard stations, among other sites that addressed a myriad political, economic, and religious needs of a royal estate. When Pachacuti was staying at Ollantaytambo the architecture would have been the theater for the ruler and Inka state. And in his absence, the distinctive architecture would have represented the power and presence of the Inka state’s (and Pachacuti’s) control over local populations....
David C. Grove
Term referring to a precocious, early prehistoric Mesoamerican culture known from archaeological excavations in the Gulf Coast of Mexico and to an art style distinguished by the use of certain motifs and the artefacts on which they occur, made by the archaeological Olmec and many contemporaneous non-Olmec Mesoamerican societies. Both the culture and the art style coincided with the transition in Mesoamerican culture from simple agricultural villages to complex proto-state societies in several regions during the Early Pre-Classic (c. 2000–c. 1000
The archaeological Olmec (see Mesoamerica, Pre-Columbian, §II, 2, (i)) are known from several sites in the humid tropical lowlands of the southern Gulf Coast. For nearly 500 years, only the Olmec created elegant and sophisticated monumental art in stone, an achievement that set them apart from their contemporaries. These creations made them the focus of archaeological attention and writings for nearly half a century, to the detriment of scholarly understanding of contemporary societies, and resulted in unintentionally biased interpretations of the Pre-Classic period. Early scholars credited the Olmec with almost all Pre-Classic-period intellectual achievements, hypothesizing that Olmec long-distance traders, invaders or missionaries influenced the developments of Mesoamerica’s many non-Olmec societies. They argued that Olmec roots were the foundation of ideas that later Mesoamerican civilizations built on. More recent scholarship, while recognizing the importance of Olmec contributions, has suggested that major Pre-Classic-period intellectual achievements in iconography and architecture were developed and shared by many distinct societies throughout Mesoamerica....
Jane Feltham and Trent Barnes
[Quechua: ‘creator of the earth’]
Ceremonial centre of Pre-Columbian culture in South America, 27 km south of Lima, Peru, lying on the north bank of the Lurín River, 550 m from the Pacific Ocean. It flourished from c.
Merle Greene Robertson
Site of Pre-Columbian
Maya ceremonial centre in the foothills of the Sierra de Palenque mountains, Chiapas, Mexico. During the 7th and 8th centuries
The architecture at Palenque is both unique and diverse, including the largest surviving Maya palace complex (see fig.). The palace, dominated by a three-storey tower, was built in stages over a period of two centuries. The first stage, at the level of the plaza floor, was later connected to buildings on the upper terrace by subterranean passageways. The earliest building on the upper level was House E, the only known structure at Palenque without a roof-comb. It was also unique in that the entire whitewashed west façade was covered in patterns of flowers resembling those found on codices. House E was used for the coronation of several Palenque kings and includes a plaque depicting the transfer of rulership from Lady Zac-Kuk to her 12-year-old son Pacal (...