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David M. Jones

Site in the USA in East St Louis, IL, of a huge Pre-Columbian city. Founded c. ad 700, it was the largest prehistoric city ever built north of Mexico and was probably influenced by political and civic ideas from Mesoamerica, Pre-Columbian. At its height, between c. ad 1050 and c. 1250, Cahokia encompassed c. 13 sq. km and had a population of c. 10–15,000. Although located in the north-west part of the middle Mississippi Southern Cult area, it was the political, economic and religious centre for more than 50 towns (see Native North American art, §I, 4, (v)). The exact nature of its power or rule, however, is uncertain. A potential rival in the south-east of the cult area was Moundville, AL, nearly as large. Cahokia began to decline after c. 1250, although some of its satellite towns, at such sites as Angel, Aztatlan, Dickson and Kinkaid, continued to flourish as local centres. A drastic population decline ...


David M. Jones and Jaime Litvak King

Site in the Toluca Valley, Mexico. It was the capital and principal ceremonial centre of the Matlazinca people. The name derives from calli (Náhuatl: house) and ixtlahuaca (field or plain), thus ‘Place of houses on the plain’. Calixtlahuaca is one of the few Matlazinca sites known with substantial remains, and its architectural ruins, scattered on the hillside between the modern villages of Calixtlahuaca and Tecaxic, combine elements from central and northern Mesoamerica. Most of the site lies beneath the villages or the fields between the villages. Surface survey and excavations were carried out between 1930 and 1938 by José García Payón.

Calixtlahuaca was occupied between c. 1700 bc and ad 1510, when it was destroyed by Aztec forces. After the Spanish Conquest, Matlazinca survivors returned and established the two villages. Occupation has been divided by archaeologists into five periods: from c. 1700 bcc. 200 bc, Pre-Classic remains represented by figurines and traces of terrace walls; from ...


Terence Grieder

Site of Pre-Columbian culture in the highlands of Ancash Department, Peru. It was occupied late in Pre-Ceramic period V (c. 4200–c. 2500 bc), Pre-Ceramic period VI (c. 2500–c. 1800 bc), and the Initial period (c. 1800–c. 900 bc; see South America, Pre-Columbian §III 1., (ii)). Its temples and tombs are dated between c. 2700 and c. 1700 bc. The site was excavated between 1976 and 1985 by Terence Grieder; the finds are in the Museo Nacional de Antropología y Arqueología, Lima. La Galgada’s Pre-Ceramic temples were subcircular chambers, each with a fire-pit in the centre and a bench running around the walls, which contained empty niches. The chambers were later converted to tombs by replacing their log roofs with stone vaults. The chambers were then buried, and new chambers built on top. A shaft was retained for access to burials in the tomb. The resulting mound was supported by a massive corbelled revetment wall. Sixteen intact burials provided cotton mantles, shawls, and bags worn by the site’s Pre-Ceramic inhabitants. Cloth was made by twining, looping, and linking. Bags made by looping were the main art form. These bear intricate two-colour designs of birds, snakes, and, more rarely, frontal views of anthropomorphic beings. Twenty-eight designs in five colours have been identified. After the introduction of the back-strap loom ...


David C. Grove

Site of Pre-Columbian Olmec political and religious centre in the southern Gulf Coast of Mexico, c. 15 km south-west of the Tuxtla Mountains in a region of rolling foothills. It has received less scholarly attention than the other Olmec centres of San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, La Venta, and Tres Zapotes. Excavations were carried out by Alfonso Medellín Zenil in 1960, and, though not fully published, the results demonstrate that the site was an important Olmec ceremonial centre. They also show that the Olmec period occupation was merely the earliest of many, and that the site’s nearly 100 mounds cover a timespan of approximately 1500 years. Exactly which mounds are attributable to the Olmec is therefore uncertain.

No major investigations have been carried out since Medellín Zenil’s; however, in 1978 the available data were summarized (see Bove), and, on the basis of Olmec ceramics from the 1960 excavations, it has been suggested that the initial Olmec occupation occurred in the Early Pre-Classic period (...


Muriel Porter-Weaver

Site of Mesoamerican Olmec culture in southern Puebla, Mexico. It flourished from the latter half (c. 1200 bc) of the Early Pre-Classic period (c. 2000–c. 1000 bc) to c. 800 bc in the early part of the Middle Pre-Classic period (c. 1000–c. 300 bc), yielding important grave goods. Las Bocas was strategically situated on the route of early travellers between the Gulf Coast region and the Mesoamerican Central Highlands. Archaeological remains comprise grave offerings. The importance of the site is twofold: it is a highland site relating to Tlatilco and Tlapacoya in the Basin of Mexico, to Chalcatzingo and Gualupita in the state of Morelos, and to the site of San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán in the Olmec heartland on the southern Gulf Coast. Artefacts of the highland sites share some features of the Olmec style of the Gulf Coast region; examples from Las Bocas are particularly fine. Las Bocas has been repeatedly pillaged by grave robbers, and consequently most of the material from the site, whether in private collections or museums, has no recorded archaeological context. Excavations in the only remaining undisturbed area, directed by ...


Carolyn Tate

Early Formative site-complex in Mexico, thought to be the earliest capital of Gulf Coast Olmec culture. San Lorenzo occupies a 1700-acre hill surrounded by branches of the ancient courses of the Coatzocoalcos River in the State of Veracruz. Around 1500 BCE people settled along the rivers, but within 300 years San Lorenzo dominated the settlements around it, until 850 BCE. The elites, who controlled the best fishing and farming lands and the collection and distribution of materials, including stone for monuments, lived on the desirable hilltop. Through coercion or cooperation, they enlisted the work of laborers, who helped them create the first array of monumental stone sculptures (134 have been found) in North America. This collection of monumental art is unusual for the skill of its carving, the innovation of many subjects and themes that would become fundamental to Mesoamerican ideologies, for its probable role in facilitating narrative performances, and because of the mutilation that was eventually inflicted upon it....