The area of Mesoamerica

The term Mesoamerica denotes the wide area between Mexico to the north and Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica to the south. It is characterised by a number of common traits to the pre-Columbian civilisations that flourished there, including the use of a digging stick for farming and the cultivation of certain cultigens such as corn, squash, beans, pepper, cacao, chia (Hispanic sage) and maguey, an agave from which the fermented drink pulque was extracted and whose fibres were used to make some kind of paper for codes.
The social and religious spheres were characterised by stratification (the upper classes were formed by soldiers and priests), periodic wars aimed to capture prisoners for sacrifices, ritual killings, self-sacrifices and human sacrifices intended to feed the gods, as well as by an articulated pantheon, a highly developed science of astronomy and a complex calendar. The history of the Mesoamerican civilisations is divided into three phases, preceded by a long developmental period (3000-1500 B.C.):
- a pre-classical phase (1500 B.C. - 1st century A.D.), marked by agricultural crops in villages of huts and the first pyramids in clay;
- a classical phase (2nd-9th century A.D.), with the birth of the first cities, a notable population growth, and the beginning of the differentiation of local cultures and a division of social classes (an elite of priests and warriors, a middle class of craftsmen and merchants, and finally farmers).
A series of “cultural horizons” bloom in this phase, that is civilisations capable of influencing the culture of the neighbouring, yet not directly occupied, areas: the Teotihuacán culture, the civilisation of Oaxaca (Mount Albán, Zapotec), the Tajín civilisation of Veracruz and the Maya civilisation.
- finally, the third post-classic phase (10th century A.D. - Spanish Conquest), characterised by wars, invasions and migrations from the north of populations devoted to hunting and harvesting, which then became sedentary and engaged in agriculture, thus giving rise to the civilisations of the Toltecs, the Mixtecs and Aztecs.