Mesoamerican Civilizations


Mark Cartwright
published on 22 January 2021

Ancient Mesoamerica (modern-day Mexico and Central America) witnessed an extraordinary flourishing of cultures from the beginnings of the Olmec civilization around 1200 BCE, through the Maya civilization and on to the catastrophic fall of the Aztec civilization in the 16th century CE. Great cities were built with towering pyramids, empires were forged and fine art was produced in everything from turquoise to exotic seashells.

In this collection, we examine some of these great peoples of the Americas. We consider their origins, religion, warfare, material culture, and their final respective downfalls due to war, the whims of climate, and, ultimately, the arrival of foreigners from across the sea. While each culture was unique, many threads weave their way through these civilizations such as their creation myths, gods, religious practices, art and architecture. Combined, these peoples have left behind one of the richest and most original cultural legacies in world history.

Mysteriously, around 600 CE, the major buildings of Teotihuacan were deliberately destroyed by fire, and artworks and religious sculptures were smashed in what must have been a complete changing of the ruling elite. The destroyers may have been from the rising city of Xochicalco or from within in an uprising motivated by a scarcity in resources, perhaps acerbated by extensive deforestation, soil erosion, and drought. Whatever the reason, after this climatic event, the wider city remained populated for another two centuries but its regional dominance became only a memory.



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Questions & Answers

What are the 4 Mesoamerican civilizations in order?

4 Mesoamerican civilizations in order of appearance are: the Olmecs, the Maya, the Toltecs, and the Aztecs.

What are the 3 notable Mesoamerican civilizations?

3 notable Mesoamerican civilizations are: the Olmecs of Mexico (1200-400 BCE), the Classic Maya of Mexico and Central America (250-950 CE), and the Aztecs of Mexico (1345-1521).

Is Mesoamerican the same as Aztec?

Mesoamerica is not the same as Aztec. The Aztecs were present in Mexico whereas Mesoamerica has a wider significance that includes Mexico and Central America.

What was the first civilization in Mesoamerica?

The first great Mesoamerican civilization was the Olmecs of Mexico (1200-400 BCE).

About the Author

Mark Cartwright
Mark is a full-time author, researcher, historian, and editor. Special interests include art, architecture, and discovering the ideas that all civilizations share. He holds an MA in Political Philosophy and is the WHE Publishing Director.

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