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Symbols in Mesoamerican Civilizations Essay

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Updated: Sep 17th, 2021

First of all, it would be necessary to underline, that Mesoamerica, or Middle America, is a term that is often used by archaeologists to define a geographic region within whose frames a separate cultural arrangement burgeoned in Pre-Columbian times. Such eminent cultures as the Olmec, Classic Maya, Toltec, and Aztec augmented, flourished, and collapsed in this archaeologically famed area. In this episode, we look at the rise and expansion of compound nations and communities in this cultural region. It is necessary to keep in mind that Mesoamerica wraps a much lesser territory. It also seems to have displayed more educational unity over a 3000-year epoch than did the region from Anatolia to the Indus. In spite of these basic dissimilarities, although, some noticeably comparable developmental prototypes typify the early stages of farming and the later rise of civilizations in both the Old and New World areas.

Prehistoric civilization first appeared in Mesoamerica about 1200 B.C. between the Olmecs on the Gulf Coast of the current Mexican states of Veracruz and Tabasco. As it is argued, the Olmecs soon started enhancing their authority to other parts of Mexico, into Guatemala, Honduras, and Salvador, even as far south as Costa Rica. It is about this time period, certainly by 1000 B.C., that we can say the Mesoamerican civilization area (or better yet, the Mesoamerican civilizational scheme) starts its own existence.

Over the past twenty years, lots of researchers have investigated the probable links between Venezuelan rock art and the Venezuelan ethnic groups, working at the issues of symbols in civilization. The researches have been directed as well toward the structure and substantiation of endings based on ethnographic works on the cosmogonic and cosmological schemes of the former Venezuelan Indians, with their legends and the Indians who are still alive. Whenever probable, this has been created by contrasting these ideas with the outcomes of archaeological and anthropological study mannered in this country from the XIX century beyond. These researches have also relied on bibliographical bases from raconteurs of the XVI and XVII centuries. Finally, we compared samples of rock art with a possible astronomical depiction, keeping in mind that the previous makers or actors of the rock art are no more amongst us, and, of course, we are also conscious of the fact that, in our analysis at the present time, we can only anticipate attaining a current explanation of those forms left as rock pictures and petroglyphs.

The most discernible characteristic of all Mesoamerican writings is the exceedingly complicated and symbolic form of symbols. They are often named “hieroglyphic” in analogy to Egyptian hieroglyphs as their signs are highly graphic. For this reason, a sign from Mesoamerican scripts is often called a “glyph”, as a short form of “hieroglyph”. Visually, Mesoamerican scripts resemble each other and share many similar glyphs. This is first and foremost because of the fact that lots of Mesoamerican glyphs bear similarity to real objects such as creatures, people, natural features, etc, although in a stylized manner. Often animals and humans appear as “portraits” in that only the heads of these creatures are drawn, but in few cases “full-body” glyphs are also used. Human body parts, especially arms and legs, are also used lengthily to designate action, or verbs if used as grammatical organizations. Other period glyphs come into view as multifaceted geometrical figures like circles, oblongs, cross-hatches, etc.

In addition, there was a greatly complex and conventionalized arrangement of pictograms that came into view in the Pre-Classic right through much of Mesoamerica. This means that symbols carved in, say, Oaxaca, could be understood by a well-informed individual (a kind of shaman) in the Gulf Coast or in Morelos. While archaeologists once decided this uniformity of symbols and icons was an invention of Olmec authority (literary, political, martial, or any grouping of these), now there is more of estimation that the Olmecs were only one of the many sophisticated people throughout the Pre-Classic and thus many diverse cultures might have led to the enlargement of this structure of signs.

In an ideal view, Mesoamerican signs and symbols can be characterized by their featured farming economic base, which often confirmations concentrated agriculture carried out from everlasting settled communities. Such communities are elements of regional schemes consisting of hierarchically arranged sites, with reserve procurement sites at the establishment of the pyramid and large community averages with traditional precincts and intermittent or enduring markets at the top. The societal arrangement was likewise hierarchical, with clearly marked social divisions. Once more, agents of reserve procurement and agriculturalists were the least powerful members of society, while artisans, merchants, military personnel, and a theocratic elite were the most powerful members. Religious and traditional symbols (the calendar and hieroglyphics) also typify Mesoamerican areas, but the allocation of these features falls short of the borders of Mesoamerica as presently instituted.


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Lamberg-Karlovsky, C. C., and Jeremy A. Sabloff. Ancient Civilizations: The Near East and Mesoamerica. Menlo Park, CA: Benjamin/Cummings Publishing, 1979.

MacLeod, Murdo J., and Robert Wasserstrom, eds. Spaniards and Indians in Southeastern Mesoamerica: Essays on the History of Ethnic Relations. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1983.

Sanders, William T., and Barbara J. Price. Mesoamerica: The Evolution of a Civilization. New York: Random House, 1968.

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