The Mesoamericans built on the achievements of the Olmecs and other predecessors and developed new forms of political organizations. The power of the religious and political leaders can be measured by the scale and impressive architecture at Teotihuacan or at the Mayan cities. Linguistic developments and even recreation in the form of a game played on ball courts were direct results of new political institutions.
Each of these cities had complex social class systems, economic market places and trade, highly developed means of growing food for the large population, and extensive religious temples and rituals. Farmers were drawn from their fields into urban craft production for a growing trade network. The construction of religious architecture is evidence of its importance as the center of religion. Pyramids built along the central avenue were dedicated to the sun, moon, and other gods. Tenochtitlan was laid out in the shape of a puma and also developed breakthroughs in agriculture such as chinampas.
The Maya cosmos was divided into three layers connected along a vertical axis that traced the course of the sun. Human existence held an intermediate position between the heavens and the underworld. A sacred tree rose through the three layers; its roots were in the underworld and its branches reached to heaven. The pyramids were sacred mountains reaching into the heavens.
Mayan cultural and technological contributions built on contributions from the Olmec, including the calendar, writing systems, and mathematics. The Mayan calendar tracked the ritual cycle and the solar calendar. Mathematical developments included the concept of zero and place value. The writing system was a form of hieroglyphic inscription, and Mayans used tree bark and deer skin for paper.
The Maya had established city-states which were united by culture but not by a common political or military system. They had artistic, agricultural, and architectural...