August 4, 2004
The cultures of the Americas and Oceania developed in relative isolation to the other early complex societies. Nevertheless, they too developed an agricultural base sufficient to support growing populations, specialized labor, political institutions, diverse societies, and long-distance trading networks. Less is known of these cultures than those in other parts of the world primarily because either writing systems did not develop or written documents perished or were destroyed. The fragments of writing and archeological findings indicate that these societies were complex and developed rich cultural traditions. The early societies in the Americas • Built elaborate ceremonial centers that reflected both a complex religion and a powerful political authority • Left a rich artistic legacy that included pottery, sculpture, metalwork, and painting • Developed sophisticated knowledge of astronomy and mathematics The early societies of Oceania • Saw the gradual dissemination of agricultural technology spread by Austronesian seafarers who traded and settled throughout the Pacific • Formed a well-integrated society known as Lapita that stretched from New Guinea to Tonga
1. Early Societies of Mesoamerica
A. The Olmecs 1) Migration to Mesoamerica a. Large wave of humans traveled from Siberia to Alaska around 13,000 B.C.E. b. By 9500 B.C.E., humans reached the southernmost part of South America c. As hunting became difficult, agriculture began (7500 B.C.E.) 2) Early agriculture: beans, squashes, chilis; later, maize became the staple (5000 B.C.E.) a. Agricultural villages appeared after 3000 B.C.E. b. No large domesticated animals, no wheeled vehicles 3) Ceremonial centers by the end of the 2nd millennium B.C.E. 4) Olmecs, the “rubber people,” lived near the Gulf of Mexico (1200 B.C.E. ) a. Elaborate complexes built b. The colossal human heads--possibly likenesses of rulers c. Rulers’ power shown in...