Saturday 26 March 2016

People Of The Jaguar

The first great civilization of Mesoamerica and South America rivaled those of Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt and China. In Mesomerica, the Olmecs  established a blueprint for later cultures in the region. At the heart of Olmec belief was jaguar-worship, which they shared with their South American counterparts.

One of the first cities in the Americas was Caral, 125 miles north of modern Lima. The city, which was well established by c.2500 BC, included pyramid structure built around the same time as those at Giza, Egypt.

Caral Excavations 

The years between about 1500 and 900 BC saw first real stirrings of modern advanced civilization in Mesoamerica - the Olmecs. They established themselves in the humid, fertile lowlands of South Mexico.

The first important Olmec center was San Lorenzo which was at it's height between 1200 and 900 BC and had a population of around 1,000. The other important Olmec center was La Venta which lasted between 900 and 400 BC.

The Olmecs are famed for their huge stone head sculptures, which were up to several meters tall and about 20 tons in weight. With distinctive flattened features, they are probably connected with Olmec gods.

Giant head sculptures 

To the south, the Peruvian Chavin culture began to develop in the Andes region around 1000 BC, and then along a great strip of Peruvian coast. Chavin de Huantar was a major cultural center.

Several well preserved panels depicting jaguars - important in Andean culture as well as Mesoamerican- have been found at  Chavin de Huantar. They would have surrounded the impressive main plaza of this interesting site,

Chavin jaguar imagery

Maya culture arose from Native American settlements in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and Central America. Significant early developments were taking place around 600 BC, and the culture had established itself by around 200 BC.

Chavin culture was declining by 200 BC but the jaguar remained important to the Maya culture, and also to the much later Aztecs.

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