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Mexico: Ancient Peoples and Places

af Michael D. Coe

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466552,376 (3.8)4
"This authoritative volume has been revised throughout and expanded, with new images and accounts of the major discoveries of recent years. Updates begin with the earliest periods: one of the enduring puzzles surrounding Mexican prehistory, the origins of maize farming, has at last been solved. There are insights into the latest finds at the Olmec sites at Chiapas de Corzo and Zazacatla. The classic city of Teotihuacan continues to yield discoveries, changing the way we look at this major site. The Post-Classic Huastec people are covered in greater detail. And the unearthing of burial deposits in the center of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan has led to a new understanding of the history and symbolism of this hallowed area."--Page 4 of cover.… (mere)
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For the purposes of this book, "Mexico" means Mesoamerica west of the Maya area, so approximately the central and southern bits of the modern country, minus the Yucatan.

This is then an overview of the archaeology and history of this region before the arrival of the Spanish. It mostly tries to give a consensus view, though in some instances it comes down firmly on one side or another on controversial issues, such as insisting on the priority of Tula over Chichén Itzá.

I found it quite useful.
  AndreasJ | Jan 21, 2024 |
This is the first book I read to try to make up for my ignorance of Mexican history and culture. It reads like a textbook but has plenty of good illustrations which brought home the highly developed indigenous cultures of Mexico before the Spanish. I now understand much more about the Aztecs and the other indigenous peoples than I did before. I found this book an excellent introduction to pre-Conquest Mexico. ( )
  nmele | Dec 18, 2022 |
This splendidly illustrated book covers the history of Mexico from the earliest hunters through the fall of the Aztec empire. Coe and Koontz show how the defining elements of Mesoamerican culture were first established by the Olmecs, then elaborated by the successive civilizations of the Toltecs and the Aztecs. Those elements included urban centers; monumental sculpture; worship of a core group of gods (Rain God, Sun God, Moon God, and Maize God); the cultivation of maize, squash, amaranth, and chili peppers; human sacrifice, etc.

Among the many interesting sections of the book, the discussion of the development of maize cultivation in the “Early Hunter” phase of Mexican culture (prior to 1800 BC) is valuable, as is the discussion of the rise of the Toltecs. The Aztecs get the most space in this volume, as their warrior culture is the best documented and in many respects marks the culmination of Mexican cultural trends. See also the chronological table on p. 244. ( )
  barlow304 | Aug 16, 2013 |
Michael Coe and his book on "Mexico" in the Ancient Peoples and Places series I must admit was boring the first half, it improved dramatically in the second half when it began talking about the Formative Period. The main civilizations of the middle and southern Mexican regions were in order, the Olmec, Monte Alban I, Izapan these falling in the Formative Period roughly 1500 BC to 300 AD. Then came the Classical Period 300-900 AD and the civilization of the Teotihuacan, the classic Veracruz civilization, and classic Monte Alban. This was the Mexican golden age. Art and Science reached their highest refinement and literacy was widespread. Then came the Post-Classic Period and the rise of the early Militarists, a period divided into early and late and spanning the years 900-1524 AD. You have the Toltecs, the Zapotecs, the Mixtecs, and finally the Aztecs. Quite frankly I found the post-classical period the most interesting by far and the Aztecs at the top of that pile. Here is a group of people who from the deserts in the North enter into the historical picture as vagrants despised by all the civilized peoples of Mexico. The people of Colhuacan finally allowed them to work their lands as serfs and even allowed their chief to marry a Colhuacan princess, whom they sacrificed instead. So for this act they were driven out of the land. From there they wandered the land living a hand to mouth existence, until they came to a great lake and they seen an eagle on a cactus holding a snake in its mouth. This was a fulfillment of one of their prophecies and there they bult their city. They prospered as mercenaries in the armies of the Tepanec Kingdom of Atzcapotzalco ruled by Tezozomoc. Tezozomoc gave the Aztecs their first king, Acamapichtli (1367-87). Itzcoatl the fourth king went to war and overthrew their overlord, the Tepanecs, thereby becoming the greatest state in Mexico. From there the kings' who followed continued the expansion of the empire until the ill-fated Moctezuma II.
The Aztecs created an incredible empire and the economy ran on mainly barter items. There was no money. Cocoa beans, quills with gold dust, and manufactured items pretty much was the coin of the day. Furthermore tribute was the grease which kept the wheels of empire wet. From Maize, beans, sage seed, and grain amaranth, cotton cloaks and war constumes, amber and feather headdresses, such was the tribute which flowed into the capital and outwards once again to pay and supply soldiers. The Spanish were intrigued with the exactness of the system, no doubt wondering how to use it for themselves LOL!
Although not much of the poetry or songs were presented in the book there were a few short pieces included. Who can deny the sweetness of the following pieces........
The battlefield is the place:
where one toasts the divine liquor in war,
where are stained red the divine eagles,
where the tigers howl,
where all kinds of precious stones rain from ornaments,
where brave headdresses rich with fine plumes,
where princes are smashed to bits.
----- and -----
There is nothing like death in war,
nothing like the flowery death
so precious to Him who gives life:
far off I see it: my heart yearns for it!
---- then on attributed to a King Nezahualcoyotl of Texcoco
Even jade is shattered,
Even gold is crushed,
Even quetzal plumes are torn ......
One does not live forever on this earth:
We endure only for an instant!
Wow, such finality in thought and such passion for the joys of battle and death! Makes me want to find some translations of Nahuatl songs that still exist and revel in their thoughts about life and death, devotion and sacrifice. Lofty topics indeed!
Well that is a decent overview of that period, of course the Spanish came and wiped the Aztecs out. Now I know there are alot of people who want to blame the "white man" for destroying Indian civilization but to tell the truth, the Indians were quite capable, and did repeatedly, wipe out civilization after civilization on their own. The Spanish were simply another link in the chain of conquests which had been going on in this area for 2000 years or more. So to hell with the naysayers and whiners for the Aztecs themselves understood full well that the fruits of victory go to the strongest. Only this time it wasn't them. ( )
  Loptsson | Jun 23, 2009 |
Read 2017. ( )
  sasameyuki | May 8, 2020 |
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"This authoritative volume has been revised throughout and expanded, with new images and accounts of the major discoveries of recent years. Updates begin with the earliest periods: one of the enduring puzzles surrounding Mexican prehistory, the origins of maize farming, has at last been solved. There are insights into the latest finds at the Olmec sites at Chiapas de Corzo and Zazacatla. The classic city of Teotihuacan continues to yield discoveries, changing the way we look at this major site. The Post-Classic Huastec people are covered in greater detail. And the unearthing of burial deposits in the center of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan has led to a new understanding of the history and symbolism of this hallowed area."--Page 4 of cover.

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