Previous posts in this discussion:
PostImages from Mexico City (John Eipper, USA, 12/23/14 5:19 am)
These photos of our Mexican holiday are a bit overdue, but I've been plagued by a weak Internet connection throughout much of our stay.
The last ten days have been marked by an intense regimen of tourism, as it is Sis-in-Law Justyna's first trip to this marvelous country and we want her to see everything. We return home early Thursday morning (Christmas day).
An Olmec head ("Cabeza colosal"), 1500-1000 BCE, Museo de Antropología, Mexico City, 18 December 2014
Basilica of Guadalupe, Mexico City. Behind me, on the Cerro of Tepeyac in 1531, the Virgen Mary is believed to have appeared to an indigenous peasant, (now Saint) Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin
On the Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacán, 19 December 2014. In the background: Pyramid of the Sun
Justyna Bialowas, John Eipper, Aldona Pobutsky, aboard a "trajinera" boat on the Xochimilco canals, 21 December 2014
Why Didn't the Mesoamerican Peoples Move North?
(Henry Levin, USA
12/24/14 6:10 AM)
I had a Fulbright at Universidad Metropolitana in Xochimilco in 1991, so John's beautiful photo from the canals (23 December) resonated with me.
One of the questions that arose in my mind is that if the Olmec sculpture goes back that far in history, how is it that those civilizations never reached the US heartland? Consider that many of these groups died out because of droughts and other natural events that limited their populations and probably created famines and epidemics. But the US heartland was rich with abundant rain most years, and the agricultural and hunting capacities to sustain large populations. Why didn't they migrate north to the land of plenty? I am too ignorant of all of this, with only knowledge of Jared Diamond on these issues.
JE comments: An excellent question, to which we could add my more general curiosity of why there were no pre-European "mega-cities" in the present-day United States. At its height in the 7th century, Teotihuacán had about 175,000 residents, making it the world's sixth largest city at the time. Yet we know very little about that civilization, its language, or even what the people called their city (Teotihuacán was a later Aztec/Mexica invention). By the late 8th century, the civilization was in ruins, with the region's hegemony passing to the Toltecs.
As to why none of the Mesoamerican civilizations wandered north, my guess would be the obstacles of inhospitable terrain and hostile, nomadic people. The Aztecs themselves moved south, as people from Michigan like to do: the Aztecs' legendary homeland, Aztlán, is in present-day Arizona.
One theory: when there is an abundance of game and food for the taking, there is no incentive to settle in one place, develop wide-scale agriculture, and pile up rocks to build a "great civilization."
(John Heelan, UK
12/26/14 4:40 AM)
When commenting on Henry Levin's post of 24 December, JE asked: "why there were no pre-European 'mega-cities' in the present-day United States?"
What about Cahokia, Illinois--Toltecs--from 600 AD onwards, reaching 15,000 people by the start of the first millennium and about the same size as London at the time?
JE comments: I'm glad John Heelan mentioned Cahokia. We even took a family trip there in the mid-1970s. (The Eipper home at the time was across the Mississippi in Missouri.) Some estimates put the peak population of Cahokia at 40,000 in the 12th century. This figure was not surpassed on US territory until Philadelphia in the 1780s:
Cahokia (Illinois) and Aztalan (Wisconsin)
(Mike Bonnie, USA
12/28/14 5:06 AM)
I appreciate John Heelan (26 December) having brought up the Cahokia people. Cahokia is the largest known settlement of the Original People in North America. The furthest northern known extension of the Cahokia is a settlement of mound-builders at Aztalan (near Lake Mills, Wisconsin), about 50 miles from where I live.
I submitted a post on the Aztalan site in 2005, to which WAIS's esteemed founder Professor Hilton responded: "Aztalan must be related to Aztlan, the mysterious ideal society which some Mexican-Americans wish to recreate in an independent country carved out of the American Southwest and California."
In reading John's post and the Wikipedia link to Cahokia Mounds, my attention was grabbed by the statement, "Historian David Richter notes that the apex of the city occurred during the Medieval Warming Period. This period appears to have fostered an agricultural revolution in upper North America, as the three-fold crops of maize, beans (legumes) and gourds (squash) were developed and adapted or bred to the north's temperate climates from their origins in Meso-America." The three-fold crops referred to are well known today.
JE comments: Aztlan is not just a modern political construct of the Chicanos, but also the legendary homeland of the Mexica peoples who founded Tenochtitlán (Mexico City). This is where the word "Aztec" originates. The Mexica did not call themselves Aztecs, by the way. This term came much later, probably in the 18th century.
- Cahokia (Illinois) and Aztalan (Wisconsin) (Mike Bonnie, USA 12/28/14 5:06 AM)
- Cahokia (John Heelan, UK 12/26/14 4:40 AM)