The earliest human remains in Mexico are chips of stone tools found near campfire remains in the Valley of Mexico and radiocarbon-dated to c. 23,000 years ago. Mexico is the site of the domestication of maize and beans which caused a transition from paleo-Indian hunter-gatherers to sedentary agricultural villages beginning around 7000 BCE.
In the subsequentformative areas maize cultivation and cultural traits such as a complex mythological and religious complex, a vigesimal numeric system, were diffused from the Mexican cultures to the rest of the Mesoamerican culture area. In this period villages began to become socially stratified and develop into chiefdoms, and the development of large ceremonial centers.
Among the earliest complexcivilizations in Mexico was the Olmec culture which flourish on the gulf coast from around 1500 BCE. Olmec cultural traits diffused through Mexico into other formative era cultures in Chiapas, Oaxaca and the Valley of Mexico. The formative period saw the spread of distinct religious and symbolic traditions, as well as artistic and architectural complexes. In the subsequent pre-classical period,complex centers began to develop among the Maya with centers at Calakmul and the Zapotec at Monte Albán. During this period the first true Mesoamerican writing systems were developed in the Epi-Olmec and the Zapotec cultures, and the Mesoamerican writing tradition reached its height in the Classic Maya Hieroglyphic script.
In Central Mexico, the height of the classic period saw the ascendancy ofTeotihuacan which formed a military and commercial empire whose political influence stretched south into the Maya area and north. At its peak, Teotihuacan, containing some of the largest pyramidal structures built in the pre-Columbian Americas, had a population of more than 150,000 people. At the collapse of Teotihuacán around 600 CE, competition between several important political centers incentral Mexico such as Xochicalco and Cholula ensued. At this time during the Epi-Classic Nahua peoples began moving south into Mesoamerica from the North, and became politically and culturally dominant in central Mexico, as they displaced speakers of Oto-Manguean languages.
During the early post-classic Central Mexico was dominated by the Toltec culture, Oaxaca by the Mixtecand the lowland Maya area had important centers at Chichén Itzá and Mayapán. Towards the end of the post-Classic period the Aztecs of Central Mexico built a tributary empire covering most of central Mexico. The Aztecs were noted for practicing human sacrifice on a large scale. The distinct Mesoamerican cultural tradition ended with the Spanish conquest in the 16th century, and over thenext centuries Mexican indigenous cultures were gradually subjected to Spanish colonial rule.
Hernán Cortés and Xicotencatl II as depicted in History of Tlaxcala
The Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire began in February 1519 when Hernán Cortés arrived at the port in Veracruz with ca. 500 conquistadores, and later moved on to the Aztec capital. On his search for gold and otherriches, Cortés decided to invade and conquer the Aztec empire.
The ruler of the Aztec empire upon the arrival of the Spaniards was Moctezuma II, who was later killed; his successor and brother Cuitláhuac took control of the Aztec empire, but was among the first to fall from the smallpox epidemic a short time later. Unintentionally introduced by Spanish conquerors, smallpox ravagedMesoamerica in the 1520s, killing more than 3 million Aztecs. Other sources, however, mentioned that the death toll of the Aztecs might have reached up to 15 million (out of a population of less than 30 million). Severely weakened, the Aztec empire was easily defeated by Cortés and his forces on his second return. Smallpox was a devastatingly selective disease—it generally only killed the...