Lady of Cofitachequi: Cofitachequi was a paramount chiefdom encountered by the Hernando de Soto Expedition in South Carolina. They encountered the Chiefdom of Cofitachequi in April of 1540, at the Mulberry Site, a large platform mound at the junction of Pine Tree Creek and the Wateree River, near present-day Camden. Paleo-Indians: First Americans. Nomadic hunters of game and gatherers of wild plants, they spread throughout North and South America, probably moving as bands composed of extended families. The Mayas: Developed approximately two thousand years ago. On the Yucatan Peninsula, in today’s eastern Mexico, the Mayas built urban centers containing tall pyramids and temples. They studied astronomy and created and elaborate writing system. Their city-states, though, engaged in near-constant warfare with one another. Warfare and an inadequate food supply caused the collapse of the most powerful cities by 900 C.E., thus ending the classic era of Mayan civilization. By the time Spaniards arrived 600 years later, only a few remnants of the once-mighty society remained. Teotihuacán: Founded in the Valley of Mexico about 300 B.C.E. became one f the largest urban areas in the world, housing perhaps 100,000 people in the fifth century C.E. Teotihuacán’s commercial network extended hundreds of miles in all directions; many people prized its obsidian (a green glass), used to make fine knives and mirrors. Pilgrims traveled long distance to visit Teotihuacán’s impressive pyramids and the great temple of Quetzalcoatl—the feathered serpent, primary god of central Mexico. Moundbuilders: Indian peoples of the Ohio River valley who sustained some large settlements after the incorporation of corn during the first millennium A.D. The Anasazi: New Mexico tribe that destroyed a region with deforestation Cahokia: The Mississippian culture flourished in what is now the midwestern and southeastern United States. Relying largely on maize, squash, nuts, pumpkins, and venison for food, the Mississippians lived in substantial settlements organized hierarchically. The largest of their urban centers was the City of the Sun (now called Cahokia), near modern St. Louis. Located on rich farmland close to the confluence of the Illinois, Missouri, and Mississippi Rivers, Cahokia, like Teotihuacán and Chaco Canyon, served as a focal point for both religion and trade. At its pea (in the eleventh and twelfth centuries C.E.), the City of the Sun covered more than 5 square miles and had a population of about twenty thousand—small by Mesoamerican standards but larger than any other northern community, and larger than London in the same era. Although the Cahokians never invented a writing system, these sun-worshippers developed an accurate calendar, evidenced by their creation of a woodhenge—a large circle of tall timber posts aligned with solstices and the equinox. The city’s main pyramid (one of 120 of varying sizes), today called Monks Mound, was at the time of its construction the third largest structure of any description in the Western Hemisphere; it remains the largest earthwork ever built anywhere in the Americas. It sat at the northern end of the Grand Plaza, surrounded by seventeen other mounds, some used for burials. Yet 50 following 1250 C.E. the city was abandoned, several decades later after a disastrous earthquake. Archaeologists believe that climate change and the degradation of the environment, caused by overpopulation and the destruction of nearby forests, contributed to the city’s collapse. The Aztecs: The Aztecs’ histories tell of the long migration of their people (who called themselves Mexica) into the Valley of Mexico during the twelfth century. The uninhabited ruins of Teotihuacán, which by then had been deserted for at least two hundred years, awed and mystified the migrants. Their chronicles record that their primary deity, Huitzilopochtli, directed them to establish their capital on an island where they saw an eagle eating...
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