Life In The New World Prior To European Contact

1370 words - 6 pages

Life in Latin America, also known as the New Word, prior to the Spanish had been completely different than life after the Spanish had arrived and conquered. Before the Spanish arrived in the New World, horses did not roam the land freely and empires killed citizens to ensure that the sun would rise. Before the Spanish arrived they had no knowledge of the New World or the groups of people who lived there. The Olmecs, Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas once inhabited the New World. These groups occupied the land until around the 1500’s when their empires fell or the Spanish took over; some civilizations disappearance still remains a mystery (Historic Mysteries, The History Channel). Prior to European contact, life in Latin America portrayed a duality because the indigenous Americans were knowledgeable and artistic yet violent and lacked erudition in technology.
In Latin America temples were built both for their rulers and also to perform human sacrifice. The significance of the temples extended past just religious rituals. One civilization, the Mayans, built temples that coordinated with the movement of the sun and stars, which required the Mayans to have an equipped understanding of the sky. Some of the temples built by the Mayans still exist one such temple would be the Temple of Kulkulkan.. According to the movie, Engineering an Empire, El Castillo, also known as the Temple of Kulkulkan, stated that this temple has four sides, two of which represent the equinoxes and two that represent the solstices. The Temple of Kulkulkan has 365 steps; one for each day of the year, which is also the time it takes the Earth to complete a full revolution around the sun. The Temple of Kulkulkan additionally was constructed with 52 panels to represent the 52-week cycle in a year. The knowledge the Mayans acquired about stars and the movements of stars was incredible. The Mayans obtained sharp astronomy skills as well as knowledge about math. In fact, the Mayans were the first civilization to possess a math system. They represented the numbers zero and the five before any other civilization. The Mayans depicted the number five with a -, dash. Numbers one, two, three, and four were each represented by a dot ("Maya Calendar"). Their way of recording numbers consisted of a concept similar to the tally marks we use today. An advanced concept for the time is still used today. Not only were the Mayans advanced, but other New World empires such as the Olmec were both advanced and creative also.
Empires flourished with various types of art before the Europeans arrived in Latin America. Some of their art included carvings, sculptures, and paintings. Many of these pieces of art provided historians’ evidence pertaining to these early civilizations, which occupied the land before the Europeans arrived. An example of their art is the 17th head rock sculpture. According to the movie, Secrets of the Ancient Olmec, Anne Cyphers found the 17th head, a rock sculpture, in 1994. Pieces...

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