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3.0 Introduction

Mesoamerica is a term used to describe the advanced societies of central and southern Mexico and the Yucatán and their pre-Columbian culture that radiated outside Mexico (in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Southern California) as the people of Mississippian culture of Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri and Ohio.

Horticulture (maize, squash, beans, etc.) developed in the Tehucán Valley in Mexico, including Mexico City, around 3,000 BC. Traces of many villages have been found. These early Mexicans built large houses made from quarried stone, traded in jade and made tool and weapons from obsidian, a volcanic glass. In some parts of Southern California the Encinitas culture based on fishing was replaced by a hunting culture with also some trading in shells and obsidian. Horticulture (maize, beans, and squash) started also at that time in Arizona and New Mexico. Farming techniques were similar to those found in the Valley of Mexico. Around 2,600 BC the Southeast settlements were mainly located in the river valleys and based on fishing. Cotton was cultivated at that time in Peru.

Also at that time (2,000 BC) corn became a staple crop in Mexico and Olmec trade flourished as agriculture yield improved. Beans, legumes, chilli peppers, avocados, gourds, squash, cocoa and cotton were produced in central and southern Mexico as well as in Yucatán. Here they produced crops unknown in Europe or in the Middle East at that time such as potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, chocolate, tapioca, vanilla, peanuts and many varieties of peppers. In around 1500 BC the Georgia and Florida Indians improved the pottery techniques and produced beautiful fired earthenware ceramics.

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The Olmec civilisation in Mexico was centred at Chalcatzingo and La Venta in about 1200 BC.

About 100 AD, people from Mesoamerica migrated north and settled in the Four Corners area of the Colorado Plateau (Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico), the mountains of New Mexico and central Arizona. They are known as three distinct people: the Hohokam, the Mogollon and the Anasazi.