Over the years I visited many sites with remnants of pre-Columbian civilizations in Central America and South America: Inca, Maya, Aztec, Teotihuacán, San Agustín civilization, Samaipata, Olmec, etc. See pre-Columbian timeline. Following are links to the pages for the various sites.

All pictures are © Dr. Günther Eichhorn, unless otherwise noted.

Olmec (1200 BCE - 100 CE)
From the Olmecs entry in Wikipedia: The Olmecs were the earliest known major civilization in Mesoamerica following a progressive development in Soconusco. They lived in the tropical lowlands of south-central México, in the present-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco. It has been speculated that the Olmecs derive in part from neighboring Mokaya or Mixe–Zoque. The Olmecs flourished during Mesoamerica's formative period, dating roughly from as early as 1500 BCE to about 400 BCE. Pre-Olmec cultures had flourished since about 2500 BCE, but by 1600–1500 BCE, early Olmec culture had emerged, centered on the San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán site near the coast in southeast Veracruz. They were the first Mesoamerican civilization, and laid many of the foundations for the civilizations that followed. Among other "firsts", the Olmec appeared to practice ritual bloodletting and played the Mesoamerican ballgame, hallmarks of nearly all subsequent Mesoamerican societies. The aspect of the Olmecs most familiar now is their artwork, particularly the aptly named "colossal heads". Between 400 and 350 BCE, the population in the eastern half of the Olmec heartland dropped precipitously

La Venta
La Venta (México)

Maya (750 BCE - 1250 CE) From the Maya Civilization entry in Wikipedia: The Maya civilization was a Mesoamerican civilization developed by the Maya peoples, and noted for its logosyllabic script—the most sophisticated and highly developed writing system in pre-Columbian Americas—as well as for its art, architecture, mathematics, calendar, and astronomical system. The Maya civilization developed in an area that encompasses southeastern México, all of Guatemala and Belize, and the western portions of Honduras and El Salvador. This region consists of the northern lowlands encompassing the Yucatán Peninsula, and the highlands of the Sierra Madre, running from the Mexican state of Chiapas, across southern Guatemala and onwards into El Salvador, and the southern lowlands of the Pacific littoral plain. The overarching term "Maya" is a modern collective term that refers to the peoples of the region, however, the term was not used by the indigenous populations themselves since there never was a common sense of identity or political unity among the distinct populations. The Archaic period, prior to 2000 BCE, saw the first developments in agriculture and the earliest villages. The Preclassic period (c. 2000 BCE to 250 CE) saw the establishment of the first complex societies in the Maya region, and the cultivation of the staple crops of the Maya diet, including maize, beans, squashes, and chili peppers. The first Maya cities developed around 750 BCE, and by 500 BCE these cities possessed monumental architecture, including large temples with elaborate stucco façades. Hieroglyphic writing was being used in the Maya region by the 3rd century BCE. In the Late Preclassic a number of large cities developed in the Petén Basin, and the city of Kaminaljuyu rose to prominence in the Guatemalan Highlands. Beginning around 250 CE, the Classic period is largely defined as when the Maya were raising sculpted monuments with Long Count dates. This period saw the Maya civilization develop many city-states linked by a complex trade network. In the Maya Lowlands two great rivals, the cities of Tikal and Calakmul, became powerful. The Classic period also saw the intrusive intervention of the central Mexican city of Teotihuacán in Maya dynastic politics. In the 9th century, there was a widespread political collapse in the central Maya region, resulting in internecine warfare, the abandonment of cities, and a northward shift of population. The Postclassic period saw the rise of Chichen Itza in the north, and the expansion of the aggressive Kʼicheʼ kingdom in the Guatemalan Highlands. In the 16th century, the Spanish Empire colonized the Mesoamerican region, and a lengthy series of campaigns saw the fall of Nojpetén, the last Maya city, in 1697.
Altun Ha
Altun Ha (Belize)
Cahal Pech
Cahal Pech (Belize)
Caracol (Belize)
Comalcalco (México)
Copán (Honduras)
El Mirador
El Mirador (Guatemala)
Lamanai (Belize)
Palenque (México)
Tikal (Guatemala)
Xochicalco (México)
Xunantunich (Belize)
Yaxhá (Guatemala)

Teotihuacán (100 BCE - 700 CE) From the Teotihuacán entry in Wikipedia: Teotihuacán is an ancient Mesoamerican city located in a sub-valley of the Valley of México, which is located in the State of México, 40 km (25 miles) northeast of modern-day México City. Teotihuacán is known today as the site of many of the most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids built in the pre-Columbian Americas. At its zenith, perhaps in the first half of the first millennium CE, Teotihuacán was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas, with a population estimated at 125,000 or more, making it at least the sixth-largest city in the world during its epoch.
Teotihuacán (México)

San Agustín (100 BCE - 900 CE) From the Wikipedia entry for San Agustín culture: The San Agustín culture is an archaeological culture found in Colombia. The site has been occupied since the 33rd century BCE. Several hundred monolithic sculptures have been found, dating from the 1st century CE to the 9th century CE. There is an ongoing scientific study into the culture's origins and nature. For its period, the San Agustín culture displays considerable development in agriculture, ceramics, goldsmithing, and sculptural art.
San Agustin, Colombia
San Agustín (Colombia)

Samaipata (300 CE - 1600 CE) From the Wikipedia entry for El Fuerte de Samaipata: El Fuerte de Samaipata or Fort Samaipata, also known simply as "El Fuerte", is a Pre-Columbian archaeological site located in Florida Province, Santa Cruz Department, Bolivia. It is situated in the eastern foothills of the Bolivian Andes and is a popular tourist destination for Bolivians and foreigners alike. It is served by the nearby town of Samaipata. The archaeological site at El Fuerte is unique as it encompasses buildings of three different cultures: Chané, Inca, and Spanish. The site of Samaipata was occupied as a ritual and residential area about 300 CE by the Chané of the Mojocoyas period (200 to 800 CE). They began shaping the great rock that is the ceremonial center of the Samaipata ruin. According to a 17th-century Spanish chronicler, Diego Felipe de Alcaya, the Incas, probably late in the reign of Tupac Yupanqui (ruled 1471-1493), began the incorporation of the Samaipata area into the empire. A relative of Yupanqui's named Guacane led an Inca army to the area and with elaborate gifts persuaded the local leader, whose title was Grigota, and his 50,000 subjects to submit to Inca rule. Guacane established his capital at Samaipata or Sabay Pata on a mountain top at an elevation of 1,900 m (6,230 ft). Samaipata means "the heights of rest" in the Quechua language spoken by the Inca.
Samaipata in Bolivia
Samaipata (Bolivia)

Inca (13th century - 1572) From the Inca Empire entry in Wikipedia: The Inca Empire, also known as the Incan Empire and the Inka Empire, was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. Its political and administrative structure is considered by most scholars to have been the most developed in the Americas before Columbus' arrival. The administrative, political and military center of the empire was located in the city of Cuzco. The Inca civilization arose from the Peruvian highlands sometime in the early 13th century. Its last stronghold was conquered by the Spanish in 1572. From 1438 to 1533, the Incas incorporated a large portion of western South America, centered on the Andean Mountains, using conquest and peaceful assimilation, among other methods. At its largest, the empire joined Perú, southwest Ecuador, western and south central Bolivia, northwest Argentina, a large portion of what is today Chile, and a small part of southwest Colombia into a state comparable to the historical empires of Eurasia. Its official language was Quechua. Many local forms of worship persisted in the empire, most of them concerning local sacred Huacas, but the Inca leadership encouraged the sun worship of Inti – their sun god – and imposed its sovereignty above other cults such as that of Pachamama. The Incas considered their king, the Sapa Inca, to be the "son of the sun."
Inca Empire in Bolivia
Inca Empire (Bolivia)
Inca Empire in Peru
Inca Empire (Perú)

Aztec (14th century - 1521) From the Aztecs entry in Wikipedia: The Aztecs were a Mesoamerican culture that flourished in central México in the post-classic period from 1300 to 1521. The Aztec peoples included different ethnic groups of central México, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica from the 14th to the 16th centuries. Aztec culture was organized into city-states (altepetl), some of which joined to form alliances, political confederations, or empires. The Aztec Empire, or the Triple Alliance, was an alliance of three Nahua āltēpetl city/states: México-Tenochtitlán, Texcoco, and Tlacopan. These three city-states ruled the area in and around the Valley of México from 1428 until the combined forces of the Spanish conquistadors and their native allies under Hernán Cortés defeated them in 1521. The Triple Alliance was formed from the victorious factions of a civil war fought between the city of Azcapotzalco and its former tributary provinces. Despite the initial conception of the empire as an alliance of three self-governed city-states, Tenochtitlán quickly became dominant militarily. By the time the Spanish arrived in 1519, the lands of the Alliance were effectively ruled from Tenochtitlán, while the other partners in the alliance had taken subsidiary roles.
Tlatelolco (México)
Tenochtitlán (México)

Page last updated on Sun Jun 26 22:57:46 2022 (Mountain Standard Time)

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