The Ancient Americas: A Brief History and Guide to Research

The Ancient Americas: A Brief History and Guide to Research

The Ancient Americas: A Brief History and Guide to Research

The Ancient Americas: A Brief History and Guide to Research

Synopsis

Outlining the long and complex cultural history of Mesoamerica and the Incas, this volume places the last flowering of the Aztecs and Incas into their respective geographic and sociocultural frameworks. A final section offers a topically arranged bibliography of over a thousand entries. An essential reference.

Excerpt

The original version of this volume was part of a series of similarly constructed books about different sections of the history of central Europe and the Mediterranean area; it was the first attempt to transpose this concept to areas outside of Europe. The basic idea of the series is the combination of an overview presentation of historical situations and sequences (Part I, Delineations) with an overview of important questions and approaches to research (Part II). While Part I describes knowledge thought to be secure in a conclusive and very summary fashion and so can dispense with scholarly documentation, the overview of research in Part II is meant not only to characterize briefly the significant contributions to the state of knowledge but also to make problems and unsolved questions clear and accessible by indicating and commenting on contributions thought to be seminal. It is obvious that the selection of literature, its evaluation, and the subjects discussed will be subjective. Still, one's own position cannot dominate. Finally, the extensive bibliography allows the reader access to scholarly discussions of presentation and commentary.

Despite the adoption of the described concept of a historical handbook, an overview of the history of ancient cultures and states on the American double continent before the contact with Europeans clearly has to be different from one of certain areas in Europe, the Mediterranean, or even South and East Asia. These differences, which are reflected in the structure and mode of presentation in this book, have several causes:

The spatial and temporal framework . Ancient American cultures existed in an area which combined had a length of nearly ten thousand km; however, the two major sectors were separated by almost a quarter of this distance. A sense of the differences of ancient American cultures is conveyed by the fact that at the time of the Spanish conquest in this area the languages spoken belonged to at least seven different language families, which have no discernible relationship with each other. The uniformity that can be suggested by the term "ancient America," therefore, was not at all present, although similarities, even if they are often only superficial, should not be ignored. In time the discussed cultures reach back more than two thousand years.

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