Week 7 Blog – Can’t Think of Something Clever for North America

When looking at the civilizations of North America proper, it is pretty clear to see the influence that Mesoamerica had on its culture. One of the largest was the use of mounds as either spiritual centers or as separation of the classes. Throughout North America, specifically the Mississippi River valley, mounds permeated the landscape for a multitude of reasons. Surprisingly, this is not the first time such mounds have appeared. At the Mesoamerican sites of Tres Zapotes and La Venta, both part of the Olmec empire, mounds and temples built of earth and clay were very prominent and central in these ancient sites. “The Great Pyramid” of La Venta is also the oldest of such temple mounds in the entire Western Hemisphere. It is very possible that between either trade or southern explorations, the North Americans could have discovered this site and brought the idea back to North America with them. As the cultures interacted, the idea of building temple mounds shoved its way into the already established religion of the time.

Trade between these North and Mesoamerica was not completely out of the question either. Though great distances would need to be traversed to reach one another, there is proof that it did in fact happen. As we know, another of the Mesoamerican empires, the Maya, and the Olmecs were situated around the Montagua river valley and made their living trading obsidian and jade (Week 6, Lecture 2). Obsidian is formed in volcanoes and very difficult to find elsewhere. How is it then that black obsidian, which dates back to this era, has been found in the Southeastern United States (http://www.public.asu.edu/~mesmith9/1-CompleteSet/MES-10-TradeEncyc.pdf)? There had to have been some sort of interaction between these two cultures for this material to end up so far away from where it was created. One could then infer that the pricelessness of the obsidian dazzled the North Americans and set them on the path to adopting further aspects of the Mesoamerican culture and religion.