The cultures of Mesoamerica and Central America have always interested me; I have always thought they were very similar, so much so that I wasn’t always sure about the difference between them. Because there are so many similarities between the different areas of the world it leads scientists to believe that they were influenced by each other. The Aztecs, Incas, and Mayans are the most well known of the Mesoamerican and Central American cultures, but the Olmecs, the people of Cahokia, and the Toltecs were also influential cultures.
When you look at the architecture of the Aztecs, Incas, Mayans, Olmecs, and in Cahokia you will notice many common features. All the different civilizations show a marker preference for “steps”. This is represented in both the mounds found in Cahokia and in the step temples and pyramids found in the other civilizations.
The steps used in these civilizations had a specific purpose. In many of these cultures religious reasons were a key factor in how buildings were built and where they were constructed. For example, the compass direction north was associated with death in many Mesoamerican cultures, so tombs and graves were constructed facing north. Also, the amount of steps built on each pyramid was very important, because the higher the building, the closer to their gods the priests became. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesoamerica).
Even in the civilizations of the Incas, whom aren’t well known for step pyramids, there are many different examples of “steps.” For instance, in the city of Machu Picchu, the entire construction site was made of a series of large steps so that the city wouldn’t fall down the mountain. The farms surrounding the city were also built using steps, or terraces, so that the growing soil wouldn’t slide down the mountain each time it rained. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inca_architecture).
One theory on the reason why these different civilizations are so similar is through the use of trade. This would make sense, as the people of Cahokia were great traders (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/198). It also makes sense for the people of Mesoamerica because their cultures were so far reaching.
Aztec step pyramid picture: http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://library.thinkquest.org/10098/media/aztec20.jpg&imgrefurl=http://library.thinkquest.org/10098/aztec.htm&h=156&w=300&sz=17&tbnid=TonwV32HM2_xNM:&tbnh=67&tbnw=128&zoom=1&usg=__JV_akiBhBtkcQF_-dIHsrkJW1V4=&docid=hq1w6mVOCPGa-M&sa=X&ei=bO8KUtvYIcugyQHK_4HYAw&ved=0CDcQ9QEwAg&dur=20
Cahokia mound picture: https://www.google.com/search?q=cahokia&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=BPoKUvlYx-DbBe3ZgKgE&biw=1236&bih=622&sei=BvoKUsbsKcPX2QWWqIHADA#facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=HMacHiakFVeyKM%3A%3Bh-lB1hLgyFYdiM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fscodpub.files.wordpress.com%252F2010%252F10%252Fcahokiamound.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fscodpub.wordpress.com%252F2010%252F10%252F11%252Fcahokia-north-americas-largest-woodhenge-temple-mound%252F%3B697%3B569