“Mesoamerican civilization: Complex of aboriginal cultures that developed in parts of Mexico and Central America before the Spanish before the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. This civilization and the Andean civilization in South American constitute a New World counterpart to those of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and China. Humans have been present in Mesoamerica from as early as 21,000 BC; a shift from hunting and gathering to agriculture, which began c.7000 BC as the climate warmed with the end of the Ice Age, was completed by c.1500 BC, The earliest great Mesoamerican civilization, the Olmec, dates from c.1150 BC. The Middle Formative period (900-300 BC) saw increased cultural regionalism and the rise of the Zapotec people. Civilizations of the Late Formative and Classical periods (lasting until c.AD 900) include the Maya and the civilization centered at Teotihuacan; later societies include the Toltecs and the Aztecs. See also Chichen Itza, Mixtec, Monte Alban, Nahua, Nahuatl language, Tenochtitlan, Tikal.”
Excerpted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.