By Carl Waldman
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Nor were their stairways made of stone, but rather logs. And the temples themselves were made of pole and thatch. Smaller structures on mound terraces housed priests and nobles—the higher the dwelling, the higher the rank. Merchants, craftspeople, hunters, farmers, and laborers lived in surrounding huts, at times meeting in the central plazas to conduct their business. Mississippian Indians used a variety of materials from different regions—among them clay, shell, marble, chert, mica, and copper—to make tools, jewelry, and ceremonial objects.
Kaminaljuyu This ancient city-state in the highlands of present-day Guatemala, near the modern site of Guatemala City, was an outpost of Teotihuacán culture, with Teotihuacán-style architecture, although on a smaller scale. Moreover, the tombs of Kaminaljuyu contained luxuries from its parent city. The Teotihuacán connection to Kaminaljuyu probably stemmed from the city’s strategic location on the southern trade route and a plentiful source of obsidian nearby. Monte Albán Over the course of two millennia the mountaintop site of Monte Albán in Mexico’s Oaxaca region evolved from a ceremonial center to a civic center to a royal cemetery.
Alcoholic beverages were used in rituals, prophecy, and healing, but public intoxication was condemned. Of the so-called lost civilizations, that of the Aztec is best known because the Aztec Empire was still intact when the Spanish under Hernán Cortés reached Tenochtitlán and conquered the Aztec in the early 1500s. The Spanish sought to eradicate Aztec culture, destroying temples and pyramids, melting down sculptured objects into basic metals to be shipped back to Spain, and burning Aztec manuscripts.