We have begun to unravel the remarkable prehistory of Mesoamerica. The diversity of the geography and the common themes of the region demonstrate its importance in the history of civilization. Early interpretations about the ancient Mesoamericans are constantly being challenged and refined with new data and perspectives.
Once it was thought the Maya were peaceful while the central Mexicans were bellicose. The discovery of the graphic murals of Bonampak in 1945 squelched that idea forever. Teotihuacan was thought to have no writing systems, yet recent research has proposed that the large murals revealed on pyramid and platform facades are actually iconic glyphs. Writing systems were thought to have been confined to the Maya; however, now earlier systems are known.
Once the Mesoamerican environment, and especially the tropical Maya lowlands, were thought to have been stable so that any changes would have necessarily been caused by humans. Today, with new palaeoclimatic studies, it is clear that there has been significant climatic change and that the prehistoric cultural innovations and adaptations were more likely a response to, not the cause of, these changes. In addition, ever more precise laboratory methods have provided greater access to radiocarbon dating for settings that initially were thought to be impossible. These are but a few of the new developments that promise to challenge our current interpretations and bring more interdisciplinary thinking to the understanding of Mesoamerican prehistory.
See also: Americas, Central: Postclassic Cultures of Mesoamerica; The Olmec and their Contemporaries; Civilization and Urbanism, Rise of; Political Complexity, Rise of; Social Inequality, Development of.