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Does North America Hold the Roots of Mesoamerican Civilization?

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Science  23 Dec 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6063, pp. 1620-1621
DOI: 10.1126/science.334.6063.1620

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High pyramids and great plazas are the hallmarks of ancient Mesoamerica, from the 3000-year-old Olmec cities along the Gulf of Mexico to the inland metropolis of Tenochtitlan encountered by the Spanish conquistadors. Yet the oldest examples that call to mind this familiar style are found nearly 1000 kilometers to the north in the muddy bayous of Louisiana. Five millennia ago, Native Americans here began to build high mounds of earth flanked by flat plazas that resemble Mesoamerica's classic architecture. A small band of archaeologists suspect that these ancient settlements laid the foundation not only for the North American mound-building tradition that eventually culminated in the great city of Cahokia (see main text) but perhaps also for Mesoamerican civilization.