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North America: Central America

Central America Images Index

<AmericaCentralLarge.html> A larger map of Central America.
<AmericaCentral2Large.html> The largest map of Central America. (182kb)
<AmericaCentralPanamaCanal.html> Perspective Image of the Panama Canal. (185kb)
<AmericaCentralWater.html> Central America Map - with Rivers and Lakes Included.
<AmericaNorth600.html> The index map for Central America's region: North America.

North America (map)

Full color elevation map of Central America.
Click here to return to the main North America map.

Click here for a larger map of Central America.
Or click here for the largest map of Central America. (182kb)

South America (map, 135kb)

NASA/JPL/NIMA. “WorldSRTM-noPoles-giant” Online Image. Earth Observatory. 16 May 2005 <>

North America: Central America

This image was created from a larger Public Domain world map produced from data obtained by NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM). The world map was cropped to the Central America and resized to 600 pixels wide using a trial version of Adobe Photoshop. Using Google's free Picasa2 program, the color and lighting were then enhanced and finally sharpened to obtain the image above. The original image can be viewed at the NASA link above.

Central America (or Mesoamerica) was the heart of American cultural advancement until the time of Columbus. The earliest chiefdoms emerged around 1200BC among the Olmec culture of the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. In 800BC the Mayan culture completed its expansion across the entire Yucatan Peninsula which they would dominate until 1492AD. Only three scripts have been developed independently on Earth, the third and final script emerged among the Zapotec culture of the Oaxaca Valley in southern Mexico around 800BC; it would become the basis of the Mayan alphabet, the only fully functional pre-Columbian alphabet in the Americas. Their achievements in math and astronomy were amazing given their social and technological advancement. However, the Sumerians and Egyptians also accomplished feats little short of miraculous given their technology and it is perhaps overstating Mayan achievements to consider them much advanced from these early civilizations.

The Zapotec city state, Monte Alban, was the first state to emerge in the Americas around 400BC. It was eventually replaced by the city state of Teotihuacán around 100AD, located in the Valley of Mexico. (the present site of Mexico City) which peaked around 300AD. Teotihuacán was the only city state to exert influence across all of Mesoamerica, even the Mayans recognized their authority, and this was the “Classic Age” of American civilization when almost all states were hitting their peak. Yet despite the existence of the Zapotec script, records from this period are non-existent. To succeeding generations of Americans, it had no history to speak of. The only evidence of Teotihuacán is archaeological. Its fabulous ruins in the mountains ringing the Valley of Mexico so impressed the Aztecs that they gave the city a name in their language, Nahuatl, the only name it is now known by, Teotihuacán, “Place of the Gods”.

The subsequent decline of all these civilizations left a power vacuum. Around 1000AD, the barbarian Tolteca Chichimeca emerged from the deserts between Central and North America (in what is now Northern Mexico), and spread terror and devastation before them. The Toltecs are the earliest culture for which the Aztecs had even semi-historical legends of, attesting to the fact that they finally settled and began a brief but important cultural dominance over the lands of Central Mexico. In 1168AD their capitol, Tula, was sacked. The diverse states that succeed them were eventually unified by 1450AD into the Aztec Empire. The Aztecs were still in the process of expanding at the time Europeans arrived.

Author: chroniclemaster1 Date Received: 2006/01/02
Editor: chroniclemaster1 First Date Posted: 2006/01/02
Proofreader: chroniclemaster1 Last Date Revised: 2006/01/02
Researcher(s): chroniclemaster1
Subjects: Maps
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