In this concise, yet sweeping look at the origins and development of ancient New World civilizations, Richard Adams provides a superb introductory overview of these unique and fascinating cultures. Incorporating the latest breakthroughs in the study of the cultures of Mesoamerica and the Andes, Adams examines the development of the Olmec, Maya, Aztec, and Inca peoples, among others, from simple agricultural societies to urban civilizations with complex transportation networks, distinct social hierarchies, rich artistic and religious traditions, and writing systems that have defied anthropological investigation until recently.The question of why these thriving cultures collapsed so suddenly when faced with the European conquest is explored, as are comparisons with ancient Old World civilizations of the Middle East and Asia.
Richard E.W. Adams is professor of anthropology at the University of Texas. His many scholarly publications include Prehistoric Mesoamerica.