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Word Count: 571
Mesoamerica comprises most of the lower region of Mexico and upper Central America It consists of a broad range of ecological environments from deserts grasslands and coniferous forests of the northern and central highlands to the dense tropical jungles and savannahs of the lowlands Much of its ecological diversity is due to great changes in altitude which can vary from sea level to nearly 6000 feet within a few hundred miles The regions profound differences in terrain fostered intense cultural heterogeneity In 1519 at the time of the Spanish Conquest Mesoamerica was the habitation of more than 20 distinct language groups However the environmental diversity also meant that not a single population could become utterly self-sufficient Early on highland and lowland people became reliant upon each other for the most basic commodities which lead to the establishment of extensive trade Similar to most inhabitants of the western hemisphere between 15000 and 5000 BC Mesoamerican people were hunters and gatherers until the domestication of plants especially corn beans and squash which provided them with surplus that allowed year-round settlements to thrive Most historians agree that towns cities and other basic cultural attributes associated with civilization emerged form these villages but the exact nature of the shift to full-time agriculture production remains the subject of considerable debate The traditional view based on investigations in Mexicos Tehuacan Valley is that agriculture first emerged I n the central highlands sometime between 5000 and 3000 BC as response to the need for stable food sources during a period of severe environmental deterioration Agriculture spread to the tropical lowlands and other parts of Mesoamerica only much later It is assumed that the disparity amongst rulers and ruled developed with the conjoined social powers by chiefs who controlled society by coordinating agricultural labor and oversee the storage and redistribution of the crop surpluses that ensured group survival against drought But the link between social inequality and agriculture may not have
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