Plan of the City of Copán (from Splendours)
This artist's rendering of the city of Copán clearly demonstrates
that Mesoamerican political, economic, and religious organization was centered
around the ceremonial city center. City-states, each with a capital city as its
power base, were established throughout Mesoamerica. Some were collectively ruled
under one dominant city-state, such as Tenochtitlán for the Aztec Empire.
Several pyramid-temples, a signature feature of Mesoamerican architecture, are
shown in the plan. Sunrise and sunset, the movements of the constellations, and
the appearance and disappearance of the moon, Venus, and other planets and stars
determined the orientation of the pyramids and their relation to other structures.
The structures themselves were built according to established patterns of religion
and were harmonized with the calendar, which was itself closely tied to religion.
For example, in Teotihuacán two stairways of the Pyramid of the Sun each
have 182 steps, for a total of 364 steps, plus the platform, to represent the
365 days of the solar calendar.
Surrounding the ceremonial center are fields of crops serving as the agricultural
base for the area. Corn, beans, and squash formed the foundation of agriculture
in Mesoamerica. Peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, cacao (chocolate),
peanuts, beans, squash, avocado, vanilla, and many fruits such as pineapple, papaw,
and mango, were also cultivated.