Mesoamerican Royal Tomb (04:48)
In 2010, archaeologist Tom Garrison discovered a hidden burial chamber in a Maya temple in Guatemala. It contained the remains of six sacrificed children. He has also uncovered a defensive structure in the surrounding jungle—suggesting an ongoing war cycle.
Guilá Naquitz Cave (02:48)
The first Mesoamerican civilization developed in Oaxaca, Mexico. Archaeologist Jeff Rose visits the location where hunter-gatherers transitioned to farming by domesticating teosinte, a precursor to maize. Agriculture developed simultaneously around the world; farming tied humans to the land.
Defending Crops (02:55)
Rose flies over the Oaxaca Valley, where Mesoamericans first developed agriculture. Limited arable land led to conflicts worldwide. Groups raided neighboring villages to avoid starvation.
Destructive Creation (03:40)
Peter Turchin applies the Theory of Evolution to the study of human culture. He believes war drove the development of civilizations worldwide. Waging war requires sidelining self-preservation for the group's survival; the cycle of violence binds groups.
San José Mogote (04:34)
The Oaxaca Valley features three competing branches dominated by a fortified northern settlement. Archaeologist Yuki Hueda discusses a monument stone depicting prisoner sacrifice. Worldwide, the earliest writing recorded acts of war and conquest.
Peak of Historical Violence (01:36)
Turchin's Global History Data Bank across time and geography tests civilization theories. Evidence suggests the most violent period occurred during the agricultural revolution.
Monte Albán (03:54)
Archaeologist Mark Levine uses technology to virtually excavate the ancient city. A subterranean structure provides evidence of collaboration for monumental construction. Its mountaintop location suggests it was built for defense.
Zapotec Civilization (02:38)
Monte Albán became the first Oaxaca city-state; current valley residents are its descendants. Archaeologist Patricia Martinez demonstrates evidence of conquest carved on a monument.
Spread of Zapotec Culture (03:39)
Alex Padillo uses a drone to identify human structures within geographical features across the Oaxaca Valley. Ceramic vessels and rock carvings depicting a ball court match those found at Monte Albán.
Sport and War (03:35)
Learn about the Zapotec ritual ball game. Turchin discusses how soccer teams must balance competition and cooperation, to win. Throughout history, powerful civilizations have become complacent and given way to new groups.
Fall of Zapotec Civilization (04:22)
Obsidian spear points originating in another region suggest to archaeologist Marcus Winter that a larger group carried out a military attack on Monte Albán. Alejandro Pastrana discusses the use of obsidian in Mesoamerican weapons.
Teotihuacan Conquerors (04:15)
Obsidian atlatls provided the Mesoamerican civilization with a military advantage against the Zapotecs at Monte Albán. As war drove technological progress, civilization spread; larger societies needed allies to grow.
Spread of Teotihuacan Civilization (03:43)
After conquering Monte Albán, Teotihuacan expanded east to the Maya region. Architectural features and child sacrifice show El Zotz rulers adopted the Teotihuacano culture. This protected them against Tikal..
Fall of Tikal (04:28)
Maya texts describe a conquering Teotihuacano army in 378. This brought lasting regional peace, allowing culture to flourish in the Maya lowlands. The cycle of chaos, violence, and order has repeated across civilizations; war drives technological progress and binds groups.
Credits: First Civilizations: Part 1 (00:30)
Credits: First Civilizations: Part 1
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