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Mesoamerica (sometimes spelled Meso-America) is a culture area that includes the part of Mexico and northern Central America that was home to high cultures or civilizations on the eve of the Spanish Conquest in the early sixteenth century. By "civilizations", we mean cultures that exhibit marked social complexity in the form of social stratification, economic specialization, urbanism, and centralized political authority that has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Other common and important characteristics of civilizations are long-distance trade, the use of writing, and militarism.
Mesoamerica is defined as a culture area because the cultures of the region shared certain important cultural patterns.