The first known indigenous society in Mexico was that of the Olmecs. These people flourished in what is now the Gulf state of Tabasco until about 400 BCE, and they are the forerunners of all the advanced societies in Mesoamerica.
The Teotihuacan people constructed a city of the same name near Mexico City between 100 BCE and 700 CE, the largest pre-Columbian city in the Americas. Warring tribes overthrew the empire in the 7th century, but their influence is evident in later Mayan and Veracruz cultures.
The Mayans flourished in southern Mexico and Central America between 250 and 900 BCE. Along with cities,such as Chichén Itzá, and a complex society, they developed a calendar, writing system, and a centralized religion. The society encountered problems in the 10th century, probably from overpopulation and overuse of resources, and they abandoned many of their cities.
As the Mayan society was collapsing, the Toltec civilization was beginning to build its own cities in central Mexico. Evidence suggests that the Toltecs practiced human sacrifice, offering captured enemy warriors to their gods.
The Aztecs rose to power in central Mexico around 1427. Working with the Toltecs and remaining Mayas, they conquered other groups until they controlled 5 million people from the Pacific to the Gulf Coast. The empire consisted of many self-supporting units called Capulli, each with their own schools, governing council, temple and army. The Aztecs participated in elaborate religious ceremonies influenced by earlier civilizations. Hernán Cortés arrived with his troops in 1519, and by 1574, Spain controlled most of the former Aztec empire and had enslaved much of the indigenous population.