The Olmec culture flourished from about 800 B.C. to A.D. 600. Although its origin remains a mystery many scholars consider this to be the oldest culture in Mexico. The Olmecs developed a system of hieroglyphic writing and they formed the basis for the early city culture of Teotihuacan.

The city of Teotihuacan arose between the 6th and 3rd century B.C. in the Valley of Mexico. Its great buildings were so impressive that the inhabitants of the city became known as the Toltecs, the Aztec word for "master builders".

Teotihuacan was destroyed ca. 900 A.D. and abandoned; the Toltecs moved south and established their new center at Tollan. One Toltec tribe, the Itzas, moved all the way to the Yucatan and merged with the Maya population to form the important centers at Chichen Itza and Mayapan.