Topics on the Page

Mayans

Location
Political Structure
Religious Practices
Use of Slaves
Teaching Resources........

Aztecs

Location
Political Structure
Religious Practices
Use of Slaves
Teaching Resources........

Incas

Location
Political Structure
Religious Practices
Use of Slaves
Teaching Resources........

Mayans (250-1697 AD)

The Governor of Olmec
The Governor of Olmec


Ancient Maya

  • Large elaborate cities with extensive agriculture and trade
  • Social class system of priests, nobles, officials, and common laborers and peasant farmers
  • Polytheistic religion (human sacrifice was part of religious rituals)
  • Extraordinary accomplishments in architecture, sculpture, painting, mathematics and astronomy
  • Development of calendar and writing system
Rotating_globe-small.gifConcept of zero allowed Mayans to express any whole number quantity using place notation (also used in Mesopotamia)
aztec-mayan-map.jpg
aztec-mayan-map.jpg

Map of Aztec and Mayan Location (Mayan in green, Aztec in orange)


The Mayans are probably the best-known of the classical civilizations of Mesoamerica.
  • Originating in the Yucatán around 2600 B.C., they rose to prominence around A.D. 250 in present-day southern Mexico, Guatemala, northern Belize and western Honduras.
  • Building on the inherited inventions and ideasof earlier civilizations such as the Olmec, the Maya developed astronomy, calendrical systems, and hieroglyphic writing.
  • The Maya were noted as well for elaborate and highly decorated ceremonial architecture, including temple-pyramids, palaces, and observatories, all built without metal tools.
  • They were also skilled farmers, clearing large sections of tropical rain forest and building sizeable underground reservoirs for the storage of rainwater where groundwater was scarce.
  • The Maya were skilled weavers and potters, and cleared routes through jungles and swamps to foster extensive trade networks with distant peoples.

Around 300 B.C., the Maya adopted a hierarchical system of government with rule by nobles and kings. This civilization developed into highly structured kingdoms during the Classic period, A.D. 200-900. Their society consisted of many independent states, each with a rural farming community and large urban sites built around ceremonial centers. It started to decline around A.D. 900 when - for reasons which are still largely a mystery - the southern Maya abandoned their cities. When the northern Maya were integrated into the Toltec society by A.D. 1200, the Maya dynasty finally came to a close, although some peripheral centres continued to thrive until the Spanish Conquest in the early sixteenth century.

Maya history can be characterized as cycles of rise and fall: city-states rose in prominence and fell into decline, only to be replaced by others. It could also be described as one of continuity and change, guided by a religion that remains the foundation of their culture. For those who follow the ancient Maya traditions, the belief in the influence of the cosmos on human lives and the necessity of paying homage to the gods through rituals continues to find expression in a modern hybrid Christian-Maya faith.

external image 200px-Hebrew_timeline2_rus.svg.png Click here for a timeline of the Maya civilization

Location

The ancient Maya civilization occupied the eastern third of Mesoamerica, primarily the Yucatan Peninsula. The Yucaton Peninsula is comprised of both a highlands and a lowlands. The lowlands primarily produced crops, which were used for the Mayans own personal consumption, the prime product being maize. They also grew squash, beans, chili peppers, amaranth, manioc, cacao, cotton for light cloth, and sisal for heavy cloth and rope. The Mayans scavenged the forest for foods including deer, turkey, peccaries, tapirs, rabbits, and large rodents such as the peca and the agouti. The volcanic highlands, however, were the source of obsidian, jade, and other precious metals that the Mayans used to develop a lively trade and stimulate their economy.[1]
How do Mayans affect today's life in their region?
mayan-ruins-tikal.jpg
mayan-ruins-tikal.jpg


Political structure

Nepotism, where leaders favor relatives or friends in positions, was the prevalent system the Mayans used. Kings passed down their positions to their sons. To be a king, one must have taken a captive in a war and that person is then used as the victim in his inauguration ceremony.[2]
Click here for a more detailed look at the Mayan political structure

Religious practices

The Mayans performed many rituals and ceremonies to communicate with their gods. At certain intervals, such as the Mayan New Year, or in times of emergency (such as famine, epidemics, or a great drought), the people gathered in ritual plazas to pray to the gods. Many ceremonies focused on sacrifices to gain the favor of the gods. These sacrifices took place on the great stone pyramids that rose above the plazas, with stairs leading to a temple and an altar at the top. For major events, the Mayans offered human sacrifices to the gods; usually children, slaves, or prisoners of war.[3]

Use of slaves

Slaves were at the lowest level of Mayan society. The slaves were made up of orphans, criminals, prisoners of war, other enemies, and the children of slaves. Slaves were not necessarily mistreated, but they had no privileges, provided almost all manual labor in Mayan society, and were the most common victims of human sacrifice.[6]

Sample Test Question
Which of the following accurately describes an important relationship between science and society in ancient Mayan civilization?
a) the distribution of wealth was based on statistical studies by Mayan mathematicians
b) the division of labor was based on public health recommendations by Mayan physicians
c) the location of religious temples was based on geologic studies by Mayan scientists
d) the annual agricultural cycle was based on astronomical observations by Mayan priests

Answer: D (Source: New Mexico Teacher Assessment Study Guide: Social Studies)

Click here for the daily life in the Mayan civilization
Multimedia.png
  • Click here to explore Mayan agricultural sites from National Geographic
  • Click here for the PBS site on "Lost King of the Maya"
  • Engineering an Empire: The Maya.


lessonplan.jpg
lessonplan.jpg

  • Click here for lesson plans and resources on the Mayans from Mr. Donn
  • Click here for a lesson plan on the Mayans
womens history.jpgClick here for new theories on women in Mayan culture

Aztecs (1248-1521 AD)

Pottery from the Aztec Ruins
Pottery from the Aztec Ruins




Rotating_globe-small.gifConquest of Mexico Paintings from Exploring the Early Americas: Explorations and Encounters, Library of Congress.Click

external image 200px-Hebrew_timeline.svg.png
external image 200px-Hebrew_timeline.svg.png
Click to view a timeline of Aztec civilization

  • Militaristic society that dominated the entire region
  • Organized into altepetls (semi-autonomous states with their own ruler, market, temple)
  • Rigidly stratified social class system, commoners could not enter nobility
  • Gender roles placed women in subordinate position to men; expected to work at home, weave textiles and raise children
: external image Essener_Feder_01.pngMontezuma

Aztec is a name that is used for a group of peoples in Central Mexico, but really there wasn't any one group that was "Aztec." The Mexican people were at the heart of the empire, but there were many other cultures that formed the civilization that the Spanish discovered.

  • Many years after the Mexican people first built their proud city, Tenochtitlan (later to become Mexico City), they formed an alliance with two other cities - Texcoco (Tetzcoco) and Tlacopan. This Triple Alliance ruled the Valley of Mexico until the Spanish arrived. However, over time Tenochtitlan become the most powerful. It would become the heart of the Aztec civilization.
  • Essentially, Aztec empire history is a history of city-states. As the empire expanded (which it began to do in earnest around 1428) it conquered more cities. Some cities resisted, but others were conquered and began to pay tribute.
  • How the empire was ruled: The city of Tenochtitlan was the military power, which spearheaded the conquest of new territory. But the Aztec emperor didn't rule every city state directly. Local governments would remain in place, but would be forced to pay varying amounts of tribute to the Triple Alliance (with most of the tribute going to Tenochtitlan).
  • The Aztecs didn't necessarily rule connected territories. Because they were conquering cities, they sometimes had power in "pockets" over an area.
  • Ruling through a local government ensured that the locals would keep the people happy, and that there would be stability and continuity. This system worked very well for the peoples of the empire.

Location

The South Central region of present day Mexico was home to the Aztec population. They lived in the highlands of Mesoamerica, in an area of basins separated by volcanic peaks and mountain ranges.[5] The entire Aztec civilization contained about 15 million people who lived in nearly 500 towns and cities. About 300,000 people lived in Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec world. In this famous city, the government controlled and were responsible to deal with taxes, punishment, famine, and market trading. Punishment in the city of Tenochtitlan was enforced for breaking any of the government laws. Offenders were enslaved and forced to do manual labor or, at times, sacrificed.[6]

Political Structure

The class system of the Aztecs was rigid and stratified. Those at the top enjoyed spoils and privileges, and those at the bottom struggled to live. The ruling class, the top level of social stratification, was divided into several categories according to function, importance, and standing. The tecuhtli , the dignitaries or lords, was applied to the highest level of the ruling class, consisting of the most important warriors, administrators or judges. These individuals were traditionally elected, but by the 16th century the election process evolved more into a presentation ceremony. Many of these individuals, however, reached their position through promotion according to merit. Each tecuhtli was responsible for a particular region and was the highest form of government in that region. Each district or calpulli had a calpullec, or chieftain, who was elected for life and was responsible for harmony within the community, staging council sessions, mediating debates and the like. The warriors of Mexica were highly admired and respected and were accorded such honor and privileges that most Aztecs wished to be warriors. [7]
Click here for more on the political structure of the Aztecs

Religious Practices

The Aztecs believed the sun fought darkness every night and rose again to save mankind. They believed the earth was flat. They believed that if they fed the sun blood, it would rise. They also believed in 13 heavens and 9 hells. Sacrifice was one of the main events in the Aztec religion. Priests made human sacrifices to make the sun god happy. Aztecs fought in wars to capture men to sacrifice. On God's Feast Day, they killed their slaves for the gods. Human sacrifices were offerings to the sun and earth so that food would grow.
Click here for a list of Aztec gods and goddesses
Click here for the legend of the five suns

Use of slaves

The Aztecs conquered many other tribes, allowing them to retain their own religion and government. However, these tribes were expected to supply the Aztecs with food, textiles, pottery and other items needed to support the nobles, priests and administrators of the city of Tenochtitlan, which numbered perhaps in the hundreds of thousands. In this way, the Aztecs conquered, but allowed their conquered peoples to maintain their autonomy. There were also slaves, which were generally well-treated. Slavery was not hereditary - the children of a slave were free. There were ways for a slave to gain freedom, such as purchasing it. Many captured slaves were sacrificed in religious rituals.

The fall of the Aztecs
http://www.aztec-history.com/fall-of-the-aztec-empire.html
Image: “Storming of the Teocalli by Cortez and His Troops,” 1848, painting by Emanuel Leutze
Image: “Storming of the Teocalli by Cortez and His Troops,” 1848, painting by Emanuel Leutze


womens history.jpgWhat about the women?
external image aztec-pyramid-1.jpg
external image aztec-pyramid-1.jpg

incamap.JPG
incamap.JPG

Incas (1197-1533 AD)

  • Largest indigenous empire in the Americas (boundaries extended as far as Ecuador, to central Chile and to Amazon basin)
  • Developed the most sophisticated political and administrative structures
  • Excellent road and communication system
  • Built terraces and stone aqueducts to support farming
  • State built on forced labor
  • Used every available fiber to create elaborate multicolored textiles and tapestries
  • Extensive mining for copper and bronze, gold and silver
  • Machu Picchu, city built on a mountain
  • Herman Brigham discovered the ruins in 1911


Inca Culture and Myths

Multimedia.pngClick here for a unique view of Macchu Picchu
Herman Brighman discovered Machu Picchu
Herman Brighman discovered Machu Picchu




Although the Incan Empire was large and advanced, it flourished for only a short time.
  • Starting around 1450 A.D., it lasted roughly a century.
  • In 1532, Francisco Pizarro and his men arrived from Panama during a time of civil unrest for the Inca.
  • Huayna Capac, the ruler of the time, had died and left his kingdom to his son Huascar.
  • Enraged, Atahualpa, Capac's other son, defeated and murdered his brother. Taking advantage of the weakness of a culture in civil war, Pizarro attacked and killed Atahualpa, signifying the end of the Inca Empire, then melted down all of his gold.

Location

The Incas were a mountain tribe of the Andes in South America. Today, the empire would have existed throughout Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and parts of Ecuador.

Political structure

Unlike the military empires in Central America, the Incas ruled by proxy. After conquering a people, they would incorporate local rulers into their imperial system, generously reward anyone who fought for them, and treated well all conquered people who cooperated. So, in reality, the Inca empire was not really an empire. It was closer to a confederation of tribes with powerful leader, the Incas, more or less in control. A royal family and his closest advisers ruled the Incas.[7] The government was very organized and kept records of everything. Although the Inca had no writing system, they had a complex method of counting called the quipu, a system for recording data using knotted cords.

Religious practices

Like the other ancient Mesoamerican civilizations, the Inca religion focused their religious rituals around agriculture. The Inca believed the cosmos consisted of the past, present, and future in three concentric circles. The Inca made daily offerings and had ritual sacrifices for special occasions.

Use of slaves

Although slavery was widespread in Aztec culture, the Inca did not widely practice slavery.

external image 200px-Hebrew_timeline.svg.png
external image 200px-Hebrew_timeline.svg.png
Click to view a timeline of the Incas

external image machu-picchu-peru.jpg
external image machu-picchu-peru.jpg


How much do your students know about the Inca? This Mysterious Inca Gamemight serve as a fun pre-test.


Image result for graph comparing incas mayans and aztecs
Image result for graph comparing incas mayans and aztecs



Sources
Columbia University, (2006). Asia for Educators. Retrieved February 26, 2007, from Sun Yatsen's "Three People's Principles." Web site: http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/china/modern/rd_bck.htm

Columbia University, (2006). Asia for Educators. Retrieved February 26, 2007, from “Reform to Revolution." Web site: http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/china/modern/rd_bck.htm.

Duiker & Spielvogel, William J. (2005). The Essential World History. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Group/Thomson Learning.

Columbia University, (2006) Asia for Edcucators. Retrieved February 27, 2007, Web site: http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/china/modern/back.htm.

Columbia University, (2006), Asia for Educators. Retrieved February 27, 2007, “The Opium War and Foreign Encroachment,” from http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/china/modern/opium.htm.

Columbia University, (2006), Asia for Educators. Retrieved February 27, 2007, “Introduction to China’s Modern History.” Web site: http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/china/modern/back.htm.

Columbia University, (2006), Asia for Educators. Retrieved February 27, 2007, “Introduction: Rebellions and Revolts,” Web site:http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/china/modern/rbl tch.htm

Duiker & Spielvogel, William J. (2005). The Essential World History. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Group/Thomson Learning.

Preston, Diana (2000).The Boxer Rising. Asian Affairs. 31, 26-36.

[1] Welker, G Mayan Civilization. Retrieved February 14, 2007, Web site: http://www.indians.org/welker/maya.htm
[2] Welker, G Mayan Civilization. Retrieved February 14, 2007, Web site: http://www.indians.org/welker/maya.htm
[3] Fowler, W Maya Civilization. (1997). In Microsoft Encarta Online [Web]. Retrieved 2/13/07, from http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761576077_2/Maya_Civilization.html
[4] Lee, A (1997). Mayan Architecture. Retrieved February 14, 2007, Web site: http://library.thinkquest.org/10098/mayan.htm
[5] Aztec. Retrieved February 14, 2007, from Aztec Student Teacher Resource Center Web site: http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/cultural/mesoamerica/aztec.html
[6] Crystal, E Aztec Culture. Retrieved February 14, 2007, from Ancient and Lost Civilizations Web site: http://www.crystalinks.com/azteculture.html
[7] Hooker, R Incas. Retrieved February 14, 2007, Web site: http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/CIVAMRCA/INCAS.HTM
[8] Crystal, E Aztec Culture. Retrieved February 14, 2007, from Ancient and Lost Civilizations Web site: http://www.crystalinks.com/incan.html
[9] (2006). The Inca Economy. Retrieved February 14, 2007, from Inca: The Kings of South America Web site: http://www.tqnyc.org/NYC062611/economy.htm
http://www.digitalmeesh.com/maya/history.htm
http://www.aztec-history.com/aztec-empire.html
http://www.aztec-history.com/aztec-culture.html
http://www.angelfire.com/empire2/ayllu/Incahistory.html