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Ancient Civilizations of Latin America

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Ancient Civilizations of
Latin America
Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas
The Mayan Civilization
The Mayans were a very advanced culture
during the period of 250 A.D. – 900 A.D.
 Historians classify the Mayan society to
that of Greece and Rome
 Mayans had a written language, studied
astronomy, mathematics, and built
intricate cities
 This civilization centered on the Yucatan
Peninsula

Yucatan Peninsula
Copan: A Mayan City
Located in the present day country of
Honduras
 Population 20,000 people
 The city was very densely populated –
small land area
 Hundreds of buildings that would range
from grand temples to grass huts

Pokta-Pok
This Mayan game was a cross between
soccer and basketball
 Very large spectator sport
 Often times losing team was sacrificed to
the Gods as worthy warriors
 No hands, full pads, goal was to get the
ball through a stone hoop

Cash Crop
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Economy largely based on agriculture
What is maize?
Yum Kax, maize god, was to have created the
Mayans from maize dough
Other crops included beans, squash, peppers,
avocado, and papaya
Top delicacy came from the cacao tree.
What does this tree produce?
Mayans also hunted native game
Boys vs. Girls
Boys were removed from their homes in
their early teens to live in group homes
 In these group homes, boys were taught
to be warriors, and learned to play PoktaPok
 Girls stayed at home with their mothers to
learn how to cook and take care of the
home

Hierarchy of Mayan Society
What is a hierarchy?
 Kings
 Warriors
 Wealthy Farmers
 Merchants
 Average to Poor Farmers
 Slaves (POW’s)

Monotheistic or Polytheistic?

Three Worlds:
– Upper World
– Middle World
– Under World

Studied astronomy as part of their religion
– Allowed them to create a calendar

Hundreds of gods
Fall of the Maya?

If they were so powerful, and such a great
society, what happened to them?

Answer: Who knows…
The Aztec Empire: In the
Beginning…
The Aztecs, originally the Mexica, traveled
throughout present day Mexico searching
for a suitable home (This is where Mexico
gets its name today)
 Some believe that many were the last of
the Mayans
 They finally arrived at Lake Texcoco
 In the middle of this lake, there was an
island…

The Aztec Empire: In the
Beginning…(cont’d)
On this island a sign from the heavens
was received…
 What sign can you imagine was seen?
 This sign was an eagle who flew from high
in the sky and landed on a cactus and
began eating a snake…this sign was
interpreted as the gods informing the
Aztecs to settle there
 Good Choice???

What a bum deal from the Gods…
The island that would eventually become the
great city of Tenochtitlan, was nothing but
swamp land…good for nothing
 What are Chinampas?
 Chinampas are human made islands (see page
162 in your textbook)
 Reeds were tied together, then fertile lake mud
was piled on the reeds, allowing the Aztecs to
create fertile islands for farming in the swamp
lands they called home

Cash Crop
The most important crop was…Corn
 Other crops were squash tomatoes, chili
peppers, and edible flowers.
 3 out of every four Aztecs were farmers
 Others worked in the construction of
buildings and causeways
 They also raised turkey, ducks, geese, and
dogs for food

Tenochtitlan
One of the grandest cities seen by any of
those that witnessed it at its peek in
relation to any of the great cities of
Europe.
 Gold was plentiful and used in many
fashions to beatify the city
 Very large, and open all night!

Life of War and Sacrifice
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“There is nothing like death in war”
Only blood can nourish the Sun God
30,000/year
2,500/month
625/week
89/day
3/hour
1 every 20 minutes
Every male served as warriors – regardless of
standing
The Fateful Dream…
Montezuma the powerful king of the
Aztecs has an ironic dream of the Sun God
coming to visit him by sea.
 The ironic part of this dream is that on the
same day the Sun God was to come,
Hernan Cortes came to visit the Aztecs
from Spain
 Cortes was treated as a god

Taking advantage of the situation…
Cortes realizing that he was being
welcomed as a king, took advantage of
the situation
 Once believing that conquering the Aztecs
would be difficult, he now knew he had
things easy
 Cortes took all the riches for the most part
without a fight

Disease Takes Hold
Not only did the Aztecs have to deal with
disadvantage of the Spaniards metal
weapons and defenses, but disease also
took a terrible toll on the Aztec people
 Without having built up tolerances against
certain European diseases and sicknesses,
the Aztecs immune systems were unable
to fight anything off

The Inca Civilization
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If you were told that the Inca were very similar
to te other two cultures we discussed, answer
the following questions…
Were the Incas monotheisitc, or polytheistic?
What was the main crop of the Inca?
What natural resource do you think the Inca had
ample amounts of?
Who was the most important god to the Inca?
Answers
Polytheistic
 Corn
 Water
 Sun God – The Inti

A civilization in the mountains…
The Inca civilization was based out of the
Andes Mountains.
 Agriculture was a huge part of Inca
society
 Every year the Inca emperor would in
ceremonial fashion take the first cut into
the land with a plow of pure gold
 How would people in the Andes Mountains
farm?

Answer

The Inca developed a terrace system on
the side of the mountains where they lived
(check out textbook page 164).
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