Early Americas

Early Americas

Early Americas

Olmec, Maya, Aztec, and Inca

Olmec- “mother Civilization”

Earliest known civilization

Central America

Live along coastal waters

Hieroglyphic writing

Farming- intercropping

Growing beans, squash, and corn in one mound

Maya (100 C.E.)

Central America

Located in rain forests-

challenge to clear lands

Hieroglyphic writing

# system- a symbol for zero

Calendar to track planting,

harvesting, flooding and


Maya Architecture

Chichen Itza- ceremonial complex

Temple of the Giant Jaguar in Tikal, honors the rain god.

Temple of the Inscriptions

In Tikal

1st Mayan temple used as a burial chamber for the ruler Pacal. He was the greatest known king of the Maya.

He deified himself by making his mother a goddess

MAYA Religion


Need to appease gods

Bloodletting and human sacrifice

Blood Debt-

needs to be paid because

one was created- human

Blood is sacred

Maya- Domain of the Gods

Caves- portals to the underworld

Chechem Ma-

Is a cave 120 feet deep, 820 feet long

remains found in the cave of

human sacrifice

Underworld- 9 levels

Above ground – 13 levels

Maya Math

Concept of zero

Use of multiplication

Square roots

Golden mean – proportion

Maya Downfall

Over population

Not enough land to produce food

Possibly droughts

Diseases from the arrival of the Spanish

Catholic friars destroy most Mayan records and documentation


Engineering an Empire – Aztecs

Empire located in lake Texcoco

Tenochtitlan- present day Mexico City


Aqueducts – twin tubes

Chinampas- floating islands for growing crops

Aztec Religion


Believe in human sacrifice to appease the gods- Aztec sacrifices were intense- remove heart from someone’s chest while it was still beating. Decapitation as well.

Skull racks to display skulls of those sacrifices

Smear blood of dead inside the temple walls

Believe sacrifices are needed and they call blood precious water, because it is the most precious gift

Aztec Beliefs

world has been created 5 times, destroyed 4

There were 9 levels of underworld

13 levels of heaven

4 creator gods

How you were on earth affected your afterlife

Mictlan- was paradise for the dead, but to get there one needed to go through 9 trials and it took 4 years

9 trials to enter Mictlan

1) cross a deep river, dogs were buried with their dead owners to guide them on this journey.

2) pass between two mountains which were joined together

3) climb an obsidian mountain

4) pass through icy wind that cut like a knife

5) pass through a place where flags waved

6) be pierced by arrows

7) pass among wild beasts which ate human hearts

8) pass over a narrow path of stone

9) reach this level where the soul found rest.

Mictlan continued

In order to make this trip, people were buried in a squatting position with items to help them on the way.

These included water, a dog and a jade bead to act as the dead person’s heart

Aztec Downfall

Spanish invaders lead by Hernando Cortez

Cortez had been welcomed by Aztec king Mochtezuma II

Cortez will take control of king and city


Cortez will destroy the city

Aztecs also die off from diseases of the Spanish

Inca (1400-1532)

South America – Peru

Andes Mountains

Capital City – Cuzco

Cuzco had palaces, temples, schools, gardens, public squares, aqueducts. The Temple of the Sun was in the center of the city. The city was guarded by a toll gate.

Inca – structure

Live in kin groups- called ayllu

Allyu were divided into small kin groups

Men marry women from other allyu

Conquer other peoples

Integrate the peoples into the empire

Machu Picchu- Inca city

Incan ruler

Sapa Inca or only Inca

Claims descent from the sun god

Lived as a deity among his subjects

Controlled education – therefore knowledge

Controlled produce

Regulated marriages

Monitored labor force

Most powerful person after the

ruler- was the priest of the

sun god.

Inca Aristocracy

3 groups

Close relatives of the ruler and previous rulers

More distant relatives

Leaders of groups conquered by Inca

Inca assimilate peoples into empire

Strategy- allow local leaders who have been conquered to serve as leaders but swear loyalty to the Inca ruler

Inca Warfare

Storm enemy forts

Use large infantry

Cut off access to food and water



Stones and sling shots

Stone spears

Noble Families

Life of luxury

Exempt from taxation

Could own land and Llamas

Had fine clothing

Boys went to school


Males between 25-50 must perform 2-3 months of labor each year

Households must contribute goods to the empire that were kept in storehouses

Boys – coming of Age- age 14

Boys must demonstrate physical and military skill

Boys ears will be pierced with gold disks. As they become men they wear earplugs of shell or metal which grow in size with their age.


Inca want to preserve bodies of the dead rulers and high ranking family members.

just like Egypt, except mummies are

usually in a sitting position and

are smoked to dry the body out

Inca- Master Builders

Stonework on buildings fit perfectly without the use of mortar.

They quarried their stone – which means they dug the stone from the ground and made huge pits in the earth.


Inca Agriculture

Use their environment- build terraces

Farm in the terraced steps

Incan roads

25,000 miles of roads

No wheeled vehicles

Foot travel


Language – only oral no written language

Quipu- knotted strings used for record keeping

Different lengths, colors, and off shoots have specific meanings

Skipped knots represented a zero

Different knots have different numeric units

Used in trade

used to record time, such as the length of a kings reign

It can not be used to record names

Must be supplemented by witnesses

Used for the census

Each town had a knot keeper

Inca religion


Gods demanded sacrifice

31 recorded human sacrifices

The Spanish effect

1528- Inca suffer from smallpox epidemic

Sapa Inca dies-infighting develops for control

1532 Francisco Pizarro arrived at this time of unrest

Pizarro met with Inca ruler Atahualpa who welcomed Pizarro

2nd day in Cuzco, Pizarro attacks- 7,000 Inca die

Pizarro captures Atahualpa, who agrees to pay a ransom of silver and gold. When the ransom is paid, Pizarro kills the Inca ruler

It took 20 years for the Spanish to have complete control over Inca empire

By 1551- over ½ the Inca population had died

Inca – Egyptian comparison

Sun god is important and royal families descend from the sun god


Divine leaders

Belief in an afterlife

Social classes

Building of pyramids

Smooth in Egypt

Step in Peru

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