WH Unit 8 - Pre-Columbian America

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8a - explain the rise and fall of the Olmec, Mayan, Aztec, and Incan empires
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The Olmecs
Geographical Location
Along Gulf Coast of Mexico
The Olmecs
Environmental Conditions:
Covered with swamps & rain forests
Hot and humid climate
The Olmecs
Rise of the Olmec:
Emerged around 1200 B.C. and thrived between 800-400 B.C.
The Olmecs
Civilization Rose Because:
Fertile river plains
Abundant resources of salt, tar, clay, wood, and rubber
The Olmecs
Urban Design:
Combined pyramids, plazas, and giant sculptures
Built thriving urban communities at sites such as San Lorenzo and La Venta
The Olmecs
Economy & Trade:
Largest trading network throughout Mesoamerica (Mexico City to the North and Honduras to the South)

Traded raw materials and various stones

Trade helped boost the economy and spread Olmecs influence
The Olmecs
Social Structure:
Had ruling class
Had nature gods
Worshipped Jaguar spirit
Prosperous people
The Olmecs
Reasons for Decline:
Unknown
- Because there are no records
The Olmecs
Legacy
"mother culture"
- Known as this because of their influence on other cultures

Left behind art styles, ceremonial centers, ritual ball games, an elite ruling class and stone symbols that may have led to writing

First known civilization builders in Mesoamerica
The Mayans
Geographic Location:
Yucatan Peninsula, SE Mexico, northern Guatemala
The Mayans
Environmental Conditions
Dry scrub forests in Yucatan
Dense jungles elsewhere
The Mayans
Rise of the Mayans:
Emerged around 250 and thrived between 250-900
The Mayans
Traits of Mayans:
Religious beliefs important
Theocracy
Independent city-states
Intensive agriculture
The Mayans
Civilization Rose Because:
They had a united culture
They were loyal to their king
They had a wealthy and prosperous culture
They were able to produce more food to feed a larger population
The Mayans
Reasons for Decline:
Many physical and human resources used for religious activities
Frequent warfare occurred between kingdoms
Population growth created a need for more land
The Aztecs
Geographic Location:
Central Mexico in the Valley of Mexico
The Aztecs
Environmental Conditions:
Several shallow lakes
Fertile soil
The Aztecs
Rise of the Aztecs:
Emerged around 1200 and thrived between 1400-1500s
The Aztecs
Traits of Aztecs:
Religious beliefs important
Theocracy
Powerful army
Empire of tribute states
The Aztecs
Civilization Rose Because:
They had a united culture
They were loyal to their emperor
They added lands through military conquest, power, and used prisoners for religious sacrifice
The adding of lands provided wealth
The Aztecs
Reasons for Decline:
Many physical and human resources used for religious activities

The need for prisoners changed warfare style to less deadly and less aggressive

Tribute states became rebellious and needed to be controlled
The Incas
Geographic Location:
Andes Mountain region branching out from Peru
The Incas
Environmental Conditions:
Highlands
Fertile soil in Valley of Cuzco
The Incas
Rise of the Incas:
Emerged around 1200s and thrived between 1450-1550
The Incas
Traits of Incas:
Religious beliefs important
Theocracy
Major road systems
Type of welfare state with a huge bureaucracy
The Incas
Civilization Rose Because:
They had a united culture
They were loyal to their emperor
The entire empire was connected and that aided control
They cared for the entire population during good and bad times
The Incas
Reasons for Decline:
Many physical and human resources used for religious activities

Enemies also used their road system to move troops

People struggled to care for themselves with the elimination of the welfare states

Ultimately, invasions by Spanish conquistadors led to their demise
8b - compare the culture of the Americas including government, economy, religion, social structure, technology, and the arts of the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas
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The Mayans
Government
Independent city-states, each ruled by a god-king

Central city with giant pyramids, temples, palaces, stone carvings, and surrounding residential areas
The Mayans
Economy
Based on trade and farming

City-states linked through trade alliances

Sophisticated farming methods such as planting on raised platforms above swamps and on hillside terraces
- Grew maize (corn), beans, & squash
The Mayans
Religion
Polytheistic
Prayed and offered gods food, blood, and human sacrifices
The Mayans
Social Structure
King
- Seen as a holy figure, position was hereditary

Three Social Classes:
- Nobles - priests, warriors
- Middle Class - merchants, artisans
- Peasants
The Mayans
Technology
Mayan Calendar
- Supposedly predicted the end of the world on Dec. 21, 2012

Mathematics
- Understood the concept of zero

Astronomy
- Calculated solar year at 365.2420 days (only 0.0002 off)

City-Building
- Ex. Tikal

Sophisticated agricultural techniques
The Mayans
The Arts
Hieroglyphics
- Writing system, 800+ symbols
Pyramids
Ball Courts
- For religious games
Jaguar Architecture
Steles (inscribed markers)
The Aztecs
Government
Small city-states

Empire divided into 38 provinces with 5-15 million people

Triple Alliance
- Military state formed in 1428
The Aztecs
Economy
Ruled loosely, making conquered areas pay tributes to them
- If people resisted tributes or revolted, they would destroy the villages and capture or slaughter its inhabitants

Trade connected by water and canals that canoes could bring directly to the city
The Aztecs
Religion
Polytheistic

Public ceremonies with human sacrifices
- The city of Tenochtitlan was founded based on the Aztec legend of Huitzilopochtli (god of the sun and warfare)
- Huitzilopochtli needed nourishment of human blood for the sun to rise each day

Over 1,000 gods
- Elaborate ceremonies performed to win the favor of different gods - including ritual dramas, songs, and dances with masked performers
The Aztecs
Social Structure
Emperor

Nobles
- gov't officials, generals, religious leaders

Commoners
- Merchants, craftspeople, soldiers, farmers who owned land

Slaves
The Aztecs
Technology
Planned Cities
- Tenochtitlan was greater than any European city of the time - built on a lake bed to provide an easy defense system

Causeways
- Roads built over the marshy lands & water

Chinampas
- Floating gardens built on the marshy fringes of the lake
The Aztecs
The Arts
Elaborate temples
Pyramids
Stone carvings & paintings for gods
Masks for
The Incas
Government
Ruler
- Had to be a descendant of the sun god, Inti, to rule

Bureaucratic
- Conquered territories were divided into manageable community units governed by a central bureaucracy
- Can be compared to socialism or welfare state
The Incas
Economy
State controlled most economic activity
Regulated the production & distribution of goods
The Incas
Religion
Polytheistic

Religion helped to reinforce the power of the state
- Cuzco was both the administrative and religious capital of the empire

Mamakuna - "Virgins of the Sun"
- Committed to a lifetime of religious service & activities

Yamacuna
- Men who were full-time workers for the state who aided in religious activities
The Incas
Social Structure
Based on community cooperation
- Social groups were identified by officially dictated patterns of clothing

Family
- Divided into groups of 10, 100, 1000, 10000
- A chief led each group
- Local administration in the hands of local rulers

Language
- Imposed a single, uniform language throughout the empire

Conquered Peoples
- Were peacefully conquered whenever possible to gain loyalty
- Were allowed to continue their traditional ways of life
The Incas
Technology
Road System
- 14,000-mile long network of bridges and roads
- All roads led to the capital
- These roads tied the empire together

Engineers & Stonemasons
- Accomplished their with using no iron tools, wheels, or mortar
The Incas
The Arts
Temple of the Sun (Cuzco)
- Most sacred shrine in empire, covered in gold

Gold
- Extremely abundant
- Covered city walls and used for decoration
Had floating gardens, called chinampas, to grow food
The Aztecs

Aztec farming has become most famous because of the brilliant chinampas system that Aztec farmers used. Certainly there were a number of techniques used in the Aztec empire. But with the great city of Tenochtitlan built on swampy but rich ground, the chinampas became key to the food production of the people.
Worshipped many gods, one of which was the jaguar spirit
The Olmecs
The Mayans too?
Known for their extensive trading
The Olmecs
Eventually conquered by Pizarro
Francisco Pizarro González was a Spanish conquistador who conquered the Incan Empire
Pachacuti was a powerful leader who expanded the empire
Inca
Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui or Pachacutec or Pachakutiq Inka Yupanki was the ninth Sapa Inca of the Kingdom of Cusco which he transformed into the Inca Empire
Human sacrifice
The Aztecs
The Mayans
Known today for their VERY accurate calendar
The Mayans
Known for their SUPER successful military
The Aztecs
Because they had no written language, they used the quipu to record important data
Inca

With no written language, the Inca devised a tool for recording the movement of people and goods.

The quipu is a series of colored, knotted strings. The type of knot indicated a number, and the knot's placement signified units of 1, 10, 100, or more. All the cords hung from a main string, and their positions and colors likely signaled what was being counted—gold, corn, or other goods.
Known for their "colossal heads"
The Olmecs

The stone head sculptures of the Olmec civilization of the Gulf Coast of Mexico (1200 BCE - 400 BCE) are amongst the most mysterious and debated artefacts from the ancient world. The most agreed upon theory is that, because of their unique physical features and the difficulty and cost involved in their creation, they represent Olmec rulers.

Seventeen heads have been discovered to date,
Tikal is one of the main urban centers
The Mayans

In the heart of the jungle, surrounded by lush vegetation, lies one of the major sites of Mayan civilization, inhabited from the 6th century B.C. to the 10th century A.D. The ceremonial centre contains superb temples and palaces, and public squares accessed by means of ramps. Remains of dwellings are scattered throughout the surrounding countryside.
Had a "socialist" government
Inca
Mayan
Aztecs?
The "mother culture" of Mesoamerica
Olmecs

The concept of the Olmecs as a mother culture was first formally raised by Alfonso Caso at a 1942 conference on the "Olmec problem" in Tuxtla Gutiérrez where he argued that the Olmec were the "cultura madre" of Mesoamerica.[8]

The proponents of the "mother culture" do not argue that the Olmec were the only contributors, but that the Olmecs first developed many of the features adopted by later Mesoamerican civilizations.

They argue that it was in San Lorenzo and the Olmec heartland that the hallmarks of the Olmec culture were first established, hallmarks that include the patio/plaza concept, monumental sculpture,[9] Olmec iconography, archetypical Olmec figurines, and other portable art.
Eventually conquered by Cortes
Aztecs

Hernán Cortés is one of the most well-known Spanish conquistadors. He is best remembered for conquering the Aztec empire and claiming Mexico for Spain. He also helped colonize Cuba and became a governor of New Spain.
Quechua is the spoken and common language
Inca

Quechua is an Amerind language with about 8 million people in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Argentina. Quechua was the language of the Inca empire which was destroyed by the Spanish in the 16th century.
Known for their public works projects, especially their road system
The Incas
Tenochtitlan was the central city of the civilization
The Aztecs

Tenochtitlán, located on an island near the western shore of Lake Texcoco in central Mexico, was the capital city and religious centre of the Aztec civilization.
The ball game is played and the loser is sacrificed!!!
Maya

The Mesoamerican ballgame (ōllamaliztli in Nahuatl (Nahuatl pronunciation: [oːlːamaˈlistɬi]), pitz in Classical Maya, modern Spanish "El juego de la pelota") was a sport with ritual associations played since 1,400 B.C.[1] by the pre-Columbian peoples of Ancient Mesoamerica. The sport had different versions in different places during the millennia, and a newer more modern version of the game, ulama, is still played in a few places by the indigenous population.[2]
Polytheistic
The Mayans
The Aztecs
The Incas
The Olmecs?
Popul Vuh---their creation story
The Mayans

The Popol Vuh is the creation story of the Maya. Below is one part of this story that recounts the first attempts of the creator, Heart of Sky to make humans. The story goes on to explain that the final attempt, that resulted int the "True people" was accomplished by constructing people with maize. This is a very reasonable explanation since, in essence, it was the cultivation of maize that gave the early Maya culture the means to change from hunters gatherers to their highly advanced civilization.
Olmecs
Why are they known as the "mother culture" of Mesoamerica?
...
Olmecs
What are the "colossal heads" and what could they represent?
17 heads
rulers
Olmecs
How did trade influence Olmec society?
Largest trading network throughout Mesoamerica (Mexico City to the North and Honduras to the South)

Traded raw materials and various stones

Trade helped boost the economy and spread Olmecs influence
Olmecs
Why did the society decline?
Unknown
- Because there are no records
Maya
How is Tikal an example of an urban center for the Maya?
...
Maya
Why did the civilization decline?
Many physical and human resources used for religious activities
Frequent warfare occurred between kingdoms
Population growth created a need for more land
Maya
How did the Maya use math and science to help with their religious practices?
...
Maya
Explain the writing system. In addition, what was the Popul Vuh?
...
Maya
Why did the Maya civilization decline?
Many physical and human resources used for religious activities
Frequent warfare occurred between kingdoms
Population growth created a need for more land
Aztecs
What kind of people was the Aztecs? Why?
They had a united culture
They were loyal to their emperor
They added lands through military conquest, power, and used prisoners for religious sacrifice
The adding of lands provided wealth
Aztecs
Why did the Aztecs perform rituals, like sacrifice?
Public ceremonies with human sacrifices
- The city of Tenochtitlan was founded based on the Aztec legend of Huitzilopochtli (god of the sun and warfare)
- Huitzilopochtli needed nourishment of human blood for the sun to rise each day
Aztecs
What is the Triple Alliance and why did the Aztecs need it?
Triple Alliance
- Military state formed in 1428
Aztecs
What is Tenochtitlan and why is it important?
Planned Cities
- Tenochtitlan was greater than any European city of the time - built on a lake bed to provide an easy defense system
Aztecs
Why did the civilization decline?
Many physical and human resources used for religious activities

The need for prisoners changed warfare style to less deadly and less aggressive

Tribute states became rebellious and needed to be controlled
Inca
Who was Pachacuti?
Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui or Pachacutec or Pachakutiq Inka Yupanki was the ninth Sapa Inca of the Kingdom of Cusco which he transformed into the Inca Empire

Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, also called Pachacutec (flourished 15th century), Inca emperor (1438-71), an empire builder who, because he initiated the swift, far-ranging expansion of the Inca state, has been likened to Philip II of Macedonia. (Similarly, his son Topa Inca Yupanqui is regarded as a counterpart of Philip's son Alexander III the Great.)

Pachacuti first conquered various peoples in what is now southern Peru and then extended his power northwesterly to Quito, Ecuador. He is said to have devised the city plan adopted for his capital, Cuzco (in present southern Peru). He also maintained royal estates for mummified past rulers.
Inca
List two ways the Inca were considered socialist (i.e. government had most of the control):
Conquered territories were divided into manageable community units governed by a central bureaucracy

Can be compared to socialism or welfare state

State controlled most economic activity
Regulated the production & distribution of goods

the Incas being a remarkably 'horizontal' society, in which people contributed to the common good due to their civic spirit and not because they were coerced by an all-powerful leadership.
Inca
Explain the most phenomenal public works project of the Inca. What was it and why was it important?
Road System
- 14,000-mile long network of bridges and roads
- All roads led to the capital
- These roads tied the empire together
Inca
Did they Inca have a writing system? If not, what did they use to record things?
Because they had no written language, they used the quipu to record important data
Inca
Why did the civilization decline?
Many physical and human resources used for religious activities

Enemies also used their road system to move troops

People struggled to care for themselves with the elimination of the welfare states

Ultimately, invasions by Spanish conquistadors led to their demise
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