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Each civilization in Mesoamerica and South America had its own social structure, although there were similarities. A king ruled each empire...

...The top social class included priests, professional warriors, and often merchants. The upper classes led lives of privilege.

The lower classes worked for the wealthy or farmed small plots of land...

...Their lives were hard, and they had little chance to better their position in life.

Both the Maya and Aztecs had slaves, but the Incas did not...

...Maya and Aztec slaves were often prisoners of war or those who owed money.

The customs of the three civilizations had some similarities...

...They believed people had to keep their many gods happy.

For the Aztecs and Maya, this required regular human sacrifices...

...They believed their gods needed such sacrifices to remain happy and helpful.

Warfare was common...

...In fact, the Maya were so warlike that some historians think it contributed to their empire's downfall.

The Aztecs were also fierce warriors...

...They used war to enlarge their empire and to protect their trade network. The Incas were good fighters, and they also used peaceful agreements to expand their empire.

Professional warriors fought battles against other Maya cities...

...In battle; these warriors wore animal headdresses, jade jewelry, and jaguar-skin capes.

Slaves held the lowest position in society...

...Orphans, slaves' children, and people who owed money also became slaves.

Slaves had to carry trade goods between cities...

...They also served upper-class Maya by working as farmers or household servants.

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