Students also viewed
Other sets by this creator
Below is a reading passage followed by several multiple-choice question. Carefully read the passage and choose the best answer for the question that follows.
The following passage describes the characteristics of the Maya, Inca, and Aztec cultures of Central and South America.
To the average North American, the mere mention of Maya, Aztec, or Inca civilization evokes thoughts of great, flat-topped pyramids of mysterious origin, secret cities perched on remote mountaintops, and booby-trapped temples brimming with treasure-hoards of gold. Indeed, impressions have not changed much since the age of the Spanish explorers, who, despite intentions of conquest, were also mystified by the cryptic civilizations of Mesoamerica and South America. Explorers may not have found the mythical golden city of El Dorado, but they did find three amazing cultures, each with unique characteristics.
Maya civilization, often considered to be the most exalted and mysterious of the three, inhabited the Yucatan Peninsula of Eastern Mexico as long ago as B.C. Emerging from a collection of city-states with no central government, the Maya reached a cultural peak between A.D. and . The Maya, who developed an astrological calendar that allowed them to grow crops in poor soil, were originally thought to be a peaceful people, but archaeologists have since determined that intertribal warfare brought about their decline. Maya, like the Aztecs and Inca, also practiced human sacrifice. Ancient pyramids inscribed with weathered glyphs and characters from the most advanced ancient alphabet in the western hemisphere now sit abandoned, obscured by centuries of jungle growth. Maya descendants still inhabit the Yucatan, but the technology, religion, and practices of the ancient civilization must now be slowly exhumed and catalogued by archaeologists-a difficult task considering the Maya had no central ruling capital. The Maya existed in a network of city-states, with each ruling its immediate territory. Neither did the Maya have a single emperor, though its kings were venerated as godlike, as in the Inca and Aztec cultures.
The Aztecs, noted perhaps most often for their penchant for battle and human sacrifice, composed the second-largest pre-Columbian civilization in central America. Originally a nomadic society inhabiting the central basin of antediluvian Mexico, the various tribes who identified themselves as Aztec settled in the marshy region near Lake Texcoco and, in , founded the city of Tenochtitlan at the present site of Mexico City. Despite vicious religious practices, the Aztec demonstrated ingenuity by inventing an innovative farming technique to grow crops among the 30 canals of Tenochtitlan. Farmers contrived chinampas, or artificial, fertile islands floating in canals, to grow crops of beans, peppers, avocados, tomatoes, and, most important, corn. Ironically, the seemingly bloodthirsty culture, when not participating in an estimated human sacrifices a year, took great interest in the beauty of nature; Aztecs, who lacked plows or beasts of burden, took the time to grow beautiful flowers strictly for decoration. Before falling to the Spanish in , the Aztecs left several permanent contributions to history and to the explorers of the New World: chocolate, derived from indigenous cacao beans; tomatoes, potatoes, and numerous other vegetables that have long become staples to the rest of the world; and, as testament to the artisans among the Aztecs, an accurate, -ton limestone calendar that took more than fifty years to construct.
Inca, whose feats of engineering baffle modern architects, dominated the west coast of South America from to . Like the Aztecs, the Inca practiced human sacrifice and lacked a written language; however, the Inca made up for language shortcomings with advanced architecture and a complex government. In addition to having the most advanced medical and surgical techniques of the ancient Americas, the Inca constructed more than miles of roadway and aqueducts to supply taxpaying and labor-contributing tribes throughout the empire.
The precise, intricate stonemasonry of Inca pyramids, fortresses, and walls commands the respect of even modern masons. Inca architecture still dots the Andean mountains and highlands as the timeless endeavors of a lost people.
In spite of the achievements and predominance of the two civilizations intact after Columbus arrived in the New World, they found themselves at the mercy of the Spaniards during the sixteenth century. Hernando Cortez, who sought control of the Aztec Empire, or Mexican Empire, began his quest in by forming alliances with tribes who were displeased with the leadership of Montezuma II in Tenochtitlan. Cortez went to the city and took Montezuma hostage, taking advantage of the fact that Aztecs thought that the Spaniards were descendants of their god, Quetzalcoatl, and had come to fulfill a prophecy. Aztec prophets had prognosticated that bearded men would arrive from the east, or the land of the sun god-the Aztec conception of heaven. Montezuma was killed during a short uprising in while instructing the Aztecs to make peace with the Spaniards. The Spaniards were forced to retreat from the city, but they soon regrouped and besieged the Aztec capital. After the eventual surrender, Cortez burned the city and destroyed the greatest monuments of Aztec culture.
The Inca Empire shared a fate similar to that of the Aztec, but at the hands of a conquistador more sinister than Cortez. Francisco Pizarro, motivated by legends of treasure, captured the Inca ruler Atahualpa during their first meeting. Atahualpa offered a ransom for himself that consisted of a roomful of gold. Atahualpa revealed the location of the treasure to Pizarro, and Pizarro promptly executed the ruler and seized control of Cuzco, the Inca capital. Pizarro was eventually killed by his own people, but the Inca Empire was forever lost.
Aztecs, Inca, and Maya who escaped the iron swords and gunpowder of the Europeans instead suffered the old world diseases that accompanied the explorers. Entire tribes vanished as smallpox, scarlet fever, and influenza decimated the native population of the Americas. Those who survived were forced to abandon their customs and live beneath Spanish rule for the next three centuries.
Millions of tourists now visit Mexico and Peru to see the remnants of the Maya, Aztec, and Inca civilizations. Though weathered or overgrown, the relics stand as permanent markers of the ingenuity and art of the pre-Columbian civilizations. Archaeologists and treasure hunters scour newly discovered burial platforms and caves in search of knowledge that might contribute to the modern understanding of the lost cultures, and also, undoubtedly, to find relics made of that one material valued by both the ancient and modern worlds: gold.
A staple can probably be described as