Ancient America: The Aztec, the Maya, the Inca - HistoryWiz Ancient American History

Ancient America

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The Incas

The Maya

The Aztecs

Ancient America Books

Latin America


Machu Picchu

Inca Site Machu Picchu


Aztec Chacmool, Tenochitlan

The Inca

The Inca were a tribe around the 12th century who formed a city-state, Cuzco which became a major city and capital of a powerful and wealthy empire in Peru, Bolivia and Equador. They conquered their neighbors, or brought city-states in peacefully with promises of benefits and/or threats of conquest. They ruled their empire with a centralized government and four provincial governments. Inca Creation Myth

In 1533, Spanish invaders led by Francisco Pizarro conquered most of the Inca empire. By 1542, the Spahish established a Viceroyalty of Peru.

The Maya

The Maya Civilization lived in Central America, including south Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras between 2500 BCE and 1500 CE.

The Classic Maya Civilization 250-900 CE developed a hieroglyphic writing system. They studied astronomy and mathematics, calculated highly accurate calendars, predicted eclipses and other astronomical events. They built elaborate temples and pyramids and had a complex social order.

They were a religious society and held festivals throughout the year to ensure the favor of the gods. They sacrificed to the gods and made ritual offerings. Part of religious ceremony involved drinking an intoxicant called balche.

The great cities such as Tikal, and Palenque of the classical period and Chichen Itza of the post classical period, were religious centers and were inhabited mostly by the priests. They played a ballgame with ritual significance and left behind elaborate ball courts. Most of the people lived in small farming communities. The demise of this dynamic civilization is a mystery, but around 900 AD they abandoned their cities. The Mayan people did not disappear and continue to live in Mexico and Central America.

The Aztecs

The Aztecs were a people who came into the Valley of Mexico in the 12th century and quickly rose to become the dominant power in Mesoamerica. The capital of the Aztecs, Tenochtitlan, was built on Lake Texcoco on raised islands. The Aztecs formed an empire commanding tribute from other city states in Mesoamerica. A religious society, the Aztecs practiced human sacrifice, like other mesoamerican civilizations.

The Aztecs were at the peak of their power when in 1521 they were destroyed by Hernan Cortes and the Spanish conquistadors. The Spanish built the city of Mexico City on the ruins of the destroyed Tenochtitlan. Compare the Spanish Accounts of the Conquest and the Aztec Accounts.

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