Last Updated 27 Mar 2020

Aztecs, Incas, and Toltecs

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The Americas on the Eve of Invasion I. Introduction A. By 1500, Americas densely populated by Indians – misnomer – Columbus/Indies 1. Term has meaning only when used to apply to non-Indians B. Mesoamerica and Andean heartland 1. Imperial states in place when Europe arrives 2. Few areas influenced by two main centers 3. Areas that developed independently II. Postclassic Mesoamerica A. Introduction 1. Toltecs/Aztecs replace Mayas of 8th century CE a. By 15th century Aztecs created extensive empire – war, religion, agrarian 2. Downfall of Mayans – Teotihuacan a. Nomads from North come down . Toltec Culture – 968 established capital Tula 1. Sedentary/agrarian peoples with militaristic ethic 2. Cult of sacrifice/war 3. Aztecs saw Toltecs as givers of civilization

B. The Toltec Heritage 1. Leader Topilitzin followed Quetzalcoatl – feathered serpent 2. Empire spread over much of central Mexico 3. 1000 Conquered Chichen Itza – Mayans under control of Toltecs 4. Toltec influence northward a. Trade turquoise with American Southwest b. How far – to Mississippi/Ohio – debatable evidence 1. Stepped temples – Monk’s Mound 2. Ritual sacrifice 3. pottery 4. Social stratification . Large city – Cahokia could handle 30,000 people C. The Aztec Rise to Power – eagle with serpent on cactus 1. Geography – aquatic environment – chinampas a. Aztecs/Mexicas won control of lake b. Nomadic tribes or agricultural culture 2. Political structure – centralized city with tributary city-states 3. Military – tough warriors/fanatic followers of religion 4. 1428 emerged as independent power D. The Aztec Social Contract 1. Subject peoples a. Pay tribute, surrender lands, military service b. King civil power/god on earth 2. Stratified society a. Histories rewritten 3.

Human sacrifice – cult of military class supplying war captives as sacrifices E. Religion and the Ideology of Conquest 1. Incorporated features from past Mesoamerican religions a. Little distinction between world of gods and natural world b. Deities – fire, rain, water, corn, sky, sun – pantheon 1. Gods of fertility/agriculture 2. Creator deities 3. Warfare and sacrifice c. Female form for all gods 2. Yearly festivals/ceremonies a. Expansive calendar 3. Sacrifice - to energize the sun god – needed nourishment of human blood a. Types and frequency/degree changed with Aztecs – borrowed from Toltec . religious conviction vs. political control 4. Religious questions – afterlife, good life, do gods exist 5. Art has flowers/birds/song and blood F. Tenochtitlan: The Foundation of Heaven 1. Metropois – central zone of palaces/whitewashed temples 2. Adobe brick residential districts 3. Larger houses for nobility 4. Zoos, gardens for king 5. Geographically connected to island by four causeways 6. Calpulli ruled neighborhoods G. Feeding the People: The Economy of the Empire 1. Mass population needed to be fed a. Tribute b. Irrigated agriculture – chinampas – floating islands 1. 20,000 acres 2.

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High crop yields – 4 times a year – corn/maize 2. Trade a. Regular intervals to market b. Barter or cacao beans/gold for currency c. Pochteca – long distance trade 3. State controlled distribution of tribute a. Primarily redistributed to nobility III. Aztec Society in Transition A. Widening Social Gulf 1. Life based on calpulli (neighborhood) groups a. Governed by council of family heads 2. Nobility came from heads of calpullis 3. Military leaders based on success in taking captives a. Ritual warfare – uniforms 4. As society grew, widening social disparity – no longer egalitarian (hmmm…where have I seen this pattern before? a. Scribes, artisans, healers between peasants and nobility 5. But…competition not between social classes, but between corporate groups B. Overcoming Technological Constraints 1. Role of women – relatively equal, but subordinate to men a. Peasant women – fields, child-rearing b. Revered as weavers c. Polygamy among nobility, monogamy among poor d. Could inherit property 2. Limits of technology a. Women – six hours a day grinding corn/maize 1. Couldn’t be freed from 30-40 hours of preparing food 3. Controlled vast number of people amazingly – 1. 5 million to 25 million C.

A Tribute Empire 1. Most power in hands of Aztec ruler and chief advisor a. “elected” from best siblings of royal family 2. As time passed, ritual sacrifice/military dominated all elements of life 3. City-states – as long as they made tribute – they could have autonomy 4. Weaknesses a. Rise of nobles altered dynamics b. Society based on system of terror 5. By 1500, Aztec society was in the down, military period – height far earlier IV. Twantinsuyu: World of the Incas A. Inca Empire – Twantinsuyu – highly centralized 1. Integrated various ethnic groups 2. Irrigated agriculture 3.

Incorporated elements of previous civilizations – agriculture/religion/metallurgy 4. Introduction a. Genius for state organization/bureaucratic control b. When central authority broke down, regional leaders took over i. war between rival chiefdoms B. The Inca Rise to Power 1. Inca “ruler” – military alliances and campaigns to take over 2. Subsequent rulers with names you’ll never remember expanded and consolidated land a. Between 9 and 13 million people under rule C. Conquest and Religion 1. Reason for conquest a. economic gain b. political power 2. religion – cult of ancestors a. deceased rulers mummified . split inheritance a. leader’s power goes to successor b. leader’s property goes to male family 4. political and social life related to religion a. holy shrines – stones, mountains, rivers, caves, tombs – huacas 1. Prayers/human sacrifices b. Temple of the Sun – center of state religion D. The Techniques of Inca Imperial Rule 1. Leader/inca considered a god 2. Court also temple 3. Four provinces ruled by governor, power then divided further a. Local rulers could remain autonomous if they were loyal 4. All nobles played role in state bureaucracy a. Nobles gained privileges, had a lot to lose b.

Could wear large ear spools – orejones – gee thanks 5. Spread language – unified 6. System of roads with way stations – tambos – one day apart 7. For labor, people benefited from large, expensive work projects – only central gov’t can provide a. State-sponsored irrigation made cultivation possible 8. Instead of tribute, they wanted labor 9. Relation between men and wome a. Needed to stay close b. Women link to the moon 10. Downfall a. Marriage alliances created rivals for the throne – ahhh…that whole succession problem rears its ugly head E. Inca Cultural Achievements 1. Art – built on styles of predecessor peoples . Metallurgy – gold/silver/bronze, copper b. Pottery/cloth 2. But…No system of writing…No wheel 2. Math a. Knotted strings quipo to count 3. Infrastructure – greatest achievement a. land/water management b. extensive road systems c. Architecture and public buildings d. Terraced farming on steep slopes F. Comparing Incas and Aztecs aka “if you forget everything else, remember this” 1. But first, before we get started…look at the words used in this section a. No really…look at the words used b. They start with words like “although”, or “both” c. It’s just beautiful how the reader can make connections . In fact, my eyes are filling a little misty a. This is one of the best Comparative Analysis Essays I’ve ever seen in your Stearns book, and after 14 chapters of taking notes, I’m starting to i. feel like Stearns is like a brother, an older brother, but a brother ii. but…I digress…let’s get back to it 3. Similarities a. Represented military and imperial organization success b. Controlled circulation of goods c. Agricultural based with a food surplus d. Nobles became more important than local leaders e. Allowed for diversity as long as authority f. Empires acquired by conquest of sedentary peoples . Belief systems, cosmology similar roots h. Both couldn’t survive shock of conquest i. Your book says they do survive the conquest, but I beg to differ, they were split up into small little regions ii. But, I will accept that they carried on the culture 4. However “We cannot overlook the great DIFFERENCES” a. Aztecs have better trade and markets b. First, there quite similar, variations of same system c. Metallurgy, writing systems, hierarchy i. Ummm…book…could you give us some specifics d. Overall…this section does a horrible job discussing differences V. Other Indians A.

How to differentiate – based on degree of social order/material culture/political structure 1. Diversity based on geographical factors 2. Not all agriculture based B. How many Indians? 1. If you guessed 14,375,421, you were wrong 2. Between 8. 4 million and 112 million – Gee thanks…that’s real close i. Numbers changed due to a. Understanding of impact of disease b. archaeological studies c. improved estimates of agricultural techniques 3. Europe about the same size as the Americas – population wise C. Differing Cultural Patterns 1. Basically…it’s hard to say there is just one type of “Indian” . Some hunted, some gathered, some farmed, some did a mixture ii. Some had huge class divisions, some were more egalitarian iii. Most lived in small kin-ship based groups 2. North America extremely diverse i. Some lived in cliffs, towns or teepees ii. Agricultural unless farming too tough, then hunter gatherers 3. Similar to Europe/Asia i. Kin based societies ii. Communal owning of property iii. Women subordinate, but some had high positions 4. Part of ecological system, not controlling it “You think you own whatever land you land on…earth is just a dead thing you can claim, but I know…”

D. American Indian Diversity in World Context 1. Paradox – wealthy/accomplished civilizations, but “primitive” to Europe 2. But…how much is the difference based on lack of… i. wheel ii. large pack animals iii. metal tools iv. written language 3. They developed, just differently E. Global Connections 1. Isolation prevented diffusion of ideas – it’s not bad, just the reality 2. Lacks world religions, large domesticated animals (yes…they had guinea pigs) 3. Not immune to diseases 4. Lacked ironworking F. I’m tired, and I’m going to bed

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