Last Updated 03 Sep 2020

Peoples and Civilizations of the Americas

Category Aztecs, Civilization
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Table of contents

Culture and Society in Mesoamerica

  • Remarkable civilization created
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  • Different language + politics, but unified by material culture, religious beliefs + practices, and social structure

Classic Period

  • Classic period (built upon Olmec and other civilizations)
  • Social classes with distinct roles
  • Hereditary politics + religious elites controlled towns + villages

Teotihuacan:

  • Powerful city-state in central Mexico (100 B. C. E. – 750 C. E. )

Religion

  • Religion = worshipped many gods + lesser spirits, Sun + Moon
  • Human sacrifice = viewed as sacred duty to the gods and essential to the well-being of society

Farming

  • Chinampas = raised fields along lakeshores to increase agriculture Politics * No evidence for single ruler; alliances between elite families

The Maya

Location

  • Maya = civilization concentrated in the Yucatan Peninsula, Guatemala, and Honduras, but never unified
  • Contributed mainly in math, astronomy, and the calendar
  • High pyramids + palaces = meant to awe the masses that came

Decoration

  • Maya = loved decoration

Infused warfare with religious meaning

Society = patrilineal Contributions

Devised elaborate calendar system, concept of 0, and writing

End of Classic Era

  • Maya cities declined due to struggle for resources, which lead to class conflict and warfare
  • Connection with the Mesoamerican societies due to learning about the Aztecs in grade 8
  • Have visited Mayan cities in Mexico, and have seen temples in real life
  • Question: didn’t the Arabs develop the concept

The Postclassic Period in Mesoamerica

No single explanation for fall of Teotihuacan and Mayan centers

The Toltecs:

  • Powerful postclassic empire in central Mexico (900 – 1175 C. E. )

Origins

  • Origins = unknown (either satellite or migrant populations)
  • Used military conquest to create powerful empire|

Reason for decline

  • Fell by internal power struggles and military threat from the north

The Aztecs

Altepetl = ethnic state in ancient Mesoamerica that was the common political building block of that region Society +

Politics

  • Calpolli = group of up to hundred families that served as a building block of an altepetl (controlled land allocation + taxes + local religious life)
  • Tenochtitlan = capital of Aztec Empire; in an island in lake Texcoco Mexico City created on ruins of Tenochtitlan

Aztecs = AKA Mexica, created empire (1325 – 1521 C. E. )

Aztecs forced defeated peoples to provide goods + labor as tax Aztec

Women

  • Women = held lots of power; held in high esteem; held positions like teachers and priestesses; seen as founders of lineages, including the royal line
  • Merchants become rich, but cannot become high nobility

Economic systems

  • Tribute system = system in which defeated peoples were forced to pay tax in forms of goods and labor; help development of large ities
  • Did not use money; used barter instead

Aztec religion = demanded increasing numbers of human sacrifice

Connection to Aztecs as I learned about them in grade 8

Noted the familiarities between the Mesoamerican societies, which also had distinct differences as well

Northern Peoples:

  • Classic period ends around 900 C. E.
  • Transfer of irrigation and corn agriculture -> stimulated development in Hohokam and Anasazi society

Southwestern Desert Cultures

  • Anasazi = important culture in southwest US (700 – 1300 C. E. )
  • Anasazi built multistory residences, and worshipped in subterranean buildings (called kivas)

Anasazi women

  • Women = shared agricultural tasks, specialists in many crafts, responsible for food preparation and childcare

Anasazi region

Anasazi = concentrate in Four Corners region Mound Builders: The Hopewell and Mississippian Cultures:

Political structure

  • Chiefdom = form of political organization; ruled by hereditary leader (Chiefdom) who had control over collection of villages + towns; based on gift giving and commercial links
  • Political organization + trade + mound building continued by the Mississippian culture (largest city = Cahokia) Ansazi

Environmental changes caused destruction of Anasazi + Mississippian Mississippian cultures Decline Andean Civilizations, 200 – 1500

Environment = sucks for creating civilization

Amerindian peoples of Andean = produced some of the most socially complex + politically advanced societies in

Western Hemisphere Cultural Response to Environmental Challenge

  • How they adapted
  • Domestication of llamas and alpacas
  • Farmed at different altitudes to reduce risks from frosts Social + political
  • Ayllu = Andean lineage group or kin-based community groups
  • Ayllu = foundation for Andean achievement; members = obligated to help fellow members (thought as brothers and sisters)
  • Mit’a = Andean labor system based on shared obligations to help kinsmen and work on behalf of the ruler and religious organizations

Gender distinction

  • Men = hunting, military service, government
  • Women = textile production, agriculture, home Harsh climates of Andean civilizations = similar to harsh environment of North American settlers

Anasazi + Mississippian culture = one of few civilizations that did not fall due to outside pressures

Moche

  • Moche = civilization of north coast of Peru (200 – 700 C. E. )
  • Built extensive irrigation networks + impressive urban centers dominated by brick temples

Political + social

  • Did not establish formal empire nor unified political structure structure
  • Moche society = theocratic + stratified; priests + military leaders had concentrated wealth + power|

Decline of Moche

  • Moche centers declined due to long-term climate changes
  • Wari = new military power, culturally linked to Tiwanaku
  • Wari contributed to the disappearance of the Moche

Tiwanaku and Wari:

  • Tiwanaku = name of capital city and empire centered on the region near Lake Titicaca in modern Bolivia (375 – 1000 C. E. )
  • Llamas = crucial for maintenance of long-distance trade relations
  • High quality of stone masonry
  • Stratified society ruled by a hereditary elite
  • Used military to extend their power over large religions

The Inca

  • Largest and most powerful Andean empire (Cuzco = capital)
  • Initially a chiefdom -> turned in to military expansion in 1430s
  • Inca prosperity depended on vast herds of llamas + alpacas
  • Hereditary chiefs of ayllus included women
  • Had hostage taking system for politics
  • Each new ruler began his reign with conquest (legitimize authority)
  • Khipus = system of knotted colored cords used by preliterate Andean peoples to transmit information
  • Did not produce new technologies; increased economic output
  • Civil war weakened the Inca on the eve of European arrival
  • Noticed that primary gods for many societies were Sun gods and agricultural gods
  • Pressures from inside took out the Inca society; similar to other societies
  • Khipus = similar to the one that Aztecs used

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