Paper due Friday!!
2 main centers of civilization:
Mexico / Central America The Andes Mountains
(with extension into N. America)
In isolation from the “Old World” (Eastern Hemisphere), a
different set of elements of a civilization emerged:
(1) Agriculture, ca. 7000 B.C.E.
In Mexico / C. America: CORN, manioc→
(support large population)
In the Andes: potatoes
(Corn was eventually imported from
(2) Non-alphabetic writing in Mexico / C. America; no writing in Andes
(3) No wheel
(4) Not many metal weapons
(5) Monumental stone architecture
In Mexico / C. America and in the Andes:
(1) Foundational civilization
(2) “Classical” medieval civilization
(3) Pre-Columbian civilization
MEXICO / CENTRAL AMERICA
I. Foundational civilization:
OLMECS, ca. 1200-400 B.C.E.
A. Seem to spring from nothing
B. Irrigation for corn
D. Cities as h.q. of ruling elite and
centers of religious ritual
Mass of population live outside
cities, farm crops from which
rulers take tribute.
E. Monumental stone architecture
F. Stone heads
Olmec stone heads
Features fuel speculation that Olmec ancestors may have come from Polynesia.
II. “Classical” medieval civilization: MAYA in S. Mexico and C.
America, ca. 250-900 C.E. (Film Wednesday!)
A. Ceremonial city-states supported
by crop-growing peasantry
B. Corn-beans-squash agricultural
C. Writing: Mayan hieroglyphs
D. Mayan society and religion
(1) Peasants grow crops to
support military and
(2) Ruler is fertility figure,
participates in fertility rituals
at top of stone pyramids
(3) Blood-letting in fertility rituals
(4) Human sacrifice, esp. of p.o.w.s., to gods
(5) Ritual ball game with cosmic significance
Ball court at Copán, Honduras
E. Mayan scientific advances
(1) Mathematics more sophisticated than in Old World
(2) Accurate solar calendar
F. Slow decline 8th-9th centuries due to soil depletion, warfare,
III. “Classical” medieval civilization II:
Teotihuacán in Mexico, ca. 100-750 C.E.
A. City as religious center with
stepped pyramids for
Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacán
B. Quetzalcoatl, “Feathered Serpent” god / culture hero (linked to
agriculture, crafts, warfare)
C. Destroyed by nomadic invaders, ca. 650 C.E.
D. Teotihuacán served as template for TOLTECS (Bulliet, pp. 313-14)
IV. Pre-Columbian civilization: AZTECS
A. MEXICA, popular mercenaries in C. Mexico beginning ca. 1150 C.E.
B. Found city-state/cap. Tenochtitlán on island in Lake Texcoco,
C. Decentralized rule: Other city-states recognize “speaker” of
Tenochtitlán (pop. 150,000) as emperor.
D. 16th c.: “speaker” considered semi-divine
human sacrifices conquests
E. Sun god battles darkness to provide light for CORN, needs human
hearts and blood.
F. Aztecs regard QUETZALCOATL as a messianic figure, believe
Spaniards may herald his return.
Aztec drawing of Spanish conquest (1519)
I. Foundational civilization: Chavín in Peru, ca. 900-250
A. Administrative / religious
cities supported by crop-
growing peasantry (as in
Mexico / C. America)
B. Terraced agriculture
eventually corn (imported
from Mexico / C. America)
Cómo se llama? (ha-ha)
D. Llamas as pack animals
E. Stone architecture, feline (?) deity
II. “Classical” medieval civilizations: MOCHE, CHIMU,
TIWANAKU, WARI (Bulliet, pp. 322-27) displace
Chavín in early centuries C.E.
III. Pre-Columbian civilization: INCA, 15th c.
capital: Cuzco (S. Peru)
A. Highly centralized 3000-mile empire, from Ecuador to Chile
B. Integrated empire by moving populations to different climatic
zones (e.g., lowland farmers to mountain tops) - helped bring
maximum amount of land under cultivation
C. Terraced agriculture in mountains
D. Redistribution of tribute (crops and handicrafts)
E. Sun god worshipped for fertility (corn, potatoes)
F. Ruler = earthly manifestation of sun god; supreme warrior
Inca city of
G. Cult of MUMMIES of deceased rulers
conquests sacrifices (food, textiles)
(more land to produce crops and wool)
H. Inca technology
(1) Terraces for agriculture
(2) Stone architecture
(3) Andean highway – no wheeled vehicles
(4) Khipu (knotted strings)
for calculation – no writing
Epilogue: Inca conquered by Spanish, 1530s