The Americas Section 1: North America CULTURES OF THE DESERT WEST Early people in North America adapted to a wide variety of environments. Those in the Desert West of what is now the southwestern United States and northern Mexico lived where it is very dry. One group, the Hohokam, lived from 100 BC to AD 1500. They built a system of canals with dams made of woven mats to water their crops. The crops were planted in nearby mounds made of earth. The Hohokam also brought irrigation and water storage to their villages. Their homes were pithouses, built-in holes in the ground. They used a mixture of clay and straw called adobe as a building material. Another group, the Anasazi, lived in pithouses and also developed a new kind of home called the pueblo. Similar to today’s apartment buildings, pueblos were several stories tall and had many rooms. Some pueblos were built in the sides of cliffs, for protection from other tribes. Pueblos also had underground rooms called kivas that were used for meetings or religious ceremonies. THE MOUND BUILDERS People who lived in the woodland areas near the Mississippi and Ohio river valleys were mound builders. The Hopewell, who lived from 200 BC to AD 500, built mounds of stone and dirt to use as burial sites. Objects in the mounds, like pottery, shells, and metal decorations, suggest that the Hopewell used organized labor and traded with many other groups. Another group of mound builders, the Mississippians, built some of North America’s first cities. The largest city, called Cahokia, shows that mathematics and engineering skills were used in its building. It was home to 20,000 people and 100 mounds. The layout of the site and objects found there show that the Mississippian civilization had organized labor, clear social classes, and priests as leaders. OTHER CULTURES OF NORTH AMERICA The people living in North America found creative ways to deal with a variety of environments. For example, the Inuit people lived in the cold Arctic regions where farming was impossible. Instead, the Inuit hunted seals and caribou, and fished, using kayaks or holes in the ice. They used skins and furs for warm clothing and ice blocks for the igloos in which they lived. The Iroquois lived in the forests of eastern North America. They lived in longhouses made of elm bark and trapped animals for food. The Iroquois farmed several different crops, including squash, beans, and maize, another word for corn. The Iroquois were made of five different nations, or tribes: the Cayaga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and the Seneca. Later, the Tuscarora people joined them. In time, the different nations formed a common government body called the Iroquois League. Plains Indians also had different groups, but because they did not all speak the same language they developed a common sign language to communicate. They lived in the Great Plains region in the middle of the continent. At first they lived near rivers and streams. This was the area where the land was most fertile for farming. When Europeans brought horses to North America, the Plains Indians used them to follow buffalo, greatly changing the way the tribes lived. Buffalo became very important to the Plains Indians, who found ways to use different parts of the animal for meat, clothing, tents, and tools. Section 2: Mesoamerica THE FIRST CIVILIZATIONS Mesoamerica includes what is now southern Mexico and northern Central America. Excellent farming conditions led to civilizations that had large cities, complex social structures, and cultural achievements. The Olmec lived along the Gulf coast in southern Mexico between 1200 BC and AD 300. They built large towns with monuments and pyramids. The Olmec elite, or high-ranking members, controlled a large trade network along the Pacific coast. They invented a calendar and used writing. The Zapotec people lived from 1500 BC to AD 750 and built Monte Albán, the first true city in the region. It had a large plaza with elaborate buildings, such as temples, and a population as high as 25,000. The Toltec civilization lasted from AD 900 to 1200. Its main city, Tula, was a trade center near obsidian mines. Toltec art and architecture show that they were warriors. THE MAYA The Maya civilization, which developed around 1000 BC, was much larger than the others in Mesoamerica. At its height, it had more than forty cities. The Maya began as farmers who used slash-and-burn agriculture to clear dense rainforest. They also flattened hillsides for farming. Small villages began trading with one another, and the population grew. Most Maya cities were built between AD 250 and 900. Each worked as a city-state with its own government and links to others for trade and war. Religion played an important role in Maya culture. The Maya worshipped many gods and offered them sacrifices of blood and, sometimes, humans. Priests were part of the upper class, along with professional warriors. Below them were merchants and craftspeople. Most people were in the lower class, working as farmers or slaves. The Maya civilization made advancements in architecture, as seen in their pyramids and palaces, and in astronomy, writing, and math. They charted movements of the sun, moon, and planets to create an accurate 365-day farming calendar. The Maya also used a 260-day religious calendar. They had a writing system that used glyphs, or symbols that stood for objects or sounds. Records were carved on stone monuments or kept in a bark paper book called a codex. The Maya civilization began to decline around AD 900, probably due to drought, warfare, and poor leadership. Some Maya people moved to cities that stayed strong for centuries. THE AZTECS The Aztec people began as farmers in northern Mexico where they were likely controlled by the Toltecs. They migrated south in the 1100s. In 1325 they founded Tenochtitlán, a city on an island in Lake Texcoco. The Aztecs eventually formed key alliances with two nearby city-states. This empire ruled more than 400 cities and 5 million people in Mesoamerica. The Aztecs made conquered people pay tribute, or taxes, and built roads to make trade more efficient. Through tribute and trade, the empire grew wealthy. Tenochtitlán was one of the largest cities in the world at the time, with a population of around 200,000. It had a walled center with a huge pyramid inside. The city was on an island without adequate farmland. Instead, city dwellers got their food from rafts or “floating gardens” in the lake that linked to canals leading to a big market at Tlatelolco, where goods such as cotton and rubber were sold. Aztec society, like that of other civilizations, had a strict class system. At the top was the king. Priests came next. They tried to keep the gods happy by conducting many bloody sacrifices. Next in the social order came warriors, merchants, and artisans. The lower class consisted of farmers and slaves. Farmers could become warriors or government officials, but slaves could only hope their children were born free. Slaves were often sacrificed to the gods. The Aztecs calculated the movement of some planets and created a solar calendar like the Maya. Their system of writing recorded taxes, business deals, poetry, riddles, and historical accounts. Advanced artisans created beautiful works in metal and stone. The Aztec empire came to an end in the 1500s with the arrival of the Europeans. Section 3: South America EARLY CULTURES IN SOUTH AMERICA Despite the geographical extremes of western South America, many groups created civilizations here. The Chavín (chah-VEEN) lived from 800 to 400 BC and built a religious and trading center called Chavín de Huantar in the Andes Mountains. They grew each of their crops at the altitude of the mountain that was best for it. Irrigation carried water to the corn planted in the warm valleys. The Chavín raised llamas and alpacas high in the mountains where nothing would grow well. The Moche lived from 400 BC to AD 600 in the coastal desert regions of South America. They built canals to water crops planted in the desert and fished in villages. Metalwork and pottery with military images show that the Moche used war to expand their empire and had warrior-priests as leaders. Finally, the Nazca people lived from 200 BC to 600 AD. They are best known for Nazca Lines, huge designs of animals and geometric shapes in the desert floor. It is believed that the designs gave information about where water was found, because like the Moche, the Nazca were a desert culture that farmed. Their use of canals, natural springs, and an annual flood raised enough food to support a large population. THE INCA EMPIRE The Inca civilization flourished many centuries after the Chavín, Moche, and Nazca. Once a small tribe, the Inca reached the height of their power in the early 1500s when 12 million people were part of the empire. Expansion started in the 1400s when the Inca leader Pachacuti began to bring territory under Incan control through political alliances and military force. The central government was strong, with most power in the hands of one emperor. However, loyal leaders were sent out to rule each of the conquered areas. The government controlled the economy and collected labor taxes called the mita from the people. The government ordered each family to do a certain kind of work and was in charge of supplying goods to all people and storing the excess for emergencies. A set of knotted cords called a quipu helped Incas keep track of goods because there was no written language. The Incas used quipus to record a variety of information, such as census data that told about the population. A complex network of roads helped link cities. The Inca government also grouped families in communities called ayllu (EYE-yoo) to work on projects together. Ten ayllus had one chief who reported to higher levels of government. There were class divisions in Inca society. Members of the lower class were limited in what they could own. They had to serve the upper class. The upper class lived in the capital city of Cuzco, where they had fine stone houses and wore nice clothes. They were not forced to pay the labor tax like the lower class. They were generally either priests or government officials. People worshipped a variety of local gods as well as the sun god, who was considered to be the most important. The Incas believed their kings were related to the sun god. Priests performed ceremonies in which llamas, food, or cloth was sacrificed. Unlike the Aztec, Incas rarely sacrificed humans to the gods but they did mummify important people sometimes. The Inca civilization made many important achievements because of its organized government. The empire’s builders used large stone blocks that fit perfectly together without mortar to hold them, creating impressive temples, forts, and roads. Many structures built this way still stand today. Inca artists were skilled at weaving wool and cotton, and working with metal. They created everything from delicate jewelry to a large decorative field of corn made from gold and silver for a temple’s courtyard. Weavers created everyday clothing as well as special fabrics for royalty and religious ceremony. The pattern of the fabric showed the owner’s status in society. The Inca empire remained strong for about 100 years. It had been declining by the time the Spanish arrived in 1532, ending the empire for good.