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Hernán Cortés
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Mesoamerican Civilizations
MAYA, OLMEC, AZTEC, INCA
Migration to the Americas
 A small land bridge
between Siberia and
Alaska, Beringia, which is
now the Bering Strait, is
the most popular theory.
 Slowly people migrated
south through the
Americas, adapting to
new climates and
adjusting to a new way of
life
Lifestyle Changes
 A shift from hunter/gather life to farming and
cultivating plants
Farming and Animal Domestication
ANIMALS
PLANTS
Llamas
Beans
Dogs
Sweet Potatoes
Turkeys
Peppers
Stingless Bees
Maize
Squash
Tomatoes
The Olmecs
The Olmec
 The mother civilization
 Around 1200 BC-400BC
 Known for their use of stone in architecture as well
as in sculpture
 Very little else is known about them
The Olmec
 Civilization was located In what is Mexico today,
along the Gulf of Mexico

San Lorenzo, La Ventana, Tres Zapotes
The Olmec
 Don’t know where they came from
 Evidence suggests a powerful class of nobles and
priests were at the top of society

Through artwork and and found temples
Mesoamerican Ball Game
 Thought to be originally developed by Olmec and
spread through region.
 Ball courts were often “I” shaped.
 Big, heavy, solid rubber ball used
Mesoamerican Ball Game
 Most accounts of the game state only hips, knees,
and elbows were allowed to move the ball.

Object was to score ball thru hoop.
 At the end of the game, losing teams captain was
sacrificed to the gods

Great honor bestowed upon the winner
 People regularly placed bets on the outcomes
Mayan Society
 Settled Yucatan Peninsula in Central America
 Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize
Mayan Empire
 Broken into City-States
 Each had its own theocratic ruler.
Mayan Empire
Tikal
 Largest Mayan city
 Surrounded by 5 pyramids
Mayan Architecture
 Built large pyramids
 Temples rested at the top
of the pyramids
 Temples were used for
government and religious
purposes
 Built canals to control
flow of water through the
city
 Large public squares
Mayan Religion
 Polytheistic
 Practiced human sacrifice
 Human blood major source of nourishment for the Gods
 Priests believed Gods were visible in the stars, sun,
and moon
Mayan Writing
 Created a writing system using
hieroglyphics
Mayan Math
 Invented a counting system
 Allowed them to easily maintain their inventory,
especially when it came to their crops

Also very useful for trade
Mayan Calendar
 Two major types of calendars
 Religious (Tzolkin) and Solar (Haab)
 Every 52 years the calendars would start on the same
day
 3rd historical calendar

Long count calendar
Haab’ Calendar
 Solar calendar
 18 months/ 20 days per month
 360 day total
 19th month had 5 unnamed days
 Considered very unlucky
Tzolkin Calendar
 The sacred calendar
 260-day calendar
 This calendar has two
cycles, a 20 day cycle and
a 13 day cycle.

Each day has a name and a
number. The name comes
from the 20 day cycle and
the number from the 13 day
cycle.
Downfall of the Mayans
 Nobody really knows what happened to the Mayans
 Abandoned cities around 900A.D.
 Some theorize there was a major drought
 Others believe there was a slave and lower class
revolt
The Aztecs
The Aztecs
 Group of warriors. Wandered into Central Mexico
 Wanted a permanent home
 Island in Lake Texcoco in 1325
 Tenochtitlan
Tenochtitlan
 Capital of Aztec empire
 Eagle sitting on a cactus with a snake in beak
 This was a sign from the gods
 Built roads out from the center of the island to land
 Filled parts of lake so they could grow crops
 Became one of the largest cities in the world
Tenochtitlan
Aztec Government
 Ruled through conquest
 Military empire
 Had one emperor and conquered rules paid tribute
 Some conquered people became slaves
 Stole crops, clothing, and anything else they could
Aztec Religion
 Polytheistic
 Believed in human
sacrifice
 Huitzilopochtli was the
main Aztec god
 Built temples and
pyramids to honor their
gods
Aztec Society
 Education was very important
 Parents taught children about……
 Citizenship, responsibility, and life-skills
 Harsh punishments when children disobeyed
 Noble children attended formal schooling
Aztec Farming
 Harvested Maize, Avocados, tomatoes, chili peppers,
squash
 Produced tortillas, chocolate
Similarities Amongst Mesoamericans
 Like the Mayas, and the
Olmecs, Aztecs also
played the ball game.
 Also used a series of
symbols and pictures to
constitute a written
language.
Aztec technology
 Aztecs also used a 365 day calendar very similar to
the Mayans.
 Many advanced weapons (warrior society)
 Made and documented many medicines, in forms of
ointments and drinks
Weapons
 No iron or bronze
 Made axe blades with stone or copper
 Atlatl- weapon used to make throwing spears and fishing
easier
 Macuahuitl- Wooden club containing volcanic glass. Used
to neutralize or disable but not kill an enemy.
Sundial
 Used to tell time
 Helped farmers know when to water plants and
harvest crops
 Why else?
Fall of the Empire
 1519 Spanish soldiers entered Tenochtitlan
 Led by Hernan Cortes
The Inca
The Incas
 Small tribe in the Andes




Mountains
1438-1532
Northern Ecuador to
Central Chile
12 million people
Capital city of Cuzco
The Inca
 Quechua was the official language
 No written language
 Quipu
Llamas
 They were very important to the Incan society
 They were native to the high altitude
 Easily domesticated
Incan Warriors
 Emperor Pachacuti and
son Topa Inca expanded
the Incan empire
 Powerful Army
 Used weapons such as
clubs, spears, spiked
copper balls
Civilization
 Built roads and rope bridges to connect their cities
 Mountain terraces for farming
 All land belonged to the
Emperor.


Descendant of sun god
Inti
Religion
 Polytheistic (like Mayans and Aztecs)
 Special cities devoted to religious ceremonies
 Machu Picchu
 Priests would teach locals about the gods and how to
please them
Fall of the Empire
 Spanish conquistadors
 Francisco Pizzaro
 Disease
 Sibling war
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