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Peoples and Civilizations of the Americas

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1 Peoples and Civilizations of the Americas

2 I. Classic – Era Culture and Society in Mesoamerica, 600 – 900
No political unification but similar cultural practices/social structures Olmec - foundation Hereditary political/religious elites ruled over peasants Agricultural practices established earlier (irrigation, terraced hillsides, etc.) Change: reach and power of leaders/elites

3 A. Teotihuacán 600 CE – largest city in Americas
religious architecture reflected astronomy (pyramids to sun, moon, etc.) Quetzalcoatl – feathered serpent (culture god, originator of agriculture and the arts) Practiced human sacrifice Growth of urban populations Chinampas Population growth – new housing, importance of pottery and obsidian tools Elites controlled state bureaucracy, tax collection and commerce – different lifestyle than masses Did NOT concentrate power in hands of a single ruler, no evidence of an overall ruling dynasty Ruled by alliances of elite families? Military protected long distance trade/forced peasants to give surplus to the city NOT an imperial state controlled by a military elite 750 CE – fall: invaders, conflict within elites…destruction of temples

4 B. The Maya Geography/climate
Never a unified empire – rival Mayan kingdoms led by hereditary rulers High population centers required advanced agricultural practices Public architecture (pyramids) – religious/political purposes Maya cosmology Rulers – religious/political duties Torture/sacrifice of captives, Maya military forces sought captives rather than territory Fasting, ritual, purification happened BEFORE warfare Role of women among elites Women healers and shamans, household gardens/economies Maya calendars: solar, ritual, “long” Mathematical achievements Hieroglyphics 800 – 900 CE – major urban centers of the Maya abandoned or destroyed Fall disputed: epidemic disease, disrupted trade, declining agricultural activity led to conflict

5 II. The Postclassic Period in Mesoamerica, 900 – 1500
Differences between classic and postclassic civilizations: population increase, larger armies, political institutions in control of larger territories A. The Toltecs Borrowed from legacy of Teotihuacán 14th century – Aztecs believed that Toltecs the source of all culture in Mesoamerican world (astronomy) First conquest - state based on military power – extended control from Mexico City to Central America 968 CE – Toltec capital of Tula constructed in grand architecture, temples, décor much more warlike, scenes of human sacrifice Two kings ruled Toltec state together, division weakened Toltec power led to destruction of Tula, legend among Aztecs: Topiltzin – king and a priest of the cult of Quetzalcoatl accepted exile in the east – growing Toltec influence among the Maya of Yucatan Peninsula 1175 CE – northern invaders overcame Tula, but Toltec influence strong over later peoples

6 B. The Aztecs Adopted social structures of Toltec
First served more powerful neighbors as surfs/mercenaries, relocated to islands near Lake Texcoco 1325 CE – Twin capitals of Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco Kinship based organization survived but lost power relative to monarchs/hereditary aristocrats No absolute power for rulers - aristocrats chose ruler from ruling family New ruler needed to prove himself through conquest Social divisions starker – made possible by military expansion Territorial expansion gave Aztec warrior elite land/peasant labor Some social mobility Clan social responsibilities, loss of hunting/fishing grounds By 1500 CE – HUGE inequalities in wealth/privilege Aztec kings/aristocrats legitimized authority through elaborate rituals – sacrifice

7 (Aztecs continued…) Labor projects (dike in Lake Texcoco) Tribute system – not symbolic, NECESSARY to sustain urban population Merchants – function and power Trade –bartered (gold, cloth, etc.) goods from far away Diverse markets HUGE urban population – 500,000 between two capitals by 1500 Religious rituals dominated – large number of gods (male/females) Cult of Huitzilopochtli – war, Sun, need for human sacrifice Two temples: war and agriculture Human sacrifice on much greater scale - war captives, criminals, slaves, tribute victims Religious AND political: enemy and subject states were victims, public sacrifices – deviancy NOT tolerated

8 Northern Peoples Underlying Principle – connection between maize, irrigation & social structure Hohokam = Arizona Mexican influence most obvious Irrigation system: 1000 C.E Anasazi Four corners region Long term effect of adapting maize, beans & squash Kivas Chaco Canyon: Pueblo Bonito township Social structure Role of women Merchants, roads Connection to Mesoamerican culture Decline of Chaco Canyon and changes to township location = evidence of warfare over limited arable land

9 Northern Peoples Continued
Mississippian Mound Builders C.E, Economically different to Anasazi Chiefdom tradition; religious & secular purpose Urbanization a result of agriculture, trade and technological advancement Common urban plan visible (reflects social structure) Largest urban centre: Cahokia (St Louis) 20,000 people, rivaling Maya Influence based on access to rivers Status reflected in burial sacrifices Decline seems to be connected to environmental & population pressures rather than war

10 Andean Civilizations Environment key in development of reliable agricultural technologies & therefore social structure Chavin – need to connect coast to interior Technologies required – calendars, terracing, freeze-dried foods, llamas Organization of human labor vital Khipus Collectivized road building, urban construction, drainage, irrigation & production Ayllu Mit’a Role of women in society

11 Moche 600 C.E, Peru Cultural dominacne rather than political
Ritual & economic use of food Social stratification; mit’a, theocratic (warrior priests) Use of gold & burial practice Commoners; labor dues to ayllu & elite Importance of craft Decline = earthquake, flooding, drought & erosion challenged the power of theocracy whose power was connected to controlling environment

12 Tiwanaku & Wari Highlands culture paralleling the Moche
Tiwanaku – Bolivia Intensive irrigation similar to chinampas; reclaimed land & raised fields Stone masonry extremely high quality – pyramids & reservoirs – labor force Limited metallurgy Vast empire (military) pre-cursor to Inca? Cultural influence east & south into Chile but NOT a metropolis Wari – Peru Dependency versus joint capital theories Larger city with wall & temple Both Tiwanaku & Wari decline around 1000 C.E – Inca inherit political legacy

13 Inca Vast imperial empire; “land of four corners”
Originally chiefdom based with reciprocal gift giving 1430’s military expansion – Cuzco capital Unlike most Mesoamerican cultures Inca used state military power rather than tributary systems Pastoralist – influenced religion & politics – ruler/gods obligation like shepherd to flock Mit’a foundation for ayllu base – provided labor force & took care of elderly/sick Imperial administration based on hereditary rulers (ayllu) –avoided rebellion through hostage of people & gods Royal family descended from Sun; bound by rituals, main ritual connected to warfare & conquest

14 Inca Continued Cuzco urbanization
Building/stone masonry City laid out in shape of puma Centre = temples & palaces Importance of sacrifice & magnificence Cultural achievement based on earlier Andean civilizations – khipus, weaving, tools Prosperity rather than technology growth; Machu Picchu Increasingly elite cut off from lives of commoners, reduced equality & diminished local authority Decline 1525; civil war after succession feud. Weakened imperial institutions & fueled conquered peoples resentment. Economy & politics undermined just as the Europeans arrived

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