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Early Civilizations in Mesoamerica

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1 Early Civilizations in Mesoamerica
Chapter 11 Section 2

2 The Olmec and Teotihuacan
Mesoamerica – Mexico and Central America prior to Spanish colonies Olmec – 1st civilization in the region (1200 to 400 BCE) Settled on the coast of Central America on the Gulf of Mexico Farmed in the river banks Large cities for religious purposes Teotihuacan (250 BCE to 800 CE) – First major city “Place of the Gods” Historians are unsure of who the founders were Residents were mostly farmers, but the city was a trading center

3 The Maya and Toltec Yucatan Peninsula – central American peninsula that is surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico Maya - civilization on the Yucatan from 300 to 900 CE Built temples, pyramids, and developed a complex calendar Begins to decline (invasion, revolts, overuse of land, etc) Not rediscovered until the late 19th early 20th century

4 Political Structures Maya was composed of city-states
Governed by a hereditary ruling class believed to be descendents of the gods Assisted by nobles and scribes (priests) Often at war with each other Cities were built around a central pyramid and included other temples, palaces, and a sacred ball court Tikal – prominent city of the Mayan civilization

5 Social Structures Society included artisans, officials, merchants, and farmers Main belief that all of life was in the hand of divine powers Polytheistic Practiced human sacrifice to satisfy the gods and for special ceremonies

6 Writing Writing was done through hieroglyphs - pictures representing words Unfortunately the Spanish did not decipher them, instead since they felt they were evil and of no value they burned the books that were found Although some survived (4), scholars still have not deciphered most of the language

7 Calendar Calendar is known as the Long Count – cycles of creation and destruction Solar calendar – 365 days, 18 months of 20 day with five left at the end of the year Sacred calendar – 260 days – 13 weeks of 20 days each – used and read by only trained priests Used to record important events in Mayan history

8 Toltec Warlike people who conquered other civilizations around them including the Maya Existed from 900 to 1200 CE Center of the civilization was in Tula (present day Mexico City) Built pyramids and palaces Chichen Itza – second capital located in the northern part of Yucatan Peninsula

9 Rise of the Aztec Emerge as a civilization in the 1100s and decline as a result of Spanish invasion in 1520 Tenochtitlan – capital city of the Aztecs, built on an island in Lake Texcoco (Mexico City) Legend of the journey - the sun God Huitzilopochtli, would give them a sign to end their journey In 1325 they were attack by another people and driven to Lake Texcoco where they saw an eagle perched on a cactus on a rock (the sign)

10 Rise of the Aztec They built the city over the course of the next 100 years – built temples, houses, and other buildings (markets, palaces etc.) The main temple (pyramid) was built to honor Huitzilopochtli Connected to the various islands and the mainland with stone roads Warrior culture that allied with the neighboring people to form a large empire that was semi-independent Aztec ruler required conquered people to pay tribute – (goods or money paid to conquers from conquered people)

11 Political Structure Monarchy – ruler claimed he was a descendent of the gods Did not run the empire alone (lords and government officials) General population – commoners (farmers and merchants), indentured workers (landless laborers), and slaves (people captured in war) Boys trained to be warriors, girls stayed in the home Women could own and inherit property, enter into contracts, and become priestesses

12 Religion and Culture Polytheistic Huitzilopochtli – sun god
Quetzalcoatl – feathered serpent – according to legend he would return (Toltec prince that was exiled) When the Spanish arrived they thought they were representatives of Quetzalcoatl

13 Religion and Culture Religion based on unending struggle between good and evil in the universe Time of the 5th sun Protection from destruction offered in the form of human sacrifice to Huitzilopochtli Architecture Known for their expansive pyramids Main

14 Destruction of the Civilization
Government was central rule Authority was with the king in Tenochtitlan Local lords in Tlaxcala wanted to gain more independence Since they were a warrior culture they had many enemies, but few wanted to go to war instead they just wanted to remain free of Aztec rule

15 Destruction of the Civilization
1519 – Hernan Cortes arrived in Veracruz and took a small group of men and horses inland to Tenochtitlan Along the way they allied with enemies and oppressed people under the Aztec empire including Tlaxcala Meets with Montezuma who thinks they are reps of Quetzalcoatl Eventually problems arise between the Spanish and Aztecs and the Spanish are driven out of the city

16 Destruction of the Civilization
After four months the Aztecs surrender for numerous reasons – what are they? Diseases weakened their immunity New soldiers arrive The people of Tlaxcala provide 50,000 men to assist the Spanish in the attack on Tenochtitlan Advanced weaponry Cortes and his men level the pyramids and build churches and government buildings with the stones for the Spanish

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