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Incas, Mayans and Aztecs

The pre-Columbian period can be clearly distinguished in the history of the western hemisphere. It lasted until 1492, and in fact until the turn of the XV–XVI centuries. In North, Central and South America, several civilizations were formed that were less developed than European and Asian ones. The Maya, Aztecs and Incas reached the highest level of development.

Maya and Aztecs

Mayan Civilization

On the map, these two civilizations should be found on the territory of modern Mexico. The Aztec state occupied its central part between the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

The Maya civilization covered the southeast of Mexico, that is, the Yucatan Peninsula, where their main city-states were located, as well as the territory of modern Guatemala and Belize. Honduras and El Salvador have experienced some of its influence.

The difference between them is that the history of the Maya began much earlier. The first period of their history began around 2000 BC and ended by the beginning of the IV century AD. The second period lasted over 600 years, until the end of the X century AD, and the third — until the XVI century, that is, before the Spanish conquest.

A rich historical and cultural layer remained from their civilization: about 1,000 cities and 3,000 villages.

Famous Mayan cities include:

  • Chichen Itza in Mexico;
  • Tikal in Guatemala;
  • Copan in Honduras;
  • Hoya de Seren in El Salvador.

The Maya civilization flourished long before the appearance of the Aztec state — in the VI–IX centuries AD. Its achievements include: hieroglyphic writing, the system of agriculture, calendar, astronomy, architecture, sculpture, frescoes, bas-reliefs. They did not know about the existence of the Incas, but traded from Panama in the south to central Mexico in the north.

The history of the Aztec state began in the first third of the XIV century. It was then that they mastered the lands on the shores of Lake Texcoco and founded their capital, the city of Tenochtitlan, on the site of modern Mexico City. In 1376, their imperial dynasty was founded, which ruled until 1520.

The Aztec society was divided into classes:

  • peasants;
  • merchants;
  • the nobility, including jaguar warriors and eagle warriors.

They waged wars with their neighbors in order to capture loot and prisoners, including for sacrifices. The Aztec Empire was conquered by a detachment of the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortez in 1519-1521. The advantage of the Spaniards was the presence of horses, gunpowder and allies from among the conquered peoples.

The Aztecs did not know horseback riding and were little familiar with metals. Some of the neighboring tribes were able to make copper axes. But the medicine of the Aztecs was at the level of the states of antiquity. The main products of their diet were legumes and corn. They ate chocolate and amaranth. They used cocoa as their currency. Like the Maya, they built numerous pyramids and temples.

The Inca Civilization

The Inca Empire was called Tauantinsuyu in their Quechua language. In its heyday, that is, in the first third of the XVI century, it covered the western coast of South America, from modern Ecuador in the north to the Atacama Desert in Chile in the south. The empire occupied an area of 2 million square kilometers and was inhabited by 5-10 million people. Their civilization was not the first in South America. It appeared quite late, in the XIII–XV centuries. Before the Incas , the following civilizations existed there:

  • mochika;
  • uari;
  • chimu;
  • nazca;
  • chachapoyas.

The history of the Inca state should be counted from 1200, when Manco Capac founded the city of Cuzco on the territory of modern Peru. Under the ruler Pachacuteca, who ruled from 1438 to 1471, the state turned into an empire. The Incas had their own writing system — kipu. Other achievements of their civilization include: musical culture, theater, urban planning, road system, water supply, processing of bronze, copper, gold, silver and platinum.

On the eve of the conquest by the Spanish conquistadors, the Incas fought among themselves. Atahualpa defeated his brother Huascar in 1532, just before the landing of the conquistador Francisco Pizarro near Cajamarca. Basically, the Inca empire was captured by 1535, but the ruler Tupac Amaru I continued to resist until 1572.

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