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STANDARD WHI.11a, b The student will demonstrate knowledge of major civilizations of the Western Hemisphere, including the Mayan, Aztec, and Incan by a) describing geographic relationship, with emphasis on patterns of development in terms of climate and physical features.

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mesoamerican civilizations

The student will demonstrate knowledge of major civilizations of the Western Hemisphere, including the Mayan, Aztec, and Incan by

a) describing geographic relationship, with emphasis on patterns of development in terms of climate and physical features.

b) describing cultural patterns and political and economic structures

Mesoamerican Civilizations

Chapter 11

Sections 2 and 3

Olmec 1300 B.C.-

The first civilization of Mesoamerica

They were located in the hot and swampy lowlands along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico south of Veracruz.

They had large cities that were centers for religious rituals.

They carved colossal stone heads

They may have been to represent

their ancestors or gods.


Was the first major city in Mesoamerica

Arose around 250 B.C. and collapsed about 800 A.D.

May have had as many as 200,000 inhabitants at its height.

Has a main thoroughfare, known as the Avenue of the Dead, had two main temples.

The Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon.

Mayan civilization

• Located in the Mexican and Central American

rain forest

• Represented by Chichén Itzá

• Group of city-states ruled by a king

• Economy based on agriculture and trade

• Polytheistic religion—Pyramids

Yucatán Peninsula

-Maya were found in the Yucatan Peninsula and Part of Guatemala

Maya: Between 300 and 900 A.D.

-Flourished during this time. We do not know why it fell into decline. The Maya abandoned their cities, we do not know why.

Political and Social Structure

Cities-Were built around a central pyramid

Pyramid-Was topped with a shrine to the gods.

City-States-Each governed by a hereditary ruling class

Mayan Kings

-Ruled the Mayan Kingdom

They claimed they were divine

Were assisted by nobles and a class of scribes

Made special blood sacrifices to maintain the kingdom.


-Included townspeople, skilled artisans, officials, and merchants.

Many people were peasant farmers who worked on terraced hillsides farming.

Men did the fighting and hunting, women made cornmeal and were responsible for homemaking and raising children.


The Maya were Polytheistic.

They believed that all of life was in the hands of a divine power.

They were responsible for pleasing the gods.

Their gods were ranked in order of importance, the Jaguar was the god of night and was seen as evil.

The Maya practiced human sacrifice to appease their gods.

Human sacrifice was also used to mark special occasions.

When a king ascended to the throne war captives were tortured and beheaded to mark the occasion.



The Maya developed an independent Hieroglyphic language.

The Spanish destroyed most of the Mayan writings. They were not seen as having any value. Their language was not translated until the 20th century.


The Maya developed a calendar that had two different parts.

It had a solar calendar with 365 days, divided into 18 months with 20 days each with 5 extra days at the end.

A Lunar calendar and a Calendar based on the movement of the Planet Venus. This was a sacred calendar with 260 days and 13 weeks of 20 days each.

The Mayan calendar says our present world was created in 3114 B.C. and the current world will end on December 23 2012 A.D.

Aztec civilization

• Located in arid valley in central Mexico

• Represented by Tenochtitlan

• Ruled by an emperor

• Economy based on agriculture and tribute from conquered peoples

• Polytheistic religion with pyramids/rituals

The Aztec began c. 12th century A.D.

Began a long migration that brought them into the Valley of Mexico.

They established their capital city at Tenochtitlán.


An Aztec legend said that when the people found their new home they would see an eagle perched on a cactus holding a snake. They saw this in lake Texcoco.

Their city was built up on rafts made from reeds and covered with dirt. They were called chinampas. Present-Day Mexico-City is built on top of this city. The original was destroyed by the Spanish.

Lake Texcoco-Swampy lake that was the home of the capital city. Tenochtitlán means the Place of the Prickly Pear Cactus.

Political and Social Structure

By 1500 there were about 4 million people in the Aztec Empire.

Aztec Emperor

Ruled over the Aztec Empire.

Was the supreme leader of the people.

He claimed that he was divine.


Made up of commoners, indentured workers, and slaves.

Most people were farmers, but they also traded with people in the surrounding areas.

Men were to be the warriors, while a woman’s role was to be in the home. Women were allowed to own and inherit property and enter contracts. Women wove textiles and raised children. They could also be priestesses.


Had a polytheistic religion based on warfare.


Their chief god. He was the god of the sun. The Aztec

offered him human sacrifice to give him strength to battle the forces of darkness each night so that he could rise each morning.


The feathered Serpent

He believed he had left the valley of

Mexico and promised to return in triumph.

Human Sacrifice

Each Aztec city contained a pyramid where they

practiced human sacrifice as a way to postpone

the end of the world.

Destruction of the Aztec

The subjugation of the people of the Aztec

Empire bred hatred and discontent among the

people. When the Spanish arrived they did

not have a difficult time finding allies to fight

the Aztec.

Hernán Cortés 1519

Spanish Conquistador who came to the valley of Mexico in 1519 with 550 soldiers and 16 horses. He was at first greeted by the Aztec Emperor Montezuma (Moctezuma). The Spanish later kidnapped the Emperor and made him a puppet. The people rebelled and the Emperor was killed. The Spanish barely escaped.

The Spanish returned several months later. Many of the natives had fallen ill with Smallpox. Cortés and his allies destroyed the Aztec capital and subjugated the Aztec people.

Incan civilization

• Located in the Andes Mountains of South America

• Represented by Machu Picchu

• Ruled by an emperor

• Economy based on high-altitude agriculture

• Polytheistic religion

• Road system

Late 1300's Inca

The Inca started as a small group that were located in Cuzco. They did not begin to become powerful until after the fall of the Moche of Peru.


Unified the Inca and established the Inca Empire.

Organization of the Empire

Incan state was built on war.

The conquered peoples were all taught the same language.

Each region was appointed a governor who answered to the Emperor.

Road System: 24, 800 miles of Road

The Inca built roads to unify their people. Roads made travel and communication throughout the empire more efficient.

There were rest houses and storage depots along with bridges to span ravines and waterways.


Were required to marry from within their own social group.

Women were expected to live at home, the only alternative was to be a priestess.

Most people were farmers, they also herded llamas and alpacas.

Quipu-A system of knotted strings used by the Inca to keep records.

Great Builders

They had great buildings made of stone held without mortar. Their roads also show their ability as great builders.

Machu Picchu

City built at 8,000 ft above sea level.

Urubamba River

River below Machu Picchu


The Spanish arrived in 1531

1531: Francisco Pizarro

Spanish Conquistador led a band of 180 men with

superior weapons.

The Inca, like the Aztec, were devastated by disease.


Devastated the Population

Civil War

After the death of the Inca Emperor a civil war broke out, Pizarro took advantage and defeated the people.


Pizarro and his men established Lima as the new capital of the Spanish Colony in 1535.

Achievements of Mayan, Aztec, and Incan civilizations

• Calendars

• Mathematics

• Writing and other record-keeping systems