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Part 1: Mayans Part 2: Incas. Lsn 6. Part 1: Mayans Theme: The connection between agriculture, religion, and society. Lsn 6. ID & SIG. bloodletting rituals, cocoa, maize, Maya, Mayan calendar, Mayan decline, Olmec, Popol Vuh, Temple of the Giant Jaguar, Tikal. Olmecs and Mayans. Olmecs.

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id sig
  • bloodletting rituals, cocoa, maize, Maya, Mayan calendar, Mayan decline, Olmec, Popol Vuh, Temple of the Giant Jaguar, Tikal
  • Earliest known ceremonial centers of the ancient Americas appeared near modern day Veracruz around 1200 B.C.
    • Served as the nerve center for the first complex society of the Americas, the Olmecs
  • “Olmec” was not what the people called themselves
    • It means “rubber people” and comes from the rubber trees that flourish in the region
characteristics of olmec civilization
Characteristics of Olmec Civilization
  • Intensive agricultural techniques
    • Area received abundant rainfall so extensive irrigation systems were unnecessary
    • Still the Olmecs built elaborate drainage systems to divert waters that might otherwise have caused floods
  • Specialization of labor
    • Jade craftsmen
  • Cities
    • Built around ceremonial centers at San Lorenzo, La Venta, and Tres Zapotes
  • A social hierarchy
    • Society was probably authoritarian
    • Common subjects provided labor and tribute to the elite
characteristics of olmec civilization1
Characteristics of Olmec Civilization
  • Organized religion and education
    • Ceremonial centers, priests, temples, altars, and human sacrifice
  • Development of complex forms of economic exchange
    • Imported jade and obsidian and exported small jade, basalt, and ceramic works of art
  • Development of new technologies
    • Excellent astronomers and mathematicians who developed a calendar
  • Advanced development of the arts. (This can include writing.)
    • Created colossal human heads sculpted from basalt rock
decline of the olmec
Decline of the Olmec
  • Olmecs systematically destroyed their ceremonial centers at both San Lorenzo and La Venta and then deserted the sites
    • Statues were broken and buried, monuments defaced, and capitals burned
  • No one knows why, but some speculate reasons involving civil conflicts or doubts about the effectiveness or legitimacy of the ruling classes
  • By about 400 B.C., Olmec society had fallen on hard times and other societies soon eclipsed it
  • Began to develop around 300 A.D. in what is now southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador
  • Known as “The People of the Jaguar”
olmec influence on the mayans
Olmec Influence on the Mayans
  • Maize
  • Ceremonial centers with temple pyramids
  • Calendar based on the Olmec one
  • Ball games
  • Rituals involving human sacrifice
characteristics of a civilization
Characteristics of a Civilization
  • Intensive agricultural techniques
  • Specialization of labor
  • Cities
  • A social hierarchy
  • Organized religion and education
  • Development of complex forms of economic exchange
  • Development of new technologies
  • Advanced development of the arts. (This can include writing.)



  • Soil in Mesoamerican lowlands was thin and quickly lost fertility
    • Mayans built terraces to retain the silt and therefore greatly improved agricultural production
  • Raised maize, cotton, and cacao
    • Cacao was a precious commodity consumed mostly by nobles and even used as money

Cacao tree

cities tikal
Cities: Tikal
  • From about 300 to 900, the Maya built more than eight large ceremonial centers
    • All had pyramids, palaces, and temples
  • Some of the larger ones attracted dense populations and evolved into genuine cities
    • The most important was Tikal
    • Small city-kingdoms served as the means of Mayan political organization
cities tikal1
Cities: Tikal
  • Tikal was the most important Mayan political center between the 4th and 9th Centuries
    • Reached its peak between 600 and 800 with a population of nearly 40,000
  • The Temple of the Jaguar dominated the skyline and represented Tikal’s control over the surrounding region which had a population of about 500,000
tikal temple of the jaguar
Tikal: Temple of the Jaguar
  • 154 feet high
  • Served as funerary pyramid for Lord Cacao, Maya ruler of the late 6th and early 7th centuries
social hierarchy
Social Hierarchy

A Mayan Warrior

A Mayan Priest

social hierarchy1
Social Hierarchy
  • King and ruling family
  • Priests
  • Hereditary nobility (from which came the merchant class)
  • Warriors
  • Professionals and artisans
  • Peasants
  • Slaves
social hierarchy2
Social Hierarchy
  • King and ruling family
    • Ruled from the city-kingdoms such as Tikal
    • Ruled by semi-divine right and believed their connection with the gods was maintained by ritual human sacrifice
    • Often had names associated with the jaguar
  • Priests
    • Maintained an elaborate calendar and transmitted knowledge of writing, astronomy, and mathematics

A Mayan King

social hierarchy3
Social Hierarchy
  • Hereditary nobility (from which came the merchant class)
    • Owned most of the land and cooperated with the kings and priests by organizing military forces and participating in religious rituals
  • Warriors
    • Mayan kingdoms fought constantly with each other and warriors won tremendous prestige by capturing high-ranking enemies
    • Captives were usually made slaves, humiliated, tortured, and ritually sacrificed
social hierarchy4
Social Hierarchy
  • Professionals and artisans
    • Architects and sculptors supervised construction of the large monuments and public buildings
  • Peasants
    • Fed the entire society
  • Slaves
    • Provided physical labor for the construction of cities and monuments
    • Often had been captured in battle
  • Astronomers
  • Mathematicians
  • Warriors
  • Architects and sculptors
  • Potters
  • Tool manufacturers
  • Textile makers
religion and education
Religion and Education

Human Sacrifice and Bloodletting Ritual

religion importance of agriculture
Religion: Importance of Agriculture
  • Mayan religion reflected the fundamental role of agriculture in their society
  • Popol Vuh, was the Mayan creation myth that taught that the gods had created human beings out of maize and water
  • Gods kept the world in order and maintained the agricultural cycle in exchange for honors and sacrifices
religion bloodletting rituals
Religion: Bloodletting Rituals
  • Mayans believed the shedding of human blood would prompt the gods to send rain to water the maize
  • Bloodletting involved both war captives and Mayan royals

Mayan queen holds a bowl filled with strips of paper used to collect blood.

religion bloodletting
Religion: Bloodletting
  • A popular bloodletting ritual was for a Mayan to pierce his own tongue and thread a thin rope through the hole, thus letting the blood run down the rope
religion the ball game
Religion: The Ball Game
  • Mayans inherited a ball game from the Olmecs that was an important part of Mayan political and religious festivals
  • High-ranking captives were forced to play the game for their very lives
    • The losers became sacrificial victims and faced torture and execution immediately following the match
  • Object of the game was to propel an 8 inch ball of solid baked rubber through a ring or onto a marker without using your hands
economic exchange
Economic Exchange

Mayan symbol for movement

economic exchange1
Economic Exchange
  • Traveling merchants served not just as traders but also as ambassadors to neighboring lands and allied people
  • Traded mainly in exotic and luxury goods such as rare animal skins, cacao beans, and finely crafted works of art which rulers coveted as signs of special status
  • Cacao used as money
new technologies
New Technologies

Mayan Calendar

Observatory at El Caracol

new technologies1
New Technologies
  • Excelled in astronomy and mathematics
    • Could plot planetary cycles and predict eclipses of the sun and moon
    • Invented the concept of zero and used a symbol to represent zero mathematically, which facilitated the manipulation of large numbers
    • By combining astronomy and mathematics, calculated the length of the solar year at 365.242 days– about 17 seconds shorter than the figure reached by modern astronomers

Mayan numerical system

new technologies calendar
New Technologies: Calendar
  • Mayan priests developed the most elaborate calendar of the ancient Americas
  • Interwove two kinds of year
    • A solar year of 365 days governed the agricultural cycle
    • A ritual year of 260 days governed daily affairs by organizing time into twenty “months” of thirteen days each
  • Believed each day derived certain characteristics from its position on both the solar and ritual calendars and carefully studied the combinations
    • Lucky and unlucky days
art and writing
Art and Writing

Mayan writing

  • Expanded on Olmec tradition to create the most flexible and sophisticated of all early American systems of writing
  • Contained both ideographic elements and symbols for syllables
  • Used to write works of history, poetry, and myth and keep genealogical, administrative, and astronomical records
mayan decline
Mayan Decline
  • By about 800, most Mayan populations had begun to desert their cities
    • Full scale decline followed everywhere but in the northern Yucatan
  • Possible causes include foreign invasion, internal dissension and civil war, failure of the water control system leading to agricultural disaster, ecological problems caused by destruction of the forests, epidemic diseases, and natural disasters
id sig1
  • Cuzco, Inca roads, quipu, terrace farming
  • By the 13th Century, the Inca had established domination over the regional states in Andean South America
  • In 1438, Pachacuti launched a series of military campaigns that greatly expanded Inca authority
    • Success bred success and the Inca empire expanded
  • By the late 15th Century, the Inca empire covered more than 2,500 miles, embracing almost all of modern Peru, most of Ecuador, much of Bolivia, and parts of Chile and Argentina
characteristics of a civilization1
Characteristics of a Civilization
  • Intensive agricultural techniques
  • Specialization of labor
  • Cities
  • A social hierarchy
  • Organized religion and education
  • Development of complex forms of economic exchange
  • Development of new technologies
  • Advanced development of the arts. (This can include writing.)
  • Intensive agricultural techniques
    • Inca empire spanned many types of environments and required terraces to make farmland out of the mountainous terrain
    • Chief crop was the potato
    • Herded llamas and alpacas for meat, wool, hides, and dung (used as fuel)
  • “… every civilization represents a triumph of the human spirit.”
    • Upshur, p. 14
social hierarchy6
Social Hierarchy
  • In order to rule the massive territory and populations they had conquered, the Incas completely restructured much of Andean society
    • Relocated populations
    • Reordered the economy
    • Constructed an extensive transportation network
    • Inculcated a state religion
social hierarchy7
Social Hierarchy
  • Rulers
  • Aristocrats
  • Priests
  • Bureaucrats
  • Peasant cultivators of common birth
social hierarchy8
Social Hierarchy
  • Chief ruler was a god-king who theoretically owned everything and was an absolute and infallible ruler
  • Dead rulers retained their prestige even after death
    • Remains were mummified and state deliberations often took place in their presence in order to benefit from their counsel
    • Were seen as intermediaries with the gods
social hierarchy9
Social Hierarchy
  • Aristocrats lived privileged lives including fine foods, embroidered clothes, and large ears spools
    • Spanish called them “big ears”

Inca ear spools

social hierarchy10
Social Hierarchy
  • Priests often came from royal and aristocratic families
    • They lived celibate and ascetic lives
    • Influenced Inca society by education and religious rituals
  • Large class of bureaucrats to support centralized government
    • Bureaucrats administered over sections of the population based on numerical rather than geographic distribution
    • Bureaucrats often were drawn from the loyal ranks of conquered people
social hierarchy11
Social Hierarchy
  • Peasants worked lands allocated to them and delivered substantial portions of their production to the bureaucrats
    • Surplus supported the ruling, aristocratic, and priestly classes as well as providing public relief in times of famine or to widows
  • Also owed compulsory labor services to the Inca state
    • Men provided heavy labor
    • Women provided tribute in the forms of textiles, pottery, and jewelry
cities cuzco
Cities: Cuzco
  • Inca capital at Cuzco served as the administrative, religious, and ceremonial center of the empire
  • May have supported 300,000 residents at the height of the Inca empire in the late 15th Century
  • Tremendous system of roads emanated from Cuzco
new technologies2
New Technologies

Major Roads of the Inca Empire

new technologies roads
New Technologies: Roads
  • Built an all-weather highway system of over 16,000 miles
    • Ran “through deep valleys and over mountains, through piles of snow, quagmires, living rock, along turbulent rivers; in some places it ran smooth and paved, carefully laid out; in others over sierras, cut through the rock, with walls skirting the rivers, and steps and rests through the snow; everywhere it was clean swept and kept free of rubbish, with lodgings, storehouses, temples to the sun, and posts along the way.” (Ciezo de Leon)
new technologies roads1
New Technologies: Roads
  • Allowed the Inca government to maintain centralized control by moving military forces around the empire quickly, transporting food supplies where needed, and tying the widespread territories together
  • Rest stations were built a day’s walk apart
  • Runners were positioned at convenient intervals to deliver government messages
economic exchange3
Economic Exchange
  • Inca society did not produce large classes of merchants or skilled artisans
  • Locally they bartered among themselves for surplus agricultural production and handcrafted goods
  • Long distance trade was supervised by the central government using the excellent Inca roads
economic exchange4
Economic Exchange
  • Gold, the Inca’s most valuable commodity, proved to be their undoing when Spanish conquistadors destroyed much of the empire in the early 1500s in search of gold
  • The Spanish melted down almost all the gold so few works of art remain

Arrival of Francisco Pizarro in South America

specialization of labor
Specialization of Labor

Inca textile fragment

specialization of labor1
Specialization of Labor
  • Large class of bureaucrats to support centralized government
  • Much fewer skilled craftsmen than other people of Mexica and the eastern hemisphere
    • Some potters, textile workers, and tool makers
    • Inca designated different specialties for captured people to meet the society’s needs
religion and education1
Religion and Education

Inti Raymi, the feast of the sun

religion and education2
Religion and Education
  • Main god was Inti, god of the sun
    • In the capital of Cuzco, some 4,000 priests, attendants, and virgin devotees served Inti
  • Sacrificed agricultural produce or animals rather than humans
  • Inca religion taught that sin was a violation of the established or natural order
    • Believed sin could bring divine disaster for individuals and communities
    • Had rituals for confession and penance
  • Believed in life after death where an individual received rewards or punishments based on the quality of his earthly life
art and writing1
Art and Writing

Quipu (khipu)

art and writing2
Art and Writing
  • The Inca had no writing
  • Instead they kept records using a quipu
    • A array of small cords of various colors and lengths, all suspended from a thick cord
    • By tying knots in the small cords, Inca could record statistical information

586 on a quipu