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Chapter 15 – The Aztec and Inca Empires. Section Notes. Video. The Aztec Empire Aztec Life and Society The Inca Empire Inca Life and Society. Mesoamerican Achievements in Science and Math. Maps. The Aztec Empire, 1519 The Inca Empire, 1530 Inca Roads Lake Texcoco Assessment Map.

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Chapter 15 – The Aztec and Inca Empires

Section Notes


The Aztec Empire

Aztec Life and Society

The Inca Empire

Inca Life and Society

Mesoamerican Achievements in Science and Math


The Aztec Empire, 1519

The Inca Empire, 1530

Inca Roads

Lake Texcoco

Assessment Map

History Close-up


Machu Picchu

Quick Facts


People in Aztec Society

Chapter 15 Visual Summary

Linking to Today: Preserving Food

the aztec empire
The Big Idea

The Aztecs built a great empire in central Mexico but were conquered by the Spanish in 1521.

Main Ideas

The Aztecs built an empire through warfare and trade and created an impressive capital city in Mesoamerica.

Hernán Cortés conquered the Aztec Empire.

The Aztec Empire



The first Aztecs were farmers, but when they arrived in Central America, all the good farmland was taken. To survive, they had to hire themselves out as warriors.Main Idea 1:The Aztecs built an empire through warfare and trade and created an impressive capital city in Mesoamerica.
the aztecs rise to power
War was the key factor in the Aztecs’ rise to power.

The Aztecs built alliances, or partnerships, to build their empire.

The Aztecs made the people they conquered pay tribute, or give them cotton, gold, or food.

The Aztecs controlled a huge trade network. Markets drew buyers and sellers from all over the Aztec Empire.

By the early 1500s the Aztecs had the most powerful state in Mesoamerica.

The Aztecs’ Rise to Power
tenochtitl n
Tenochtitlán was the capital of the Aztec Empire. It was built in the middle of a lake, on an island.

The Aztecs built causeways, or raised roads across water or wet ground, so people could access the city.

The Aztecs built stone canals to bring water to the city and floating gardens to raise food and flowers.

The city had huge temples, a busy market, clean streets, and magnificent palaces.

It was the greatest city in the Americas during the time of the Aztecs.

main idea 2 hern n cort s conquered the aztec empire
In the late 1400s Spanish explorers and soldiers arrived in the Americas. The soldiers, or conquistadors, came to explore new lands, search for gold, and spread the Catholic religion.Main Idea 2:Hernán Cortés conquered the Aztec Empire.
cort s and moctezuma
A small group of conquistadors led by Cortés reached Mexico in 1519.

Moctezuma II, the Aztec leader, believed that Cortés was a god.

Moctezuma sent Cortés gifts, including gold. Cortés wanted more gold, so he went to Moctezuma.

Cortés took Moctezuma prisoner. The other Aztecs attacked Cortés and his men. The Spanish were driven out, but Moctezuma was killed.

Cortés returned with many Indian allies and in 1521 they defeated the Aztecs and ended their empire.

Cortés and Moctezuma
causes of the defeat of the aztecs
Alliances The Spanish had made allies in the region who gave them supplies, information, and warriors.

Weapons The Spanish had better weapons than the Aztecs. They had cannons, armor, swords, and horses that the Aztecs did not have.

Geography The Spanish were able to cut off the capital city. The people had no food or water, so many Aztecs died of starvation.

Disease The Spanish had unknowingly brought deadly diseases such as smallpox to the Americas. These diseases killed the Aztecs, who had never been exposed to such diseases.

Causes of the Defeat of the Aztecs
aztec life and society
The Big Idea

The Aztecs developed complex social, religious, artistic, and scientific systems in their empire.

Main Ideas

Aztec society was divided by roles and by class.

The Aztec religion required human sacrifice to keep the gods happy.

The Aztecs had many achievements in science, art, and language.

Aztec Life and Society




main idea 1 aztec society was divided by social roles and by class
People in Aztec society had clearly defined roles. These roles, along with social class, determined how Aztec men and women lived. They had four distinct social classes.

Kings and nobles

Priests and warriors

Merchants and artisans

Farmers and slaves

Main Idea 1:Aztec society was divided by social roles and by class.
classes of aztec society kings and nobles
The king was the most powerful person in Aztec society.

The king was in charge of law, trade and tribute, and warfare.

The king had nobles to help him manage the kingdom.

The nobles were tax collectors and judges as well as other jobs. They passed their titles down from father to son.

Classes of Aztec Society:Kings and Nobles
classes of aztec society warriors and priests
The priests had a great deal of influence over the lives of the Aztecs.

The priests had many duties, including keeping calendars to decide when to plant crops and hold religious ceremonies.

Aztec warriors also had many duties. They fought to capture victims for religious sacrifices. They also brought great wealth to the empire.

The warriors were very well respected by the Aztecs.

Classes of Aztec Society:Warriors and Priests
classes of aztec society merchants and artisans
Merchants gathered goods from all over the empire and sold them in the main market.

Many merchants were very wealthy and used their money to build large houses and send their sons to private schools.

Artisans were also rich and important to the Aztecs. They made gold jewelry and elaborate headdresses.

Classes of Aztec Society:Merchants and Artisans
classes of aztec society farmers and slaves
Farmers and slaves made up the lowest class of Aztec society.

Most of the people who lived in the empire were farmers who grew maize, beans, and a few other crops.

Farmers were very poor and did not own their own land.

Slaves were people who had been captured in battle or who could not pay their debts. They were laborers, and if they did not obey, they were sacrificed to the gods.

Classes of Aztec Society:Farmers and Slaves
aztec sacrifices
The Aztecs believed that keeping the gods happy meant that their lives would be blessed.

The greatest number of sacrifices were made to the war god Huitzilopochtli and the rain god Tlaloc.

Priests led the sacrificial rituals, which took place on top of the temples that had been built.

Humans were sacrificed because it was believed that the human hearts and blood would “feed” the gods and keep them strong.

Aztec priests sacrificed as many as 10,000 victims a year in religious sacrifices.

Aztec Sacrifices
main idea 3 the aztecs had many achievements in science art and language
The Aztecs valued learning and art. Aztec scientific achievements, artistic traditions, and language contributed to their culture.Main Idea 3:The Aztecs had many achievements in science, art, and language.
scientific achievements
The Aztecs studied astronomy and created a calendar much like the Mayan calendar.

The Aztecs also knew many different uses for plants. They knew of 100 different plants that could be used for medicine.

Scientific Achievements
writing and literature
The Aztecs had a complex writing system and kept extensive written records.

The Aztecs also had a very strong oral tradition.

They considered fine speeches very important and also enjoyed riddles.

Stories about ancestors and gods were also a part of the oral tradition. The Aztecs told these stories to their children and passed them down from generation to generation.

After the Spanish conquered the Aztecs, many of these stories were written down.

Writing and Literature
the inca empire
The Big Idea

The Incas built a huge empire in South America, but they were conquered by the Spanish.

Main Ideas

The rise of the Inca Empire was due to conquest and the achievements of the Inca people.

Pizarro conquered the Incas and took control of the region.

The Inca Empire



foundations for the incan empire
Pre-Inca civilization began to develop in what is now Peru. Four major cultures developed and built some of South America’s first cities.

The early Incas began as a small tribe in the Andes mountains. A ruler named Pachacuti led the Incas to expand their territory through agreements with, or conquests of, other tribes.

Later Inca rulers continued to expand their territory. By the 1500s the Incan Empire was huge and had 12 million people.

Foundations for the Incan Empire
the incan government
As the Incas conquered more people, they had to devise a way to control them.

They made the conquered leaders move out of their villages and move in with leaders who were loyal to the Inca government.

The Inca made the children of the conquered leaders come to the Incan capital to learn about Incan ways.

The Incas established an official language, Quechua.

They controlled the economy by having the Inca pay a tax with their labor.

There were no markets or merchants. Instead, the government would distribute goods. Leftover goods were stored in the capital for emergencies.

The Incan Government
main idea 2 pizarro conquered the incas and took control of the region
A civil war began in the Inca Empire between the two sons of the king, Atahualpa and Huáscar. Atahualpa eventually won the war and ruled the empire. Main Idea 2:Pizarro conquered the Incas and took control of the region.
the fall of the incas
Although Atahualpa had won the war, the infighting had weakened the empire.

A group of conquistadors led by Francisco Pizarro arrived in the empire. They demanded that Atahualpa convert to Christianity.

When Atahualpa refused to convert, the conquistadors attacked the Inca, and thousands were killed.

The Incas tried to free Atahualpa with a roomful of gold and silver, but the Spanish killed him anyway.

The Spanish defeated the last of the Inca, and the empire fell in 1537.

The Spanish had superior weapons and horses.

They brought diseases that weakened the native peoples.

The Fall of the Incas
inca life and society
The Big Idea

Many kinds of people make up Inca society in an empire know for grand architecture and complex oral literature.

Main Ideas

For the Inca, position in society affected daily life.

The Incas made great achievements in building, art, and oral literature.

Inca Life and Society



main idea 1 for the incas position in society affected daily life
Inca society had two main social classes—an upper and a lower class. The Incas from Cuzco,the capital, made up the upper class. Main Idea 1:For the Incas, position in society affected daily life.
society and daily life
Society and Daily Life
  • Upper Class
  • Kings, priests, and government officials made up the Inca upper class.
  • Men worked for the government, and women had household duties.
  • Sons went to school.
  • Upper-class families had many privileges, such as private schools, stone houses, and the best clothes.
  • Lower Class
  • The lower class was made up of farmers, artisans, and servants. There were no slaves in Inca society.
  • They worked on government farms, served in the army, worked in mines, or built roads.
  • Most children did not go to school, but instead learned to farm.
religion in the inca empire
The Inca Empire had an official religion.

When they conquered new regions, they taught this religion to the conquered people.

They allowed the conquered people to worship their own gods as well.

The god of the sun was the most important god to the Incas. They believed their kings were related to the sun god.

The Incas rarely sacrificed humans. Instead, they sacrificed llamas, cloth, or food.

Religion in the Inca Empire
main idea 2 the inca made great achievements in building art and oral literature
The Incas had strong traditions of building, art, and storytelling. Many of their creations still exist today. Main Idea 2:The Inca made great achievements in building, art, and oral literature.
inca contributions to culture
The Inca were known for their massive buildings and forts made of huge stone blocks. Blocks were cut so precisely that even today it is nearly impossible to fit a knife blade between the stones.

The Inca also built a system of roads that connected all parts of the empire.

The Inca artisans made jewelry of silver and gold.

Oral literature was made up of storytelling and songs. The Inca also passed down their songs, dances, and religious practices.

Inca Contributions to Culture