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Were these three cultures aware of each others existence? Did they trade with one another?
There is no evidence that Maya traders themselves reached the highlands of Mexico; they traded their goods in the great commercial center of Xicalango, whence others carried them on. It is reported that the merchants of Xicalango furnished Cortez with fairly correct maps of the entire region to the south as far as Panama, which suggests extensive trade contacts.
There's a map on p.2 that shows established, sporadic, conjectured trade routes. I've only skimmed a few passages, but it seems pretty clear the Mayans were aware of and de facto trading with the other two. At the very least one could suggest it may have been like the Romans, who knew the Chinese existed and de facto traded with them through intermediaries.
Anecdotally I recollect also reading somewhere (possibly on this site or in a source reference from it) that the Spaniards' reputation had reached Florida long before they actually showed up, resulting in fairly hostile natives.
Aztecs did know about Mayas but the Mayan civilization was already dead. But of course, they did traded with its descendants - even prehistoric men traded with their neighbours.
And no direct contacts for the contemporary Incas civilization.
The only question remains open - if Incas knew about Mayas
The Aztecs and the Mayas did know about each other. After all, they were right next to each other. But I don't think there is any evidence that one of those two civilizations met the Incas. Probably since the Incas were pretty far away.
Although I think that if there had been contact, the Mayas would've had the biggest chance since they traded more.
Contact between the Inca, Maya and Aztecs? - History
The Maya are probably the best-known of the classical civilizations of Mesoamerica.
Originating in the Yucatan around 2600 B.C., they rose to prominence around A.D. 250 in present-day southern Mexico, Guatemala, western Honduras, El Salvador, and northern Belize.
Building on the inherited inventions and ideas of earlier civilizations such as the Olmec, the Mayans developed astronomy, calendrical systems and hieroglyphic writing. The Mayans were noted as well for elaborate and highly decorated ceremonial architecture, including temple-pyramids, palaces and observatories, all built without metal tools. They were also skilled farmers, clearing large sections of tropical rain forest and, where groundwater was scarce, building sizeable underground reservoirs for the storage of rainwater. The Mayans were equally skilled as weavers and potters, and cleared routes through jungles and swamps to foster extensive trade networks with distant peoples.
Many people believe that the ancestors of the Mayans crossed the Bering Strait at least 20,000 years ago. They were nomadic hunter-gatherers. Evidence of settled habitation in Mexico is found in the Archaic period 5000-1500 BC - corn cultivation, basic pottery and stone tools.
The first true civilization was established with the rise of the Olmecs in the Pre-Classic period 1500 BC -300 AD. The Olmecs settled on the Gulf Coast, and little is known about them.
The Mayans are regarded as the inventors of many aspects of Meso-American cultures including the first calendar and hieroglyphic writing in the Western hemisphere. Archeologists have not settled the relationship between the Olmecs and the Mayans, and it is a mystery whether the Mayans were their descendants, trading partners, or had another relationship. It is agreed that the Mayans developed a complex calendar and the most elaborate form of hieroglyphics in America, both based on the Olmec's versions.
Mayans seem to have entered Yucatan from the west. As usual with ancient nations, it is difficult in the beginning to separate myth from history, their earliest mentioned leader and deified hero, Itzamná, being considered to be simply a sun-god common to the Mayan civilization. He is represented as having led the first migration from the Far East, beyond the ocean, along a pathway miraculously opened through the waters.
The second migration, which seems to have been historic, was led from the west by Kukulcan, a miraculous priest and teacher, who became the founder of the Mayan kingdom and civilization. Fairly good authority, based upon study of the Mayans chronicles and calendar, places this beginning near the close of the second century of the Christian Era.
Under Kukulcan the people were divided into four tribes, ruled by as many kingly families: the Cocom, Tutul-xiu, Itzá and Chele.
To the first family belonged Kukulcan himself, who established his residence at Mayanspan, which thus became the capital of the whole nation. The Tutul-xiu held vassal rule at Uxmal, the Itzá at Chichen-Itzá, and the Chelé at Izamal.
To the Chele was appointed the hereditary high priesthood, and their city became the sacred city of the Mayans. Each provincial king was obliged to spend a part of each year with the monarch at Mayapan. This condition continued down to about the eleventh century, when, as the result of a successful revolt of the provincial kings, Mayapan was destroyed, and the supreme rule passed to the Tutul-xiu at Uxmal.
Later on Mayapan was rebuilt and was again the capital of the nation until about the middle of the fifteenth century, when, in consequence of a general revolt against the reigning dynasty, it was finally destroyed, and the monarchy was split up into a number of independent petty states, of which eighteen existed on the peninsula at the arrival of the Spaniards.
In consequence of this civil war a part of the Itzá emigrated south to Lake Petén, in Guatemala, where they established a kingdom with their capital and sacred city of Flores Island in the lake.
Mayan Classic Period - 300-900 AD
Most artistic and cultural achievement came about during the Classic period 300 - 900 AD. The Mayans developed a complex, hierarchical society divided into classes and professions. Centralized governments, headed by a king, ruled territories with clearly defined boundaries. These borders changed as the various states lost and gained control over territory. Mayansn centers flourished in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador. The major cities of the Classic period were Tikal (Guatemala), Palenque and Yaxchilán (Chiapas, Mexico), Copán and Quirigua (Honduras). For most of this period, the majority of the Mayans population lived in the central lowlands of Mexico and Belize.
The Northern Yucatan (where present day Cancun is located) was sparsely populated for most of the Classic period with only a few cities such as Dzibilchaltún (near Mérida) and Xpuhil, Becán and Chicanná (near Chetumal). During the 9th century the population centers of the central lowlands declined significantly. This decline was very rapid and is attributed to famine, drought, breakdowns in trade, and political fragmentation. Fragmentation from large states into smaller city-states focused resources on rivalries between cities including not just wars, but competitions of architecture and art between rival cities. As the cities in the lowlands declined, urban centers sprung up in the Northern Yucatán, including Uxmal (near Mérida).
Anthropologists used to contrast the "peaceful" Mayans with the bloodthirsty Aztecs of central Mexico. Although human sacrifice was not as important to the Mayans as to the Aztec, blood sacrifice played a major role in their religion. Individuals offered up their blood, but not necessarily their lives, to the gods through painful methods using sharp instruments such as sting-ray spines or performed ritualistic self mutilation. It is probable that people of all classes shed their blood during religious rites. The king's blood sacrifice was the most valuable and took place more frequently. The Mayans were warlike and raided their neighbors for land, citizens, and captives. Some captives were subjected to the double sacrifice where the victims heart was torn out for the sun and head cut off to pour blood out for the earth.
The Mayansn civilization was the height of pre-Columbian culture. They made significant discoveries in science, including the use of the zero in mathematics. Their writing was the only in America capable of expressing all types of thought. Glyphs either represent syllables or whole concepts and were written on long strips of paper or carved and painted on stone. They are arranged to be red from left to right and top to bottom in pairs of columns. The Mayansn calendar begins around 3114 BC, before Mayans culture existed, and could measure time well into the future. They wrote detailed histories and used their calendar to predict the future and astrological events. Fray Diego de Landa, second bishop of the Yucatán ordered a mass destruction of Mayansn books in 1562 and only three survived.
Post Classic Period - 1000 - 1500 AD - Growth and Ruin
After the Classic period, the Mayans migrated to the Yucatán peninsula. There they developed their own character, although their accomplishments and artwork are not considered as impressive as the Classic Mayans. Most of the ruins you can see South of Cancun are from this time period and are definitely worth a visit.
Chichen Itza (near Valladolid), Uxmal (near Merida) and Mayanspán (west of Chichen Itza) were the three most important cities during the Post Classic period. They lived in relative peace from around 1000 - 1100 AD when Mayanspán overthrew the confederation and ruled for over 200 years. In 1441 the Mayans who had previously ruled Uxmal destroyed the city of Mayanspán and founded a new city at Mani. Wars were fought between rival Mayansn groups over the territory until the region was conquered by the Spanish.
Chichen Itza was first populated between 500 and 900 AD by Mayans and for some reason abandoned around 900, the city was then resettled 100 years later and subsequently invaded by Toltecs from the North. There are numerous reliefs of both Mayan gods including Chac and the Toltec gods including Quetzalcoatl.
For some reason the city was abandoned around 1300. If the Spanish did not make it a policy to kill all of the Mayan priests and burn books when they arrived in Mexico, we would all have a few more answers.
Post Columbian Period - Conquest and Rebellion (1500 AD)
On his second voyage Columbus heard of Yucatan as a distant country of clothed men. On his fifth voyage (1503-04) he encountered, south-west of Cuba, a canoe-load of Indians with cotton clothing for barter, who said that they came from the ancient Mayan civilization.
In 1506 Pinzon sighted the coast, and in 1511 twenty men under Valdivia were wrecked on the shores of the sacred island of Cozumel, several being captured and sacrificed to the idols.
The Spanish colonization of the islands of Hispaniola and Cuba allowed them to launch exploratory forays around the Caribbean. Córdoba discovered Isla Mujeres in 1517 and sailed down the Yucatán Gulf coast to were he suffered heavy losses at the hands of the Mayans. Cortés set sail in 1519 and landed in Veracruz. He conquered the Aztecs in a year, but it took another 20 years to conquer the Yucatán. In 1526 Francisco Montejo set out to conquer the Yucatan.
The Mayans fought the invaders for 20 years, but eventually succumbed. The Mayans were slaughtered during the battles with the Spaniards, but imported European diseases decimated the population. The Mayans were moved into villages and paid heavy taxes to the Spanish government. There were periodic rebellions against the Spanish.
The Yucatan Mayans launched a major uprising starting in July 1847 called the Caste War. The Spanish were distracted by the war between the US and Mexico and nearly lost the peninsula. The Mayans attacked Spanish villages armed by English settlers from Belize and with guns distributed to defend Yucatán's secession in 1846. They regained 90% of their lands and held all of the Yucatán except Campeche and Merida.
At the height of their revolutionary success, the Mayans inexplicably withdrew to their villages - reputedly to plant corn for the season. The war with the US ended in 1848 and reinforcements were sent to the Yucatán, where they drove the Mayans back to Chan Santa Cruz. The Mayans resisted for several years, but disease and weapons shortages forced them to surrender in 1901.
After 50 years of independence, their lands became federal territory. In reality, the Southern and Eastern half of the peninsula remained a virtual no man's land to outsiders where the Mayans lived almost as they pleased. This changed in the late 1960s when coastal development began.
Father Alonso Gonzalez, who accompanied this expedition, found opportunity at one landing to explore a temple, and bring off some of the sacred images and gold ornaments. In 1518 a strong expedition under Juan de Grijalva, from Cuba, landed near Cozumel and took formal possession for Spain.
For Father Juan Diaz, who on this occasion celebrated Mass upon the summit of one of the heathen temples, the honour is also claimed of having afterwards been the first to celebrate mass in the City of Mexico.
Near Cozumel, also, was rescued the young monk Aguilar, one of the two survivors of Valdivia's party, who, though naked to the breech-cloth, still carried his Breviary in a pouch. Proceeding northwards, Grijaba made the entire circuit of the peninsula before returning, having had another desperate engagement with the Mayans near Campeche.
After the conquest of Mexico in 1521, Francisco de Montejo, under commission as Governor of Yucatan, landed (1527) to effect the conquest of the country, but met with such desperate resistance that after eight years of incessant fighting every Spaniard had been driven out. In 1540, after two more years of the same desperate warfare, his son Francisco established the first Spanish settlement at Campeche.
In the next year, in a bloody battle at Tihoo, he completely broke the power of Mayans resistance, and a few months later (Jan., 1542) founded on the site of the ruined city the new capital, Mérida. In 1546, however, there was a general revolt, and it was not until a year later that the conquest was assured.
In the original commission to Montejo it had been expressly stipulated that missionaries should accompany all his expeditions. This, however, he had neglected to attend to, and in 1531 (or 1534), by special order, Father Jacobo de Testera and four others were sent to join the Spanish camp near Campeche.
They met a kindly welcome from the Indians, who came with their children to be instructed, and thus the conquest of the country might have been effected through spiritual agencies but for the outrages committed by a band of Spanish outlaws, in consequence of which the priests were forced to withdraw.
In 1537 five more missionaries arrived and met the same willing reception, remaining about two years in spite of the war still in progress. About 1545 a large number of missionaries were sent over from Spain. Several of these - apparently nine, all Franciscans - under the direction of Father Luis de Villalpando, were assigned to Yucatan.
Landing at Campeche, the governor explained their purpose to the chiefs, the convent of St. Francis was dedicated on its present site, and translations were begun into the native language. The first baptized convert was the chief of Campeche, who learned Spanish and thereafter acted as interpreter for the priests.
Here, as elsewhere, the missionaries were the champions of the rights of the Indians. In consequence of their repeated protests a royal edict was issued, in 1549, prohibiting Indian slavery in the province, while promising compensation to the slave owners.
As in other cases, local opposition defeated the purpose of this law but the agitation went on, and in 1551 another royal edict liberated 150,000 male Indian slaves, with their families, throughout Mexico.
In 1557 and 1558 the Crown intervened to restrain the tyranny of the native chiefs. Within a very short time Father Villalpando had at his mission station at Mérida over a thousand converts, including several chiefs.
He himself, with Father Malchior de Benavente, then set out, barefoot, for the city of Mani in the mountains farther south, where their success was so great that two thousand converts were soon engaged in building them a church and dwelling. All went well until they began to plead with the chiefs to release their vassals from certain hard conditions, when the chiefs resolved to burn them at the altar.
On the appointed night the chiefs and their retainers approached the church with this design, but were awed from their purpose on finding the two priests, who had been warned by an Indian boy, calmly praying before the crucifix. After remaining all night in prayer, the fathers were fortunately rescued by a Spanish detachment which, almost miraculously, chanced to pass that way.
Twenty-seven of the conspirators were afterwards seized and condemned to death, but were all saved by the interposition of Villalpando.
In 1548-49 other missionaries arrived from Spain, Villalpando was made custodian of the province, and a convent was erected near the site of his chapel at Mani. The Yucatan field having been assigned to the Franciscans, all the missionary work among the Mayans was done by priests of that order.
In 1561 Yucatan was made a diocese with its see at Mérida.
1562 - the famous Diego de Landa, Franciscan provincial, and afterwards bishop (1573-79), becoming aware that the natives throughout the peninsula still secretly cherished their ancient rites, instituted an investigation, which he conducted with such cruelties of torture and death that the proceedings were stopped by order of Bishop Toral Franciscan provincial of Mexico, immediately upon his arrival, during the same summer, to occupy the See of Mérida.
Before this could be done, however, there had been destroyed, as is asserted, two million sacred images and hundreds of hieroglyphic manuscripts - practically the whole of the voluminous native Mayans literature. As late as 1586 a royal edict was issued for the suppression of idolatry.
In 1575-77 a terrible visitation of a mysterious disease, called matlalzahuatl, which attacked only the Indians, swept over Southern Mexico and Yucatan, destroying, as was estimated, over two million lives. This was its fourth appearance since the conquest.
At its close it was estimated that the whole Indian population of Mexico had been reduced to about 1,700,000 souls. In 1583 and 1597 there were local revolts under chiefs of the ancient Cocom royal family. By this latter date it was estimated that the native population of Mexico had declined by three-fourths since the discovery, through massacre, famine, disease, and oppression.
Up to 1593 over 150 Franciscan monks had been engaged in missionary work in Yucatan.
The Mayans history of the seventeenth century is chiefly one of revolutions, viz., 1610-33, 1636-44, 1653, 1669, 1670, and about 1675.
Of all these, that of 1636-44 was the most extensive and serious, resulting in a temporary revival of the old heathen rites. In 1697 the island capital of the Itzá, in Lake Petén, Guatemala, was stormed by Governor Martín de Ursua, and with it fell the last stronghold of the independent Mayans. Here, also, the manuscripts discovered were destroyed.
In 1728 Bishop Juan Gomez Parada died, beloved by the Indians for the laws which he had procured mitigating the harshness of their servitude. The reimposition of the former hard conditions brought about another revolt in 1761, led by the chief Jacinto Canek, and ending, as usual, in the defeat of the Indians, the destruction of their chief stronghold, and the death of their leader under horrible torture.
In 1847, taking advantage of the Government's difficulties with the United States, and urged on by their "unappeasable hatred toward their ruler from the earliest time of the Spanish conquest", the Mayans again broke out in general rebellion, with the declared purpose of driving all the whites, half-breeds and negroes from the peninsula, in which they were so far successful that all the fugitives who escaped the wholesale massacres fled to the coast, whence most of them were taken off by ships from Cuba. Arms and ammunition for the rising were freely supplied to the Indians by the British traders of Belize.
In 1851 the rebel Mayans established their headquarters at Chan-Santa-Cruz in the eastern part of the peninsula. In 1853 it seemed as if a temporary understanding had been reached, but next year hostilities began again. Two expeditions against the Mayans stronghold were repulsed, Valladolid was besieged by the Indians, Yecax taken, and more than two thousand whites massacred.
In 1860 the Mexican Colonel Acereto, with 3,000 men occupied Chan-Santa-Cruz, but was finally compelled to retire with the loss of 1,500 men killed, and to abandon his wounded - who were all butchered - as well as his artillery and supplies and all but a few hundred stand of small arms.
The Indians burned and ravaged in every direction, nineteen flourishing towns being entirely wiped out, and the population in three districts being reduced from 97,000 to 35,000. The war of extermination continued, with savage atrocities, through 1864, when it gradually wore itself out, leaving the Indians still unsubdued and well supplied with arms and munitions of war from Belize.
1868 - fighting broke out again in resistance to the Juarez government.
1871 - a Mexican force again occupied Chan-Santa-Cruz, but retired without producing any permanent result.
1901 - after long preparation, a strong Mexican force invaded the territory of the independent Mayans both by land and sea, stormed Chan-Santa-Cruz and, after determined resistance, drove the defenders into the swamps.
1910 - Mexican troops put down a serious rising in the northern part of the peninsula.
In spite of the invasion of foreign tourism, Mayan culture has remained amazingly intact. Many of the Yucatan Mayans whose ancestors were hunters, chicle farmers and fisherman now work in hotels and other tourist related businesses. More than 350,000 Mayans living in the Yucatan speak Yukatek Mayans and most speak Spanish as a second language, primarily learned in school.
The clothing worn is as it was in the past. It is relatively easy to determine the village in which the clothing was made by the the type of embroidery, color, design and shape.
Mayans women can be seen wearing huipils, simple cotton dresses decorated with embroidery. The designs in their embroidery and weaving can be traced back to pre-Columbian times.
Although Mayans in other parts of Central America choose to limit contact with outside influences, Mayans working in the tourist industry are generally open to conversation with polite strangers and if asked will teach you a Mayan phrase or two.
In the Indian communities, as it was with their Mayan ancestors, the basic staple diet is corn.
Mayan dialects of Qhuche, Cakchiquel, Kekchi, and Mam are still spoken today, although the majority of Indians also speak Spanish.
The Maya were resourceful in harnessing energy, creating amazingly sophisticated works of art and engineering and sustaining a civilization for approximately 1,500 years. It has been shown that the Maya had attributes of the supernatural, and were masters of their environment. Their secret wisdom remains unknown, some people attributing it to extraterrestrials races, whose space ships are seen to this very day in Central and South America.
As with ancient Egyptian Pharaohs, Mayan rulers filled vast cities with sky high pyramids, ornate and lavish palaces personifying the power of the great kings and their connections to the gods, and astronomical observatories which helped them created their calendars and plan their lives.
The cause of the Mayan collapse came over decades with no one quite sure what happened. There is no one single explanation for this implosion, but some scholars seem to believe that environmental catastropy lead to a full blown meltdown - lack of food and polluted water which produced malnutrition and disease.
As with all civilizations, we discover that their Gods - like those some people worship today our Gods - did not help - as they do not exist - only our own consciousness to guide us in the wastelands of realities.
Mayan archaeology is coming into it's Golden Age with the help of satellite imagery and photography. There are innumerable Mayan cities, temples, and settlements still to be discovered. We have learned that the Maya were an innovative, creative, and majestic people with their own particular taste for violence. The allure of the Maya is coming to the fore. Like the mystique of Egypt, people are drawn to the land of the Maya, each year. There is something they are guided to find, perhaps linked to major planetary grid points that awaken consciousness.
Aztecs Incas Mayans
The Aztecs, Mayans and Incas are often confused in the minds of those who have not studied their history. The Aztec and Maya were Mesoamerican civilizations, living in Mexico and Central America, while the Incas lived in South America. The religious beliefs and practices of the Mayans and Aztecs were similar, but the Incas worshiped the sun. The Mayans are credited with the Mayan calendar and the Aztecs also have a calendar, while the Incas are famed for their masonry and engineering skills. All three were great civilizations.
The Maya civilization occupied what is now Guatemala, Belize, parts of Honduras and El Salvador, the Mexican states of Tabasco and Chiapas, and the entire Yucatan Peninsula. The earliest records of the Maya civilization show that they were already growing crops around 1, 800 BC. Pyramid cities in the rain forest, elaborate ball courts in their ceremonial centers where captives played for their lives, and enormous carved stone stelae reveal some of their secrets. The "golden era" of the Maya civilization occurred between 250 and 900 AD, with more than 40 cities, some of which had populations of more than 50, 000. Mayan women were involved in every level of leadership, including the ritual bloodletting that appeased their gods. Advanced Mayan mathematics and astronomy used the concept of zero, a complex 365-day calendar and precise architectural-astronomical alignment. Mayans had a written language and made books from paper. They were not defeated by the Spanish they mysteriously abandoned their cities..
The Aztecs lived in central Mexico from 1325 to 1523 AD. It is not known where they came from, as they did not have a written language, but it is said that they came from an island known as Astlan. When they arrived they were a poor and ragged group, but they grew to a great, sun-worshiping civilization. Their capital city, Tenochtitlan, was located in what they called the "Valley of Mexica" in swampy ground, and their buildings were often known to sink. The Aztecs were strong militarily, sacrificed the hearts of living captives to their gods, and developed floating agricultural gardens. When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century they set out to completely wipe out the Aztecs, and few survived.
The Inca civilization existed at the same time as the Aztecs. Their empire in South America covered a vast territory, mainly in the Andes mountains but also including lowlands and deserts, stretching from what is now Quito, Ecuador to the Maule River in Chile. Named after a ruler, Tupac Inca, they built more than 14, 000 miles of roads and bridges, traversable by foot or horseback. They are famed for their masonry skills, but it is not known how they cut the massive stones and fitted them so precisely or how they transported them to places like the famous city Machu Picchu, built high on a jungle mountainside. The Incas developed brain surgery but not writing, worshiped the sun and, apparently, ritually sacrificed "perfect" children to their gods, abandoning them in freezing mountaintop caves. They were not a militaristic people and were wiped out by the Spaniards in the 16th century.
The Olmecs were said to predate the Mayans, and their civilization declined around 400 BC. Very little information about them exists, but some believe that the Mayan calendar originated with the Olmecs. They are believed to have had a major influence on the Mayans and the Aztecs. Olmec were stone carvers, and some of their enormous stone heads can be seen in the Smithsonian museum. A ball game played by the Aztecs, ullamaliztli, was probably invented by the Olmecs, and their religious beliefs likely inspired some Mayan and Aztec practices.
One’s family is the most important aspect of life for most Mexicans. In respect of this, family relationships are typically very close. One’s family tends to have a major influence on the individual, providing a sense of identity, community and support.
One of the reasons the Aztecs were more advanced and more powerful than the Incas is because of their religion. The Aztecs believed that everyone had to do their own duty to “maintain order in the universe” (Aztec Empire) and a simple mistake could lead to disasters.
Newly Discovered Artifacts Prove Mayans Had Alien Contact!
Amazing new Mayan artifacts prove the extraterrestrial connection between the Maya and their galactic visitors, furthering the preponderance on the December 21, 2012 end date to the Long Count calendar.
Many people have speculated that the Maya were visited by extraterrestrials and that at least one of their deities, Kukulcan (also known as Quetzalcoatl by the Aztecs), may have been a galactic visitor who taught the Maya about agriculture, mathematics, medicine and astronomy. How else could one explain the Mayan calendar, a calendar that to this day can accurately predict every lunar eclipse within 30 seconds?
The Maya knew of planets that were not “discovered” until many centuries later. They were also the first civilization to use the “zero” in mathematics.
Interestingly, while Quetzalcoatl was described by the Maya as appearing to be Caucasian, having blonde hair and blue eyes, some of the artifacts appear to have African characteristics, thus giving credence to the hypothesis that our civilization was seeded here from various star nations.
For more on this premise, please see: Starseeds and Our Human Origins
The demise of the Maya civilization came in 1521 when Hernán Cortés invaded the Maya during the Spanish Conquest of the Yucatan, funded by the Roman Catholic Church. Cortés believed the Maya were a pagan civilization and ordered his Conquistadors to raid the Mayan buildings. Books, biographies, musical compositions, histories, genealogies and other Mayan works were burned, thus destroying nearly every trace of this great civilization.
Now, the Maya may hold the ultimate answers to UFO disclosure. Additionally, according to Drunvalo Melchizedek, there are 1000’s of Mayan codices that were discovered in the basement of a museum library after many people believed that all but four codices were destroyed.
This shows us how long the media has been deceiving the public. If the Spanish supposedly destroyed all of the Maya’s books, texts, calendars and manuscripts, then why do works such as the Dresden Codices still exist?
Linguist Clif High stated, “”The 11:11 am alignment on December 21, 2012 was deliberately created by Pope Gregory, under the direction of the powers that be at that time. They took a German mathematician, who assembled a team and then they used texts that theoretically do not exist. Many of the Mayan books that were said to have been burned weren’t burned, but crated up and taken back to the Vatican as part of the payoff for the expedition and the slicing of the planet between the Spanish and the Portuguese by the pope of that time.”
“Pope Gregory brought aboard a team of mathematicians who spent 5 months at the reconciliation level alone, to get the Gregorian calendar to align, specifically, with the end of the Mayan calendar with these particular numbers. They wanted the 11:11 am because 11 is the number of mastery, it is one number beyond divinity and the 11:11 combo brings you to 22 which is their number for sainthood or ascension. The whole 2012 date continuously points back to the holy cross, or the swastika. If you look down on a swastika, it’s both the double cross, indicating the 4 sided pyramid, or 5 sided counting the bottom, but it also represents a solar effect. This solar effect can be seen from the sun or from outside the earth but we can’t see it from here. The effect twists somewhat to create an image similar to the swastika. The swastika was encoded as a reference to solar activity that will occur around 2012.”
In a recent article, remote viewing Tibetan monks foresaw an ET intervention in 2012. Is this what the Maya perceive?
So what can we expect on December 21, 2012? Chances are, it’ll be just another day but no
one knows for sure. If these artifacts have anything to do with the end date of the Mayan calendar, it could be the start of an exciting new era in human history!
Sending you all infinite Love & Light,
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Contact between the Inca, Maya and Aztecs? - History
The Mayan civilization began about 3,000 years ago in what is today Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. They grew crops and had roads connecting the cities for travel and trade. The Mayan civilization may have reached 2 million people. Most Mayans lived in simple homes made with mud walls. Two of the great Mayan cities were Copan and Tikal.
Mayan society was divided into different social classes. Priests were at the top of Mayan society. The priests performed the religious ceremonies that the Myans believed were needed for their crops to grow and their warriors to be successful in battle.
Government officials, warriors and nobles were also in the upper classes of Mayan society. People of high social class would were special clothing to set them apart from the other Maya.
Peasant farmers were in the lowest Mayan social classes. Slaves, who were usually prisoners of war, were the bottom of Mayan society.
Many Mayan cities had pyramids with temples on top that were used for religious ceremonies. The priests were powerful because the Mayans believed that only the priests could perform the religious ceremonies that were needed to please the Mayan gods.
Learning and Technology
Time and the planets were important in Mayan religion and the Maya made advances in studying the stars and planets. They made accurate calendars and could predict future eclipses. The Maya also made advances in mathematics and discovered the concept of zero. The Maya also developed a system of hieroglyphics, or symbols, for words and sounds.
Decline of the Maya
In about A.D. 850 the Maya civilization began to decline. We don't know the exact reason, although it may be due to crop failure or high taxes.
The Aztec civilization began in 1325 in what is now modern-day Mexico. They established their capital city, Tenochtitlan, on an island in the middle of Lake Texcoco (today's Mexico City). The Aztecs built their capital here because of the sign of an eagle holding a snake in its beak, sitting on a cactus.
Tenochtitlan was surrounded by floating gardens, called chinampas, that the Aztecs used for growing their crops. The island could be accessed by causeways that had drawbridges which could be raised to block access to the capital city.
Tenochtitlan eventually grew to encompass much of the land surrounding the lake as well, becoming the largest city of its time in the Americas, and one of the largest cities in the world. It was the center of trade for the entire Aztec empire.
Aztec Social Classes
The emperor was at the top of Aztec society, with the priests and nobles just below. The Aztec emperor was treated like a god and he had complete power. He was carried from place to place and flower petals were scattered beneath his feet whenever he did walk.
The warriors were next down the social ladder, followed by the merchants and artisans. Like the Maya, the farmers and the slaves, who were mostly prisoners of war, made up the bottom of Aztec society.
Priests and priestesses were trained from an early age, and they studied the planets and stars and made advanced calendars which were used to plan the harvest. The Aztec calendar had 18 months. The sun god, which each day battled its way across the sky, needed human sacrifices to help it along the way. Thousands of prisoners of war were killed as sacrifices each year to the sun god. and to ensure good harvests.
The Aztec neighbors became angry with the heavy taxes and human sacrifices requires of them by the Aztecs. These neighboring peoples joined with the Europeans to overthrow the Aztecs in 1520.
The Inca civilization had its capital city in Cuzco and was founded in A.D. 1200. The empire was 3,000 miles long and was found along the western coast of South America. The Inca empire had as many as 10 million inhabitants.
Advances in Farming
The Inca used terraces, or flat areas carved into the sides of the mountains, to expand the available farming area. They also used aqueducts, or man-made ditches, to bring water to their crops. They also stored surplus crops in the emperors warehouses to use in times if starvation or sickness.
Advances in Engineering and Medicine
Inca buildings often show amazing rock work, with joints so expertly chiseled that a knife blade cannot even be placed between the rocks. The Incas also built an extensive network of roads and bridges to connect their empire and runners were used to carry information from one city to the next. The Inca also developed medicine to treat malaria and relieve pain and they could also perform basic brain surgery. The Inca did not have a system of writing, but the recorded information using quipus, or knotted ropes.
The Incas worshipped the sun and they believed that the emperor was a descendant of the sun god. They believed that gold was the sweat of the gods and they lined their temples with gold and the priests wore golden ornaments.
End of the Incan Empire
The empire ended in the 1530s withe the arrival of Pizarro and the Spanish Conquistadors.
Comparing the Maya, Inca and Aztec civilizations
There were three main civilizations in the Pre-Columbian era, the Maya, Inca and the Aztec civilizations. They took places in different time periods. despite the difference in time, they had a lot of things in common such as their governmental social classes. Both Inca and Aztec ended the same way. The three civilizations were well developed for their time.
The maya civilization took place in Mesoamerica also known as central America and existed for almost three thousand years, from 1800 B.C to 900 A.D. Inca was spread across Peru and Aztec was located in Northern Mesoamerica. Both Inca and Aztec lasted the same time. Inca existed for almost one hundred years from 1440 A.D to 1532 A.D. Aztec lasted for around eighty years starting from 1440 A.D to 1521 A.D.
Government social class at the time impacted a big part of the citizen’s daily lives and culture. The Maya’s social class consisted of a ruler, commonly a king, then the nobles such as priests and warriors, merchants, peasants and lastly slaves. The social classes affected Mayans’ lives in multiple ways. For example, the noble priests were taught to read and write and treated with respect. They also could wear expensive clothes with gold jewelry and skins of jaguars. In addition to that, they carried out important decisions and lived in luxury.
In comparison, the second lowest class in Maya’s social class, peasants, farmed all day and spent most of their days in the field. The only tool they used were wooden hoes. The times where they weren’t farming, they helped build pyramids. The peasants were allowed to attend royal balls but were treated with the least amount of respect. The peasant also weren’t able to read nor write. Despite that, being a slave was preferable than being a slave.
The Inca civilization’s social classes weren’t really similar to Maya’s. The highest social classes of Inca was Sapa Inca, the supreme leader. Then came the large class of public administrators and local leaders. After them was the artisans and the merchants. Artisans were like factory workers of the modern world. Historians believe that everything the artisans made were controlled by Inca’s administrators. Surprisingly, Inca’s did not have slavery, unlike Maya and Aztec. The lowest social class of Inca was the large group of peasant who were farmers. Social classes like in every other civilization, affected Inca’s citizen’s daily lives.
For instance, Sapa Inca (the ruler of Inca), also lived in imposing and extravagant conditions. The Sapa Inca could wear special hat made of gold and decorated with feathers and his clothes were covered in jewels and wore it only once. He also had many wives and over hundred children. Sapa Inca was no just a ruler, he was considered the direct descendant of the sun god and everything he said was law that must be followed. When he went out of his palace, he was too important to be seen alone and for that reason he always had an entire parade of hundreds of servants and nobles. While Sapa Inca was enjoying his luxurious life, the lowest governmental social class known as the peasants, had a hard time living. Their life wasn’t easy. Inca had a lot of rules towards them and almost no freedom. If they were caught breaking the law, they were supposed to be tossed off a mountain to die. They had little time to themselves and could not travel roads. They had to work all the time. Unlike the emperor, if the peasants did not choose a wife by the time they turned twenty, a wife would be selected for them. Although their life was hard, no one was left hungry.
Aztec’s social classes were similar to the Maya’s and Inca’s. Their people was also identified as nobles, commoners, serfs and slaves. Aztec was ruled by an emperor who has a class himself. The nobles class consisted of high level priests and military leaders. Priests had their own class system. they expected to regain from alcohol and if they were caught they would face serious consequences. Noble classes were proposed to receive tribute from commoners. Only nobles were allowed to wear decorated capes and jewelry to show off their wealth just like the nobles of Maya and Inca. But, female nobles had limited leadership within the Aztec empire. The commoners class involved farmers, artisans, merchants and low leveled priests. Artisans and traveling merchants had the highest amount of wealth among the commoners class. Aztec similar to maya unlike Inca, had a large amount of slaves and serfs. To become a slave you would have to commit a crime or not pay the tribute. Slave owners were responsible for the housing and the food of their slaves. Unlike Maya, Aztec’s children attended school but their education varied depending on their social class and gender.
Despite that they were a well developed civilizations, they all came to an end. The Maya, from the late eighth through ninth century, unknowingly disappeared. Some believe that Maya had drained out the environment around them to the point where it could no longer maintain the large amount of Maya’s population. Others believe that the ceaseless warfare between the competing city-states where the trade between them broke, a complicated military developed and everything turned into chaos leading to the end of their civilization. Lastly, some believe that a catastrophic environment change happened and lasted a long period of time which also led to their end.
Unlike Maya, Inca collapsed due to Spaniards who transmitted their disease to the local citizens who then spread it across Inca’s land. It is believed that the diseases that were spread was mainly smallpox but there also was typhus, diphtheria and measles. The disease did not only affect the working classes but the nobles too. After the arrival of Spaniards, the development of the civilization has stopped. Until 1521 A.D, the Incas fought against the conquerors for four decades. Then, the son of Manio Inca, Tupac Amaru and the last rulers were executed along his family leaving no heir.
The civilization of Aztec ended like the Inca. In fact, they both ended almost in the same time. Between 1519 A.D and 1521 A.D, Herman Cortes, the Spanish conquistador allied against Aztec with Aztec’s rebels and defeated them. In Addition to that, smallpox was also spread around by a group of african slaves of the Spaniards. No one knew how to sure or treat smallpox which lead to massive amount of death and no time to bury the dead bodies. A lot people’s houses were ruined over the dead bodies.
In conclusion, the three civilizations are quiet similar but they still do have their differences. Both Maya and Aztec practiced slavery but Inca did not. Inca and Aztec both collapsed due to the Spaniards who brought the disease smallpox. Unlike them, the reason of Maya’s disappearance isn’t clear but there are multiple different theories on how the civilization ended. They were all advanced in different ways and were high developed nation for their time.
The Aztecs adapted many ideas from earlier groups, including their calendars and temple-pyramids. But the Aztecs improved on these ideas and made them their own.
Science and Technology
One of the Aztecs’ most remarkable technological achievements was the construction of their island city, Tenochtitlán. The Aztecs enlarged the area of the city by creating artificial islands called chinampas. Today, flower farmers in Xochimilco, near Mexico City, still use chinampas. Tourists enjoy taking boat trips to see these “floating gardens.”
Just as impressive as the chinampas were the three causeways that connected Tenochtitlán to the mainland. The causeways were often crowded with people traveling in and out of the capital. During the rainy season, when the waters of the lake rose, the causeways also served as dikes.
To manage time, the Aztecs adapted the Mayan solar and sacred calendars. The 365-day solar calendar was especially useful for farming, since it tracked the seasons. Priests used the sacred 260-day calendar to predict events and to determine “lucky” days for such things as planting crops and going to war.
One of the most famous Aztec artifacts is a calendar called the Sun Stone. Dedicated to the god of the sun, this beautifully carved stone is nearly twelve feet wide and weighs almost twenty-five tons. The center shows the face of the sun god. Today, the Sun Stone is a well-known symbol of Mexico.
Art and ArchitectureThe Aztecs Pyramid at St. Cecilia Acatitlan, Mexico State / Photo by Maunus, Wikimedia Commons
The Aztecs practiced a number of arts, including poetry, music, dance, and sculpture. Poets wrote verses to sing the praises of the gods, to tell stories, and to celebrate the natural world. Poetry was highly valued. Aztec poets sung their poems or recited them to music. Sometimes, actors performed them, creating a dramatic show with dialogue and costumes.
Music and dance were important features of Aztec ceremonies and holidays. People dressed up for these special occasions. Women wore beautiful blouses over their skirts. Men painted their faces, greased their hair, and wore feathered headdresses. The dancers formed large circles and moved to the beat of drums and the sound of rattle bells. The dances had religious meaning, and the dancers had to perform every step correctly. Sometimes, thousands of people danced at one time. Even the emperor occasionally joined in.
The Aztecs were also gifted painters and sculptors. Painters used brilliant colors to create scenes showing gods and religious ceremonies. Sculptors fashioned stone statues and relief sculptures on temple walls. They also carved small, lifelike figures of people and animals from rock and semiprecious stones, such as jade. In technical craft and beauty, their work surpassed that of earlier Mesoamerican cultures.
In architecture, the Aztecs are best remembered today for their massive stone temples. The Aztecs were unique in building double stairways, like those of the Great Temple in Tenochtitlán. The staircases led to two temples, one for the sun god and one for the god of rain. Smaller pyramids nearby had their own temples, where sacrificial fires burned before huge statues of the gods.
Language and WritingMendoza Codex depicting the mexican coat of arms / Wikimedia Commons
Spoken language was raised to an art in Aztec society. Almost any occasion called for dramatic and often flowery speeches. The rich vocabulary of the Aztec language, Nahuatl, allowed speakers to create new words and describe abstract concepts.
The Aztec system of writing used both glyphs and pictographs. A pictograph is a drawing that depicts a word, phrase, or name, rather than symbolizes it. For example, the Aztec pictograph for war was a symbol of a shield and a club. The Aztecs did not have enough pictographs and glyphs to express everything that could be spoken in their language. Instead, scribes used writing to list data or to outline events. Priests used these writings to spark their memories when relating stories from the past.
Like the Aztecs, the Incas often borrowed and improved upon ideas from other cultures. But the Incas faced a unique challenge in managing the largest empire in the Americas. Maintaining tight control over such a huge area was one of their most impressive accomplishments.
Science and TechnologyInca road system / Manco Capac, Wikimedia Commons
The Incas’ greatest technological skill was engineering. The best example is their amazing system of roads.
The Incas built roads across the length and width of their empire. To create routes through steep mountain ranges, they carved staircases and gouged tunnels out of rock. They also built suspension bridges over rivers. Thick rope cables were anchored at stone towers on either side of the river. Two cables served as rails, while three others held a walkway.
In agriculture, the Incas showed their technological skill by vastly enlarging the system of terraces already in use by earlier Andean farmers. The Incas anchored their step-like terraces with stones and improved the drainage systems in the fields. On some terraces, they planted different crops at elevations where the plants would grow best.
To irrigate the crops, the Incas built canals that brought water to the top of a hillside of terraces. From there, the water ran down, level by level. People in South America still grow crops on Incan terraces.
The Incas also made remarkable advances in medicine. Incan priests, who were in charge of healing, practiced a type of surgery called trephination. Usually, the patient was an injured warrior. Priests cut into the patient’s skull to remove bone fragments that were pressing against the brain. As drastic as this sounds, many people survived the operation and recovered full health.
Walking Across Space: Incan Rope Bridges
You’re standing at the edge of a canyon high in the Andes Mountains, looking down at a raging river far below. You look across to the other side. The only way to get there is to walk across a narrow rope bridge. You grit your teeth and step out into space. The bridge sinks beneath your weight. Will the bridge hold? Will it flip you over into the gorge below? Don’t worry—this bridge was built by people who really know what they’re doing!
The Incas lived in a land of high mountains separated by rivers and deep valleys. They built a vast system of roads to help them travel and communicate. They also built amazing bridges that crossed the vast chasms between cliffs and canyons. These bridges were made of thick rope cables woven from grass. That’s right—grass.
For centuries, these rope bridges played a critical role in transportation throughout the Andes Mountains. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor John Ochsendorf is a structural engineer who has spent years studying Incan rope bridges. He thinks that the bridges were just as important as the Incan road system. They allowed the Incas to cross natural barriers, such as canyons and rivers. Without the amazing engineering that created these rope bridges, the Incas could not have connected the roads into the effective communication system that helped them create and control their large empire.
In the Quechua language, a grass rope bridge is called a Keshwa-chaka. According to Ochsendorf, there were two types of rope bridges: large and small. Each type was carefully planned and maintained. There is evidence that the Incan emperor himself drew plans for large bridges and made sure that they were repaired and protected.
Large bridges had a Chaka Camayoc, which means “bridgekeeper” in the Quechua language. Living at the bridge, the Chaka Camayoc was responsible for guarding and repairing it. Large bridges were usually located on the Royal Road, built between the present-day cities of Cuzco, Peru, and Quito, Ecuador.
Smaller bridges connected rural communities to one another and to the Royal Road. The local people were responsible for building and maintaining them as part of their annual service to the empire. Working together, they repaired or rebuilt these bridges every year.
The last remaining Incan rope bridge is believed to be located in the remote village of Huinchiri, Peru. It hangs about two hundred feet over the Apurimac River and spans a distance of over one hundred feet. People in the area use a modern metal bridge for everyday transportation across the river. But each year, Quechua villagers hold a three-day festival during which they cut down the old rope bridge and build a new one. Using weaving and construction techniques that have passed from generation to generation, they honor their culture and ancestors. Tourists come from around the world to watch the villagers rebuild the bridge.
During the festival, villagers organize the work in the same way it has been done for centuries. Each household is responsible for a certain job. There are four key tasks in constructing a bridge: making rope braiding it into cables repairing or rebuilding the stone anchors on either side of the river and making the ties, the handrails, and a floor system.
The basic material that makes up the huge cables needed to hold up the bridge is a thin, two-ply rope. Hundreds of families work before the festival begins to make this rope. They start by gathering dry stalks of grass. Then they twist pieces of grass together. As they add grass, the rope becomes longer and longer. The villagers make the rope in lengths of about fifty yards. Approximately ten miles of rope are needed to build the bridge.
On the first day of the festival, construction begins. Families bring their handmade thin ropes to the bridge site. The chief bridge builder and the priest make offerings to Paca Mama, or Mother Earth. They ask that she bless their work. They also ask that the bridge stay safe and strong until they rebuild it next year.
Next, the men make large cables. They braid the thin ropes together, three at a time, to make thicker cables. Then they braid these cables together to make even thicker ones. Each cable measures 6 inches in diameter, weighs about 150 pounds, and is 150 feet long. Six of these big cables are needed to make the bridge. Four cables form the bridge floor to carry the weight of people and animals, and the remaining two cables serve as handrails.
On the second day, the villagers cut down the old bridge and let it fall into the river. Then the men put up new cables. A guide rope is attached to each cable. Using the guide rope, the men pull each cable across the river. They lift each one to the top of the cliff on the other side of the canyon. Then, they pull on the cables to make sure they are very tight. Finally, they connect the cables to strong timbers and stone anchor blocks located on each side of the river.
On the festival’s final day, people gather at the bridge in colorful party clothes. They watch the current bridgekeeper connect rope ties from the floor cables to the handrail cables. Other men lay down cross-ties, or sticks that will help keep the floor cables in place. Finally, they lay reed floor mats over the cross-ties and floor cables to complete the bridge.
Once the bridge is finished, a celebration begins. The villagers may offer guests or tourists a traditional Quechua meal. Then anyone who wants to is invited to walk across the bridge. Would you walk across it?
When Spanish soldiers first saw these bridges, they were terrified. Some soldiers crawled across them on their hands and knees. The bridges were strong and safe, however. The Spanish even crossed them with their horses and cannons.
Ephraim George Squier, an American visitor to Peru in the 1870s, gave good advice about crossing the rope bridge over the Apurimac. He wrote, “It is usual for the traveler to time his day’s journey so as to reach the bridge in the morning, before the strong wind sets in for, during the greater part of the day, it sweeps up the canyon of the Apurimac with great force, and then the bridge sways like a gigantic hammock, and crossing is next to impossible.”
An American scientist who crossed the newly rebuilt bridge described her walk with words that echoed those of Ephraim Squier from the 1870s. As she crossed slowly to keep the bridge from swaying too much or flipping over, she said, “I want to look down, but I’m afraid to look down, so I’m looking at everybody across. I know I can do this. I think I’m going to be sick. No, I’m not.”
Many tourists accept the invitation to walk across the newly finished bridge. After watching its construction, they feel sure that it is sturdy and safe. Laboratory tests done by Professor John Ochsendorf show that the bridge is quite strong. It can hold 56 people spread out in a row across the bridge at one time, or 4,200 pounds of weight.
What the Incas accomplished centuries ago makes their Quechua descendants very proud. They know that their ancestors were gifted engineers. The Incas solved the problem of connecting roads by using the resources at hand. They also know that these bridges function well, since they were rebuilt again and again for more than 400 years, until metal bridges started to replace them in the 19th century. Anyone watching the Incas’ Quechua descendents build a bridge in just three days will see that they are living examples of a way of life that has endured for centuries.
Art and ArchitectureRuins of Machu Picchu / Photo by Peter van der Sluijs, Wikimedia Commons
Making textiles for clothing was one of the most important Incan arts. The quality and design of a person’s clothes were a sign of status. The delicate cloth worn by Incan nobles often featured bright colors and bold geometric patterns. Incan women also made feather tunics, or long shirts, weaving feathers from jungle birds right into the cloth.
Fashioning objects out of gold was another important art. The Incas prized gold, which they called the “sweat of the sun.” Gold covered almost every inch inside the Temple of the Sun in the Incan capital city of Cuzco. Incan goldsmiths also fashioned masks, sculptures, knives, and jewelry.
Music was a major part of Incan life. The Incas played flutes, seashell horns, rattles, drums, and panpipes. Scholars believe that the modern music of the Andes region preserves elements of Incan music.
In architecture, the Incas are known for their huge, durable stone buildings. The massive stones of Incan structures fit together so tightly that a knife blade could not be slipped between them. Incan buildings were sturdy, too—many remain standing today.
Language and WritingAn example of a quipu from the Inca Empire, currently in the Larco Museum Collection. / Photo by Claus Ableiter, Wikimedia Commons
The Incas made their language, Quechua (KECH-wah), the official language of the empire. As a result, Quechua spread far and wide. About ten million people in South America still speak it.
The Incas did not have a written language. Instead, they developed an ingenious substitute: the knotted sets of strings called quipus. The Incas used quipus as memory aids when sending messages and recording information.
Many of the greatest achievements of the Mayas date from the Classic period (about 300 to 900 C.E.). Hundreds of years later, their ideas and practices continued to influence other Mesoamerican groups, including the Aztecs.
Science and TechnologyThe Caracol or Observatory of Chichen Itza, Mexico. Constructed prior to 800 CE, this Maya building was used as an astronomical observatory, especially of Venus. / Photo by Daniel Schwen, Wikimedia Commons
The Mayas made important breakthroughs in astronomy and mathematics. Throughout Mayan lands, priests studied the sky from observatories. They were able to track the movements of stars and planets with great accuracy. The Mayas used their observations to calculate the solar year. The Mayan figure for their year of 365.2420 days is amazingly precise.
These calculations allowed the Mayas to create their solar calendar of 365 days. They also had a sacred 260-day calendar. Every 52 years, the first date in both calendars fell on the same day. This gave the Mayas a longer unit of time that they called a Calendar Round. For the ancient Mayas, this 52-year period was something like what a century is to us.
Mayan astronomy and calendar-making depended on a deep understanding of mathematics. In some ways, the Mayan number system was like ours. The Mayas used place values for numbers, just as we do. However, instead of being based on the number 10, their system was based on 20. So instead of place values for 1s, 10s, and 100s, the Mayas had place values for 1s, 20s, 400s (20 times 20), and so on.
The Mayas also recognized the need for zero—a discovery made by few other early civilizations. In the Mayan system for writing numbers, a dot stood for one, a bar for five, and a shell symbol for zero. To add and subtract, people lined up two numbers and then combined or took away dots and bars.
Art and ArchitectureBonampak Temple of the Murals, room 1, musicians / Photo by Arian Zwegers, Wikimedia Commons
The Mayas were equally gifted in the arts. They painted, using colors mixed from minerals and plants. We can see the artistry of Mayan painters in the Bonampak murals, which were found in Chiapas, Mexico. The murals show nobles and priests, as well as battle scenes, ceremonies, and sacrifice rituals.
The Mayas also constructed upright stone slabs called steles (STEE-leez), which they often placed in front of temples. Most steles stood between 5 and 12 feet tall, although some rose as high as 30 feet. Steles usually had three-dimensional carvings of gods and rulers. Sometimes, the Mayas inscribed them with dates and hieroglyphics in honor of significant events.
Another important art was weaving. We know from steles and paintings that the Mayas wove colorful fabric in complex patterns. Women made embroidered tunics called huipiles and fashioned lengths of cloth for trade. Mayan women still use similar techniques today. They still make their huipiles in traditional designs. People from different towns can be distinguished by the colors and patterns of their garments.
In architecture, the Mayas built temple-pyramids from hand-cut limestone bricks. An unusual feature of Mayan buildings was a type of arch called a corbel vault. Builders stacked stones so that they gradually angled in toward each other to form a triangular archway. At the top of the arch, where the stones almost touched, one stone joined the two sides. The archway always had nine stone layers, representing the nine layers of the underworld (the place where souls were thought to go after death).
Language and WritingExamples of glyphs used in the Maya writing system. Maya glyphs are placed in columns and are read from left to right in rows of two. From the Archaeoloigcal Museum of Palenque, Mexico. / Photo by Kwamikagami, Wikimedia Commons
The Mayas developed the most complex system of writing in the ancient Americas. They used hieroglyphics, or picture symbols, to represent sounds, words, and ideas. Hieroglyphic inscriptions have been found on stoneware and other artifacts dating from possibly as early as 300 B.C.E.
Over time, the Mayas created hundreds of glyphs. Eventually, scribes could write down anything in the spoken language. They often wrote about rulers, history, myths and gods, and astronomy.
Not all Mayan groups shared the same language. Instead, they spoke related dialects. Today, about four million Mesoamericans still speak one of thirty or so Mayan dialects.
Originally published by Flores World History, free and open access, republished for educational, non-commercial purposes.
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The Inca were a tribe around the 12th century who formed a city-state, Cuzco which became a major city and capital of a powerful and wealthy empire in Peru, Bolivia and Equador. They conquered their neighbors, or brought city-states in peacefully with promises of benefits and/or threats of conquest. They ruled their empire with a centralized government and four provincial governments. Inca Creation Myth
In 1533, Spanish invaders led by Francisco Pizarro conquered most of the Inca empire. By 1542, the Spahish established a Viceroyalty of Peru.
The Maya Civilization lived in Central America, including south Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras between 2500 BCE and 1500 CE.
The Classic Maya Civilization 250-900 CE developed a hieroglyphic writing system. They studied astronomy and mathematics, calculated highly accurate calendars, predicted eclipses and other astronomical events. They built elaborate temples and pyramids and had a complex social order.
They were a religious society and held festivals throughout the year to ensure the favor of the gods. They sacrificed to the gods and made ritual offerings. Part of religious ceremony involved drinking an intoxicant called balche.
The great cities such as Tikal, and Palenque of the classical period and Chichen Itza of the post classical period, were religious centers and were inhabited mostly by the priests. They played a ballgame with ritual significance and left behind elaborate ball courts. Most of the people lived in small farming communities. The demise of this dynamic civilization is a mystery, but around 900 AD they abandoned their cities. The Mayan people did not disappear and continue to live in Mexico and Central America.
The Aztecs were a people who came into the Valley of Mexico in the 12th century and quickly rose to become the dominant power in Mesoamerica. The capital of the Aztecs, Tenochtitlan, was built on Lake Texcoco on raised islands. The Aztecs formed an empire commanding tribute from other city states in Mesoamerica. A religious society, the Aztecs practiced human sacrifice, like other mesoamerican civilizations.
The Aztecs were at the peak of their power when in 1521 they were destroyed by Hernan Cortes and the Spanish conquistadors. The Spanish built the city of Mexico City on the ruins of the destroyed Tenochtitlan. Compare the Spanish Accounts of the Conquest and the Aztec Accounts.
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Great Civilizations of Latin America: Aztecas, Mayas and Incas
When researching places to travel in Latin America, you will undoubtedly come across information about the people who were there before, stories of great empires and civilizations that have influenced the people and cultures that still thrive today. Sometimes it is easy to get them confused, as well, especially if you didn’t major in Spanish while you were in college. Three of the most famous, and therefore most commonly confused, civilizations south of the U.S. border are the Aztecs, the Mayas, and the Incas. What did these great empires have in common, and what made them very, very different? There is a wealth of information about each of these great civilizations, but here we will try to explain a little bit of what makes each culture interesting and unique.
Mayas (8,000 BC – 1697 AD)
We’ll start today’s lesson with the oldest, and longest-lasting empire, the Mayas. At its peak, (250 AD – 900 AD), the Maya empire occupied much of the territory that is now northern Central America (including all of Belize and Guatemala), as well as southeastern Mexico, containing the entire Yucatán Peninsula, though their society collapsed around 900AD due to political instability and environmental factors. Maya society had a sharp divide between the upper class, which included the royalty, middle class, which included artisans, merchants, soldiers, and some of the lower ranking priests, and a lower class that included laborers, servants, farmers, and slaves.
One of the biggest achievements of Maya society is their writing system, which was the most highly developed and sophisticated writing system developed in Mesoamerica. Their writing system is a logosyllabic writing, which combines phonetic signs with pictures representing entire words. They also had an advanced knowledge of mathematics, using a base 20 system, and were the first in Mesoamerica to have a concept of ‘zero’. Along with this, they had extremely sophisticated calendars, recording lunar and solar cycles, eclipses, and movements of the planets with incredible accuracy. Astronomy was used by the Maya for divination and prophecy, rather than for scientific reasons or calculate crop cycles.
The ancient Maya had a very sophisticated methods of food production, using many farming techniques which provided a great variety of crops, including maize, sunflower seeds, beans, squashes, chilies, and tomatoes, among others.
Like much of the rest of Mesoamerica, the Mayas were polytheistic, and believed in a supernatural world where powerful deities lived and needed to be satisfied with ceremonial offerings and rituals. One of the most famous Mayan rituals is human sacrifice – blood was seen as important nourishment for the gods, and human life was seen as the ultimate offering of blood to the gods. Those chosen as sacrifices tended to be high-status prisoners of war, or sometimes volunteers, as being a human sacrifice was seen as a great honor.
Aztecs (1300 – 1521 AD)
The Aztecs were a Mesoamerican society which occupied central Mexico. The Aztec culture included different ethnic groups, which organized into city-states and joined to form alliances. The term Aztecs is often restricted to the Mexica people of Tenochtitlan, however it can also be more broadly used to refer to the Nahua peoples of central Mexico. The empire reached its peak just before the Spanish arrived and brought about the fall of Tenochtitlan in 1521, and as such, the Aztec empire.
Similar to the Mayas, the Aztecs had a marked difference between nobility and commoners. Nobility was hereditary, and nobles had certain privileges, such as wearing fine garments or consuming luxury goods, as well as owning land and directing laborers. The second class was made up of commoners, with about 20% dedicated to agriculture and food production, and the other 80% dedicated to warfare, arts and crafts, and trade. They could be enslaved, usually as a way to pay off a debt, but enslavement was not hereditary. Commoners could also obtain privileges similar to those of the nobility by demonstrating prowess as a warrior.
Another similarity to other Mesoamerican cultures, the Aztec society was based around agriculture, growing maize, beans, squash, chilies, and amaranth. They also constructed artificial irrigation systems, and even in cities, people had gardens where they grew maize, herbs, fruits, and medicines. Unlike the Maya, the Aztecs did not have a fully developed writing system, though like the Maya, they did use logograms and phonetic syllable signs
The Aztec religion organized itself around important calendar rituals dedicated to different deities. Similar to both the Mayas and the Incas, the Aztec religion was a polytheistic religious with strong natural roots. One of the central practices was offering sacrifices to their gods as a way of giving thanks for the continuation of the cycle of life. For them, death was necessary to the perpetuation of creation, and so blood sacrifices were needed ensure the continuation of life.
The Inca Empire (12 th Century – 1533 AD)
From Mexico and Central America, we move south to the Andes Mountains of Peru and Bolivia. The Inca people started out as a pastoral tribe in the Andes near Cusco, and according to legend, the first Incas emerged from caves in the mountains, captured Cusco, and built the first Inca homes in surrounding mountains and valley. From this small city-state kingdom, the Inca Empire began to expand, and brought much of modern-day Peru under Inca control. Pachacuti split the kingdom (known as Tawantinsuyo) into four regions, with Cusco as its capital. When conquering their neighbors, they always started with diplomacy, offering gifts and peace if they accepted Inca rule, which many did. Those who did not, however, were subjected to military conquest. At its peak, the Inca Empire included all of modern-day Peru, as well as a good portion of Bolivia, southwest Ecuador, and a good part of Chile. In 1532, the Spanish arrived to a Peru and an Inca Empire in the middle of a civil war. This civil war made it easy for the Spanish to conquer the weakened Empire, and the current leader was captured, and executed in 1533.
Unlike the Mayas or the Aztecs, the Incas had no writing system. To keep records, they used series of knotted strings called quipus, as well as ceramics and textiles. Though there are no hard and fast records, oral tradition gives us a good idea of what life was like for the Incas.
The Inca government had a central government with The Inca at the head, and four states – the four suyos of Tawantinsuyo. Cusco wasn’t a part of any of the states, but sort of a city-state apart, similar to Washington D.C. The Incas didn’t have hard and fast laws, but more customs and expectations of behavior, with three moral precepts governing how they acted:
Like other Mesoamerican cultures, the Incas were also polytheistic, with most of their deities related to nature, such as Inti, the Sun God, and Mama Killa, the Moon Goddess. Also, similar to other Mesoamerican cultures, the Incas performed some human sacrifices, usually at important events, such as the death of the Sapa Inca (head Inca).
While this gives a good taste of what makes each of these civilizations special, there is so much more to learn. You can also see that you will only learn more about one of these cultures during your trip to Peru – the mountain-dwelling Incas. When you come to Cusco and the Sacred Valley, you will walk down streets created by them and by walls that they built, as well as their mountain retreat that is now considered one of the 7 Wonders of the World – Machu Picchu.
The Inca, Maya, and - Cahokian?
Mention the Incas or the Mayas, and most Americans will give a nod of recognition. But talk about the great civilization of Cahokia - once the largest city in North America - and you're likely to be met with a blank stare. Few people have heard of the Hopewell society in Ohio, or the Etowah or Moundville cultures in the Southeast, despite their complex social structure, architecture, religion, and art.
The Art Institute of Chicago hopes to change that. "Hero, Hawk, and Open Hand," a collection of art from the ancient cultures of the Midwest and South, aims to toss out old notions of pre-Columbus America as an untamed wilderness.
It may seem, at first glance, an unlikely exhibition for a museum known for its grand displays of Matisse, Gauguin, and Seurat - a collection that would be more at home, perhaps, in the Field Museum of Natural History, a mile south.
But despite a fair amount of ethnographic information and historical context, the emphasis here is on aesthetics - and the curators are clear that the objects displayed are art, not artifacts. It's the artistic quality of the Hopewell's carved animal pipes, or the stunning Moundville pots, more than their function, that interests them.
"We're trying to create a fresh approach to the interpretation of these objects," says Richard Townsend, curator of African and Amerindian art. "I hope at the most basic level that visitors will carry away with them an emotional imprint - that they will be affected by the beautiful and powerful works of art shown here."
Many of the pieces are indeed stunning - and in surprisingly good shape. The first room is devoted mostly to the Hopewell society, which flourished around AD 1000 in the Ohio River Valley, and to Cahokia, an ancient city just outside St. Louis that existed from about AD 900 to 1200.
In the Hopewell section, the most riveting objects are thin mica cutouts, which seem almost transparent, of a bird talon, human profile, and a large hand - subjects which gave the exhibition its name and which held deep symbolic value for many of the societies.
By the time of Cahokia, the human figure, in particular, is more developed, and often represents heroes: Red Horn, also called Morning Star, or the Corn Mother. But as interesting as Cahokia's intricate copper plates and engraved whelk shells is the information about the city itself. A large mural on the wall imagines what it once looked like: a city of 15,000 to 20,000 people that contained large earthen pyramids, scattered thatched houses, and a spiked wooden wall that surrounded the central palisade.
The lack of general awareness of such civilizations may be one reason why those associated with the exhibition sometimes display an almost missionary zeal when talking about the art's importance.
"It's about time that native Americans and nonnative citizens realize that in the eastern woodlands of the United States a great civilization arose, and the art it produced is equal to the art of societies at a similar level of development anywhere in the world, at any time and place," says Kent Reilly, a professor of anthropology at Texas State University who helped conceptualize the exhibit.
In the second room, the focus shifts to ceramics and carved stone vessels, but some of the common threads continue. Many of the red and white pots from the central Mississippi Valley are in the shapes of animals. The open hand, which scholars believe symbolized the portal into the Milky Way where ancestors went, recurs frequently in the Moundville art.
The Etowah art, meanwhile - from a warrior aristocracy in northwest Georgia - consists largely of human figures. Elaborate copper plates depict heroes, while stone carvings show kneeling and seated figures. And the Caddoan ceramics - from sites in southwestern Arkansas and northwestern Louisiana - are almost exclusively abstract. The distinctive red, black, and white designs are very different from the Southwestern art that many people are familiar with, and many of the pots are oddly shaped, with bulbous legs or triangular bodies.
The exhibition also attempts - with varying degrees of success - to incorporate modern tribal voices and histories. Contemporary native Americans weigh in at various points on the audio tour and provide the first quote on the entry wall. At the end of the show, two paragraphs sum up the Trail of Tears and the deplorable acts by the US government, and a film shows modern efforts to reclaim and revitalize tribal culture. With most experts unsure of the links between contemporary tribes and ancient societies whose art is on display, these additions seem somewhat forced.
Still, the works hold meaning for contemporary native Americans. Jereldine Redcorn, a Caddo potter from Oklahoma who has taught herself ancient ceramic techniques, says that seeing her ancestors' art achieve prominence in a museum is somewhat bittersweet.
"We had this society, and because of removal policies," it was lost, she says. "Seeing this - it is with a sadness, but also a hopefulness that people will appreciate the history and art and culture we had."
• 'Hero, Hawk, and Open Hand' continues at the Art Institute of Chicago through Jan. 30. It travels to the St. Louis Art Museum in February.