The History of The Ancient Americas Alex P, Vedran G, Steven N, Jeff M, and Sean F
Introduction The ancient civilizations of the Americas were very different from the rest of the world. The population in the western hemisphere was filled due to a series of migrations from Asia, which occurred as early as 35,000 to 25,000 B.C.E., according to several scholars. The Americas were virtually isolated from the rest of the world for at least 15,000 years. This isolation distinguishes them from Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. While the rest of the world traded goods, ideas, and technological innovations, the Americas were forced to face challenges of their natural environment alone. They faced frozen regions of polar extremes, tropical rain forests, deserts, mountains, woodlands, and prairies. However, they overcame the challenges and had several successful civilizations. They are separated into three time periods.
TIME PERIODS • Rise of Complex Early Civilizations 3500 - 1000 B.C.E. • Classical Period --- 1000 B.C.E. - 600 C.E. • Post Classical Era --- 600 - 1450 C.E.
Rise of Complex Early Civilizations --- 3500 - 1000 B.C.E. American Territory had no complex civilizations during this time period.
Mesoamerican Olmecs 1200 – 200 B.C.E. • The Olmecs were the very first civilized peoples that occupied American territory. • This civilization flourished between 1200 and 400 B.C.E. in the area of the tropical Atlantic coast. • Stratification and urbanization were great due to plant and animal domestication, technology, and trade even before 1000 B.C.E. • Resources, such as obsidian, quartz, and jade created trade and also cultural exchange, and along with agriculture, the Olmec civilization became a center of political and religious power. • San Lorenzo, La Venta, and Tres Zapotes were three of the most important centers of the civilization, and ruins are interpreted as evidence to finding the cause of why the centers were deserted.
Olmecs continued • The staples of the Mesoamerican diet were corn, beans, and squash, and they were domesticated by 3500 B.C.E. • As the civilization grew, new technology permitted the people to dig irrigation canals and other agricultural ideas. • Large artificial platforms and mounds of earth served as religious structures. • Skilled artisans created high-quality crafts that often went into trade. • Although little is known about the political structure of the Olmecs, it is likely that a form of kingship existed. The Olmecs did not exactly have an empire, but they had influence over a great area of land.
Olmecs continued • Olmec heads are important artistic monuments that are unique and suggestive of individual personality. Each represents a ruler. • The Olmecs were polytheistic and their deities had male and female natures. • Human and animal characteristics were blended. • They produced a type of calendar and a form of writing. • The Olmecs most likely declined due to invasions.
The Andean Chavins 900 – 250 B.C.E. • Chavin (pronounced cha-BEAN) was the first major civilization in the Andes, where geography played a major role in their development. • The mountainous core, arid coastal plains, and interior jungles challenged the people of Chavin. • Its capital was Chavin de Huantar, which is located north of the modern city of Lima. • The civilization flourished between 900 and 250 B.C.E. • They controlled trade routes and had major advantages in economy over rivals, which made them politically and economically dominant in the Andes • Pottery styles, religious motifs, and architectural forms suggest that Chavin’s political integration and trade dependency may have relied on military force.
Chavins continued • A jaguar deity was Chavin’s most potent religious symbol. • Fish and mollusks had provided the area with food, and the introduction of maize cultivation increased agriculture in Chavin. • Soon, the coastal economy included quinoa, potatoes, llamas, coca, and fruits. • Reciprocal labor obligations permitted the construction and maintenance of roads, bridges, temples, palaces, and canals. • Llamas were the only domesticated beast of burden in the Americas, and they were crucial to the development of Chavin.
Chavins continued • Decorated multilevel platforms used for religious purposes were the architectural signature of Chavin. • American metallurgy was first started in Chavin and later spread to Mesoamerica. Many gold ornaments are proof that metallurgy existed and was important. • Priests directed religious life, chiefs and kings dominated politics, and jewelry separated these people from commoners. • An increase of warfare in the region in the 200’s B.C.E. caused the collapse of this civilization, but the technologies, culture, statecraft, architecture, and urban planning influenced the rest of the Americas for centuries after.
Teotihuacan • Largest City in Mesoamerica at height of power (450-600 C.E.) • Religious architecture included enormous pyramids and dozens of small temples • Practiced human sacrifice • Two-thirds of city residents worked heavily in agriculture • Built apartment-like stone buildings • Wealthy elite controlled state bureaucracy, tax collection, and commerce
Teotihuacan (cont.) • No evidence of single ruler or tremendous political power • City created a powerful military to protect long-distance trade • Military possibly used to extend trade relations • Collapsed about 650 C.E.
The Mayas (250-900 C.E.) • Region that now covers Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, and southern Mexico • Tropical climates and “fragile” soils • Modern day Mayan farmers cut down trees and brush and burning dead vegetation to fertilize land which is called swidden agriculture • Powerful cities controlled smaller independent cities • Political and ceremonial centers coincided with the movement of the Sun and Venus
The Mayas (Cont.) • Decoration was a primary concern of the Maya • They used bright colors and carved alters and stone monoliths • Agriculture was used without the use of wheels • Rulers and other members of the elite were a part of political and priestly gatherings • Warfare was infused with religion
The Mayas (Cont.) • Kings and kinsmen participated in war • Elite captives were often sacrificed while commoners were more likely to be enslaved • While only a couple of women ruled Maya kingdoms, they did play important roles politically and religiously • Added to Olmec development of Mesoamerican calendar, mathematics, and writing • Calendar system was based on astronomical observations
The Mayas (Cont.) • Mathematics had zero and place value but not many notation signs • Maya writing was a form of hieroglyphics • 800-900 C.E. – Many urban centers were abandoned or destroyed • During this time war increased • Disease may have contributed to the downfall of the civilization • Most probable was a number of factors leading to the downfall not one single problem
The Toltecs • Little is known about the Toltecs prior to their arrival in central Mexico • Scholars speculate that the Toltecs were originally a satellite population placed by Teotihuacan • Innovations in politics and military made Toltecs an important post-classical civilization • The Aztecs and other civilizations thought the Toltecs were the source of nearly all great technical achievements • Contributions to Mesoamerican culture were in fact already in place before the Toltecs
Toltecs • Created the first conquest state based on military power • Extended political influence from modern Mexico to Central America • Established capital Tula in 968 C.E. that dominated Central Mexico • Tula decorated with violent images of warriors and sacrifice • Two kings ruled the Toltec kingdom together
Toltecs • Division of responsibility weakened Toltec power • Weakness led to destruction of Tula • Struggle between religion based elite groups tore apart the Toltec state • Toltec state began to finally decline in 1156 C.E. • At this point, northern invaders overcame Tula itself
The Aztecs • The Aztecs were a northern people who pushed into central Mexico after the collapse of Tula. • Started out with a clan-based social structure, then slowly adopted the political and social practices of the peoples around them. • As strength grew, began construction of twin capitals Tenochtitlan and Tlatelelco around 1325 C.E. • With strength brought security, and that security brought a monarchial system of government.
Aztec Government • Their ruler was selected by powerful aristocrats. Once selected he demonstrate his divine mandate by undertaking a new round of military conquests. • Great class divisions developed, as rich families only got richer with the spoils of military conquest. A hereditary elite controlled most of the power, bringing great inequalities in wealth and privilege by 1500 C.E. • Used conquered peoples for labor that created more agricultural land for the burgeoning population. • The tribute system forced conquered peoples to make many payments, which supplied a quarter of the twin capitals’ food requirements as well as other luxury items and military equipment. The tribute system, which was necessary to the Aztec society, also encouraged military conquest. • Merchants gained affluence through long-distance trade of light items such as gold, feathered garments, and animal skins, but they had to hide their wealth due to jealous people of high nobility.
Aztecs Religion • The Aztecs worshiped a large number of gods, most of which had a dual nature- both male and female. • Their most important religious contribution to Mesoamerica was the cult of Huitzilopochtli, a god originally associated with war and later the Sun. • Huitzilopochtli was believed to require a steady diet of human hearts for sustenance, which lead to human sacrifice. War captives, slaves, and criminals were the most common sacrificial victims. • Sacrifice had been practiced throughout Mesoamerica before the Aztecs, but the thousands of annual victims the Aztecs killed transformed it.
The Incas • Imperial State called “Land of Four Corners,” by 1525 • Population more than 6 million, inhabiting stretch from Maule River Chile to Northern Ecuador, & from the Pacific coast across the Andes to the upper Amazon, & in the south into Argentina. • Inca were pastoralist: • Prosperity and military strength depended on vast herds of llamas and alpacas, which provided food and clothing as well as transport for goods. • Inca state was built on Andean social customs and economic practices. • Also built on conquering additional distant territories and increasing the scale of forced exchanges.
The Incas (Cont.) • Both men and women were involved in care of herds. • Women primary responsible for weaving and Men were drivers in long-distance trades. • Draft laborers served as soldiers, construction workers, craftsmen, and runners to carry messages. • They also drained swamps, terraced mountainsides, filled valley floors, built and maintain irrigation works, also built storage facilities and roads. • Inca Laborers constructed 13,000 miles of road, facilitating military troop movements, administration, and trade.
The Incas (Cont.) • Hereditary chiefs of allyus carried out administrative and judicial functions. • As Inca expanded left local rulers of defeated societies to rule. • The royal family claimed descent from the Sun, the primary Inca god. • Lives of the ruler and members of the royal family dominated by political and religious rituals. • Cuzco – Inca’s imperial capital. • Provincial cities, royal courts, imperial armies, and state’s religious cults, all rested on this foundation. • Cuzco population of less than 30,000 in 1530.
The Incas (Cont.) • The city was laid out in the shape of a giant puma. • Inca cultural achievements rested on the strong foundation of earlier Andean civilization. • Inca craftsmen produced utilitarian tools and weapons of copper and bronze. • The richest part of the city was the Temple of the Sun. • Interior was lined with sheets of gold • Patio was decorated with golden representations of llamas and corn.
Anasazi • The Anasazi were a number of similar desert cultures spread out through what is now the four corners region of the United States. • Their economy was based on maize, beans, and squash. The success of those crops led to larger villages and kivas, which were underground buildings whose purpose is still under question. • Women had a relatively high status, they shared in agricultural tasks, were specialists in many crafts, and were also responsible for food preparation and childcare. • In the 12th century Chaco Canyon, one of the most prominent Anasazi settlements, was abandoned due to a long drought that devastated their fragile agriculturally based economy. • In the Rio Grande Valley and in Arizona, Anasazi traditions still survive today through Pueblo peoples.
Moche • Developed after the collapse of the Chavin • Dominated north coastal region of Peru • Cultivated maize, quinoa, beans, manioc, and sweet potatoes from use of irrigation • Commoners spent time farming and laboring for the elite • There is no written history for the Moche • City centers rapidly declined
Mound Builders: The Adena and The Hopewell • Located in the Ohio River Valley. • Based on hunting and gathering supplemented by limited seed crop cultivation. • Adena mounds contained burials, which included items that tell of the status of individuals in their hierarchical society (rare items such as copper and mica indicated elite status). • 100 C.E.- Adena blended into its successor culture, the Hopewell. • The Hopewell was a chiefdom, which was a territory that was ruled by a chief who had both religious and secular responsibilities.
Mound Builders: The Mississippian Culture • Hopewell technology and mound building survived, and eventually became popular again with the Mississippian culture • Likely inherited crops and some technologies through contact with Mesoamerica. • Chiefdoms developed after increases in agricultural productivity, the adoption of the bow and arrow, and the expansion of trade networks. • Cahokia was their greatest urban center, and was home to the largest mound in the Americas and about 30,000 people. It controlled many surrounding agricultural lands.
Tiwanaku • Tiwanaku urbanization began only after 200 CE • Tiwanaku’s expansion depended on the adoption of technology that increased agricultural productivity • Depended on Fish and llamas added protein to a diet that largely dependent on potatoes and grains. • Llamas were crucial for maintenance of long-distance trade relationships • Brought in corn, coca. Tropical fruits, and medicinal plants.
Tiwanaku (Cont.) • Urban center distinguished by construction of high quality of its stone masonry. • Limited metallurgy produced only tools of copper alloy. • Little is known about social structure, daily life of civilization. • Ruled by hereditary elite, men and women devoted their time to agriculture. • Produced ceramics.
Wari • Wari located 450 miles northwest of Tiwanaku • Culture tied to Tiwanakus, but exact nature is unclear. • City center is surrounded by massive walls, temple, multifamily blocks. • Ceramic styles are different than Tiwanaku’s. • Military conflict caused decline of Wari.
Underlying Themes • Religion - All American civilizations were polytheistic and tended to build structures of their gods. Rulers justified the ascension using religion. It is interesting that none of the American religions prevailed to be a major religion today, like European, Asian, and Middle Eastern ones did. • Conquest – During this time period civilizations engaged in heated conflict over land, religion, and politics. The various small cultures battled for power, and in the process expanded dramatically. • Isolation - It is important to realize that all of these American civilizations were completely isolated from the rest of the world. They grew and developed completely alone with no interactions such as trade that could improve their civilizations.
Jeopardy Chavins/ Olmecs Toltecs/ Teotihuacáns Mayas Aztecs Incas 100 100 100 100 100 300 300 300 300 300 500 500 500 500 500
Chavins / Olmecs For 100 • The Olmec civilization flourished between this time period. ANSWER: What is 1200 – 400 B.C.E.? Back To Menu
Chavins / Olmecs For 300 • The staples of the Mesoamerican diet. ANSWER: What is beans, corn, and squash? Back To Menu
Chavins / Olmecs For 500 • The capital of the Chavin civilization. ANSWER: What is Chavin de Huantar? Back To Menu
Mayas for 100 • The calendar was created using these. ANSWER: What is mathematics and writing? Back To Menu
Mayas For 300 • The type of agriculture used by modern day Mayan farmers. ANSWER: What is Swidden Agriculture? Back To Menu
Mayas For 500 • The men participated in war along with commoners. ANSWER: Who are kings and kinsmen? Back To Menu