You are on page 1of 8

Chapter 11

Page: 1

Chapter 11: Peoples and Civilizations of the Americas, 600-1500 Classic-Era Culture and Society in Mesoamerica, 600-900
Mesoamericans were united by similarities in material culture, religious beliefs, and social structures. Mesoamericans of this era built on the earlier achievements of the Olmecs and Chavin. The Classic period was 600-900. During this era, irrigation and terraced hillsides for agriculture were already in place for over 1000 years, and the real achievements of this era were in the ability of increasingly powerful elites to organize and command growing numbers of laborers and soldiers. What changed was the reach and power of religious and political leaders.

Teotihuacan 30 miles NE of modern Mexico city, Teotihuacan was at the height of its power in 600 CE and about to decline. It had between 125,000 and 200,000 inhabitants. This city was aligned with nearby sacred mountains and reflected the movement of the stars, and religious architecture rose about the city. They had pyramids dedicated to Moon and Sun. People worshipped Sun, Moon, a storm-god, and Quetzalcoatl, a feathered serpent. Quetzalcoatl was a culture-god believed to be the originator of agriculture and the arts. Like the Olmecs, the people at Teotihuacan practiced human sacrifice. Sacrifice was viewed as a sacred duty towards the gods and as essential to the well-being of human society. Rapid growth in urban population resulted from a series of volcanic eruptions that disrupted agriculture. Later, as the city elite increased its power, farm families were forced to relocate to the urban core. As a result, over 2/3 of the citys residents worked on agriculture outside of the city. The elites used the large concentration of laborers in the city to prepare land for agricultural production. Swamps were drained, irrigation systems were built, terraces built into hillsides, and the use of chinampas expanded. Chinampas were floating gardens, which were artificial islands built along lakes or in marshes that permitted year-round agriculture because of subsurface irrigation and resistance to frost. Chinampas played a crucial role in sustaining the regions growing population. Housing of commoners changed as populations grew. Apartment-like stone buildings constructed for the first time, they were unique to Teotihuacan. They usually housed kinship groups, some were used to house craftsmen working in the same trade. Pottery and obsidian were the largest crafts groups, pottery and obsidian were the two most important long-distance trade items. Member of the elite controlled the state bureaucracy, tax collection, and commerce. The priests had great prestige. Teotihuacans economy and religious influence drew pilgrims from as far away as Oaxaca and Veracruz. Unlike other classical civilizations, Teotihuacan did not concentrate power in the hands of a single ruler. It was likely that elite families or groups of them ruled. Teotihuacans military was mainly used to protect long-distance trade. Teotihuacan collapsed in 650 CE. Could have been external invasion or internal political unrest.

Chapter 11 The Maya

Page: 2

At the same time of the ascent of Teotihuacan in the north, the Maya developed in the Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, and southern Mexico region. The Maya shared a single culture but were never politically unified. Instead, they consisted of many small rival kingdoms led by hereditary rulers who all fought for dominance. Today the Maya practiced swidden agriculture, or slash and burn. The high populations of the classical era, ending about 900 CE, required the draining of swamps and the building of elevated fields. They used irrigation in areas with long dry seasons and terraced hilltops in the cool highlands. Almost all families had a garden to grow specialty plants and fruits to supplement the dietary staples. The most powerful cities of this time maintained power over smaller cities and agricultural areas by building impressive temples and by practicing rituals that linked the power of kings to the gods. High pyramids aligned with the stars and planets and elaborate palaces awed the public. All Mayan building done with just stone, no metal, and without wheels. Mayan cosmos: 3 regions, human plane between heaven and hell. A sacred tree reached into the heavens and hell. Heaven was a sky-monster, hell a dark underworld. Temples represented this: Steps up the temples led to heaven, doors of the pyramids were portals to the underworld. Rulers and elites served secular and religious functions: they wore paint and got tattoos and wore elaborate costumes to attest to their divinity. Kings communicated with supernatural residents of the other worlds and with deified ancestors through bloodletting rituals and hallucinogenic trances. Warfare was infused with religious meaning and attached to rituals. Mayans typically fought for captives, not territory. Elites participated in war. Elite captives were sacrificed, commoners were forced to do labor. Only two female rulers of Mayan kingdoms ever. Women of male rulers participated in bloodletting and other ceremonies. Mayan society was patrilineal, but sometimes it was bilateral. Like Smoking Squirrel, some rulers emphasized the female line if it held higher status. Women were healers and shamans, they were central to the religious rituals of the home, and maintained gardening and wove. Mayans built on Olmec advances in the calendar and math and writing. Their interest in time and the cosmos reflected in the complexity of their calendar. They had a calendar tracking ritual cycle (260 days divided into 13 months of 20 days) and a solar calendar (365 days divided into 18 months of 20 days). When the two calendars concurred every 52 years, the date was thought to be ominous. They also maintained a long count calendar, which began at a fixed date around 3114 BCE, which they probably associated with creation. Their calendar and astronomical observations were based on math and writing. Their math had the concept of zero and place value. Their writing was a form of hieroglyphics. Between 800 and 900, many major urban centers of the Maya were abandoned or destroyed, although some classic-period cities survived for centuries. Some think an epidemic was to blame, some thought the collapse of Teotihuacan in 650 disrupted trade. Others thought population expansion led to environmental degradation and decline in agricultural productivity, provoking war and social conflict.

The Postclassic Period in Mesoamerica, 900-1500

The essential cultural characteristics of classic period were carried over into the post-classic. Population expansion also occurred during the post-classic era as it did during the classic, leading to intensified agriculture and increased war. The political elites of the major states, the Toltecs and the Aztecs, increased the size of their armies and developed stronger political

Chapter 11 organizations to facilitate the rule of large and diverse territories. The Toltecs

Page: 3

The Toltecs borrowed from Teotihuacan culture and created an important post-classical civilization. Aztecs and others thought the Toltecs created much of the Mesoamerican culture, like the calendar and many other things. This was not the case. The most important Toltec innovations were political and military. They created the first conquest state based on military power and they extended their political influence from the area north of Mexico City to Central America. Built in 968 CE, the Toltecs capital of Tula was quite grand. It had patios and temples. Tulas population never reached that of Teotihuacan, but it dominated central Mexico. Toltec art valued war and violence much more than earlier Mesoamerican cultures. Warriors and human sacrifice were depicted very often. Two kings ruled the Toltec state together. This division contributed to the destruction of Tula when elite groups with rival religious cults fought and undermined the Toltec state. The ruler of one of these groups and a priest of the cult of Quetzalcoatl was Topiltzin, and he and his followers were exiled to the east. This coincides with the growing Toltec influence among the Maya of the Yucatan Peninsula. After the exile of Topiltzin, the Toltec state declined and Tula fell in 1156 to northern invaders. After its fall, cultural and political assimilation produced a new political order based on the urbanized culture and statecraft of the Toltecs.

The Aztecs The Aztecs were also known as the Mexica. They were northern people that pushed into central Mexico after the collapse of Tula. When they arrived, they had clan-based society, but they began adopting political and social practices of the urbanized agriculturalists left over from the Toltecs. Aztecs started out as serfs to more powerful societies, but as they grew more powerful they started to colonize around Lake Texcoco, and around 1325 they began to build their twin capitals, Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco, together the foundation for modern Mexico City. Military success allowed Aztecs to gain farmland along the lakeshore. This boosted economic independence and political security. They then adopted a monarchial system and the kinship groups lost influence but did survive up to the era of Spanish conquest. Aztec rulers did not have absolute power and royal succession was not hereditary. A council of powerful aristocrats chose new rulers from among male members of the ruling lineage. New kings had to renegotiate for tribute dependencies and then demonstrate his divine mandate through conquering. War was infused with religious meaning, providing the king with legitimacy. As rulers and aristocrats became more powerful, social divisions deepened. Territorial conquest allowed the warrior elite of Aztec society to get land and peasant labor as spoils of war. Elites eventually had large estates that were cultivated by slaves and landless commoners. There was little to no social mobility or democracy. Urban plan of the two cities was largely based around the clans who lived together. However, the rights of clans declined and by 1500 CE great inequalities of wealth and privilege present. Chocolate was an important from the Mayan region. Houses, dress, food, and marriage set the elites and the commoners apart; commoners were monogamous but elites polygamous. The Aztec state mobilized its 150,000 people in agriculture by organizing the clans and the laborers sent by defeated people. A 5 and a half mile long by 23 feet wide dike to separate the freshwater and saltwater parts of Lake Texcoco was the Aztecs most impressive project. Aztec chinampas (floating gardens) provided maize, fruit, vegetables. The tribute system required conquered lands of the Aztec to send tributes of maize, beans, and others. Over of the capitals

Chapter 11

Page: 4

food came from tributes. They also demanded cotton cloth, weapons, sacrifice victims. A class of merchants controlled long-distance trade. There were no draft animals or wheeled vehicles, so lightweight and valuable products dominated long-distance trade. Some things were gold, jewels, feathered garments, cacao, and animal skins. Merchants also provided political and military intelligence for the Aztec elite. The merchants became wealthy but were denied privileges of high nobility, which was jealous of the merchants rise to power. There was no money in Aztec world, only barter. Cacao, quills filled with gold and cotton cloth were used to supplement trades that were not quite even; they were like currency sort of. Aztec expansion led to a standard and dependable economy; many things could be reliably found in the capitals markets. By 1500, population of capital cities and surrounding lakeshore was about 500,000. Religious rituals dominated public life in Tenochititlan, worshipping many gods, many of which had both male and female natures. The major Aztec contribution was the cult of Huitzilopochtli, the southern hummingbird. As Aztec state grew, the importance of this cult did as well. It was originally associated with war, but eventually it was identified with the Sun, which was worshipped as a god throughout Mesoamerica. They believed Huitzilopochtli required a diet of human hearts to sustain him in his daily struggle to bring the Sun into the world. Architecturally, Tenochtitlan was dominated by a twin temple to Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc, the rain god. Together, they symbolized the pillars of Aztec economy: war and agriculture. War captives were preferred sacrifice victims, but criminals, slaves, and people provided as tribute were also sacrificed. The Aztecs and others of the postclassical period were different from the classical societies in that they sacrificed many more people. The Aztecs were sacrificing over 1000 people per year. This many people being killed told people clearly that rebellion and opposition illegal.

Northern Peoples
By the end of classical period in Mesoamerica, 900, cultural centers appeared in SW desert region and along Ohio and Mississippi river valleys of USA. Introduction of maize, beans, squash from Mesoamerica helped complex societies develop. They then spread throughout North America. Irrigation in both SW desert and E river valleys showed increasingly centralized political power and increasing social stratification.

Southwestern Desert Cultures The Hohokam of Salt and Gila river valleys of southern Arizona show the most Mexican influence of all southwestern cultures. Hohokam sites have platform mounds and ball courts similar to those of Mesoamerica. They constructed an elaborate irrigation system with one canal that was over 18 miles long. Their agricultural and ceramic technology spread over centuries to neighboring people. The Anazi (Navajo for ancient ones) were a collection of dispersed but similar desert cultures that lived in the Four Corners region of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah. By 600 they had well-established economy based on maize, beans, squash. This led to the establishment of larger villages and an enriched cultural life centered in underground buildings called kivas. They may have used kivas for weaving and pottery making and religious rituals. One of the largest Anazi communities was in Chaco Canyon in NW New Mexico. It was 8 large towns in a canyon and 4 more on surrounding mesas. It was surrounded by many smaller villages. Each town had hundreds of rooms arranged in tiers around a central plaza. At Pueblo Bonito, the largest town, more than 650 rooms were arranged in a four-story block of residences and storage rooms. Pueblo Bonito had thirty-eight kivas, including a great kiva more than 65 feet

Chapter 11

Page: 5

(19 meters) in diameter. Social life and craft activities were concentrated in small open plazas or common rooms. Hunting, trade, and the need to maintain irrigation works often drew men away from the village. Women shared in agricultural tasks and were specialists in many crafts. They also were responsible for food preparation and childcare. Merchants from Chaco Canyon traded with the Toltec-period people. They traded turquoise for shell jewelry, copper bells, macaws and trumpets. This trade occurred late in Chacos development. There were not clear social distinctions in this society. Chaco Canyon society developed from the earlier societies in the region, not from the Mesoamericans. Abandonment of Chaco Canyons major sites occurred in the 12th century, probably the result of a drought. The Anasazi continued in the Four Corners region more than a century after fall of Chaco Canyon. Also major centers at Mesa Verde, Colorado and Canyon de Chelly and Kiet Siel, Arizona. In these areas they built settlements in natural caves high above valleys. This hardto-reach location suggests increased warfare, probably over farmland.

Mound Builders: The Mississippian Culture The Mound Builders built large mounds for elite burials, the residences of chiefs, and as platforms for temples. This was practiced from New York to Illinois and Ontario to Florida for a thousand years before the development of Mississippian culture (700-1500 CE). The early Mound Builders relied on hunting and gathering with little agriculture. Maize, beans, squash were staples in the development of urbanized Mississippian culture. They were probably passed along from intervening cultures, not from Mesoamerica. Mississippian political organization continued the earlier North American chiefdom tradition, wherein a territory that had a population as large as 10,000 was ruled by a chief, a hereditary leader with both religious and secular responsibilities. They also managed long-distance trade, which provided luxury goods and additional food supplies. Urbanized Mississippian sites developed from the accumulated effects of small increases in agricultural productivity, the adoption of the bow and arrow, and the expansion of trade networks. An improved economy led to population growth and social stratification. The largest towns shared a common urban plan based on a central plaza surrounded by large platform mounds. Major towns were trade centers where people bartered essential commodities, such as the flint used for weapons and tools. Mississippi culture was at its height at the great urban center of Cahokia, near East St. Louis, Illinois. At the center of this city was the largest mound in North America. Elite housing and temples were around this center mound and commoners were outside of that. At its height in 1200 CE, about 20,000 people lived there. Cahokia controlled surrounding agricultural lands and some secondary towns ruled by subchiefs. This city became central because of its location on the Missouri, Mississippi, and Illinois Rivers, which allowed for canoe-based trade as far away as the coast of the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. Cahokia fell after 1250 CE mainly because of climate changes and population pressures, as more food needed to be produced but could not be.

Andean Civilizations, 600-1500

Chapter 11

Page: 6

The Andean region had high elevation and mountainous terrain, which made agriculture difficult.

Cultural Response to Environmental Challenge- Andeans From the Chavin era, all great Andean societies connected the resources of the coastal region, with abundant fish and irrigated maize fields, to the mountainous interior, with herds of llamas and cultivated grains and tubers. Both areas had environmental difficulties, droughts on the coast and frost in the mountains. People in this area made terraced hillsides to create microenvironments where things could be grown easier. They also learned how to freeze-dry food to sustain them during shortages. The domestication of the llama and alpaca were crucial; they provided meat, wool, and long-distance transportation to link the mountains and the coast. Andean environment was harsher than Mesoamericas, but its agriculture was more dependable. The Andean people used effective organization of labor to overcome their environmental disadvantages. They had a less advanced record keeping system than Mesoamerica; they had a system of knotted colored cords, called khipus, that were used to aid administration and record population counts and tribute obligations. They had drainage and irrigation works to control erosion and provide additional farmland. Andean people held land communally, amongst clans called ayllu. Members of an ayllu claimed descent from common ancestor but were not necessarily related. All members were treated as family and they were obligated to help each other with projects that required more labor than a single household could provide. This was how labor was organized and good were distributed. As territorial states headed by hereditary kings developed, these obligations laid out by the ayllu were expanded. The mita was a labor draft that organized members of ayllus to work the fields and care for llama and alpaca herds owned by religious establishments, the royal court, and the aristocracy. Each ayllu had to contribute a set number of workers for tasks each year. Mita workers built and maintained roads, bridges, temples, palaces, and large irrigation and drainage projects. They made textiles and other goods, like beer from maize and coca (leaves that make cocaine). Mita system important in Andean society for more than 1000 years. Work was divided along gender lines, hunting, military, and government mostly reserved for men. Women made textiles, did agriculture, and kept up the home. Andean civilization relied on vertical integration, or verticality. Each region specialized in certain resources and each community wanted to have access to all of the resources. So, ayllus sent out colonists to secure the resources of other areas for their own. The historic development of Andean and Mesoamerican postclassic civilizations was similar. Both were highly integrated political and economic systems before 1500. However, geography affected the development of Andean cultures more than Mesoamerican ones because of the mountains and highlands and isolation.

Moche The Moche dominated the north coastal region of Peru by 600 CE. They did not establish a formal empire or unified political structures. The Moche and the Chimu who followed them cultivated maize, quinoa, beans, manioc, and sweet potatoes with the aid of massive irrigation works. They had complex irrigation networks maintained by imposed mita labor. They had large herds of llamas and alpacas for long distance trade. Wool and cotton grown by farmers provided materials for Moche textile production. Meat was important in diet. Wealth and power amongst the Moche was in the hands of the priests and military leaders. They used gold as bodily adornment and wore headdresses.

Chapter 11

Page: 7

Commoners did subsistence farming and paid labor duties. Both men and women involved in agriculture, herding, and household economy. Women produced textiles, wove. They made pottery. Metallurgists used gold and copper. Decline of the Moche coincided with natural disasters in 6th century. An earthquake made the Moche River flood the urban centers and then a 30 year drought and winds that pushed sand into the irrigation systems made the agriculture fail.

Tiwanaku and Wari The Tiwanaku and Wari in the Andean highlands paralleled the Moche in the coastal regions. Tiwanaku was 13,000 feet elevation on a treeless plain near Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. They had irrigation that allowed 200,000 acres to be farmed on the rich lakeside. They ate fish, llamas, potatoes, grains. They used llamas for long distance trade. Tiwanaku had great stone masonry large stones and blocks were moved miles to make a pyramid and a reservoir. They only forged tools of copper alloy. They also made stone statutes. Tiwanaku was not large like Teotihuacan, it had maybe 30,000 population. Instead, it was a ceremonial and political center to large regional population; Tiwanaku had influence over large surrounding areas, they did some conquering, mainly to get dependable supplies of products from ecologically distinct zones. The city of Wari was 450 miles NW of Tiwanaku. It shared some culture and technology with Tiwanaku, and was a little larger. Both declined by 1000 CE. The Inca inherited their legacy.

The Inca The Inca built a vast imperial state that they called the Land of Four Corners in little more than a century. By 1525 the empire had a population of over 6 million. In early 15th century Incans were one of many rival powers in the southern highlands, with capital at Cuzco. Political authority was consolidated under strong leaders and military expansion started in 1430s. Incan state was built on traditional Andean social customs and economics. Mesoamerican societies achieved diversity in economics (many goods) by trading, but the ayllus and the Incans did it by conquering many lands, then forcing the trade. They got what they wanted that way. Incans were pastoralists whose strength depended on their herds of llamas and alpacas. Both men and women took care of them. Women did weaving, men drove the llamas in long distance trade. The mita system persisted and helped the Incans rise to power. It created material surplus that provided for the old, weak, and ill of society. 1/7 of men in each ayllu had to do mita work. They were soldiers, construction workers, craftsmen. Incans made over 13,000 miles of road, a vast system. The chiefs of allyus had administrative and judicial functions. Incans left rulers of conquered areas in power, but practiced garrison building and hostage taking. The heirs of the rulers of conquered areas were taken to Cuzco, the capital, ensuring good behavior of conquered. Incan royal family claimed descent from the Sun, the primary Incan god. They lived in palaces. Each new king had to start his reign with new conquest. Tenochtitlan, Aztec capital, had 150,000 people in 1520. At Incan height of power, Cuzco had less than 30,000. However, their capital was remarkable; they were very skilled stoneworkers. City was laid out in the shape of a puma. At the center were the temples and palaces. Temple of the Sun was the richest temple. Rulers tried to awe people with splendor and sacrifice to demonstrate their descent from the Sun. Metallurgy slightly more advanced than in Mesoamerica: they made copper, bronze, gold, silver. The Incans dominated the region for only a century and faded in 1525. Death of king Huayna Capac after conquest of Ecuador started struggle for the throne. Civil war began. Conclusion: The development of larger cities and empires and societies in Mesoamerica, the Andes, and in the southwest deserts and Mississippi regions depended on the effective mobilization of large

Chapter 11

Page: 8

groups of commoners to carry out irrigation projects and agricultural production. In Mesoamerica, this was done by conquering and then mobilization of the clans and kinship groups. In Andes, this was done by the mita, which was imposed labor for a portion of each ayllu, or clan. In all cases, once large settlements were erected and commoners were mobilized, the societies started trying to get new resources. The Andeans conquered more land because different lands had access to different types of environments and so could raise different crops and resources. By conquering these lands, the Incans and Moche and Tiwanaku and Wari could secure supplies of these valuable resources. In the Andean regions, llamas became extremely important. They were used for meat, wool, and most importantly long-distance trade. They allowed the people in the mountains to trade with the people on the coast, and they both had starkly different goods. This allowed each society to exist much more comfortably. It also contributed to cultural diffusion which helped to bond the two areas.