3/11 Aim: How were the Mayans and Aztecs Similar

January 15, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: History, World History, Aztec
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3/26 Aim: How were the Mayans and Aztecs Similar? Different? Do Now: Imagine that you were an archeologist who came across this structure. Draw 3 inferences about the people who built it. The Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, Mexico. Temple to the god Kukulkan.

Mayan Architecture

Temple at the city- state of Chichen Itza

Illustration of Tikal before the civilization fell

Temple at the city-state of Tikal

Aztec Architecture

Aztec temples near Mexico City

Mayan Written Language

The Mayan writing system, known as “Mayan Glyphs” or “Hieroglyphics,” was the most complex system of writing developed by any American civilization. Maya writing used pictograms complemented by a set of syllabic (sound) glyphs.

Aztec Written Language The Aztec spoken language was called Nahuatl, yet they also had a written language based on pictograms. The Aztec written language is considered an incomplete writing form and not nearly as complex as Mayan writing.

Adapting to their Environment: Mayan Farming Techniques In order to support a large population, the Mayans had to adapt to their tropical environment. Rain forests were cleared, then raised fields that caught and held rainwater were built. They also built channels that could be opened to drain off excess water. Most Mayans were farmers. They grew corn, beans, and squash – the basic food crops of Middle America and are sometimes refered to as “the three sisters”. Men usually cultivated the crops, while women, who were assigned to domestic tasks, turned them into food.

The Aztec Capital of Tenochtitlan What do you notice about the location of the Aztec Capital?

Adapting to their Environment: Aztec Farming Techniques

As the Aztec’s population grew, they found an ingenious way to create more farmland. They built Chinampas, or artificial islands Made of earth piled on reed mats that were Anchored to the shallow lake bed where they grew corn, beans, and squash

Mayan Religious Beliefs The Maya worshipped a pantheon of nature gods, each of which had both a benevolent side and a malevolent side. One of the most important deities was the supreme god Itzamná, the creator god, the god of the fire and god of the earth. Another important Mayan god was Kulkulcán, the Feathered Serpent, who appears on many temples and was later adopted by the Toltecs and Aztecs as Quetzalcoatl. Also important was Chac, a hooked-nose god of rain and lightning.

The Mayans engaged in a large number of festivals and rituals on fixed days of the year, many of which involved animal sacrifices and all of which seem to have involved bloodletting. As far as human sacrifice is concerned, the Mayans are believed to have performed less human sacrifice than the Aztecs who followed them, however, it did take place. The most common method of human sacrifice involved plunging an obsidian knife into the victim’s chest and extracting the heart.

Mayan priests would perform Rituals of human sacrifice to the Gods

Aztec Religious Beliefs The Aztec priests were a class apart. They performed the rituals needed to please the many Aztec gods and prevent droughts, floods, or other disasters. The chief Aztec god was Huitzilopochtli, the sun god. His giant pyramid-temple towered above central Tenochtitlan. Huitzilopochtli, the Aztecs believed battled the forces of darkness each night and was reborn each morning. To give the sun strength to rise each day, the Aztecs offered human sacrifices on a daily basis. The need to find sacrifice victims had political and social implications. The Aztecs Priests offered the hearts of tens of thousands of victims to Huitzilopochtli and other Aztec gods. Most of the victims were prisoners of war, but sometimes a noble family gave up one of its own members to appease the gods.

Mayan and Aztec Achievements: Astronomical Calculations

Both the Mayans and Aztecs created accurate 365-day solar calendars mainly for religious purposes. Mayan priests needed to measure time accurately in order to hold ceremonies at the correct moment. As a result, priests became expert mathematicians and astronomers. Some used their knowledge of astronomy and mathematics to foretell the future. The Mayans had multiple calendars, but by far the most famous is the Long Count calendar which is the one of the most accurate calendars ever created in history. It is perhaps most famous for predicting the end of the world on December 21 2012.

Decline of the Mayas About 900 A.D, the Mayas abandoned their cities, leaving their great stone palaces and temples to be swallowed up by the jungle. No one knows for sure why Mayan civilization declined. Possibly, frequent warfare forced the Mayas to abandon their traditional agricultural methods. Or, overpopulation may have led to over farming, which in turn exhausted the soil. Heavy taxes to finance wars and temple building may have sparked peasant revolts. One thing is for certain. At the time of Spanish arrival in the 16th century, the Mayans, as an advanced civilization, did not exist.

Decline of the Aztecs At the height of Aztec power in 1519, word reached Tenochtitlan that pale-skinned, bearded men, had landed on the east coast. Montezuma, king of the Aztecs, possibly believing that Hernando Cortes, was the god-king returning from the east, invited Cortes into his capital.

Later, Relations between the Aztecs and Spaniards soon grew strained, and the Aztecs Drove the Spanish from the city. Montezuma was killed in the fighting. By 1521 however, Cortes and his Indian allies captured and demolished Tenochtitlan. The Aztecs had been conquered


1. Study the examples of Mayan and Aztec Architecture and illustrations of the city. Describe 3 ways they are similar (both aesthetically and functionally):

Written Language Study the examples of Mayan and Aztec written language. Describe 2 ways they are similar.

Adaption to Environment: Farming Techniques

Provide examples as to how the Mayans adapted to their tropical environment

1. 2.


Which civilization had a superior writing form? How did the Aztecs adapt to their environment (describe Chinamapas)?

2. How is it similar to other ancient civilizations? 3.

Religious Beliefs Explain 2 ways the religious beliefs of the Mayans and Aztecs were similar. 1.

The Mayas and the Aztecs Mayan and Aztec Achievements Astronomical Calculations 1. Which achievement was accomplished by both the Mayas and Aztecs? What was the purpose of it?

Decline Explain 2 possible theories as to why the Maya’s civilization declined. 1.

2. 2. How did the decline of the Aztecs differ from the decline of the Maya? Which civilization was more focused on human sacrifice? Why?

2. Why was this achievement useful?


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