Aztecs, Incas, and Toltecs

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Chapter 11
The Americas on the Eve of Invasion

I. Introduction
A. By 1500, Americas densely populated by Indians – misnomer – Columbus/Indies
1. Term has meaning only when used to apply to non-Indians
B. Mesoamerica and Andean heartland
1. Imperial states in place when Europe arrives
2. Few areas influenced by two main centers
3. Areas that developed independently

II. Postclassic Mesoamerica
A. Introduction
1. Toltecs/Aztecs replace Mayas of 8th century CE
a. By 15th century Aztecs created extensive empire – war, religion, agrarian
2. Downfall of Mayans – Teotihuacan
a. Nomads from North come down
b. Toltec Culture – 968 established capital Tula
1. Sedentary/agrarian peoples with militaristic ethic
2. Cult of sacrifice/war
3. Aztecs saw Toltecs as givers of civilization
B. The Toltec Heritage
1. Leader Topilitzin followed Quetzalcoatl – feathered serpent
2. Empire spread over much of central Mexico
3. 1000 Conquered Chichen Itza – Mayans under control of Toltecs
4. Toltec influence northward
a. Trade turquoise with American Southwest
b. How far – to Mississippi/Ohio – debatable evidence
1. Stepped temples – Monk’s Mound
2. Ritual sacrifice
3. pottery
4. Social stratification
5. Large city – Cahokia could handle 30,000 people
C. The Aztec Rise to Power – eagle with serpent on cactus
1. Geography – aquatic environment – chinampas
a. Aztecs/Mexicas won control of lake
b. Nomadic tribes or agricultural culture
2. Political structure – centralized city with tributary city-states
3. Military – tough warriors/fanatic followers of religion
4. 1428 emerged as independent power
D. The Aztec Social Contract
1. Subject peoples
a. Pay tribute, surrender lands, military service
b. King civil power/god on earth
2. Stratified society
a. Histories rewritten
3. Human sacrifice – cult of military class supplying war captives as sacrifices
E. Religion and the Ideology of Conquest
1. Incorporated features from past Mesoamerican religions
a. Little distinction between world of gods and natural world
b. Deities – fire, rain, water, corn, sky, sun – pantheon
1. Gods of fertility/agriculture
2. Creator deities
3. Warfare and sacrifice
c. Female form for all gods
2. Yearly festivals/ceremonies
a. Expansive calendar
3. Sacrifice - to energize the sun god – needed nourishment of human blood
a. Types and frequency/degree changed with Aztecs – borrowed from Toltec
b. religious conviction vs. political control
4. Religious questions – afterlife, good life, do gods exist
5. Art has flowers/birds/song and blood
F. Tenochtitlan: The Foundation of Heaven
1. Metropois – central zone of palaces/whitewashed temples
2. Adobe brick residential districts
3. Larger houses for nobility
4. Zoos, gardens for king
5. Geographically connected to island by four causeways
6. Calpulli ruled neighborhoods
G. Feeding the People: The Economy of the Empire
1. Mass population needed to be fed
a. Tribute
b. Irrigated agriculture – chinampas – floating islands
1. 20,000 acres
2. High crop yields – 4 times a year – corn/maize
2. Trade
a. Regular intervals to market
b. Barter or cacao beans/gold for currency
c. Pochteca – long distance trade
3. State controlled distribution of tribute
a. Primarily redistributed to nobility

III. Aztec Society in Transition
A. Widening Social Gulf
1. Life based on calpulli (neighborhood) groups
a. Governed by council of family heads
2. Nobility came from heads of calpullis
3. Military leaders based on success in taking captives
a. Ritual warfare – uniforms
4. As society grew, widening social disparity – no longer egalitarian (hmmm…where have I seen this pattern before?)
a. Scribes, artisans, healers between peasants and nobility
5. But…competition...
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