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Maya and Aztec

By celticgirl Nov 26, 2013 657 Words
Some time in the dim past, men of the Mongoloid race, in search of food, made their way across the frozen Bering Strait from Asia to the North American continent. Hunting and fishing in small bands, they spread out over North America, pushing their way down to Central America, and farther down into South America until they occupied both continents in varying degrees of population density (The Aztecs: People of the Sun). By 2000 B.C., sedentary villages were common throughout Mesoamerica, dispersed in small communities across highly diverse agricultural environments in both lowlands and highlands. The very diversity of the Mesoamerican environment with its widely distributed food resources and raw materials made everyone dependent on their neighbors, on communities living in very different surroundings. From the earliest times, barter networks linked village to village and lowland groups to people living on the semi-arid highlands or in the Basin of Mexico. The same exchange networks also spread compelling ideologies, which were to form the symbolic foundation of ancient Mesoamerican civilization (Fagan). The most well-known of civilizations of this region were the Mayas and the Aztecs. What is fascinating about these two societies is that, despite their relative proximity in time and space, they were quite distinct from one another. The ancient Maya created one of the most surprising civilizations of pre-Columbian America: it arose, flourished, and vanished in a little under a thousand years in the unprepossessing environment of the tropical rain forest, leaving behind hundreds of massive ruins to excite the wonder and attention of European travelers. The Maya confined themselves to a single, unbroken area deriving from the natural lowlands of Mesoamerica, which includes the Yucatan Peninsula and the Northern Gulf Coast, and the Southern Highlands that are not characteristically “Maya”. The Classic period of the lowland Maya lasted from A.D. 300 to 900 (Fagan). During this period, the Mayan culture attained its greatest degree of sophistication, and of political, architectural, intellectual and artistic development (Ancient). Maya civilization reached its peak after A.D. 600. Then, at the end of the eighth century, the Maya civilization in the southern lowlands collapsed. Today, we know that the fundamental cause of the Maya collapse was climate change. A centuries-long pattern of decreased rainfall caused problems that intensified during multi-year droughts, especially occurring between the years 800 to 1000 A.D. The droughts set off a chain of events that led the Mayans to permanently abandon many urban areas in the southern and central lowlands, to stop construction of monuments, and to experience the breakdown of social and political order leading to wars. Population in some cities dropped by ninety percent, and society became increasingly decentralized, forcing many people to return to a life a rural subsistence (Abbott). The Postclassic Maya civilization was marked by as much volatility as that of earlier years, most likely due to the political infighting and ecological problems. During this period, the focus of Maya civilization moved into the northern Yucatan, where Maya civilization flourished at Chichen Itza and other centers up until the Spanish conquest of the sixteenth century. Unlike the Maya civilization, the Aztec civilization have an origin story. The Aztecs’ history claims that they came from Aztlan, an island on a lake west or northwest of Mexico, migrating into the Valley of Mexico under the guidance of their tribal god Huitzilopochtli, “Hummingbird on the Left,” who was soon reborn as the sun god himself. Such migration legends were common in ancient Mesoamerica. Historically, the Mexica and other tribes located in northern Mexico and the southwestern United States, known as the Chichimeca, left their home because of a great drought. After two centuries of migration, at around AD 1250, the Mexica arrived in the Valley of Mexico, however, were unwelcomed and shunted into some swampy islands in the marshes of the largest lake in the valley, where they found twin capitals, Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco, sometime after 1325. Yet the Aztecs quickly showed their adaptability. Using their strengths as

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