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Lecture 2

HIST 1F96 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Maya Civilization, Teotihuacan, Cultural Assimilation

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Tami Friedman

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Native Societies in Latin America
(Week 2, September 17 th
, 2013)
Native Studies in Latin America:
1) Teotihuacan
2) Mayan Civilization
3) The Inca Empire
4) Rise of the Aztecs
South and Central America:
Major societies in South America are similar to each other, organized a like.
They had a more complex structure, not to say it was more “advanced” than North American societies.
Some were bigger and more complex than European cities at the time.
Sophisticated and highly stratified society existed from 200 C.E. in the central valley of Mexico.
Tribute system of agricultural production created huge crop surpluses and allowed formation of huge cities.
Supported a population of close to 250,000 people making it one of the largest cities of its time.
Featured massive temples on each end of the public square dedicated to the Gods of the sun, and moon larger than
the pyramids of Egypt.
High population density because of multi-residential dwellings provided housing for hundreds of families.
City was abandoned by 800 C.E.
Tribute was given for protection.
In market place (“Avenue of the Day”), goods like copper bracelets and feather headdresses.
Apartment buildings with thousands of people living in them, 8 stories high.
A different level of sophistication than the Europeans(which they can’t understand).
Not a lot known about Teotihuacan, draught or invasion?
Mayan Civilization:
Peaked between 250-900 C.E. along the Gulf coastline in present day Mexico, and Guatemala.
Efficiency in agriculture and tribute system of crop redistribution created a highly stratified society (rulers, priests,
merchants, artisans, bureaucrats, farmers, etc.).
Created large urban centres such as Tikal which covered 50 square miles, and supported a population of over
Cities featured large ceremonial pyramids, palaces, public markets, and huge ball playing fields.
Trade with Teotihuacan, and over seas.
Farmers were like peasants (labourers), excluded if they did not give their crops.
Mayan Culture:
Artisan class kept busy constructing palaces and pyramids which were then decorated with Frescoe style painting
using dyes.
Bureaucrats developed an accurate calendar based on 365 days divided into 18 months of 20 days plus a final 5 day
rest period.
Mathematics used symbols, dots and bars with a place value (more similar to modern mathematics than Roman
numeral system than used in Europe which used combinations of alphabetical letters).
Developed a form of hieroglyphic writing for religious purposes and to record tribal history.
Fall of the Mayan Civilization:
After 550 C.E. centralized authority broke down and regional chiefs forced construction of more elaborate palaces
and temples despite not having sufficient agricultural production to sustain it.
Led to food shortages and intertribal warfare as each chief sought to expand.
Led people to scatter into smaller villages and made Mayans susceptible to enemy attacks since they no longer
presented a uniform front.
By 900 C.E., Mayan civilization was in ruins - lands were invaded by enemies from the North and remaining
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