Peoples and Civilizations of the Americas,
I0. Classic-Era Culture and Society in Mesoamerica, 200–900
10. Teotihuacan was a large Mesoamerican city at the height of its power in 450–600
C.E. The city had a population of 125,000 to 200,000 inhabitants and was
dominated by religious structures, including pyramids and temples where human
sacrifice was carried out.
20. The growth of Teotihuacan was made possible by forced relocation of farm
families to the city and by agricultural innovations including irrigation works and
chinampas (“floating gardens”) that increased production and thus supported a
30. Apartment-like stone buildings housed commoners, including the artisans who
made pottery and obsidian tools and weapons for export. The elite lived in
separate residential compounds and controlled the state bureaucracy, tax
collection, and commerce.
40. Teotihuacan appears to have been ruled by alliances of wealthy families rather
than by kings. The military was used primarily to protect and expand long-
distance trade and to ensure that farmers paid taxes or tribute to the elite.
50. Teotihuacan collapsed around 650 C.E. The collapse may have been caused by
mismanagement of resources and conflict within the elite, or as a result of
B0. The Maya
10. The Maya were a single culture living in modern Guatemala, Honduras, Belize,
and southern Mexico, but they never formed a politically unified state. Various
Maya kingdoms fought each other for regional dominance.
20. The Maya increased their agricultural productivity by draining swamps, building
elevated fields and terraced fields, and by constructing irrigation systems. The
Maya also managed forest resources in order to increase the production of
30. The largest Maya city-states dominated neighboring city-states and agricultural
areas. Large city-states constructed impressive and beautifully decorated
buildings and monuments by means of very simple technology—levers and stone
40. The Maya believed that the cosmos consisted of three layers: the heavens, the
human world, and the underworld. Temple architecture reflected this cosmology,
and the rulers and elites served as priests to communicate with the residents of
the two supernatural worlds.
50. Maya military forces fought for captives, not for territory. Elite captives were
sacrificed, commoners enslaved.
60. Maya elite women participated in bloodletting rituals and other ceremonies, but
rarely held political power. Non-elite women probably played an essential role in
agricultural and textile production. 70. The most notable Maya technological developments are the Maya calendar,
mathematics, and the Maya writing system.
80. Most Maya city-states were abandoned or destroyed between 800 and 900
C.E.Possible reasons for the decline of Maya culture include the disruption of
Mesoamerican trade attendant upon the fall of Teotihuacan, environmental
pressure caused by overpopulation, and epidemic disease.
II0. The Post-Classic Period in Mesoamerica, 900–1500
A0. The Toltecs
10. The Toltecs arrived in central Mexico in the tenth century and built a civilization
based on the legacy of Teotihuacan. The Toltecs contributed innovations in the
areas of politics and war.
20. The Toltec capital at Tula was the center of the first conquest state in the
Americas. Dual kings ruled the state—an arrangement that probably caused the
internal struggle that undermined the Toltec state around 1000 C.E. The Toltecs
were destroyed by invaders around 1156 C.E.
B0. The Aztecs
10. The Aztecs were originally a northern people with a clan-based social
organization. They migrated to the Lake Texcoco area, established the cities of
Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco around 1325, and then developed a monarchical
system of government.
20. The kings increased their wealth and power by means of territorial conquest. As
the Aztec Empire increased in size, commoners lost their ability to influence
political decisions and inequalities in wealth grew more severe.
30. The Aztecs increased agricultural production in the capital area by undertaking
land reclamation projects and constructing irrigated fields and chinampas.
Nonetheless, grain and other food tribute met nearly one quarter of the capital’s
40. Merchants who were distinct from and subordinate to the political elite
controlled long-distance trade. The technology of trade was simple: no wheeled
vehicles, draft animals, or money was used. Goods were carried by human
porters and exchanged through barter.
50. The Aztecs worshiped a large number of gods, the most important of whom was
Huitzilopochtli, the Sun god. Huitzilopochtli required a diet of human hearts that
were supplied by sacrificing thousands of people every year.
III0. Northern Peoples
A0. Southwestern Desert Cultures
10. Irrigation-based agriculture was introduced to Arizona from Mexico around 300
BC E. The most notable Mexican-influenced civilization of the area was the
Hohokam, who constructed extensive irrigation works in the Salt and Gila
valleys around 1000 C.E.
20. The more influential Anasazi developed a maize, rice, and bean economy and
constructed underground buildings (kivas) in the Arizona/New
Mexico/Colorado/Utah region around 450–750 C.E.
30. The large Anasazi community at Chaco Canyon had a population of about
15,000 people engaged in hunting, trade, and irrigated agriculture. Chaco
Canyon people seem to have exerted some sort of political or religious
dominance over a large region. The Anasazi civilization declined in the twelfth
and thirteenth centuries as a result of drought, overpopulation, and warfare.
B0. Mound Builders: The Adena, Hopewell, and Mississippian Cultures 10. The Adena people were a hierarchical hunter-gatherer society in the Ohio Valley
that engaged in limited cultivation of crops and buried their dead in large
mounds. Around 100 C.E. the Adena culture blended into the Hopewell culture.
20. The Hopewell culture was based in the Ohio Valley but its trade and influence
extended as far as