The Toltec Empire dominated central Mexico and part of Central America from the 10th to the 12th century CE. They were originally nomads, who became settled after their conquest of Teotihuacán. While the Toltec empire did not last for more than a few centuries, they left a lasting mark on Mesoamerica. The remnants of their pyramids and pottery can be found throughout the region, and their civilization influenced not only the later society of the Aztecs, but also the Maya, who flourished on the Yucatan Peninsula.
The Aztecs considered themselves to be the descendants of the Toltecs, and were greatly influenced by the remains of the Toltec empire. The center of government was found in Tenochtitlan, or modern day Mexico City. The Aztecs flourished from the late fourteenth century to the early sixteenth, but were defeated by Hernan Cortes of Spain, shortly after his arrival on the continent. Those that were not killed in the wars following the Spanish arrival fell to disease. This interactive map details the expansion of both empires, and shows the arrival of Cortes in Mesoamerica.
Compare and contrast Aztec, Iroquois, Hawaiian, and Australian social structures. Which was more rigidly structured and hierarchical?
What factors explain the Aztec practice of human sacrifice?
How did the relative isolation of societies in the Americas and Oceania affect their development? Use China, Islam, and Europe in the same period (1000-1500 C.E.) as standards of comparison.
The Incan Empire in Andean South America flourished from 1200 until 1533, when the last Incan emperor was defeated and killed by Francisco Pizarro. From its earliest period, the empire was always expanding. The height of the empire's expansion was reached under the emperor Pachacuti, who often gave those he conquered two options: societies could either join the empire, or they would be completely destroyed. A large part of the success of the massive territorial gains was due to the substantial Incan army. Military service was mandatory for the majority of the male population, including nobles. Thus, the armies were ever-expanding, and this enabled the emperors to send out the warriors further and further into new territory. The Incas also had a large system of highways that aided expansion, trade, and travel throughout the empire.
The fall of the empire came in the sixteenth century, when Spanish explorers arrived in the region. Many Incan warriors were killed either in battle with the new arrivals or from the diseases that they became exposed to for the first time. At this crucial time, the Incan heirs to the empire were fighting amongst themselves in a civil war, which also weakened the civilization. Into this situation Francisco Pizarro arrived, and immediately he set out to negotiate with Atahualpa, the emperor. The Incans were given the chance to convert to Christianity; Atahualpa rejected the offer, and was promptly captured and executed by Pizarro in August of 1533. After this incident the empire fell into a decline; disease and famine swept throughout the region, decimating what was left of the Incan Empire and people.
What routes did human migrants use to reach Australia, New Guinea, and North and South America?
Why did the peoples' ways of living in New Guinea and Australia diverge? How much did each depend on agriculture, fishing, and foraging?
Describe the structure of authority in the Olmec and Mayan societies. What values shaped the authority structures in each society?
How important was agriculture in the settling and growth of different peoples and societies of Australia, Oceania, South America and Central America? How significant was agriculture in the growth and survival of more complex societies like the Olmec, Maya, and Teotihuacan in Mesoamerica?
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