(search the bold words at huntthepast.com to know more) The origin of other Mesoamerican cultures, including the Inca, Maya, and Aztec civilizations, is also not well known. Though there is an overlap in their existence, there is no record of interaction between the Olmec and the Maya; the Inca were in South America.
Activity #1: Where it all began – These four major civilizations lived all over Central and South America. As you learn about these four groups, come back to this map and mark where the Olmecs, Aztec, Inca, and Aztec lived:
After filling out the map, answer this question: What can you learn from mapping out these groups? __________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________
The Maya began to develop their civilization around the same time (700 BC) that the Olmec were destroyed. They lived in southern Mexico and the Guatemala area.
Much like the Olmecs, they were immensely powerful in each of their subcultures. See, the Maya had many divisions and wars between their people. There was no unifying government or culture, but instead, they spread out throughout their land and developed cities around their families. These family units were the most important priority to them, more than their riches and power. Most would live as separate family units in their own villages, dividing themselves from the collective Maya body, to keep these families and their traditions unaffected by the other cities. The center of the Mayan civilization were the large cities spread throughout the country, connected where the people would gather to trade and conduct their religious duties. These cities were connected by dirt paths and roads, made out of hardened materials, like stones.
To the Maya, the government, their religion, and even science were one. They believed their leaders were guided by their god and that their god controlled the science around them. Maya customs were based on three ideas (religion, government, and science). These larger cities were hubs to the outside world and were controlled by the most powerful families. In these centers, you would find a thriving marketplace of goods from all over. Here, the smaller cities would trade with each other, and those living in the larger cities. People would gather to worship their god(s) at the temples, the center of their Maya faith, and conduct very public ceremonies and events. They were also not against those of other lands coming to visit and trade, even with their different languages and customs. They were very accepting of others visiting and doing business. Even when Europeans came to visit, the Maya allowed them to walk amongst them and trade.
This division between cities, though, caused much strife in their own lands, so much, that they began to war against each other, and rebel against the larger bodies. When the Spanish arrived, though, only a fraction of what had once been a powerful nation was still intact.
How they died off is not known, but two ideas have become popular with historians. One thought is, that because they were only reliant on a small number of local foods, a drought could have slowly destroyed their civilization; or, that the warring nature of the people had them kill off one another, nearing 1400 AD. As for what truly occurred, we may never know, because of the lack of writing of their history. Oral traditions and storytelling became the best-known way to keep records. Like the Olmec, though, some of their writing can still be found in hieroglyphic-like writing, similar to Egypt and other ancient civilizations. Imagine that. You could write your story by doodling. Though back then, they had to carefully chisel out every inch with a sharp object and mallet, or something similar. Activity: Your Calendar - The Maya are known for their calendar, a large stone tablet telling days of the year. This calendar would track the seasons with different cycles. The actual calendar had 265 days, but combined with other rotations, it would account for nearly 365. Here are images from the Mayan calendar. If you were to draw a calendar, like the Maya calendar, but with 12 months and 365 days, how would yours look? Draw it here
The Inca (W1:D3)- Well known for their great structure, even at high altitudes, the Incas became a powerful civilization that rivaled most, yet they had no written language. They did have a way of counting, using knots on cords, but the significance of the cords was lost when those who knew their system were either killed in the Incan Civil War, or finished off by the Spanish. Because their traditions and history were passed down by oral means and storytelling, historians cannot find much about their exact history. Instead, they have found most of their ancient information from their stories and archeology. One of the greatest accomplishments of the Inca, besides their high and superior structures, was their network of roads that stretched across their kingdom - about 2,250 miles of roads. These would have been used to transport armies and messages, using runners, not used to transport goods to trade. Every man was a farmer, producing his own family’s food and clothes, and then trading these resources with locals. Much like the Maya, their cities were places of worship and trade, while the smaller cities were those of families trying to separate themselves from the larger body. The Inca were known for their religion and their belief in a god for each part of nature: The Sun god, Rain god, and more. They would also prepare and keep their dead leaders’ bodies, to give guidance from the afterlife. Their warlike nature, disease, and then the Spanish, finally ended the rule of their greater civilization.
Activity: Keeping a history by telling it to others was extremely difficult, without the ability to write it down. Ask your parents or guardian for a story of your family. Have them tell you the story at night. In the morning, try to write down what you remember about the story. After you have written the summary, ask that same adult to read your story and tell you, on a scale of 1-10, how close you were to telling the story they told you accurately. __________________________________________________________________________
On a scale from 1-10, how close was your writing to the story that was told?