The Americas on the Eve
of Invasion
I. Post Classical Mesoamerica
The Old Days- Toltecs
Nomadic Toltecs from north established Tula,
Central Mexico, 968
Military society mixed with culture of
sedentary/farming people
Toltec legend Quetzalcoatl
Vast empire into N. America
Collapsed 1150
Aztec rise to Power
Various city-states organized around Lake
Texcoco after fall of Toltecs
• Political foundation
• military
• shared culture in Toltec language
Established own powerful city-state at
Tenochtitlan 1325; gained power, land from
tribute & sacrifice
Height of Aztec Empire
Religion & Ideology of
Conquered peoples forced
to pay tribute, lands,
military service
Spiritual & Natural World
the same
Huitzilopochtli- god of war,
tribal god of Aztecs
Sacrifice for religious and
political purposes
Capital City, set on island of
lake Texcoco with central
zone of palaces
City divided into wards
controlled by calpulli:
• organized wards tributes,
temples, community
bureaucracy, land
Tenochtitlan leading city
state of 50 surrounding
Tribute Empire
Speaker rules city state; Great Speaker of
Prime Minister chosen from relatives
When Aztec conquered a new territory:
● Local rulers stayed in place, coordinated
tribute, labor to Aztecs, little direct political
Empire collapsed under increase of nobility,
terror, tribute demands
Aztec Economy
Developed chinampas
Calpulli portioned lands
Markets held in community
periodically; large market
controlled by pochteca,
long distance travelers
• Gov’t controlled use &
distribution of tribute; food,
slaves, victims
Transition of Aztec Society
Social Classes
• Emerging Nobility from original Calpulli
controlled everything (religion, military,
gov’t, private lands)
Serfs as workers for Nobility
• Scribes, Artisans, Healers own Class
Overcoming Technology
No animals of burden
Women provided significant economic roles;
allowed greatest degree of freedom
Despite limited technology, supported 20
million people
Twantinsuyu: World of Inca
Rise of Inca
Time of war between chieftains of small states
(not quite city-states, though)
900- 1465 Chimor state controlled much of
Andean coast
Quichua speaking ayllus (clans) conquered
hostile neighbors in 1438 under Pachacuti
The Inca consolidated power from Colombia to
Capital Cuzco
Conquest & Religion
Split Inheritance
● Political power passed down to the next king
● LAND and wealth passed to children who used
it to support his mummy
● created need for constant expansion
Sun God highest deity, Temple of Sun @
Cuzco center of state religion, held past
Profound animism
Priests & Women served the temples,
coordinated celebrations
Inca Rule
Inca, leader considered to be god
● Governors for 4 provinces
● Nobles led state bureaucracies
● When a new region was conquered
● Local rulers (curacas) allowed to maintain position and
received privileges
● relocation of people (tambos)
● People had access to new goods, irrigation, etc from the
● TRIBUTE demanded
● mita reqirements- communities took turns working on
Society focused on military virtue,
developed inequality of men and women,
equality in worship
Women could serve in temples
Treated like servants otherwise
Cultural Accomplishments
No wheel, no writing
Llama domestication
Terrace farming
13000 miles of roads
Quipu: knotted strings for record keeping
Monumental architecture- Machu Picchu
Extensive infrastructure
● Built on earlier empires
● Intensive state
● Redistributive economy
● Kinship/family based
● Ind. Ethnic groups
allowed to survive
● Aztec developed
market system; Inca
● Writing System

The Americas on the Eve of Invastion