Incan Mayan Aztec
The Mesoamerican civilizations consist of four main cultures, , , , and . Each experienced a time of cultural and intellectual achievement that produced lasting contributions in art, literature, and science.
The Olmec (1400 BCE - 500 BCE) was the first major Mesoamerican civilization. The Olmecs inhabited the Gulf coast of Mexico, and produced a number of achievements that would influence the later . Among these, are ceremonial pyramid shaped temples, a system of writing, and a devotion to that would define later Mesoamerican civilizations.
The Mayan Civilization (300 - 900 CE) lived in various along the Yucatan of Mexico and in much of Central America. The Mayans built an impressive society which contributed greatly to the cultural and intellectual life of Mesoamerica.
Art & Architecture
Mayan built large, elaborate palaces and pyramid shaped temples. These buildings were decorated with a variety of paintings, and carvings in wood and stone that depicted Mayan history. Mayan step pyramids were the tallest man-made structures in the Americas until 1903.
Mayan farmers developed systems that allowed them to produce the amount of food necessary to support their large population. They also increased their amount of land by clearing large tracts of rainforest. Mayan farmers produced crops such as, corn, beans, and squash. in agriculture products was the basis for the strong Mayan economy.
Education & Science
Mayan civilization developed a writing system using , that has only recently been deciphered. They also produced books made from bark, of which few still exist. Mayan scientists developed a fairly accurate 365 day a year . They also used an advanced numbering system that included the concept of zero.
The Aztec Civilization flourished from the late 1200's until the time of European conquest. The Aztecs established an empire that consisted of most of Mexico. They setup a strong, central government, and received tribute payments from many of their subject peoples. Similar to earlier Mesoamerican civilizations, the Aztecs were deeply religious. The practice of their religion included the building of large temples where human sacrifice took place.
Aztec scientists developed an accurate calendar similar to the Mayan. Physicians were able to treat a variety of wounds and injuries, including setting broken bones and filling cavities in teeth. The Aztec capital city, Tenochtitlan, was well designed and constructed. It included a large pyramid temple, for water, and causeways for travel. Aztec art consisted of large stone carvings and colorful paintings. The Aztecs also setup schools for learning, and kept accurate records of their history.
In the 1400's, the Inca conquered an empire that stretched along the Pacific coast of South America. They instituted a strong central government, and controlled their empire through the use of an elaborate road system. Incan wealth and stability enabled many intellectual and cultural achievements.
The Inca carved more than 12, 000 miles of roads out of the South American rainforests. These roads linked the empire together using a system of . Incan engineers also designed the Temple of the Sun in Cuzco, the capital city. This complex structure was strong enough to survive centuries of earthquakes and hard weather. Due to the lack of flat land, Incan engineers developed improved methods of terrace farming. cuts strips of flat land into hillsides and uses stone walls to support them. This creates more land for farming, and allowed the Inca to produce the food necessary to support their population.
Science & Education
Incan physicians performed surgery to treat various injuries. They also used herbal remedies against different illnesses. Incan scholars developed a record keeping system that used colored, knotted string called . This system may have been used for accounting, keeping statistics, and to record dates and events.