The Mesoamerican civilizations consist of four main
civilization experienced a time of cultural and
intellectual achievement that produced lasting
contributions in art, literature, and science.
Empire (1400 BCE - 500 BCE) was the first major
civilization. The Olmecs inhabited the Gulf coast
of Mexico, and produced a number of achievements that
would influence the later
cultures. Among these,
are ceremonial pyramid shaped temples, a system
of writing, and a devotion to
would define later Mesoamerican civilizations.
Mayan Civilization (300 - 900 CE) lived in various
city-states along the Yucatan
Peninsula of Mexico and in
much of Central America. The Mayans built an
agricultural society which contributed
greatly to the cultural and intellectual life of
Art & Architecture
architects 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
irrigation systems that allowed them to
amount of food necessary to support their large
population. They also increased their amount of
arable land by clearing large tracts of
rainforest. Mayan farmers produced crops such as,
corn, beans, and squash.
Trade in agriculture
products was the basis for the strong Mayan economy.
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
calendar. They also used an advanced numbering
system that included the concept of zero.
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.
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,
aqueducts 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.
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.
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
relay runners. 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.
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
Science & Education
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
Quipas. This system may have been
used for accounting, keeping statistics, and to record
dates and events.