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Civilizations in the Americas
Aztec Empire-Around 1150, groups of warlike nomads from the north invaded
what is now central Mexico. The groups fought those who lived there for control of the land.
The winners of the fight were the Aztecs. They built their capital city on an island in Lake also
marshy and flooded often. The Aztecs solved this problem by driving large posts deep into the
ground and building reed houses on top of them. They also made bridges to connect the capital
island to surrounding land and built aqueducts for drinking water. They had a 9 mile dike that
surrounded the island to prevent flooding. The land that they built their capital on was also not
very good for farming. To solve this problem, they built chinampas, or islands made of
platforms woven from reed. They piled these platforms with mud and created floating gardens.
The Aztec society also had classes. The noble class make up the smallest part, while the farmers
and slaves make up the largest.
The Aztec Way of Life-The Aztecs had an accurate calendar and used
mathematics to help them grow their crops. They also developed a system of hieroglyphic
writing. They practiced a religion that included human sacrifice. The Aztecs believed that their
gods needed the beating hears of humans to survive. They often times fought wars in order to
capture prisoners to be used for human sacrifice. At the height of Aztec power as many as
20,000 people died each year in Tenochtitlan’s ceremonies. The Aztec empire last 100 years,
until people began to rebel due to harsh treatment from the noble class
The Inca Empire-The Inca in South America built their empire much like the
Aztecs. It was located along the Andes Mountains. They believed that they were descended
from their sun god. In 1438, under a leader named Pachacuti, the Incas began to conquer many
other kingdoms. By the 1500s, the Inca ruled a wide area which they called the Four Quarters of
the World. To hold their empire together, they made the people that they conquered followed
their way of life. The Inca build great roads to connect their empire. They also cut into the
hillside of the Andes to make growing crops possible.
North American Cultures-The people that lived in what is now the United
States and Canada were too few and lived too far apart to build empires. Even so, Native
Americans in this region adapted to and changed their environment. Native peoples in the
southwestern part of the U.S. used irrigation to make the dry land better for growing crops.
They built systems of ditches to carry water to fields. They also built shelters several stories
high on cliff ledges and on top of mesas (flat-topped hill with steep sides).
In the eastern woodland of the Americas, the people were known as Mound Builders.
The mound builders got their name from the animal shaped mounds of earth that they used to
bury their dead or to build temples on. The largest settlement, Cahokia, had 85 mounds