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Cities and Empires: Olmec, Aztec,
Inca Empire
Chapter 1, Lesson 2
Anticipatory Set: I see, I think, I wonder
• Great civilizations (highly
developed societies) were
established in Mexico,
Central America, and South
America centuries before
the Europeans arrived.
• The largest and most
advanced were Olmec,
Maya, Aztec, and Inca.
• They built huge cities in
forests and mountains.
• Turn and talk: What enabled
these civ’s to become highly
• Located along Gulf Coast
of present day Mexico
(around 1200 B.C. – 300
• Built stone houses,
monuments, and
drainage systems
• Collapsed about 300 B.C.,
but had a strong
influence on future
The Maya
• Reached its peak around A.D.
• Lived in large cities
• Was a theocracy (society ruled
by religious leaders)
• Developed system of writing
called hieroglyphics (symbols
that represent things, ideas,
and sounds)
• Were active traders but did
not have wheeled vehicles or
horses, so carried items on
their backs and used canoes
• The Maya declined around
1200; reason is a mystery
The Aztec
• 1325 this group of hunters
established their permanent
home in central Mexico
• Their capital was
Tenochititlan (present day
Mexico City) – largest city in
the Americas and one of the
largest in the world
• Created a military empire
and conquered many
neighboring communities
• Culture revolved around
religious beliefs (human
sacrifices) Video
The Aztec Continued
• Aztec Empire still thriving when Europeans
• Conquered by Cortez (Spanish)
• Video
• Largest of all early American civilizations
• Capital called Cuzco – established around
• Located in highlands of South America
• The emperor Pachacuti came and
expanded their empire- people believed
he was a descendant of the sun god
• Built around war – men 25-50 could be
• Weapons included clubs, spears, and
spiked copper balls on ropes
• One great city called Machu Picchu
which was devoted to religious
• Conquered by Pizarro (Spanish)
Inca (continued)
• Large population required a
lot of food and had to farm
mountainous lands so they
cut terraces (broad platforms)
into steep slopes
• Managing such a large
territory (about 3000 miles!)
was difficult
• Built roads and rope bridges
• Like the Aztecs, the Inca were
thriving in the early 1500’s
when Spanish soldiers would
come and cause a dramatic
change in their lives Video
Machu Pichu (The Hidden City)
Shared Characteristics of these
1. Farming
2. Higher population due to farming
3. Higher populations gave them edge in
conquering others
4. Developed ideas about religion
5. Built great cities due to sedentary shift
(stopped hunting and started farming)
• Tweet one thing you found interesting.
• #Aztec, #Inca #Maya #Olmec