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Power concedes nothing without a demand.
Mr. Carey/Mr. Clarke
Zooming Out: Aztecs and Incas
Do Now
Directions: Actively read and annotated the provided text on Aztec and Incan social structures. While you read, keep in
mind the question below. When you have finished reading, respond to this question in the “Classwork” section of your AP
World History notebooks.
In the third paragraph, the author refers to the social arrangement of Aztec and Incan society as “gender
complementarity, not gender equality.” Explain what the author means by this statement. Your response
should include: a) a definition of “gender complementarity” in your own words, as well as b) at least two pieces
of evidence.
If the Inca and Aztec civilizations differed sharply in their political and economic arrangements,
they resembled each other more closely in their gender systems. Both societies practiced what
scholars call “gender complementarity,” in which “women and men operate in two separate but
equivalent spheres (worlds), each gender enjoying autonomy (control) in its own sphere.” (1)
In both Mesoamerican and Andean societies, such systems had emerged long before the rise of the
Aztec and Incan empires. In the Andes, men traced their descent from their fathers and women
from their mothers, while Mesoamericans had long viewed their children as belonging equally to
their mothers and fathers. Religious cults for women and men likewise flourished in both societies.
Inca men worshipped the sun, while women worshipped the moon, with matching religious
officials. In Aztec temples, both male and female priests presided over rituals dedicated to the gods
of both sexes. Particularly among the Incas, male and female officials governed the empire, while
in Aztec society, women officials exercised local authority. Social roles were clearly defined and
different for men and women, but the domestic concerns of women—childbirth, cooking, weaving,
cleaning—were not considered lesser than the activities of men. Among the Aztecs, for example,
sweeping was a powerful and sacred act that symbolized spiritual cleansing. In Incan society, men
broke the ground for farming, and women planted the seeds. (2)
This was gender complementarity, not gender equality. Men occupied the top positions in political
and religious life, and male unfaithfulness was treated more lightly than was women’s
unfaithfulness. As the Inca and Aztec empires expanded, military life, limited to men, grew in
respect. The Incas in particular were more patriarchal toward their conquered peoples. (3)
But in other ways, new Aztec and Inca rulers adapted to the gender systems of the people they
conquered. Among the Aztecs, the tools of women’s work, the broom and the weaving spindle,
became symbols of weapons; sweeping the home was believed to assist men in war; and childbirth
was regarded by women as “our kind of war.” Inca rulers reflected gender complementarity at a
higher level, as the Inca ruler and his female partner were said to govern jointly, claiming descent
from the sun and moon, respectively. (4)
Environmental Determinism—Aztecs and Incas
I. Overview & Prompt
Environmental determinism, also known as climatic determinism or geographical determinism, is the view that the
physical environment sets limits on human activity. The fundamental argument of environmental determinists is that
aspects of physical geography, particularly climate/weather, influence the psychological mindset of individuals, which in
turn defines the behavior and culture of the society that those individuals formed. For example, tropical climates were
said to cause laziness, relaxed attitudes and promiscuity (sexual looseness), while the unpredictability and change in the
weather of the colder climates led to more determined and driven work ethics.
Power concedes nothing without a demand.
Using the documents, explain the impact of the environment upon Aztec and Incan societies during the postclassical
II. Documents
Document 1
Source: The following two images depict the respective forms of Aztec and Incan agriculture.
Aztec Agriculture
Incan Agriculture
Constructed chinampas, floating gardens on which
highly productive agriculture could be grown
Farmed on hillside terraces, cut into the sides of slopes
Document 2
Source: Excerpt from The Great Divide: History and Human Nature in the Old World and the New, by Peter Watson
Postclassical religion in Mesoamerica and South America was strongly influenced by two factors. One was the
precariousness of life in this region, resulting partly from numerous active volcanoes, which erupted at unpredictable
intervals (spans of time) causing destruction and loss of life, and partly from climatic variability due to El Niño (a
major global weather pattern involving ocean water), which caused both floods and droughts.
The other important factor influencing religious ideas was the availability of a wide variety of hallucinogens (drugs
that intoxicate or induce trances in the user), far more than existed in the Old World. Even maize (corn), it seems, was
originally cultivated not for food but for making beer. The original immigrants to the New World (term for the
Americas) came from Asia during the Ice Age and would have had a strong shamanic (spiritual) tradition, which never
died out and which was enhanced by the availability of hallucinogens.
The civilizations of Mesoamerica and South America were notorious for their addiction to bloody human sacrifice. This
feature was on a large scale and even more bloody than is often realized. The reason is that the peoples of this region
felt it necessary to appease (satisfy) the gods who were responsible for eruptions, floods, and droughts. The only way
to do this was human sacrifice, sometimes of children. Wars were fought, not usually for territorial gain, or at least not
primarily for that, but to acquire victims for sacrifice.
Exit Ticket on next page.
Power concedes nothing without a demand.
Exit Ticket/Reflection
Directions: Actively read and annotate the provided text on Aztec/Incan treatment of conquered peoples. While you
read, keep the question below in mind. When you have finished reading, respond to this question in the “Classwork”
section of your AP World History notebooks.
Contrast the way in which the Aztecs and Incans treated their conquered peoples. In explaining this difference, you
should reference the idea of environmental determinism, as well as at least two pieces of evidence.
With a core population recently estimated at 5 to 6 million people, the Aztec Empire was a loosely
structured and unstable conquest state spread over a wide geographic area. Because the center of the
empire lacked environmental resources, Aztec rulers forced conquered peoples and cities to regularly
deliver impressive quantities of textiles and clothing, military supplies, jewelry, and other luxuries,
various foodstuffs, animal products, building materials, rubber balls, paper, and more. The process
was overseen by local imperial tribute collectors. (1)
…Beyond tribute, the Aztecs also sought to take the blood of conquered peoples via sacrifice in order
to sustain their religion. For the Aztecs, massive sacrificial rituals served to satisfy the gods and
therefore keep order in the universe, as the Aztecs believed that the gods controlled various weather
patterns. (2)
Situated along the Andes Mountains in South America, the Incas benefitted from a fertile agricultural
location that provided them with all necessary resources, thereby eliminating the need for a tribute
system like that of the Aztec Empire. The Incas therefore created a more tightly organized empire,
with many accommodations for local circumstances…at least in the central regions of the empire,
subjects were grouped into units of 10, 50, 100, 500, 1000, 5000, and 10,000 people, each headed by
local officials, who were appointed and supervised by an Inca governor or the emperor. A separate set
of ‘inspectors’ provided the imperial center with an independent check on provincial officials. (3)
Efforts at cultural integration required the leaders of conquered peoples to learn Quechua. Their sons
were removed to the capital of Cuzco for instruction in Inca culture and language…While the Incas
required their peoples to acknowledge major Inca deities, these peoples were then largely free to carry
on their own religious traditions. Human sacrifice took place occasionally, but nothing on the scale of
the Aztec practice. (4)