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Chapter 11 Reading Guide: The Americas on the Eve of
Invasion Chapter Summary. By 1500, American societies incorporated both densely populated and lesser-inhabited
regions, both long-established in the New World. Columbus called the inhabitants Indians, but the American
societies did not possess a common identity. The great diversity of cultures requires concentration upon a few
major civilizations, the great imperial states of Mesoamerica (central Mexico) and the Andes, plus a few other
independently developing peoples.
1. The capital of the Aztecs was built in the center of a what?
2. What impressed the Spanish when they saw this city? List several features.
3. Where does the term “Indian”, as applied to Native Americans, come from?
4. Did Indians see themselves as one culture or people?
POSTCLASSIC MESOAMERICA, 1000-1500 C.E.
5. What was the capital of the Toltecs?
THE TOLTEC HERITAGE
6. Your book states that the legend of Topiltzin/Quetzalcoat may have influenced the Aztecs’
reaction to the arrival of the Europeans. How do you think it did this?
7. About 1000 C.E., the Mayan city of ______________________________ in Yucatan was
conquered by Toltec warriors.
8. The Toltecs highly prized the blue stone turquoise. It was utilized in their religious clothing.
However, the stone was not native to Mexico. How did they probably get it?
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Chapter 11 Reading Guide: The Americas on the Eve of
Invasion 9. Cite the most persuasive evidence that Indians in the southeastern portion of the United States
MAY have had contact with the Toltecs.
THE AZTEC RISE TO POWER
10. “Live by the sword, die by the sword.” How does this expression apply to the Toltecs? (HINT:
look back at their origin on page 236 and compare it to their demise.)
11. After the fall of Tula, the center of population and political power in central Mexico shifted to
what area?
12. The people who succeeded the Toltecs as the rulers of central Mexico are known by what two
names?
13. Think about what you learned about Russia in Ch. 9. How did the Aztecs use of history
resemble the Russians? (HINT: see page 207 to jog your memory)
14. What reputation made the Aztecs both valued and feared?
15. What city did the Aztecs establish ca. 1325 C.E. on a marshy island in Lake Texcoco?
16. How did that city’s location help the Aztecs grow stronger? (HINT: see the picture on p. 235
and think “security”)
THE AZTEC SOCIAL CONTRACT
17. List the three requirements that the Aztecs made of their subject peoples.
A)
B)
C)
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Chapter 11 Reading Guide: The Americas on the Eve of
Invasion 18. Like pyramid building, polytheism, corn cultivation, and a ball game/sport played on a court,
the Aztecs copied another long standing practice among Mesoamerican Indians. What was it
and how did they change it?
19. What were “flower wars”?
RELIGION AND THE IDEOLOGY OF CONQUEST
20. Aztec religion was very complex; however, this complex array of gods can be organized into
three major themes or cults. List them.
A)
B)
C)
21. Explain how the cult of the sun was linked with human sacrifice.
22. What did the Aztecs wonder about that had so much in common with all other human
civilizations across time?
23. Carefully read Nezhualcoyotl’s poetry. Show supporting evidence that he might not have
believed in the gods.
24. Note the fatalism (look it up!) in the Aztecs view of history. How might that fatalistic view
have influenced them when the Europeans showed up, esp. with new diseases?
FEEDING THE PEOPLE: THE ECONOMY OF THE EMPIRE
25. What was the ingenious system of irrigated agriculture the Aztecs adopted? Describe it in your
own words.
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Chapter 11 Reading Guide: The Americas on the Eve of
Invasion 26. How did this interesting system help increase the Aztec’s population? (HINT: 4 crops per year)
27. ________________________ and ______________________ were used as currency, but most
Aztec trading was done as barter.
28. What was the state’s role in the Aztec economy?
29. How does the Aztec economic system compare to many Classic and Postclassical AfroEurasian civilizations regarding the distribution of tribute/goods? (HINT: social classes)
AZTEC SOCIETY IN TRANSITION
A WIDENING SOCIAL GULF
30. What was a calpulli, and explain its function in the Aztec city.
31. List the three important functions of the calpulli.
A)
B)
C)
32. How did social classes/groups in Aztec society distinguish themselves?
OVERCOMING TECHNOLOGICAL CONSTRAINTS
33. What was the significant difference between the life of women in Mesoamerica and in the
Mediterranean world?
A TRIBUTE EMPIRE
34. Who held the real power in Aztec society and how was he chosen?
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Chapter 11 Reading Guide: The Americas on the Eve of
Invasion 35. The Roman military was very influential because it was needed to expand the borders of the
Roman Empire to acquire more wealth and slaves. How does this compare (and contrast) to
Aztec civilization?
36. This section concludes by noting that increasing social stresses created by the nobility and the
system of terror (human sacrifices) and tribute were weaknesses that led to the Aztec Empire’s
collapse. However, it doesn’t collapse until the Europeans show up and conquer the Aztecs.
Can you explain this apparent contradiction? (HINT: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,”
and would you consider a slave to be a friend to his owner?)
DOCUMENT: AZTEC WOMEN & MEN
37. Read the descriptions of what good and bad fathers, mothers, and “mature, common women”
are according to the Aztecs. How do those descriptions compare with our own Western values?
Is there anything you disagree with?
TWANTINSUYU: WORLD OF THE INCAS
38. What were two of the most notable achievements of the Incas?
39. This section begins with the statement that the Inca’s had “a level of integration and
domination” over various cultures and languages “previously unknown in the Americas.” Your
text also uses the word “reciprocity” several times later. How does “reciprocity” help explain
this “integration and domination”? (NOTE: You are not going to find the answer right in this
section. p. 248 & 249 will help)
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Chapter 11 Reading Guide: The Americas on the Eve of
Invasion THE INCA RISE TO POWER
40. The capital of the Inca empire was ____________________________.
41. ______________________________ a Inca ruler who launched a series of military campaigns
and alliances that began first creation of the Inca empire in 1438 C.E.
CONQUEST AND RELIGION
42. Define the term “split inheritance.”
43. How did the practice of split inheritance encourage warfare and expansion of Inca authority?
44. What did the Incas and Aztecs’ religion have in common?
THE TECHNIQUES OF INCA IMPERIAL RULE
45. What incentives did the Incas give local rulers to obey? (give both positive AND negative)
46. Note the Inca use of language, colonists, and relocation of conquered peoples to promote
political and cultural integration. How does this compare to other cultures, particularly
Classical China under the Zhou?
47. The Incas built a very impressive system of roads. Besides communication, note the key
purpose and compare it to that of the Roman road system on page 92 (last paragraph).
48. What practice of the Incas shows the patriarchical nature of their society and is also a similarity
with early Islamic civilization and privileges of Abbasid caliphs?
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Chapter 11 Reading Guide: The Americas on the Eve of
Invasion 49. What about the manner in which property and rights were passed down to offspring is a bit
unusual compared to other methods we’ve studied?
50. List what the state provided to local peoples and what the local peoples supplied in return.
A)
B)
51. How did the Incas practice body modification to denote social status?
52. How do the Incas and Aztecs compare regarding the importance of trade?
IN DEPTH: THE “TROUBLING” CIVILIZATIONS OF THE AMERICAS
53. The modern image of the Inca Empire as a carefully organized system in which every
community collectively contributed to the whole and the state regulated the distribution of
resources on the basis of need is referred to as what?
54. Marvin Harris’ theory states that if the Aztecs would have had domesticated animals they
probably would have not have had what religious practice, or at least as much of it?
INCA CULTURAL ACHIEVEMENTS
55. What did the Inca civilization lack that most civilizations, including the Mesoamerican Indians,
enjoy?
56. What was the quipu used for?
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Chapter 11 Reading Guide: The Americas on the Eve of
Invasion COMPARING INCAS AND AZTECS
57. The Aztecs and Incas both used military power against what type of peoples?
58. Why do you think it was not as useful against nomadic peoples?
THE OTHER PEOPLES OF THE AMERICAS
HOW MANY PEOPLE?
59. What part of the Western Hemisphere probably held the most people by the year 1492 CE?
Why do you think this is so?
60. What part of the world had a population closest to that of the Americas by 1500?
DIFFERING CULTURAL PATTERNS
61. Your text states that the Americas lacked nomadic herders, unlike Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Why? (HINT: This goes WAY back to Guns, Germs, & Steel)
62. Why did the buffalo say “Oh crap!” when the Europeans showed up?
63. How did Indians see themselves in relation to the ecological system that contrasts with
Europeans and Asians of the Postclassical period?
AMERICAN DIVERSITY IN WORLD CONTEXT
64. How did Europeans see Indians in general? Why?
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Chapter 11 Reading Guide: The Americas on the Eve of
Invasion GLOBAL CONNECTIONS:
THE AMERICAS AND THE WORLD
65. The chapter ends with a passage stressing the advantages the Afro-Eurasia peoples had over the
Indian civilizations in the Americas. What were some of these advantages and why did the
Indians not share them?
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