Early Mesoamerican and South-West Cultures


The people of the Americas all had unique characteristics because of their environment. There were the Mayas, the Incas, the Aztecs, and the Anasazi. The Maya were a tribe far to the East of Mexico. They had a polytheistic religion which had the same characteristics of gods that the nearby cultures had. There was a supreme god, Itzama, and the rest of gods were ranked in importance. Most gods had human characteristics and needed human sacrifices to propitiate them. It is said that rivalry among the Mayan city-states often involved bloody fights. Painting show a society bent on war and using captives as sacrifices. At the top of the society was a ruler and around the ruler were a class of aristocrats whose wealth was determined by ownership of land. Eventually many aristocrats became priests and the rest turned into a middle class. The rest of the population were farmers. Their ruler was of great importance and was able to construct a palace using 30,000 people.

The Aztecs lived in the valley of Mexico. They too had a polytheistic religion. Some of their gods were nature deities and other were patron deities. They had a supreme god, but he wasn’t as important compared to others. They also needed human sacrifice. The Aztecs had a monarch that had religious and secular powers. Around was the royal family who elects the next monarch. To advise him into doing the right thing were a small group of lords headed by a prime minister who was at the top of the government and a bureaucracy. Their power was limited past the capital. All that was left were tax collectors who got tribute from the people. The government’s succession was hereditary. The noble families were either in the bureaucracy, in the military, or became a priest. The rest of the population was indentured workers, slaves, and commoners.

The Inkas were a tribe in South America. They had three main gods, the sun, the moon, and the day-star. It was serviced by women who were virgins. They were never allowed to speak to men and known for their beauty. Some of these chosen also worked in the palace as concubines. They also loved war. They had a 200,000 soldier army, the largest and best armed in the region. They moved rapidly using a highway system and carried their supplies on llamas. The Inks were a monarchy too. They had provinces with 10,000 residents ruled by a governor related to the ruler. The capital was divided into four quarters and social status was rigidly defined. It was built on forced labor. The rural population were farmers.

The Anasazi was a tribe in southwestern Colorado. Community religious functions in these two big circular chambers called kivas were celebrated often. It was a very agricultural community. Most of the society and political structure was equal. The exception was a leader of their community inside the pueblo and other priests. They had several thousand residents. There was internecine warfare and a bitter rivalry with the south. This may have led them relocating. There is also a theory of them relocating because of cannibalism which probably has to do with their religion. They mostly were farmers and had many irrigation canals. Even though there is not that much of the Anasazi to compare, there is a lot of differences as you go South into the Americas. There was the Anasazi who was a desert and united culture and then there was the Inkas with the monarchy. America is truly a North-South, environmentally and community wise, land.

Tags
Related Essays History