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Aztec Empire and Early American Empires Overview


This PPT will allow teachers to have a basic presentation created on the Aztec Empire's history and a basic overview of their sister empires in South America. Great for Middle School and High School – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Aztec Empire and Early American Empires Overview

Aztec Empire
  • And South America overview

  • Some people from the river valley civilizations
    to form other civilizations.
  • Early civilizations traded with each other.

Early American Civilizations
  • Mayas (1000 BC 900 AD) Central America
  • Aztecs (900 1521) Mexico
  • Incas (1400s 1531) - West coast of South

  • Traded with others
  • Glyphs for writing
  • Aztecs and Incas built empires
  • Calendars
  • Maya a number system that even had a symbol for

  • Uncertain what happened to the Mayas
  • Hernando Cortes (Spain) defeated Aztecs in 1521.
  • Francisco Pizarro (Spain) defeated Incas in 1531.

Azteca - Mexican Geography
  • The Valley of Mexico is a basin about 7,500 feet
    above sea level
  • The valley included lakes and fertile soils for

Aztecas Early city state
  • The first major civilization in Mexico was the
  • It was just outside of Mexico City
  • About 1 AD the city began to see rapid growth
  • The reason that the Americans did not grow as
    much before was because all Native Americans have
    roots from Russia and crossed into Alaska then
    down into South America

  • At Teotihuacan's peak in the 6th century (500s)
    had a population of about 200,000 people, making
    it one of the largest cities in the world
  • Similar to Egypt, there was Pyramids in the heart
    of the city, however they were not used to bury
    the dead Kings but rather honor their gods

  • Do to the cities large population, the city
    became a major center of the Americas for trade
    between empires, kingdoms and city states
  • Of the most important trade items was a green or
    sometimes black volcanic glass that could be used
    to make weapons
  • While the city never tried to conquer its
    neighbors to make an empire, do to their trade of
    various crops from the fertile soil, tools and
    weapons the city had much cultural diffusion

Fall of Teotihuacan
  • It is unknown why the city fell
  • It is possible it was because of a civil war
  • It is also possible that it was because of
  • No matter the cause, by 750 AD the city had fallen

Toltecs take over
  • After Teotihuacan fell no city or empire
    controlled Mexico until 900 AD, 150 years after
    Teotihuacans fall
  • The Toltecs built a capital for an empire that
    would last for 300 years
  • Falling their ancestors, they had the similar
    religious and cultural beliefs of the people from
    Teotihuacan due to Cultural Diffusion

Unlike their ancestors...
  • Unlike their ancestors however, the people from
    Toltec wished to build an empire and made their
    chief god the one of war
  • Sacrifices became common of conquered peoples
  • Around 1000 AD, a King named Topiltzin tried to
    change the religion of his subjects
  • He encouraged the worship of a god, translated to
    English named the Feathered Serpent

  • Many of the King's subjects rebelled forcing him
    and his loyal subjects to move to the Yucatan
  • While there he influenced the culture of the
  • After the Rebellion the Toltecs power greatly
    declined and by 1200 AD the Empire had fallen

Yucatan Peninsula
Effects of the Toltecs
  • By the mid 1200s almost all of the effects of
    the people of Toltec was gone
  • Some parts of the Religion, like sacrifices would
  • One effect that did remain was the religion of
    the snake god, which would remain a legend in
    Aztec culture

Birth of the Aztec Empire
  • Around 1200 AD, the Aztecs (traveled to the
    Mexican valley
  • There they learned from some of the small
    city-states left after the collapse of the
  • At this time the Azteca were called the Mexica, a
    small nomadic group from North Mexico
  • Upon arriving in the Mexican valley they would
    learn how to plant from the left over city-states

  • Many of the Aztecs were able to get work as
    soldiers - for - hire
  • It is tradition that the god of War told the
    people to found their own city
  • They did so on a small island of Lake Texcoco in
    1325, naming it Tenochtitlan

Aztecs grow stronger
  • Over the years the Aztecs slowly increased their
    power and population
  • In 1428, they merged their city-state with the
    city states of Texcoco and Tlacopan
  • By the early 1500s they controlled a large
    empire over 80,000 square miles across modern day
  • The empire was divided into 38 provinces and is
    estimated to have had a population of between 5
    and 15 million

Military Power
  • Their power was based off of their military might
    and the ability to make their conquered subjects
  • Similar to the Persians, they allowed loose
    control over each province, allowing local native
    rulers to govern local affairs
  • They did however demand payment such as gold,
    corn, cocoa (their delicious version of coins),
    cotton, jade and other products
  • If payment was not given by local farmers, the
    village would be invaded

  • His power was absolute
  • At times he would consult with the nobels
  • He lived in a large palace with maids and wives
  • Even Nobles would take off their shoes went
    seeing the Emperor and were not allowed to look
    upon him
  • The Emperor was of course at the top of the
    social pyramid

  • Nobles ruled Aztec society
  • Nobles were military leaders who shared power
    with government officials and priests
  • They had vast estates and similar to the lords of
    Europe, they lived luxurious lifestyles

  • Included artisan, farmers, merchants and
    soldiers, fishermen, government workers, etc.
  • They owned their own property
  • The merchants were the highest part of the
    Commoners because they controlled the price of
    traded goods
  • Women were in this class, if not slaves

Enslaved Peoples
  • Were usually rebellious to Aztec rule, and were
    taken from their homes to one of the major 3
  • The slaves would have been seen doing any jobs
  • Slaves children were free when born and go to
  • Could buy freedom from their master
  • Taking from their ancestors they also sacrificed
    slaves to the sun god
  • Of course they were at the bottom of the pyramid

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Aztec Children
  • All children had to go to school
  • They also played many games including one called
    Tlachtli which was played with a 8 to 10 pound
    rubber ball, with children wearing a clay belt
    and hitting the ball into poles
  • Board games were also common
  • Wheeled toys were made for children despite not
    using wheels for transportation

Tenochtitlan Population
  • Was an extremely urban city, with a population
    estimated to be up to 400,000 but at least
  • It was larger than any European capital, even
    larger than London
  • As they city grew it remained on the island but
    needed to be connected to the mainland where
    Texcoco was

Need to build a bridge
  • To connect the mainland and the island, which
    would go over marshland and water Aztec engineers
    had to come up with a new method
  • They decided to build three causeways raised over
    the marshland
  • There was bridges in the causeways to allow for
    boats and canoes to pass through

The process of building the causeways
  1. They drilled stakes into the bed of the lake and
  2. Laid stones for a foundation
  3. Clay and mud were put around the stones

  • Streets were used to connect the mainland cities
    to outlying urban trade centers
  • Goods carried by land would have to be carried by
    lamas or usually by humans
  • Canones along with the causeways carried people
    between the mainland and Tenochtitlan and across
    the coast, this was the easiest way to travel

  • Canoes brought in goods from across the empire to
    the center markets to trade in Tenochtitlan
  • Goods such as peppers, tomatoes, beans, corn,
    squash, and of course avocados etc. would have
    been traded
  • Carved goods would also have been sold

  • Because of limited space on land Aztec farmers
    needed other places to grow their crops
  • Chinampas or floating gardens were giant
    floating rafts that were used to grow plants over
    marshes or on lakes
  • They were created by weaving together vines and
    putting soil on it depending on where it was put

  • The center of cities would have had worship
    centers, government buildings and royal palaces
  • The worship centers would have been two pyramids
    with twin points at the top dedicated to the sun
    god and rain god

  • Over 1,000 gods were worshipped
  • Ceremonies were at the center of the religion
    with the priest giving sacrifices and performing
    traditional dances and songs
  • Festivals to various gods were also held on a
    regular basis

Problems with the Empire
  • In 1502, a new Emperor named Montezuma II was
  • As the population of the major cities of Texcoco,
    Tenochtitlan, and Tlacopan grew he wanted even
    more sacrifice
  • Meaning of the provinces began to rise up against
    Aztec rule, having countless people murdered as

Time goes on...
  • Montezuma tried to calm the rebellions peacefully
    overtime after the military could not calm the
  • He stopped sacrifices and got rid of governmental
    officials but it did not work
  • Civil War would not help at all when the Spanish
    arrived in 1519...

Spanish takeover
  • Cortes moved into the capital, getting rid of the
    monarchy which was possible because of the civil
    war and the only part of the empire left was the
    main three cities
  • Cortes had to go fight a rival Spanish army
    trying to find gold as Cortes was
  • Cortes was soon thrown out of the capital city of
    Tenochtitlan for trying to convert eh coty to

Spanish takeover cont.
  • After fighting the city to stay and losing many
    men who drowned escaping in the marsh after the 2
    causeways were burned, Cortes allied himself with
    the Tlaxcala to defeat the Aztecs
  • Cuitlahuac is made Emperor
  • In 1521, Cuitlahuac surrenders to Cortes and the
    Aztec Empire was officially over

Spanish Arrive
  • When the Spanish arrived some thought it was the
    snake god returning
  • Along with disease from the Spanish killing many
    Aztecs, the Andes Empire would take advantage of
    this and would take over what was left of the
    Aztecs, not taken by the Spanish

  • Writing systems left, however were primitive and
    complicated so Spainish would replace these
  • Calendar system
  • Understanding of Science, such as there are 365
  • Many art forms, which were traded