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Civilizations of Mesoamerica


Title: Civilizations of Mesoamerica Author: RHS Last modified by: RHS Created Date: 2/28/2011 7:22:09 PM Document presentation format: On-screen Show (4:3) – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Civilizations of Mesoamerica

Civilizations of Mesoamerica
The Olmec
  • Earliest American civilization Olmecs
  • Located in the tropical forests along the Gulf
    Coast of Mexico
  • Lasted from 1500 B.C. to 400 B.C.

The Olmec
  • Little information about where they came from.
  • Remains of temples and art suggest that they had
    a powerful class of priests and nobles at the top
    of their society.
  • Elite class ran government
  • Military
  • Religion
  • Politics
  • Art mostly carved from stone.
  • 50 stone heads made of basalt, weighing 40 tons
    each required advanced technology to move the
    stones over 50 miles
  • Had a calendar.
  • Had a system of writing.

The Olmec
  • Worshipped a god that was part jaguar, part
  • Considered the mother culture of Mesoamerica
    because other cultures adopted their advances.
  • Unclear how the civilization ended simply

The Maya
  • Heavily influenced by the Olmec.
  • Located on the Yucatan Peninsula and through much
    of Central America.
  • Lasted from about 300 B.C. to 1200 A.D.

The Maya
  • Society
  • Each Maya city had its own ruler usually male.
  • Nobles served as military leaders, tax
    collectors, law enforcers, etc.
  • Merchants formed the middle class.
  • Majority of Mayans were farmers.
  • Grew maize, beans, squash, fruit trees, cotton,
    and tropical flowers.
  • Some cities had slaves.

The Maya
  • Culture
  • Large temples and palaces made of stone
  • Had elaborate sculptures on many of their
  • Developed a hieroglyphic writing system.
  • Famous for the 365-day calendar based on the
    movement of the sun.

The Maya
  • Religion
  • Center of society
  • Very complex worshipped many gods
  • Closely tied to agriculture one of the most
    important gods was the god of rain
  • Offered sacrifices to the gods in hopes of a good

The Maya
  • Decline of Mayan Civilization
  • Around 900 A.D., the Mayans abandoned many of
    their cities.
  • By the time the Spanish arrived in 1500 A.D., the
    remaining Mayans usually lived in farming
  • Reasons for the decline of the empire are
    unknown, but it is suspected that constant wars,
    or overpopulation could have caused the
    civilization to decline.

The Aztec
  • Around 1200 A.D. bands of nomadic people migrated
    to the Valley of Mexico in the high plateau of
    central Mexico.

The Aztec
  • In 1325 A.D., the Aztec founded their capital
    city at Tenochtitlan.
  • To create more farmland the Aztecs built
    chinampas artificial islands.
  • Used these floating gardens to grow beans,
    squash, and maize.
  • Filled in part of lakes and created canals that
    linked them to the mainland.
  • Agriculture was the center of the economy.
  • People would sell their crops at markets, or
    trade with others.

The Aztec
  • Government Society
  • One emperor elected by a council of nobles,
    priests, and military leaders.
  • Nobles served as judges and governors of
    conquered provinces.
  • Warriors could rise to the noble class by doing
    well in battle.
  • Middle class long distances traders
  • Commoners farmed the land.
  • Serfs slaves prisoners of war debtors
    still had rights.

The Aztec
  • Religion Mythology
  • Polytheistic
  • Believed that each god had power over different
    natural elements, or parts of life.
  • Huitziloopochtli patron god of the Aztecs
  • Quetzalcoatl feathered serpent who reigned over
    earth and water
  • Gods would sacrifice themselves to help the
  • Nanahuatzin sacrificed himself to become the
    sun Aztecs made human sacrifices to give the sun
    the strength to rise each day.

The Aztec
  • Decline of the Empire
  • The Aztec empire grew very quickly, but also
    declined very quickly.
  • The Aztecs had forced the people they conquered
    to pay heavy taxes.
  • These people became upset and caused problems in
    the empire.
  • These problems led to the decline of the empire.

The Inca
  • Most powerful Andean civilization
  • Located on the western coast of South America
  • Lasted from about 1100 A.D. to 1500 A.D.

The Inca
  • Worshipped the sun and moon, as well as many
    other gods goddesses.
  • Expanded to become a vast empire that stretched
    to include parts of modern-day Peru, Ecuador,
    Bolivia, and Chile.
  • Capital of the empire was Cuzco
  • Never developed a system of writing.
  • Many medical advances surgery on the human
    skull, etc.

The Inca
  • Farming was very important.
  • Built step terraces for farming.
  • Stone walls kept the land from being washed away
    by rain.
  • Farmers spent part of the year working the land
    for their community the other part working the
    land for the government.
  • The government kept most of the harvest in case
    of natural disaster.
  • The extra was given to specific groups of people.

The Inca
  • Also famous for metalworking and weaving.
  • Used copper and bronze to make useful objects.
  • Used gold silver for making statues of gods and
    goddesses, or silverware or decorations for the
  • Wove cotton and wool into clothing.

The Inca
  • Decline of the Empire
  • Empire ended by civil war which weakened the
    civilization to Spanish invaders.
  • Spanish explorers arrived in South America during
    the time of the Inca.
  • Brought diseases such as smallpox, which the Inca
    had no immunity to.
  • The diseases quickly destroyed the population.
  • The Spanish took control over what was left of
    the area.