Ancient civilizations of America (Inca, Maya, Aztecs): history, culture, achievements, religion

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Ancient civilizations of America (Inca, Maya, Aztecs): history, culture, achievements, religion
Ancient civilizations of America (Inca, Maya, Aztecs): history, culture, achievements, religion

In the 15th century, Europeans discovered America. They named the continent the New World. But although the Europeans really saw this land for the first time, it was new only for them. In fact, this continent has had a long and exciting history. The ancient civilizations of America, who inhabited the continent without communication with the outside world, led a sedentary lifestyle. They built cities and villages, gradually creating an incredibly complex society. Each tribe had its own political system, its own religion, its own ideas about life and the universe. Traces of some tribes are completely lost in time. Others have left us a legacy that reminds us of the greatness of a lost world. The history of the ancient civilizations of America - the Incas, Mayans, Aztecs - reflects the history of the entire continent.

Ancient civilizations

In the 16th century, after the discovery of America, myths about cities of gold began to be made up in Europe. Spanish conquistadors sailed to Eldorado dreaming of getting rich. Just a few years after the start of the brutal invasion of the Spaniardsthe empires of the Incas and Aztecs collapsed, the whole world perished. Two amazing civilizations were destroyed in their heyday.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, this ancient world was rediscovered. The second discovery, like the first, led to amazing adventures. Risking their own lives, researchers traveled to unknown countries and brought back incredible stories. In the middle of the jungle, behind the impenetrable mountains, huge abandoned cities were hidden. Explorers discovered amazing civilizations that existed in America before Columbus, long before the white man's invasion of the American continent.

New discoveries have refuted all the ideas of Europeans about the savage Indians. The majestic ruins of their cities spoke of the unexpectedly high level of development and sophisticated culture of the Incas. Indian languages ​​are also considered unique and one of the most ancient.

Among the Indian tribes, two completely different groups stand out. From the second half of the 4th c. BC e. The Andes have seen the development of several major ancient civilizations in the Americas, one of which is the Incas. The Maya and the Aztecs belong to the civilizations of Central America, united by a common culture.

History of the Mayan tribe

Maya civilization and language originated in the forests of Guatemala around 250-300 BC. BC e. Its heyday came in the 8th century. n. e. A developed and sophisticated people built cities where temples and palaces towered above the houses, created the Maya language, which is considered one of the most ancient.

Tikal is the most powerful city of the Maya civilization. It is located in Guatemala. Tikal had the highesttemples of that era. They reached 70 meters in height. The gray ruins that we admire today reflect this city in all its splendor. The reconstruction of the main square of Tikal allows us to see the city where the color red prevailed.

During the first studies, scientists tried to understand the purpose of the Mayan pyramids in Mexico. Perhaps they did not appear to pay homage to the gods. Many of them are built in honor of the leaders.

In the early 50s of the 20th century, archaeologists discovered a tomb in one of the tunnels. It contained a human skeleton adorned with jade. This stone was a symbol of life and immortality in the Mayan culture. This skeleton belonged to a Mayan leader who ruled Tikal until 834 AD. e.

Maya leaders were buried in pyramids, like the Egyptian pharaohs. Like the pharaohs, the leaders considered themselves deities. The leader not only ruled the city - he was the political, military and spiritual leader in his society. In the heyday of the ancient Maya, the leader's position as a spiritual leader was undeniable.

The life of the city was built according to the laws of the cosmic world. The divine status of the leader guaranteed the inhabitants of the city peace and harmony. The monumental buildings of the city were supposed to instill fear in its inhabitants. The personality of the leader was sacred. His life was part of Mayan mythology. From the day of his ascension to the throne, the leader was equated with the rising morning sun. The legends of the leaders were based on time cycles.

Mayan ancient tribe

Indians are astronomers

Among the indigenous peoples of the American continent, the Maya were the best astronomers. In the townYucatan is one very interesting building. It is an astronomical observatory with a 360° sky coverage. The Mayan priests spent their time in boundless exploration of the sky, trying to predict from the stars the fates, the dates of the battle and the ascension of new leaders to the throne. It's not just an observatory. Here the Maya tried to comprehend the past and the present, to know the future and to understand the cyclical nature of everything that happens.

In the view of the peoples of Central America, time was completely cyclical. It consisted of certain cycles that one day had to break forever. Therefore, the Maya closely followed the course of the luminaries, which, perhaps, contained the secrets of their future. The Aztecs believed that the universe was subject to cycles, which were controlled by both the forces of good and the forces of evil. Days were divided into favorable and unfavorable.

Knowledge of time cycles was also applied in agriculture. Astronomers tell farmers when to plant and harvest crops, when what work needs to be done. Today, the descendants of the Maya use slash-and-burn agriculture. During the dry season, they burn patches in the jungle to be cultivated and fertilize the soil with ash.

For many thousands of years, the main food of the Indians was corn. They started cultivating it 5000 years ago. At first, the ears of corn were very small. Each of them gave no more than a dozen grains. The Indians selected the largest and most beautiful grains and planted them. This is how the corn that we grow now appeared. The Maya called themselves "children of the corn". According to their legends, the gods created the first man from corn porridge. Modernhistorians wonder how large communities of the Maya existed in conditions in which only small groups of people can now live?

There is another issue related to slash-and-burn agriculture. The soil is quickly depleted and ceases to produce crops. The ancient Maya owned several ways to grow crops much richer than the current ones. But their options were limited.

maya observatory

Destruction of the Mayan empire

In the 8th century, the Mayan cities grew so rapidly that their population was no longer possible to feed. The growth of cities brought with it periods of famine. Another problem of the Mayan cities was related to their organization. United by a common culture, they had no political ties. Some cities, each ruled by a leader, were in a state of constant hostility. Tikal and Calakmul fought fiercely for supremacy. The Maya political system was undeniably very efficient, but it was also fragile and unreliable. This insecurity led to insecurity. Some cities were wiped off the face of the earth because the inhabitants killed each other. They were captured so quickly that people didn't have time to run.

At the beginning of their research, scientists naively believed that the Maya were a peaceful people. We now know that this is not the case at all. Wars between different cities broke out very often. In Chiapas, there are the most luxurious Mayan frescoes, found in 1946. They depict the enmity that reigned between the cities of the Maya. These cities fought among themselves for territory, power and prosperity.

Coupled with the depletion of resources, the war only hastened the fall of the empire. After the 9th century, the Maya no longer erected buildings. The ruins of their cities keep traces of wars and destruction. In just a few years, the Mayan world collapsed completely. One of the indigenous peoples of the American continent was wiped off the face of the earth.

maya empire

History of the Aztecs

In the 13th century, the northern tribe of the Aztecs came from the Gulf of Mexico. Their imagination was struck by the monumental pyramids of Teotihuacan, which had been abandoned for many centuries. The Aztecs decided that this city was erected by the gods themselves. To this day, it is unknown which tribe built it.

On the one hand, the Aztec Indians wanted to create the same advanced civilization, on the other hand, it was difficult for them to move away from their cruel customs and nomadic lifestyle. The Aztec tribe had twofold views. They valued their ancestors and adopted the cultural values ​​of those civilizations that preceded them. But among the ancestors of the Aztecs there was also a brave tribe of hunters, and they were no less proud of them.

Mexico City was built on the ruins of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital destroyed by the Spaniards. It is not easy to find traces of the Aztecs in the modern stone jungle. In 1978, a startling discovery was made. The city of Mexico City planned to begin construction of the subway. Workers who began to dig a pit found strange objects underground. Later it turned out that these were traces of the Aztecs. Archaeologist José Alvara Barerra Rivera remembers this amazing moment. The northern wall of the temple, dedicated to the sun god, has been perfectly preserved.Aztecs. It turned out that the Spaniards built a cathedral on the ruins of the sacred heart of the Aztec capital. There were a dozen temples here. Archaeologists managed to recreate the most important of all temples. It, like the Mayan pyramids in Mexico, was built in several stages. Thanks to the ruins, specialists were able to revive the past of the Aztec people.

ancient aztecs

The Lost City of Tenochtitlan

Where Mexico City is now at an altitude of 2000 meters, many centuries ago there was Lake Texcoco. Around it, the Aztecs erected a city that stood on artificial islands. This is Tenochtitlan, the American Venice. At the time of the European invasion, it was inhabited by 300 thousand people. The conquistadors could not believe their own eyes. Tenochtitlan was one of the largest metropolises of its time. In its center stood a temple, the ruins of which were found in 1978. The area of ​​the city is about 13 km². In order to build it, a lot of earth had to be dug and the soil drained to make the area habitable. This huge city was built in just a few decades, which makes it even more remarkable.

There was little land suitable for plowing in the swampy area, but the Aztecs managed to make the most of it in order to feed the hundreds of thousands of people who inhabited the capital. In the suburbs of Mexico City there are amazing agricultural areas - chinampas. They are so unique that they are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Thanks to the fact that the chinampas have been preserved, we can look into the past and uncover the mystery of the history of civilizations.Ancient America.

The Lost City of Tenochtitlan

Aztec sacrifices

The Aztec tribes, like the Maya, were cultivating corn. It was believed that this plant is patronized by the Aztec gods, to whom people sacrificed young women. They were beheaded like corn at harvest time.

Human sacrifices were made everywhere in Central America, but in the Aztec era they became a real craze. When the conquistadors first entered the main square of Tenochtitlan, they were horrified to see that the walls of the temple were covered in blood. The conquistadors captured the city and destroyed the temple, but archaeologists found even more ancient buildings that exactly repeated the great temple in miniature.

The most common type of sacrifice was cutting out the heart, which was intended for the bloodthirsty Sun. The reason why these actions were performed is indicated on the sun stone. On a disk weighing 20 tons and 3 meters high, a calendar is carved, in which 4 catastrophes are indicated that destroyed 4 suns. According to this calendar, the last, 5th sun, was also in danger. But one of the gods saved him by sacrificing himself. He set himself on fire and then was reborn as a bright star that became the new sun. But it was motionless. Then the other gods sacrificed themselves to revive the sun. So the cosmic drama continued, where the role of the gods was now played by people. In order for the sun to continue its journey across the sky, it had to be fed every day with precious water - human blood.

The sacrifices played veryimportant role in the Aztec worldview. They were the cornerstone on which the people's self-determination was based. The Aztecs believed that by making human sacrifices to the gods, they maintained the existing order in the world, and that if one day this stopped, humanity could perish. Also, the successful politics and expansion of the territory of the Aztec empire led to these victims.

In order for the system to continue to evolve, the Aztecs tried to outdo themselves in every area. In 1487, Emperor Ahuizotl celebrated the renewal of the great temple. The ceremony was terrifying. The priests cut out the hearts of at least 10,000 captives. It was the heyday of the Aztec Empire - the ancient civilization of America.

sun stone

Aztecs - conquerors

Beginning in 1440, the Aztecs conducted endless military campaigns to expand their own empire, capturing the tribes that lived in the Mexican valley. By 1520, the area of ​​their empire reached 200 thousand km². By the time the conquistadors invaded, it consisted of 38 provinces, each of which had to pay a large tribute to the leader.

Power in the Aztec empire was supported by fear. The main interest of the rulers was to control the occupied territories, collect tribute and keep the subjects in fear. This explains the grandeur of the scale of Aztec architecture. The growth of the we alth of such a huge empire could not be supported only by the resettlement of tribes and the seizure of new territories. The Aztecs did not so much colonize new territories as they waged brutal campaigns orjust threatened other tribes. This is how they expanded their borders. The subjects of the Aztec Empire recognized the power of the cities of Tenochtitlan and Tlatoani. They endlessly revered the emperor and their deities. The Aztecs allowed captured tribes to run their own affairs as long as they paid tribute and treated the ruling tribe with reverence.

Aztec conquerors

History of the Incas

During the same time period, the Incas ruled an empire 5 times larger than the Aztec empire. It stretched from modern Ecuador to Chile, occupying about 950 thousand km². In order to manage it, the Incas created a system based on a conglomeration of several different tribes.

In 1615, Guaman Poma de Ayala completed his amazing work, in which he described the history of the Inca civilization, the heyday of the tribe before the invasion of the conquistadors and the discovery of America. In his book, he described the cruelty with which the Spaniards treated the indigenous population of Novaya Zemlya. The chronicles of Poma de Ayala are one of the few sources from which we can learn about the organization of the amazing Inca tribe.

The word "Inca" was used to refer to both leaders and ordinary people. According to legend, there were 13 great Incas. Most likely, the first 8 of them were mythical characters.

ancient incas

Rise of an empire

The history of the tribe began with the ascension to the throne of the ninth Inca - Pachacutec. Up to this point, the Incas were no different from other Peruvian tribes. Pachacutec was a talented military leader. He began to expandthe territory of the country. By uniting 500 tribes, Pachacutec began a new era in the history of the Incas. He was a wonderful ruler. And in his empire, families lived in communities, the land in each of them was common. Each region was to supply the community with the food that grew best in it.

The Incas created an administrative system with a stable structure, headed by a group of officials. In order to ensure economic exchange between different regions, a system of communications was needed. But roads had to be built in the Andes, the highest mountain range in the world after the Himalayas. The Incas mastered the art of building bridges over rivers. Many of them are still active today. In order to build bridges and roads in the Andes, a clear organization of labor was needed. Each worker had to contribute to the common cause. Collective labor was one of the fundamental principles of the Inca empire.

The road system helped the Incas create one of the most well-organized states in the world. Messengers could deliver news from the leader's palace to the far reaches of the empire with incredible speed.

The Incas did not have a written language - only oral communication in Indian languages, but they developed an original system for transmitting information using quipu - bundles of multi-colored threads, where each color and thread length had its own meaning. Thanks to the quipu, the Incas managed to control their treasury very successfully. The leaders controlled the economy through intermediaries, in the role of which the rulers of individual regions acted. Those were supposed to collect tribute from subjects and organize themwork. It was only one link in the chain. The Incas created an entire administrative system.

There were few major cities in the empire. Most of the Incas lived in villages and were engaged in agriculture, which was the basis of the economy. The organization of the state allowed everyone to be in acceptable conditions.

A leader who was considered a direct descendant of the Sun God was at the head of the state. He directed the politics and economy of the empire, but his main duty was to maintain his own religious cult. The miraculously preserved city of Machu Picchu is a majestic symbol of the power of the leader. The Incas dreamed of leading a great immortal empire.

80 years after Pachacutec's reign ended, the conquistadors reached the Andes. The leader was Francisco Pizarro. This illiterate and poor man was determined to take over the Inca empire. His only weapons were his courage and his desire to get rich.

The following years turned into a tragedy for the Incas - representatives of the ancient civilization of America. Many of them fell at the hands of the Spaniards, the survivors were forced to watch their empire crumble. Indians were killed and tortured. Their land was taken away from them, they were treated as inferior beings. The life of the Indians turned into a chain of endless misfortunes and humiliations. In the end, the genocide of the Indians led to the almost complete extermination of these tribes.

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