Ancient Civilizations: A Closer Look
Ancient Civilizations: A Closer Look
Before the discovery of agriculture, man was a comparatively rare animal. He was a wandering, implement-using beast of prey, a savage. He lived in small communities; his speech was probably still largely undeveloped. His whole life was spent almost for food hunt and survival. He was free and needy. His life is excessively dangerous. Then, the business of deliberate food growing and food preservation that help man to establish him as a developed man began. He began to learn to domesticate and shepherd what was then considered his source of hunting. He had made houses and settled to a particular area.
He is the only mammal that becomes an economic animal. He is the one that developed what we considered civilization. Thousand of years ago, civilizations flourished in different parts of the globe. These civilizations made us for what we are now. It developed from the darkness of savagery and barbarism to the era of great civilization. Mayans, Aztecs and Inca’s early civilization are considered among those civilizations that sprung out thousand of years ago. They developed their own culture and society different from each other. These civilizations have different stories of significant existence and collapse.
For the purpose of establishing the difference and similarities of these civilizations, this paper will focused on the cultural, political and social structures of each civilization. The causes of the decline and fall of each civilization and their adaptation during the colonization of the European societies will also be tackled. Mayan Civilization The Maya are probably the best known of the classical civilization of Mesoamerica. Its famous traditions and cultures rose in fame to places such as El Salvador and Mexico. They developed their own form of astronomy, calendar systems and hieroglyphic writing.
They are known for their fully developed form of writing, mathematical and complex astronomical system. It was considered one of the diverse and culturally dynamic societies in the world during its time. Mayan Society Mayan society was the most important cultured native people of Mesoamerica, both in status of civilization and in population and resources. The Mayan area is divided into three parts. The northern, southern and central region are said to settle by the Mayans at different time in the Classical period. The class system of the Mayan’s was composed of the ruling class and farmers/laborers.
Between them are the educated nobility who were considered as the scribes, artists and architects. The ruler was said to perform cultural ceremonies and priestly duties. Mayan religion evolved with 150 named deities. The importance of their gods varies over time and from place to place. Their gods were related but distinct from the Aztecs and their gods developed independently. The god of rain, Chac was considered as their most important god. Mayans also practice blood sacrifice that is non-fatal. Human sacrifices rarely happened in their tradition.
Surviving carvings of the Mayans exhibited that the King and Queen are the only ritually bled on cultural occasions. Mayan religion mildness was in strong contrast with the Aztecs bloody rituals. The Popul Vuh is the sacred book of the Mayan religion. It tells the creation of man and the Hero twins. Other notable texts are the Dresden Codex and the Paris Codex. These texts give the information that Mayans believed in afterlife. They believed that the dead went to an underground city called Xibalba. Mayan Government and its Political System In ancient system, Maya government was considered an absolute monarchy.
The hereditary king of the government known as an ajaw always consulted the hereditary high priest. Provincial governors came from the nobles of the royal families. The lords of the government came from military commanders that have certain portion of land. They are responsible for the maintenance and development of the people under him. In Mayan tradition, the lower priesthood is not hereditary but rather appointed by the high priest. Mayan female priesthood was also present in their tradition. When it comes to justice of the law, significant cases were presided by the royal council headed by the king.
Lesser important cases are the responsibilities of the provincial rulers or local judges. Fall of the Mayan Civilization The fall of the Mayan civilization are still unclear up to this time and are still debated. The decline in the 8th and 9th centuries is supported by the decline of inscriptions and architectural progress in the area.  The collapse was said to be due to the 200-year drought that results to famine.  Evidences support this theory of drought and show that the population during that time exceeded the carrying capacity of the environment.
Evidence of conquest from the outside is not seen during this period. Mayans against the Spanish Conquistadors The Spanish conquest of the Maya was proven to be the most lengthy and dangerous of all the ancient civilization of America. It takes the conquistador 170 years to absolutely control the Maya lands. The independent society and government of each Maya land gave the Spanish a hard time to subdue the whole population of the Mayans. The resistance of each local Mayan community against the conquistador and the unavailability of rich resources in their lands make them free from the Spanish occupation for a long time.
Aztec Civilization The Aztec civilization was believed to be originated from the present day Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado. Their migration to central Mexico in the late 12th century was supported by historic accounts. The word “Aztec” was not originally a name for any ethnic group. Some modern scholars referred Aztecs as the Nahuatl speaking people of Mexico before the Spanish conquest and Nahua to refer to the same group of people after the conquest. Certainly, the word Aztecs was not used by the scholars to refer to the ethnic groups of Mexico.
They sometime referred them as Mexica, Acolhua or Tepaneca to distinguish particular ethnic groups. Aztec Government Aztec government was ethnically very diverse. Unlike the Mayan government, the government system was lead by indirect means and was a system of tribute rather than a single system of government. The unlikelihood of the system of governance of the Aztecs was featured in their authority on conquest lands. The leader or ruler of the conquered land remained as the ruler. The Aztecs became wealthy because of the taxes they collected in their conquest land.
The Aztec empire is subdivided in what they call the altepetl or the city-states. This altepetl competed with each other and development growth at each city states was present during the early Aztec period. Even after the creation of the empire, the city-states were still considered the building local block of their society. Aztec’s Culture The Aztec culture ran through their major language called the N’ahuatl. Art, music, dance and religion were very important part of the Aztec culture. They had many beliefs and they have gods for almost everything. Earth was flat, 13 heavens and 9 hells were among the common beliefs in Aztec culture.
Human sacrifices was considered as the most arresting feature of Aztec culture Spanish Conquest During the reign of Ahuitzotl in 1486-1502, the Aztec empire reached its zenith. Moctezuma II was the successor and the one leading the Aztecs during the landing of the Spanish conquistador. His death in 1520 and the succession of puppet emperors brought the downfall of the Aztec government in the hands of the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortez. The decline of the Aztec empire did not affect the culture of the Mesoamericans but rather remain intact. Inca Civilization
Historic records of Inca civilization can be seen in recent discoveries of pottery, stone, gold and jewelry. Until now, historic scholars have no definite conclusion where the Incas originated. Inca civilization was short-lived. It only lasted for almost 100 years. Inca’s Society Ayllus made up the Inca society. Ayllus were composed of clans of families who lived and worked together. In their social structure, the ruler together with his wife has the overall control of the government. The next in position is the high priest and the army commander in chief followed by the four apus, the regional army commanders.
Farmers, sorcerers and herding families were considered the lowest class in the society. Cultural Beliefs and Religion The Inca were considered the most religious among the ancient Mesoamerican civilization. They feared that evil would always ready to subdue their land at any time. They believed in reincarnation and considered the sorcerers as their protectors against spirits. Sacsahuaman was considered their center of society and religious beliefs. Inca’s Economy In the Inca’s society, everyone works except the very young and the very old. A tax system was present which makes two-thirds of the farmer’s goods be shared for the tax.
Same is true with the Ayllu members who worked together to produce food crops and cotton. Their lack of farming tools made them used just their hand to continue farming. The fall of the Incan Civilization Francisco Pizarro and his men of conquistador was the first to arrive in Inca land. This threatened the Incas and made them in agreement with the conquistador who consequently kidnapped and killed an Inca emperor. Unlike the conquest in Mayan and Aztec’s land, the conquest in Inca land was accomplished without battles. The Incas during that time believe in the biblical truth brought by the Spanish conquistador.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 21 September 2016
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