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The Maya civilization were people who lived in Mesoamerica, with Maya languages and Maya religion. They lived there for a long time and some of the Maya people live there even today.

The Maya lived there 4,000 years ago (about 2000 BC). At that date complex societies were living in the Maya region. The staple foods of the Maya diet were cultivated. Their food included maize, beans, squashes, and chili peppers. The first Maya cities developed around 750 BC.

The Maya people used a written language and a numeral system. They were good at art, building, and math. Their priests studied stars and planets, which helped them make calendars.

The Maya civilization was biggest between the years of 420 AD and 900 AD. The Maya civilization spread all the way from central Mexico to Honduras, Guatemala, and northern El Salvador. It is estimated that at its maximum, the civilization had at least ten million people.[1] The Maya people traded with other people in the Americas. Their art and buildings have many different styles. This shows they traded a lot. They made changes to their buildings to make them even better. The Maya civilization started getting smaller after 900 AD.

The Conquistadors arrived in the 15th century and took over Mexico and later Central America, even in the Mayan areas. However, the Maya people still live there today. They live in the same areas the Mayan civilization used to live in. They keep the old Mayan traditions and beliefs. There are many Mayan languages still spoken today, including one called the Achi language. A play called Rabinal Achi is considered important.


Between 900 AD and 1000 AD, the cities in the southern lowlands had more and more problems until all the people left. The Maya civilization there stopped making big monuments and carvings.[8] People who study the Maya civilization are not sure why this happened. They have many different ideas – some people think there was a big environmental disaster, or a disease affected a lot of people, or there were just too many people for the amount of food they could grow.


The Aztecs were Native American people who lived in Mesoamerica. They ruled the Aztec Empire from the 14th century to the 16th century.[1]

The name “Aztec” comes from the phrase “people from Aztlan”. Legends say that Aztlan was the first place the Aztecs ever lived. “Aztlan” means “place of the herons” in the Nahuatl language.[2]p. 8

Often the term “Aztec” refers just to the people of Tenochtitlan. This was a city on an island in Lake Texcoco. These people called themselves the Mexica which is why the country is called Mexico, or the Nahua which is why their language is called Nahuatl.[3]


The Aztec Empire existed between about 1438 AD and 1521 AD.[5] When the Empire was largest, it spread across most of Mesoamerica and controlled about 11,000,000 people.[8]


The Aztecs believed in many gods. Two of the most important gods they worshipped were Huitzilopochtli, the god of war and the sun, and Tlaloc, the rain god.[11] Another important god was Quetzalcoatl (feathered snake), the god of learning and civilization


The Aztecs studied astrology and used the movements of the planets and the stars to create different calendars.[22] They had an accurate calendar which consisted of 365 days, based on the movements of the sun. They also had a religious calendar which was made up of 260 days.


Between 1519 and 1521, the Spanish conquistador, Hernán Cortés, allied with Tlaxcala and other enemies of the Aztecs. The conquistadors defeated the Aztecs, took their empire, and made it into a Spanish colony. Some Aztecs did not want to fight against the soldiers of Cortés, because they thought they were gods.[26]


The Inca were a pre-Columbian civilization and empire in the Andes of South America. The word Inca can also mean the emperor or king of the Inca people. It was the largest empire in the Americas, and was large even by world standards. It existed shortly before Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas.

The Inca ruled along the western coast of South America for a little over 100 years, until the Spanish invasion in the 16th century. The empire was centred around the city of Cusco, or Qosqo, in what is now southern Peru. This was the administrative, political and military center of the empire. In later years, it was also centred around Quito. The Inca were ruled by an Emperor known as the Sapa Inca. Throughout their empire, they built many roads and bridges to make travel between their communities easy.

The Inca Empire was called Tawantinsuyo in Quechua, which means “four regions”. The empire only lasted for about 100 years as the arrival of the conquering Spaniards in 1532 AD marked the end of their reign. Their main language was Quechua, but as the Empire was made up of many different groups there were probably many different languages as well.

The Inca Empire began around Lake Titicaca in about 1197. From 1438 to 1533, the Incas used conquest and non-violent assimilation to gain a large portion of western South America. Their empire centered on the Andean mountain ranges. It included large parts of what is now Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile.

In 1533, Atahualpa, the last sovereign emperor, was executed by the conquistador Francisco Pizarro. That meant the beginning of Spanish rule in South America. The Inca Empire was supported by an economy based on the collective ownership of the land.