BECK index

Africa and America 30 BC-1453

Toltecs and Aztecs
North America


Let us begin this volume in the cradle of humanity in Africa. Egypt and North Africa in 30 BC were part of Mediterranean culture and the Roman empire and so will be discussed later. About two thousand years ago the spread of iron-working gradually brought Africa south of the Sahara desert out of the stone age. Farming could be done more easily, although the tsetse fly in central Africa prevented the use of draft animals for plowing. Population began to increase especially among those speaking Bantu languages. The coast around the horn of eastern Africa was described by a Roman official from Alexandria in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea about 100 CE. Goods were traded for ivory and tortoise shells at Adulis, the port city for Axum, and along the coast to the south slaves, incense, and Indian cinnamon could be obtained. Natives at Rhapta were described as pirates of great stature ostensibly under Arab rule. Bananas and yams were brought to Africa by Indonesian traders, who settled on the island of Madagascar about the second century CE. With the exception of Bushmen and a few others in central and southern Africa who continued to hunt and herd, by the 8th century CE the iron age had spread throughout Africa.

Strabo wrote that Ethiopia was so peaceful that the Romans only needed three cohorts there. However, when the Roman army in Egypt was busy with a war in Arabia, the Ethiopians (Kushites) took over Syene, Elephantine, and Philae, pulling down statues of Augustus Caesar. In retaliation for this raid near the Nile's first cataract, a Roman army led by Petronius plundered the Kushite city of Napata in 23 BC, sending a thousand prisoners to Caesar. In the next generation Kushite king Netekamani and his queen Amanitare built temples at Naga, and King Sherkarer, probably their son, commemorated a military victory with an inscription. Ethiopian civilization founded a new dynasty of kings at Axum soon after 50 CE.

In the 4th century CE the Axumites conquered Kush. After Himyarite king Dimnos massacred some Greek merchants in revenge for the Roman empire's ill treatment of Jews, Abyssinian king Andas invaded Yemen and killed Dimnos. Andas had vowed if he were victorious, he would become a Christian; in reponse the Roman Emperor sent a bishop from Alexandria. Christianity was made the state religion when his successor King Ezana was converted by the captured Syrian Frumentius, who had become his tutor and later was appointed bishop of Axum by the bishop of Alexandria. Axum king Ezana devastated the once powerful empire of the Meroitic Kush. Apparently the royal family and military class of Meroites exploiting the masses of workers had not proved stable. Desiccation caused by over-grazing and soil erosion was another factor in the decline of Meroe, as the desert expanded. The army of Axum under Ezana made the caravan trade routes safer, destroying his enemies by sacking cities, taking prisoners, ruining crops, and confiscating livestock. Ezana was succeeded by his son Elesboas.

Another Jewish Himyarite named Dhu Novas overcame the Ethiopian garrison and proclaimed himself king in 519. He persecuted Christians and tried to exterminate all Ethiopians who would not accept Judaism. In 523 a siege of Nejran resulted in the massacre of 280 Christians. Two years later Axum king Ela Atzbeha led a large army of Abyssinians to defeat and kill Dhu Novas, establishing a tributary Christian king named Esimiphaios. In 531 Roman emperor Justinian sent Julian to ask the two Red Sea kingdoms of Ela Atzbeha and Esimiphaios for help against the Persians, but they did little. The Ethiopian church followed the Egyptian Copts in adhering to the Monophysite doctrine. When their trade routes to Yemeni, Jewish, and Greek merchants were cut off by Muslim invaders in the 7th century CE, the Ethiopian economy stagnated. In 702 Muslim Arabs occupied islands off the Eritrean coast to attack pirates.

As Isis worship at the Philae temple had been ended by imperial decree, Christianity grew rapidly in Nubia after Byzantine empress Theodora sent the Monophysite Julian there in 543; she and the Egyptians made sure that the rival Melkite mission was delayed even though her husband Emperor Justinian opposed the Monophysites. Thus the Nobadae (Nubians) and their king Silko became Monophysite Christians, and with the help of a Byzantine general they made the Blemyes adopt the same faith. Julian's work in Nubia was continued by Philae bishop Theodoros; Longinus went as far as 'Alwa, where he baptized the king and his people in 580.

The Mukurra kingdom was attacked by Arabs in 641, and in the peace treaty of 651 the Nubians agreed to tolerate a Muslim mosque and provide 360 slaves annually to the Muslim imam in exchange for some supplies not mentioned in the treaty, which enabled Nubians to co-exist next to Muslim Egypt peacefully for six centuries. The Nubian church was greatly strengthened when Merkurios became king in 697. When Copts were persecuted in Egypt about 745, Nubian king Kiriakos demanded that imprisoned Alexandrian patriarch Khael be released and, according to a Christian author, invaded. In 836 Nubians made a treaty with the Caliph of Baghdad, and they occupied southern Egypt in 962. At the end of the 10th century the Ethiopian king, because of a conflict with the patriarch of Alexandria, asked Nubian king George II to send a bishop, while many Christians from Egypt fled to Nubia.

In 1171 Nubians attacked Egypt and were counter-attacked two years later by Saladin's brother Turan-Shah. A century later in 1272 Nubian king Dawud captured the Arab trading post at 'Aydhab; this also resulted in attacks by Mamluk Egypt which captured prominent Nubians and helped Shakanda defeat Dawud II in a struggle over the Nubian throne. Shakanda agreed to pay annual tribute to the Egyptian sultan; Nubians not becoming Muslims had to pay a poll tax; and it was reported that 10,000 captives were sent to Egypt as slaves. Conflicts in Mukurra with Mamluk troops engaged 40,000 tribesmen seeking booty, and in 1290 Nubian king Shamamun captured the Mamluk garrison at Dunkula; Sultan Kala'un, busy with the last crusaders, agreed to a treaty. When Sanbu became king at Dunkula, Mukurra officially converted to Islam and made the cathedral a mosque in 1317. Despite Nubian efforts to regain their independence led by Kanz al-Dawla and Banu 'l-Kanz, Dunkula was destroyed, and the monarchy collapsed before the end of the 14th century; by the next century 'Alwa had also been overrun by pastoral Egyptian Arabs.

Ethiopian expansion led to conflicts in the 10th century, and forces of a queen in Damot even defeated and killed the Christian king. Late in the 10th century the Agau revolted and slaughtered Christian clergy. The Ethiopian monarchy subdued them eventually; but local Agau religious customs were made part of church rituals. As an isolated Christian community, practices such as circumcision and polygamy justified by the Old Testament persisted, as the Ethiopians identified with the tribes of Israel surrounded by enemies. In the 12th century the Agau gained control of the monarchy as the Zagwe dynasty and ruled for 133 years, building impressive churches with gigantic sculptures. King Lalibela ruled for at least twenty years in the early 13th century and used his army of more than 60,000 to invade pagans to the west and south. A chronicle reported that Lalibela had ten churches built.

Opposition to the Zagwe dynasty came from a monastic school on an island of Lake Hayq in Amhara led by Yekunno-Amlak. After winning a dynastic struggle, Zagwe king Yitbarek arrested Yekunno-Amlak; but he broke out of jail and led a revolt that defeated and killed Yitbarek. The last Zagwe king Dilanda donated land to another monastic stronghold in 1268, but two years later Yekunno-Amlak must have been in control, as he was giving them land then. Thus in 1270 Yekunno-Amlak claimed to be restoring the ancient Solomonid dynasty. When he died fifteen years later, struggle for the throne caused a civil war and led to the practice for two centuries of imprisoning his descendants on Mount Gishen until each was chosen to rule or died. To the northwest of Ethiopia was the Jewish community of Falasha.

Muslim settlers in the sultanate of Shoa came into conflict with Ethiopia in 1128. The Muslim merchants often fought each other too, and in 1285 Ifat king 'Umar Walasma defeated and annexed the sultanate of Shoa, controlling the trade route from Zeila. After attacking and annexing Damot, Hadya, Gojjam, and Falasha, Ethiopian emperor Amda-Siyon (r. 1314-1344) invaded Ifat, defeating and killing its king Haqedin I. Dawaro and Sharka made treaties with this growing Christian empire; but ruling from a mobile camp, Amda-Siyon had to quell Christian rebellions in Tigrai and along the Eritrean coast. In 1332 Ifat king Sabredin revolted by attacking Christian garrisons, burning churches, enslaving and forcing clergy to accept Islam, and arresting even Muslim merchants doing business for Amda-Siyon. Ifat formed an alliance with Dawaro, Sharka, Bali, and Adal, but they were all defeated and forced to submit to the forces of Amda-Siyon. His son and successor as emperor of Ethiopia, Sayfa-Ar'ad (r. 1344-1370), managed to divide the Muslims of Ifat by cooperating with some of them.

The Muslim ruler of Zeila, Se'adedin (r. 1373-1403), attacked the Christian army in Dawaro and Bali, taking many slaves and cattle as booty; but he was eventually driven back to Zeila and executed by Ethiopian emperor Dawit (r. 1380-1412). Conflicts continued as Dawit's sons and successors, Tewodros in 1413 and Yishaq in 1430, were killed fighting Adal princes. Adal ruler Ahmad Badlay (r. 1432-1445) led a jihad against the Christian highlands and recaptured Bali; but in an attack on Dawaro he was killed, and his Muslim army was badly defeated by the forces of Ethiopian emperor Zara Yakob (r. 1434-1468).

Monastic schools like the one at Lake Hayq founded in 1248 by Iyesus-Mo'a (d. 1292) did much to educate clerics and Christians. The monasteries spread along with the Ethiopian empire. Tekla-Haymanot (1215-1313) was trained at Hayq and started the important monastic community of Asbo in Shoa. The Asbo abbot Filippos criticized Amda-Siyon and Sayfa-Ar'ad for their polygamy; for this Filippos and others were flogged and exiled, stimulating many monks to move into the highlands. Monastery leaders were elected democratically and managed considerable property as they grew.

A second monastic movement was led by Ewostatewos, who encouraged his students to produce their own food; he prohibited accepting gifts from the wealthy or those in authority. He denounced the slave trade some Christian chiefs practiced, and he urged people to follow the teachings of Christ, refusing to deal with those who would not. He insisted on observing the Sabbath and eventually went to Palestine, Cypress, and Armenia, where he died in 1352. Followers of Ewostatewos were excommunicated by Egyptian bishops in Ethiopia and in fleeing persecution spread to the frontiers; their main monastery in the Eritrean plateau was founded in 1390. Conflicts between the two monastic groups finally led Zara Yakob in 1450 to call a council, which managed to resolve the differences by accepting the Sabbath. Zara Yakob sent a letter to Egyptian sultan Jakmak protesting the demolition of the Coptic church of Mitmak, and not liking the reply, he detained an Egyptian diplomat for four years; he even formed a relationship with Rome; he also instituted an inquisition against heresy that killed innocent people falsely accused.

Thriving Mogadishu had a mosque in the 13th century and supported Adal's efforts against Christian Ethiopia a century later; by then the people in Mombasa and Kilwa were staunchly Muslim. Based on Bantu with strong Arabic influences, Swahili was the main language in East Africa. The Book of the Zanj tells how Arab merchants had a Zanj patron (sahib), who with his tribe would support them in disputes with another Zanj. If an Arab stole Zanj goods, the debt was paid by taking goods of another Arab. In the region of the great lakes the Kitara empire was established by the warrior king Ndahura and his son Wamara in the 14th century. However, a famine followed by a plague that devastated cattle spread dissatisfaction, and Wamara's military commander Kagoro massacred the Bachwezi, ending their empire. By the 15th century the ports of Sofala and Kilwa were becoming prosperous trading ivory and gold for Arab, Indian, and Chinese goods.

Bantu flourished in the Congo and crossed south of the Limpopo by the 11th century. In the 14th century Zimbabwe culture south of the Zambesi was governed by the Mbire, Bantus from the Lake Tanganyika area who revitalized the Shona kingdom. Although about 1425 Karanga king Mutota attempted to conquer the plateau between the Zambesi and the Limpopo, usually the spread of the Bantu seems to have been based on their knowledge of working iron more than on military conquest. A village chief with a council of elders usually governed. Spiritual beliefs and respect for ancestors helped sustain traditions and strengthen sanctions. Kikuyu entered the eastern highlands during the 13th and 14th centuries. Family, clan, community, and age group were important to the Kikuyu. District councils of elders were formed, and from these were chosen a national council. Group discussion and public opinion made government responsive.

In the forests of West Africa farmers and some pastoralists, like the Ibo and Tiv, had egalitarian societies based on family kinship and tribes that were free of tribute, tax, and rent. Elders administered justice and communal activities in small groups. The Akan people were matrilineal but had a king with attending ministers. A council could remove the king, who might be obligated to commit suicide; they could stop the king from going to war if they believed it was unjust. Wolof and Serer kings of Senegambia were elected by the nobility but were considered divine and had more power, appointing local chiefs to collect taxes. Women could hold powerful positions, and in Walo could even be chief of state. Wolof and Serer societies were very hierarchical with defined classes of royalty, nobility, warriors, peasants, servants, and many slaves, some of whom held privileged positions, even advising the king. Society was also graded by age, and secret societies enforced customs and standards of behavior, promoting virtue in women and honor among men. Kola nuts were chewed as a stimulant and were often given in friendship. The art of Ife indicated it was an important center in the 11th century. Oyo was the primary state of those later called the Yoruba people. The Oyo king had to work with the council representing seven wards or face suicide. The secret society of the Ogboni was a check on the council. Tradition held that the Benin line of kings to the east was started by an Oyo king about the 14th century.

Use of camels began about the first century CE and made crossing the Sahara practical as North Africans traded salt and other goods to the Sudan for gold and slaves. Starting in the 7th century, Islam gradually spread in Africa. Early Muslim travelers were astonished at the liberty the African women enjoyed. In Walata though devout, their beauty was far from veiled, and they could take lovers as they pleased. In the many matrilineal societies kings were succeeded by a son of a sister.

In 772 CE al-Fazari in Baghdad called Ghana the land of gold. Ghana's kings controlled the Wangara gold and competed with the Sanhaja Berbers, who had Awdaghost until Sanhaja strife enabled the Soninke of Ghana to capture that city in 990. The city of Kumbi Saleh became a commercial and intellectual center in the Sudan. Legends told of this region anciently called Wagadu, of which Kumbi was the capital, said that Wagadu was blessed with much gold that was replenished annually thanks to a snake that guarded the kingdom. Every year they sacrificed a virgin to the snake until the year a lover of the chosen virgin killed the snake. The dying snake cursed Wagadu, causing the land to dry up and the gold to cease there and move to the upper Niger River area.

In 1036 Juddala chief Yahya b. Ibrahim went on pilgrimage to Mecca; learning more about Islam from jurist Abu 'Imran al-Fasi in Kairouan, he asked for a teacher to be sent. The controversial 'Abd Allah ibn Yasin brought Sunni doctrine to the Sanhaja in Juddala, had dogs killed so that they would not be eaten anymore, abolished illegal taxes, and distributed booty according to Islamic law. Ibn Yasin lived an ascetic life and taught repentance and purification; however, his extremism led to his being expelled from Juddala. Ibn Yasin's retreat from a resisting society was compared to the hijra of Muhammad. He gathered a following inspired by his teachings and united the larger Juddala and Lamtuna tribes with other Sanhaja tribes of the Sahara through holy war (jihad) in the Almoravid movement. Lamtuna chief Yahya b. 'Umar was appointed military commander (amir), submitted to ibn Yasin and was even flogged for an unstated sin.

Ghana's rulers maintained their ancestral religion and resisted Islam. Aroused by the puritanical Almoravid sect, the Sanhaja recaptured Awdaghost in 1055. The next year the first Sudanese kingdom to convert to Islam, Takrur, aided the Almoravids against the Juddala, who had withdrawn from the movement. Yahya b. 'Umar was killed, and according to al-Bakri the Almoravids made no more attempts against the Juddala. A request from Sijilmasa led ibn Yasin and the Almoravids to conquer the Maghrib, and eventually they invaded Spain. In 1068 al-Bakri wrote that Ghana king Tunka Menin had great power and was respected for his love of justice and kind treatment of Muslims. Kumbi fell to the Almoravids in 1076, and many were forced to convert. Almoravid military leader Abu-Bakr b. 'Umar, whom Mauritanian oral traditions held responsible for dispossession of the blacks in the Sahara by the Berber nomads, was killed in Tagant in 1087. Plundered and with its trade disrupted, Ghana declined and was finally destroyed in 1203 when Soso chief Sumaguru Kante of the Kaniaga, which had been a vassal state of Ghana, sacked Kumbi.

Sumaguru also conquered the Mandinkas to the south by the upper Niger and put to death all the ruler's sons except a cripple named Sundiata, who raised a guerrilla army and eventually defeated and killed Sumaguru in 1235. In a few years the Mandinkas took over what had been Ghana and controlled the gold trade from Wangara. Though essentially an agricultural community, this kingdom of Mali also traded the Saharan salt of Taghaza and copper of Takedda, as Jenne and Timbuktu became commercial centers. Sundiata was succeeded in 1255 by his son Wali, who went on pilgrimage to Mecca; during his 15-year rule the Mali kingdom included Songhai. Wali was succeeded by two brothers; the second, Khalifa, having killed people with arrows for sport, was deposed and killed. During these troubles Songhai became an independent kingdom under 'Ali Kolon. Incompetent Mali kings were controlled by court officers, though a freed slave named Sakura usurped the throne in 1285 and expanded his power with his Mandingo army so that by the end of the 13th century Mali sovereignty stretched from Takrur in the west to Goa and Songhai in the east. Sakura died on his way back from Mecca, and the legitimate line resumed.

The Mali kingdom was divided into three provinces with many local chiefs. Sons of vassal kings were often held hostage at court, and local chiefs ruled under appointed governors. Farming, the army, and administration depended on serfs and slaves, though some slaves could become officials, even a provincial governor. The cavalry consisted of free men; horses were expensive and were often purchased with slaves. Property was respected so much that when a foreigner died in Mali, the property remained until the heir was sent for to recover it, according to Ibn-Battuta. This Arab traveler also complained that female servants and slaves in the court were naked. In the late 14th century nomadic Arabs came in to the western Sahara and raided caravans so much that trade shifted to Timbuktu in the east.

Mali king Mansa Musa (r. 1312-1337) was celebrated by Muslim historians for making a famous pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324; his spending about 30,000 pounds of gold in Cairo depreciated the precious metal there. In choosing between gold production or proselytizing the Muslim faith in Wangara, Musa abandoned the latter. Timbuktu was pillaged and reduced to ruin by the Mossi in 1329. Musa broke tradition by leaving the kingdom to his son instead of the oldest male in the family, Sulayman, who took the throne four years later. Ibn Battuta visited Mali in 1353 and noted a failed plot to overthrow the king. After Sulyman's death there was a civil war over the succession, won by Mari-Djata II, who ruled so oppressively from 1360 to 1374 he depleted the treasury and almost ruined the kingdom. In the next reign the chief minister carried out military expeditions against rebellions in Goa and beyond. In the fifteenth century Mali's royal power declined, as the Mossi raided the subject state of Macina. The Songhai royal house at Gao on the Niger River had converted to Islam by the 11th century; in the 14th century the Sonni dynasty gained strength and in 1420 Songhai's Sonni ruler Muhammad Da'o raided Mali territory. In 1433 the Tuareg chief Akilu-ag-Malwal occupied Timbuktu and Walata, and in 1450 Macina became independent.

East of Ghana, the Kanuri Sefawa dynasty was established in Kanem about the 9th century and lasted a millennium. Gao king Kossoi became a Muslim in 1010 but did not change his court ceremonies. About 1085 the second Sefawa king, Dunama b. Hummay, was converted to Islam; he made two pilgrimages to Mecca and died on a third. In the first half of the 13th century under Dunama Dibalami they expanded from east of Lake Chad to the north to take Kawar and the Fezzan and west to include Bornu, establishing the first Kanuri empire by military forces that included 41,000 horses. At the end of this century King Ibrahim Nikale killed one of his sons and was assassinated. A civil war in the next reign lost the Fezzan, where a Banu Nasur dynasty lasted a century before it was destroyed by Arabs from the Maghrib. In the early 14th century four Kanuri kings, all sons of 'Abd Allah b. Kaday, were killed fighting the So, though Idris b. Ibrahim Nikale managed to get along with the Bornu people and ruled for about 25 years. The second half of the century was filled with wars against the pastoral Bulala, again killing four Kanem kings in a row and forcing the next Mai (divine king) Umar Ibn Idris to move the capital to Bornu west of Lake Chad. In 1391 Mai Bir d. Idris complained to the Egyptian sultan Barquq of Arab raids on his Kanem people, but he ruled a third of a century. In the 15th century the Kanuri revived in a second empire.

By the 15th century the most powerful states in the Hausaland were Katsina, Kano, Zazzau, and Gobir. Some political history of Kano survived in "The Song of Bagauda." Population increased in this fertile land as others suffering famine migrated to Kano. Larger territory was conquered by a series of kings called sarki. Gijimasu (r. 1095-1134) established the city of Kano, and his son Tsaraki (r. 1136-1194) subdued most of the chiefdoms in the area except Santolo. Muslims helped Yaji (r. 1349-1385) conquer the Santolo and destroy its religious center of traditional sacrifices. The 15th sarki Kananeji (r. 1390-1410) using horse armor, iron helmets, and coats of chain-mail invaded and occupied Zazzau. The wealthy warchief Dauda (r. 1421-1438) brought a more sophisticated administration with Bornu titles.

In 1444 a company was set up in Lagos, Portugal to exploit the African slave trade, and two years later Portuguese explorers arrived in western Malinke.


Although they did not use the wheel, metal tools, horses, money, or alphabetic writing, the people in the western hemisphere developed prosperous civilization. In central Mexico by 300 CE the city of Teotihuacan had about 80,000 people. Raids and small wars resulted in captured warriors being ritually sacrificed. Teotihuacan would be a leading power for the next five centuries, though building slowed about 550. Urban dwellers lived as families in large apartment compounds. Obsidian was used for tools and traded. Metals were not used in Mesoamerica until after 800 CE; then gold and silver came from the south. Alloys were not popular until the 13th century. A great goddess was the primary deity in Teotihuacan, though there was also a storm god and the feathered serpent that was to become famous as Quetzalcoatl. Art did not depict human individuals until later during the decline. Much of Teotihuacan was smashed and burned in a major fire about 750. Since foreigners were probably not involved, this was likely a revolution against the ruling elite. Zapatec people in the Oaxaca valley, who seemed to have co-existed peacefully with Teotihuacan for so long, also ended centralized government by 900.

In what is now southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, the Mayan populations in the first centuries CE increased and began building monumental temples and tombs. Those at Kaminalijuyu controlled obsidian and jade and dominated the southern area. Others at Nakbe and El Mirador controlled local resources and trade. Powerful hereditary rulers emerged who commemorated their deeds in dated hieroglyphic sculptures. In the third century CE the city of Tikal began building large pyramids. In 378 Great Jaguar Paw recorded the conquest of Uaxactun, where the warrior Smoking Frog was put in charge. Symbols of war and sacrifice were adopted from Teotihuacan icons, and wars were timed according to the planet Venus. The Mayans excelled in mathematics and astronomy; their calendar was extremely accurate. In the late 5th century Kan Boar's portraits abandoned the war and captive motifs of his predecessor Stormy Sky, and Tikal seemed to prosper with some social mobility. However, they were defeated in a war led by Caracol ruler Lord Water in 562. Caracol waged wars for more than a century, also timing their battles to the movements of the planet Venus. Caracol's Lord Kan II claimed to defeat and sacrifice Naranjo captives in 631.

From the mid-7th century until the decline, two centuries of wars occurred as massive fortifications were erected. A Tikal prince founded Dos Pilas about 640, but later he defeated Tikal in two wars. The 25th ruler of Tikal, Shield Skull, was captured and sacrificed by this first Petexbatun ruler in 679 according to the hieroglyphics at Dos Pilas. The second Petexbatun ruler Shield God K (r. 698-727) expanded his kingdom by military force in the southwestern lowlands, while Naranjo's Smoking Squirrel raided the Yaxha region in 710. The third Petexbatun ruler in 735 portrayed the Seibal king beneath his feet and married a princess from Cancuen. Petexbatun power, which controlled the largest lowland Mayan kingdom ever, was suddenly curtailed in 760 when the 4th king after ruling twenty years was captured and sacrificed at Tamarindito, and the capital at Dos Pilas was overcome. The kingdom broke up into warring chiefdoms for a half century, and then the area was abandoned. At Bonampak wall paintings depicted bloody sacrifices of nine captives.

To the west of Petexbatun, Yaxchilan managed to weather a conflict with Copan in 653 and with Palenque the next year as 6 Tun Bird Jaguar ruled for half a century until 681; his son Shield Jaguar II ruled Yaxchilan from then to 742, claiming to have captured five places. Palenque king Pacal reigned from 615 to 683 and only recorded one war in 659 with Yaxchilan. His son Chan-Bahlum (r. 684-702) continued his father's building, as did another son, Kan Xul II (r. 702-725), who was captured in 711 raiding his southern neighbor Tonina. However, Palenque was one of the first cities to collapse, as its last date was recorded in 799. Tikal demonstrated revitalized power in 695 when its 26th ruler Ah Cacau claimed to capture Jaguar Paw of Calakmul. After a reign of half a century Ah Cacau was succeeded by his son in 734; but the power of Tikal gradually declined, and 889 was the last date they recorded. Yaxchilan king Shield Jaguar III recorded several conquests in the last five years of the 8th century, but the last date recorded at Yaxchilan was 808.

In the southeast (Honduras) the people of Copan expanded their territory during the long reigns of Butz Chan (578-628) and Smoke Imix (628-695). Great Capan building was continued by 18 Jog (Rabbit); but he was captured and sacrificed in 738 by Quirigua ruler Cauac Sky, who celebrated their increased power by inaugurating a century of building. Copan declined, and its last monument was dated 822. Quirigua's power seems to have been more suddenly eclipsed by occupation, and their last record was in 810. Most of the Mayan cities in the southern and central lowlands declined during the 9th century, and the last known inscriptions of Palenque and Piedras Negras, like those of Yaxchilan, related to military issues. Numerous causes for the decline have been suggested, such as disease, overpopulation, ecological disasters, revolutions, fatalism, wars, conquest by the Putun Maya, and trade isolation. Probably it was some combination of these factors. Yet it can also be argued that the end of the period of massive architecture and inscriptions glorifying their rulers did not mean the end of Mayan civilization but merely the end of an era in which a powerful elite ruled large numbers of peasants. When the large kingdoms broke up, social mobility became more possible.

In the 9th century Seibal was invaded by Putun and Itza Mayans. The Itza Maya began their domination in the northern Yucatan peninsula when, led by a Chontal Mayan named Kakupacal, they occupied Chichen Itza in 850. Kakupacal and others expanded the Itza realm by force and trade. Most of their building was in the late 9th century, but their capital at Chichen Itza thrived until about 1200. In the west the Puuc city of Uxmal was prominent; the Puuc built many causeways between their communities. In the east Coba maintained its independence from Itza incursions and was connected to Yaxuna by a causeway of 100 kilometers. The Itza were driven from the Yucatan area by the Mayapan ruler Hunac Ceel about 1221. Mayapan did without ball courts, sacrifices, sweat baths, and had few religious buildings, as the upper class dealt with commerce. The Cocom dynasty was massacred as Mayapan was destroyed in a revolt led by Ah Xupan Xiu in 1441. The Quiché Maya left the chronicle, Popol Vuh, which recounted their migration to the north led by Balam Quitze and their conquest of the Pokomam Maya in the east in the 13th century. Quiché expanded in the next century and reached their maximum power in the mid-15th century.

Most archaeologists agree that the Mayans were governed by an elite class. When rivals or enemies from the elite were captured, they were often sacrificed, while most prisoners were probably made slaves, servants, or laborers. Orphans gained by purchase or kidnapping were also used for human sacrifice; slaves were bought and sold. Ceremonies and a ball game played on a court with a rubber ball were very important to the Mayans. According to Spanish missionary Las Casas, men retired to a special building, and while separated from their wives they fasted and made daily offerings of their blood for up to a hundred days prior to a major festival. The priesthood, like the rulers, was headed by a hereditary elite family, which directed the sun priests, diviners, and seers whose visions were induced by peyote. Others assisted in the human sacrifices that cut out the heart of the victim. Such sacrifices were probably not performed as often as the Aztecs later did. Mayan rituals often focused on the sacred corn (maize).

Later Mayan hunters would pray for understanding before they would take life or disrupt the forests. These attitudes may have long endured and might have been learned from the hard experiences during the decline after population had increased. Later Mayans, like the Mexican Itza, and the Spanish were criticized in the Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel for having lost their innocence in carnal sins, causing lack of judgment, bad luck, and sickness. The great teachings of heaven and earth had been lost. Before these came, this author claimed there was no robbery, greed, tribute, nor violent strife.

Popol Vuh, the Maya Quiché book of counsel containing creation stories and legends probably developed over centuries, was written down in a Roman alphabet by 1558. The earth is formed from sky and sea by Maker, Modeler, Bearer, Begetter, Heart of the Lake, Heart of the Sea, and Sovereign Plumed Serpent in discussion with Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth, Newborn Thunderbolt, Sudden Thunderbolt, and Hurricane. They sow the earth with seeds that sprout, and their first try produces animals that squawk, chatter, and howl. The second attempt to create humans fails when they dissolve without reproducing. Then they consult the grandmothers Xpiyacoc and Xmucane, a divine matchmaker and a divine midwife. The next people have no hearts and minds and are destroyed in a flood and abused by killer bats and jaguars; for having eaten animals these people are eaten. Their descendants are the monkeys. The second part of Popol Vuh tells how the two divine boys Hunahpu and Xbalanque defeat and destroy Seven Macaw and his two sons, a maker of mountains (Zipacna) and Earthquake, because of their self-magnification and in revenge for 400 boys Zipacna killed.

In the third part ball playing offends the lords of the underworld at Xibalba; so One and Seven Hunahpu journey there to play One and Seven Death. They face several tricks, traps, and tests, and they are buried at the Ball Game Sacrifice; but the head of One Hunahpu causes a calabash tree to bear fruit. Blood Moon becomes pregnant by his skull and escapes sacrifice, returning to Xmucane on earth to give birth to Hunahpu and Xbalanque. They learn how to overcome the animals that prevent clearing the forest for gardening. Rat helps them find the ball game equipment, and they too are challenged to play at Xibalba. Before they leave, Hunahpu and Xbalanque plant corn as a sign of their death and rebirth. The heroic twins overcome the tricks of Xibalba with the help of mosquito; they lose the game, but ants get them the flowers they wagered. They endure more tests, but a bat cuts off Hunahpu's head, which is replaced by a squash. Playing ball with Hunahpu's head, they knock it out of the court, and a rabbit helps them switch it with a squash. Hunahpu and Xbalanque are ground up and reborn again and finally get the Xibalbans to limit their attacks on humans to those with weaknesses or guilt.

Meanwhile Xmucane mourns the death of the corn and rejoices when it sprouts again. With the corn flour Xmucane makes the first real humans - Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Not Right Now, and Dark Jaguar, the ancestors of the Quiché people. At first they have complete vision and perfect understanding, but Heart of Sky fogs up their vision so they can only see clearly what is close; they are given beautiful wives, and they multiply. They get fire from Tohil, but he and two other gods are turned to stone when the sun rises for the first time; now the gods can only speak to them in spirit form. Followers of these gods try to appease them by abducting people, sacrificing them, and rolling their heads onto the roads. So the Quiché send two radiant maidens to seduce their three boys. This fails, and the enemy tribes prepare for war. The Quichés are victorious and force the tribes to pay tribute regularly. Rebellions that occur are defeated, and victims are sacrificed. The Quiché king takes the title of Plumed Serpent, and the capital at Rotten Cane has three great pyramids and 23 palaces. Religious retreats involve fruit fasts lasting from 180 to 340 days. Wars occur, ending in tribute, and the lineage is recounted up to the Spanish period.

Toltecs and Aztecs

In the central highlands of Mexico the Toltecs were dominant from the 10th to the 12th century with their major city at Tula. Itzas arrived at Chichén about 918, and Toltec Chichén was not destroyed until about 1250. A Mixtec legend tells of a ruler named Eight-Deer Ocelot-Claw, who succeeded his father as king of Tilantongo at age 19 in 1030, won several battles, married many wives and sired numerous children, went to Tula, and tried to set up a bureaucratic empire at Tutupec by uniting it with Mixteca Alta and Baja. Eight-Deer had the men of the royal families he conquered sacrificed, and he or his sons married their widows and daughters. When the ruler of Xipe-Bundle died in 1047, Eight-Deer was concerned that some of his relatives would try to rule the city. So he allied himself with the Toltec Four-Tiger and sacrificed his half-brother Twelve-Earthquake. However, his little empire soon failed, and in 1063 Eight-Deer was defeated, captured and sacrificed.

Toltec legends tell of Quetzalcoatl incarnating as Ce Acatl Topiltzin, son of the Chichimec leader Ce Tecpatl Mixcoatl, who ruled Culhuacan 1122-1150. Three years after his father died, Topiltzin went to Tula and claimed the title of Quetzalcoatl as a divine king. Art, metalwork, and crafts thrived, and everyone prospered. According to Mendieta, Quetzalcoatl did not sacrifice men or animals, and he prohibited war and violence. Tula had a population of about 120,000. The Annals of Cuauhtitlan told how the wizards tried to trick Quetzalcoatl into offering human sacrifices; but he never did it, because he loved the Toltec people. This angered the magicians, and they began to mock him. By tricks and evil deeds (inspired by the evil god Tezcatlipoca) Huemac humiliated Quetzalcoatl, who fled Tula and set himself on fire to become the morning star (Venus). Huemac was also forced to flee and died in Chapultepec. Though different versions varied, these legends probably commemorated the fall of Tula in about 1175. In most accounts Huemac fledl to Cincalco, where he committed suicide in 1178. The Aztecs used the word toltec to refer to a skilled artisan, and Aztec pottery was found in the ceremonial centers destroyed at Tula; but who actually destroyed Tula is unknown.

After the fall of Tula, the Toltec decline was gradual. For two centuries the basin of Mexico was ruled by various Mexica groups and Chichimecs (Dog People), who invaded the Toltecs from the northwest after their defenses were removed. Chichimec leader Xolotl settled at Tenayuca about 1201 and then made Texcoco a capital. Xolotl's son Nopaltzin killed Topiltzin's grandson Nauhyotl, the ruler of Culhuacan, possibly in 1248. Tochintecuhtli and Huetzin seem to have established a kingdom, and the latter was succeeded by Nonoalcatl in 1272. A Tarascan empire was planned by Tariacuri in Tzintzuntzan, where a king would rule guided by the deity Curcaueri; worship of any other patron deity was a capital crime. The gods were given credit for victories in war but did not justify them; wars were not fought for sacrifices, although captives were sacrificed. Tarascans tried to capture the salt deposits at Ixtapan from the Aztecs. The Aztecs also went to war for economic purposes. Aztecs appointed local administrators, but the Tarascan dynasty did not share power. Aztec legends begin with the Mexica migrating for two centuries after being originally from Aztlan. Their warlike hummingbird god (Huitzilopochtli) symbolized the spirits of fallen warriors. By the end of the 13th century they had settled in Chapultepec.

Aztec legends begin with the Mexica migrating for two centuries after being originally from Aztlan. Their warlike hummingbird god (Huitzilopochtli) symbolized the spirits of fallen warriors. By the end of the 13th century they had settled in Chapultepec; but they were driven from there about 1315 by Copil, the son of Huitzilopochtli's sister, whom they had previously abandoned. They soon returned, but four years later they were attacked by a coalition that probably included the Tepanecs; the Mexica ruler Huitzilihuitl was sacrificed in Culhuacan, and they settled just west of there at Tizaapan. The Mexica traded with the Culhuacans and treated them like brothers, intermarrying and becoming Culhua Mexica. Aiding Culhuacan in a war against Xochimilco, they were ordered to take no prisoners and cut their ears off.

After being vassals to the Tepanecs of Azcapotzalco in the late 13th century, the Aztec Mexica went south and according to legend settled in a swampy area where an eagle sat on a cactus with a serpent in its beak, though Mexica had lived there for centuries. Tenochtitlan was founded in 1345 and Tlatelolco in 1358; the two cities became rivals. While being ruled by their first king, Acamapichtli (r. 1372-1391), the Mexica served as mercenaries for Tepanec king Tezozomoc (r. 1371-1426), helping them to conquer Tenayuca and Culhuacan. The Tepanec empire collected tribute from the Mexica as well as from others. The closest relatives of the late king selected the next Mexica king - Acamapichtli's son Huitzilihuitl (r. 1391-1417), who was allowed to marry Tezozomoc's granddaughter. The Mexica helped the Tepanecs conquer Tlaxcala in 1395 and were given some of the acquired lands. Three years later they invaded Cuauhtinchan, and in 1411 the Mexica grabbed Chalco but had to give it up to a coalition that included the Tepanecs. Huitzilihuitl died about 1417 and was succeeded by his son Chimalpopoca.

Water at Tenochtitlan was becoming polluted, and an aqueduct was built from Chapultepec. Conflict over the building materials was said to have caused the death of Tezozomoc in 1426. Meanwhile Ixtlilxochitl had become king of Texcoco in 1409; after refusing to have Texcoco make cotton into mantles for the Tepanecs, he claimed to be emperor of the Chichimecs. Ixtlilxochitl further aggravated the Tepanecs by rejecting Tezozomoc's daughter and marrying the sister of Chimalpopoca. Tezozomoc attacked Texcoco in 1415 but was repulsed and was later besieged at Azcapotzalco for several months. The skillful Tezozomoc managed to gain Chalco and Otumba as allies and together they attacked Texcoco and killed Ixtlilxochitl in 1418. Control of Texcoco was given to the Mexica, but most of the tribute went to the Tepanecs. Ixtlilxochitl's 16-year-old son Nezahualcoyotl with his friend Coyohua managed to survive and lived in Tenochtitlan for a while; the prince was allowed to return to Texcoco in 1424. Tezozomoc tried to get Coyohua to kill his master, but he refused.

Tezozomoc died in 1426 and was given an elaborate funeral. He had chosen his son Tayauh to be the next king, and he was supported by the Mexica. Chimalpopoca's advice to Tayauh to kill his brother Maxtla was overheard. Maxtla then used the same trick to kill Tayauh, and he had Chimalpopoca captured and killed in Tenochtitlan; his killers also tracked down and murdered Tlatelolco ruler Tlacateotl. This story may have been Aztec propaganda to cover up the more probable version that Itzcoatl arranged for Tepanecs from Tacuba to kill Chimalpopoca. Nezahualcoyotl came to Tezozomoc's funeral, but was protected by the occasion from Maxtla, who appointed a bastard brother of Nezahualcoyotl to rule Texcoco; but this young man's treacherous plot against Nezahualcoyotl failed.

Itzcoatl was the brother of Huitzilihuitl and became Mexica king in 1426. He was greatly aided by his nephews Moctezuma and Tlacaelel. As a diplomat Tlacaelel courageously went to Azcapotzalco. Maxtla claimed his Tepanec people were hostile to the Mexica, and war was ritually declared. Tlacaelel managed to escape the Tepanecs and return to Tenochtitlan. There the nobles and warriors were ready to fight, but the common people wanted peace. The lords promised to sacrifice themselves if they lost, and the people agreed to serve them and pay tribute if they won, according to Aztec history.

Persecuted by the Tepanecs, Nezahualcoyotl joined Itzcoatl in an alliance against them. Maxtla had also alienated Cuauhtitlan by his cruel treatment and transfered the slave-dealing center from there to Azcapotzalco. Moctezuma went to Chalco to gain their help; but having been at war with the Mexica for so long, they imprisoned him. He escaped and went on to Huexotzingo, where Cuauhtitlan accounts of Maxtla's excesses so enraged them that they murdered the Tepanec envoys. Huexotzingo and Tlaxcala also helped Nezahualcoyotl regain much of his realm at Texcoco, and together they attacked Azcapotzalco, forcing Maxtla to give up his siege of Tenochtitlan which enabled Moctezuma to take Tacuba. The allies besieged Azcapotzalco for 114 days until the Tepanec general Mazatl was wounded, and his army fled. The unpopular tyrant Maxtla was captured and sacrificed by Nezahualcoyotl. Most of the land went to the nobles and the warriors rather than the people of the clans, who all together only got as much as Tlacaelel and Moctezuma.

The lands of the Aztec nobles were farmed by serfs. The state had some lands to supply the government. Some communal lands were farmed by freemen, who had to pay tribute. The Aztec king had about four close relatives of important influence but also a larger council of a dozen or so nobles. Warriors were rewarded for their services. Priests were influential nobles who educated other nobles; others were only given military training. Judges and officials were supposed by the historian Sahagun to be impartial, but merchants had privileges and their own lawcourts. The common people were not allowed to wear fine cotton clothes, jewelry, or partake of certain foods and drinks such as cocoa; no one was supposed to drink alcohol much until they were past fifty. People could become enslaved for crimes or be sold into it for debt; apparently most war captives were sacrificed. Slavery was not hereditary, though the poor or starving might sell their children.

Ancient words of advice by Aztec nobles to their children indicate they were motivated by a strong sense of honor and disdained to engage in common trade. They were urged to be clean and pure, and women could avoid poverty by spinning and weaving. Chastity and fidelity to one mate were encouraged, though two or three young men might share a paramour before they were married. Kings and nobles often had more than one wife. Everyone was admonished not to be vain, proud, and praise themselves, which provoke the anger of the Near and Close Lord. Rather one should bow one's head and be truly meek and humble, because the Lord knows one's heart and sees within us what we merit. The ideal was to be pure of vice and filth, and it was considered a blessing to die in war.

All the nobles were educated to be priests in the calmecac (school); the rich could get their sons in with gifts, and it was said those with poor gifts were not excluded. The youths slept in the calmecac, and discipline was strict. Serious offenses like being with a woman or drinking could be punished by death, and minor sins, like not awaking to pray at midnight, were purged with bloodletting. During fasts they got only water and plain corn-cakes once a day either at noon or midnight. Verbal discourse was valued, and songs were studied from books. According to writings inscribed during the Spanish period, priests were expected to be chaste, truthful, moderate, and devout. They also claimed that the chief priest called Quetzalcoatl was not selected by lineage but for being the best person with the purest and most compassionate heart.

Tlacaelel served three Aztec kings as cihuacoatl (snake woman); he was an able administrator but may have overseen the book burning under Itzcoatl intended to erase their humiliating Tepanec history. Though Nezahuacoyotl participated in the massacre of Azcapotzalco and the taking of other cities, he went on to codify the laws of Texcoco and oversee construction of dams and canals that greatly enhanced agriculture, and gave prizes in the arts, crafts, music, and poetry. Nezahuacoyotl wrote poetry about human mortality in this world and immortality in the next; yet he believed songs would last. He felt alone and empty of wisdom but praised the Giver of Life who distributes truth and brings joy. Aztec artists were inspired by the Toltecs, whom they admired. A good feather artist, for example, should be skillful, a master of oneself, and it was his duty to humanize the desires of the people; but a bad artist ignores how things look, is greedy, and scorns other people. A good painter is wise; God is in his heart, and he puts divinity into things and converses with his own heart.

Itzcoatl initiated the Aztec empire by conquering Coyoacan, Xochimilco, Cuitlahuac, and the remaining towns in the valley of Mexico. After conquering Cuernavaca, Itzcoatl died in 1440, and Moctezuma I was elected king. Moctezuma I expanded the Aztec empire to the Gulf coast, and he organized botanical and zoological gardens. He had visited Chalca before he was king; but when they captured and killed two sons of Nezahualcoyotl and prepared for war, the Aztecs mobilized every man and boy in 1444. The final battle was fought on the feast day of the Chalca god Camaxtli so that they would have victims to sacrifice. The victorious Aztecs took 500 prisoners and sacrificed them. The long war with the Chalca was suspended when the Aztecs suffered a great famine.

A plague of locusts had devoured crops in 1446, and floods caused devastation three years later. The bad harvest in 1450 was followed by two years in which frosts destroyed the corn and a year of drought so that in 1454 there was no seed to sow. Famine became extreme as people sold themselves and their children into slavery to people along the coast; many died of hunger. With a new 52-year cycle rains came in 1455; but the Aztec imperial system had broken down, and in superstitious desperation they increased the number of human sacrifices; Moctezuma I and his brother Tlacaelel even planned so-called "wars of flowers" with the Tlaxcala and Huexotzingo for the purpose of getting more victims.


Many cultures prospered in the Andes regions long before the Inca empire rose to power. The Mochica developed a thriving culture in the first six centuries CE along the northern coast, building aqueducts and canals in every valley and large pyramids at Moche to the sun and moon. Their artisans pioneered working gold, silver, copper, and their alloys in the new world. Great differences in their houses and clothes indicate a stratified society. Warriors were honored, and women were only depicted in domestic tasks. Along the southern coast the Nazca seemed to be more peaceful and egalitarian, living in smaller villages with similar accommodations. Their religion respected the ancestors but seemed to be more individual than collective worship. The Nazca produced the immense line drawings of a spider and hummingbird in the barren plains that can be seen in their entirety only from the sky. On the central coast Tiwanaku and Huari cultures developed. Artistic icons of puma heads with tears indicate that their religion somehow replaced the Nazca culture and spread throughout the Andes area (except to Cuzco), providing a transition from the Mochica to the Chimú. After 1000 CE the Chimú capital at Chanchan had 50,000 people, and every valley had an urban center with social classes.

Inca origins in the 13th century are explained by the legend of Manco Capac leading a migration to Cuzco, getting rid of his three brothers, and marrying his sister. According to Garcilaso, the second king Sinchi Roca drew tribes into the Inca empire by love rather than force and told his people to live in peace and that he would assist them when they were in need. Garcilaso and some chroniclers described the Inca empire expanding through the efforts of several kings; but if so, there must have been setbacks, because the eighth king Viracocha Inca was still fighting for nearby Chanca, Lupaca, and Colla with Cuzco besieged. Viracocha began the real imperial expansion by garrisoning conquered peoples and placing Inca officials over them. Viracocha wanted his son Urcon to succeed him, but the oldest son Inca Roca wanted the capable third son Cusi Inca Yupanqui to be the next ruler. The Colla attacked the Lupaca and were defeated by them. The Chanca had taken over the Inca neighbor Quechua and invaded Cuzco. Viracocha and Urcon barricaded themselves in the fortress; but Cusi Yupanqui with Roca led a heroic defense against the attacking Chanca. The Incas overcame the Chanca in several battles. When Viracocha died and Urcon became king, Cusi Yupanqui, refusing to recognize him, took the throne and the name Pachacuti in 1438.

Pachacuti leveled villages for six miles in every direction in order to build a large city at Cuzco. Pachacuti's armies began their conquest by killing the men of their nearby enemies. The surrounding mountains were taken over next. After the Chanca were subdued, a Chanca contingent led by Hancohuallu accompanied the Inca army under Pachacuti's brother and general Capac Yupanqui. They conquered Aimara, Umasuyu, Cotapampa, and Chilque. Above Huanco, the Chancas deserted and fled into the forest. Capac Yupanqui went beyond his orders in invading Cajamarca; even though he was successful there, when he returned to Cuzco, Pachacuti had him executed for disobedience and for allowing the Chancas to escape. Incas at this time began moving conquered people to regions with similar climates where they could adapt and be less rebellious, replacing them with obedient peasants. Next Pachacuti's army quelled revolts near Lake Titicaca encouraged by the Lupaca, whom they also crushed.

Pachacuti and his son Topa, who succeeded him in 1471, would go on to conquer the Chimú and expand the Inca empire greatly. Once local enemies were eliminated and Inca power became known, diplomatic means often were successful. Knowing they would be slaughtered if they resisted, leaders could maintain their positions under Inca governors. Pachacuti left behind several sayings criticizing envy, and he declared that judges who allowed a plaintiff to visit them in secret should be considered thieves and be punished with death.

Incas lived in clans called ayllu, were endogamous, patrilineal and did not have totems. Each family had their own land, but the ayllu worked communally, farming the sacred and state lands first and taking care of the land of widows and families of men in public service. Local chiefs were retained, but complete loyalty was to the Inca emperor, who was directly served by the most outstanding young men and women. The most beautiful girls were selected at age ten and educated for four years in spinning, weaving, and domestic tasks. Those not taken by the emperor or nobles as secondary wives were consecrated as "virgins of the sun." The sons of the nobles spent four years learning the Quechua language, Inca religion, arithmetic and record-keeping, and Inca history. Discipline was by caning, up to ten blows per day on the soles of the feet. Inca nobles related to the emperor governed each of the four quarters of the empire. Local leaders called curacas were hereditary chiefs over villages of a hundred men up to cities of ten thousand. Officers over smaller groups were appointed by their curaca, and their positions were not hereditary.

The state, headed by the emperor Inca and the nobles, dominated everyone; but they provided for all the needs of the people. The emperor was called the friend of the poor. Those in distress received food from state storehouses, even if they had just been defeated in war. The aged were given food from state warehouses if they drove birds away from the fields. The emperor's word was law, and judges were expected to follow royal edicts. Crime was rare; if it was motivated by some need, the official responsible for not meeting the need might be punished. Disputes between provinces were settled by royal envoys or by the emperor himself. Treason and disobedience of the emperor were punished with death along with murder, arson, theft from the state, desertion from the army or public service, and breaking into a convent. Only a governor or the emperor could decree a capital punishment, and a curaca who did so was punished. Nobles guilty of adultery were executed, but commoners were only tortured. The other punishment was to be sent to work on the hot coca plantations, which produced the leaves people chewed.

In addition to working the sacred and state lands, the common men also had to serve in the army or perform public works in mines or for bridges, roads, and buildings; the people also had to provide everything the army needed. These services replaced tax or tribute, since there was no money. Roads were so good that relay runners could move a message 150 miles per day, and stations with warehouses provided all the needs of the imperial army in which men from all regions served under Inca officers. Incas excelled in the making and decorating textiles.

The educated considered God the omniscient creator, and worship of the sun and the emperor as his son was spread throughout the empire. As there is only one sun, there was one emperor, and people taken into the empire were expected to worship the sun. A storm god was importuned for rain, and the moon goddess was important in periodic festivals. People in the highlands worshiped the earth goddess also, and those along the coast the sea goddess. Sins were confessed to priests, who took measures to make sure confessions were complete. Human sacrifice was rare among the Incas, and a girl so chosen was considered honored and blessed. Illness was thought a punishment for sin; healing was not only by magic but by using various herbs.

North America

Of about one hundred million people in the western hemisphere by the 15th century, probably less than ten million were spread out north of Mexico in villages, living tribally and close to nature, hunting, fishing, gathering food, and farming. Some larger communities developed in the Ohio river valley from the 1st century BC and built mounds there about the 5th century CE. As this culture declined, urban centers developed in the Mississippi river valley, building large mounds between 900 and 1100; their methods of using flint hoes and corn spread east and north. In the northeast by the 13th century the Iroquois lived in longhouses, and Algonquins also had strong tribal loyalties that often resulted in wars for hunting territory, raiding property, revenge, or personal glory.

In the southwest in the 12th century the Mogollon and Hohokam cultures were influenced by the Anasazi from the north. About 1400 the Hohokam, who had been influenced by Mexican culture, migrated out of the area probably to the south. Over the centuries the Anasazi were also influenced by the Mogollon and in the 8th century began building houses above ground and developed into the Pueblo culture. In the 12th and 13th centuries the Pueblo lived in large communal houses, but at the end of that period they moved south from centers like Mesa Verde. In what is now New Mexico and Arizona the Hopi and Zuni thrived until another withdrawal occurred after the middle of the 15th century. Hopi means peaceful, and they lived communally, emphasizing spiritual principles and the social group rather than individual prominence. Councils of priests made decisions, and warriors acted as police and only for defense. Gradually more war-like Apaches and Navajos led by chiefs moved into the area from the north and raided Pueblo towns.

Copyright © 1998 by Sanderson Beck

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