5) American Civs

Chichen Itza

View from just inside the ball court in Chichen Itza looking toward the Pyramid. (From my personal files)

Many history classes have a tendency to get caught spending far too much time covering European history at the expense of other civilizations. Among the civilizations that get short changed in this process are the civilizations of the Americas. This chapter covers the civilizations of the Americas prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. We cover the rise of each of the three major civilizations of the area at the time (Aztec, Inca, Maya) as well as a handful of other civilizations that often get left out of the conversation. A great deal of time is taken to explain the differences between the "New World" and the "Old World" in terms of culture and technology. This allows the students a better understanding of dynamics of conquest in the next unit. Lastly, we cover the old thought processes of American cultures being less advanced or inferior to the the cultures of the "Old World." While this is partially true, the truth is far more complex than people talk about in usual conversations. 

This chapter is one that I am still in the process of developing from the content I have in other formats. Until I am able to make this a Web-based content structure (like that of Ch. 11) I have provided a link below to my class notes. This is only accessible to students in my course, but this will change soon.

Essential Questions

  1. Can you think of anyone who was more important to the history of the Americas than Tlacaelel I during this time period? Why or why not?
  2. In what ways were Inca leaders treated differently than their counterparts in the Americas?
  3. Is the name “noble savage” an inadequate way to describe the people of the Americas prior to Columbus? Why or why not?
  4. What were the specific practices and justifications for Mesoamerican sacrifice rituals?

Chapter Resources

Chapter Notes

Review Assignment

Review Material