Chapter 5
Unit 2 World History
The Step Pyramid of El Castillo near current day Cancun Mexico. (From my personal files)
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.

Essential questions

The following questions are meant to be studied during the chapter as possible essay questions for your exam.
Please be ready for any of the following 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 Meso-American sacrifice rituals?

Chapter Content

Use the following links to find the content you are interested in or use the search bar at the top right to look for specific concepts.

Culture Of The Americas

Technology Of The Americas

Lesser Known Mesoamerican Cultures

The Maya

Culture Of The Maya

The Collapse Of The Maya

Early Mexica History

The Rise Of The Triple Alliance

Rise To Real Power & New Ideology

The Structure Of The Triple Alliance

Aztec Culture

Later Expansion


The Andean Civilization

2nd Generation States In The Peruvian Region

The Rise Of Twantinsuyu

Organization Of The Twantinsuyu Empire

Later Leaders & Conquest

Twantinsuyu Culture

The Tainos

Mound Builders Of North America

South American Mound Builders


The following are a list of helpful resources that can be used in studying for this chapter.

Class Notes

These are the notes that I use for class. All information found in these notes lead directly to the test so they should be used in studying if you want the correct answers. This can only be accessed by students logged into their school account.

Chapter Powerpoint

This link will lead you to the PowerPoint for this unit. Those who missed class can use this to catch up on what was taught in class and what specific concepts to focus on in your studying.

Exam Review

This is the review that should be used to prepare for the exam. All exam questions will be connected directly to this document. Students are expected to answer all questions and are encouraged to know the rest also.

Review Videos

The videos to the right are placed here so that you can find other ways to study if that is your desire. Crash course videos tend to work pretty well for this type of studying as many of the AP World students use them to prep for tests. Please feel free to click on any of the videos in this feed for more info.

This Chapter in the news

Many students don’t realize that history is being debated and rewritten daily. These are stories related to our chapter from the news.

Human Sacrifice In The Aztec Empire

Human sacrifice has always been a bit of a strange concept to wrap your mind around. This article focuses on Aztec sacrifice and how it was done, which is quite different historically.

How Did the Mayan civilization end?

One of the major mysteries of world history is the end of the Mayan people. While many people have theories as to how this happened, this article supports it with science.

Lost City Discovered in Honduras

As more archeologists focus on Central and South America we are learning a ton that we didn’t know. Here is a recent discovery of a huge complex found in the jungles of Honduras.