Aztecs, Mayans, Incas – Oh My!!!
May 22, 2007
Greetings my fellow historians! History in Action has been out of commission for a little while. Things got real nasty at a little get together at the New York Historical Society. Let’s just say yours truly isn’t going to be getting any Christmas cards from Doris Kearns Goodwin! Now, let’s get onto the pudding that fills your pot, today’s entry!
In grade school, many of us learn the history of the famous Native American tribes: the Aztecs, the Mayans, and the Incas. Reality check, not everything you learn in history class is “on the level.” Grab those dusty history mitts, march out to left field, it’s time to catch some “history flies!”
- The Aztec empire was located in what is today known as “Mexico.” They were incredibly advanced agriculturally, having developed irrigation methods well before their European counterparts. Though the empire was vast and wealthy, many Aztecs would flee their country for the possibility of employment in the “new world.”
- Ritualistic sacrifice was known to have taken place in the Aztec empire. Some estimates suggest as many as 84,000 were once killed during a four day period. Puts the Iraq war numbers into perspective, huh?
- Games were especially important to the Aztecs. They played a sport akin to the Mesoamerican ballgame named tlachtli or ollamaliztli. It was a furious sport combining the athleticism of basketball, the brutality of football, and the strategy of baseball. However scoring was very low so it was really boring.
- Aztecs used common items like cocoa beans and cotton for currency. When Europeans were handed the cocoa in exchange for goods they ate the cocoa thinking this was the custom. The Aztecs in turn would ingest European coins and paper money. The Europeans would laugh and the Aztecs would stare back embarrassed, sometimes crying out of shame. Eventually the Europeans, led by Hernando Cortés, would slaughter the Aztecs not ravaged by Smallpox.
- The Mayans were incredibly advanced scientifically. They developed many concepts before their European counterparts. Such concepts and advancements included absolute zero, telepathy, “to be continued…” episodes, and post-rock, and irrigation.
- Mayan art was especially skillful and renown in foreign lands. Of particular note was the attention made to the depiction of female breasts. Large, drooping bosoms were considered a sign of fertility in Maya. Lopsided, turned out breasts were even more attractive, as well as those bespectacled by acne and hair. Take that, Hefner!
- Like the Aztecs, the Mayans sacrificed humans, including children who they believed to be pure. Too bad they didn’t have Dateline’s “To Catch a Predator” on the case!
- The Incas dominated a large area of land in what is now modern day Peru. They lacked a written language, but were pioneers in early phonograph recordings, predating Thomas Edison by hundreds of years. Early Inca 45s are prized by music snobs for their raw production value. They can fetch up to twenty bucks on eBay.
- Francisco Pizarro is believed to have conquered the Incas with 180 men, 1 cannon and only 27 horses. He often needed to talk his way out of potential confrontations that could have easily wiped out his party. Try that against a suicide bomber in Iraq!!!
- Unlike the Mayans and Aztecs, the Incas were quite agriculturally advanced, having developed a system of irrigation to rival their European counterparts.
The Aztecs. The Mayans. The Incas.
Important Societies? Maybe. Advanced? Sure. History? Definitely!