Developments in the Americas

Unit 1: c. 1200-1450

Main Ideas:

  • Kingdoms used religion to unify their population

  • Had social hierarchies with religious and political rulers at the top, and agricultural laborers at the bottom

  • Developed unique ways to maintain control of their empires

Aztec Empire

 c. 1345 - 1521 CE 

Key Ideas:

  • Major emphasis on religion → Helped unify their population

    • Aztecs practiced extreme religious practices such as bloodletting & human sacrifices

    • Rulers used such religious beliefs to unify their populations

  • Social hierarchy with the king & priest at the top

    • The priest had very high social status, often acting as advisors to the king​

  • Developed a unique tribute system to maintain control of distant lands

    • Had a customized tribute list for each neighboring kingdom, based on each kingdom's local goods → Allowed Aztecs to maintain control of a large empire

Chichen Itza, a pyramid built during the Maya Civilization in the 400s CE. The Aztecs also built similar pyramids


Templo Mayor, the main Aztec temple complex built in the capital of Tenochtitlan in around 1325. 


Inca Empire

1438 - 1533 CE 

Key Ideas:

  • Religion was very important & helped unify the Kingdom

    • Incas worshiped the sun god, Inti

  • Rulers & priests had very high social status

    • Believed rulers become intermediaries with gods when they die​ → People mummified rulers & worshipped them

    • Priests conducted religious ceremonies and had high social status

  • Huge road network → Helped maintain rule over the huge empire

    • 25,000 miles of roads: Runners traverse the roads quickly, relaying information throughout the empire → Allowed Incas to maintain control of their empire

Machu Picchu, an Incan citadel built in the mid 15th century. Among the most famous monuments in the world


Coricancha, the most important Incan temple. The Spanish destroyed it in the mid-1500s


Native Americans

 Cultures of Chaco, Pueblo, and Cahokia 

Key Ideas:

  • Native American cultures had unique religious beliefs → Unified the population

    • Cahokia built a huge mound for ceremonial purposes

    • Pueblo and Chaco cultures built Kivas (underground circular rooms) for religious purposes

The biggest mound at Cahokia, built in around the 900s CE, used for ceremonial purposes


The Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings, built in 1190s. The kivas in the dwellings were used for ritual purposes