Mesoamerican Civilization

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What was the primary purpose of the channels built by the Aztecs?

To create a system of water-borne transportation

How many crops per year were the chinampas able to produce?

3-4 crops per year

What was the most valuable fertilizer used on the chinampas?

Human excrement or feces

What was human urine used for by the Aztecs?

As a mordant (fixative) in dyeing fabrics

Which of the following animals did the Aztecs consume?

All of the above

What invention did the Aztecs create for transportation in their water systems?


What is a unique feature of the Maya number system?

It was based on the numeral 20.

How did the Maya people use Maya Blue outside of pottery and religious contexts?

In construction materials like plaster.

What engineering achievement did Maya engineers accomplish in architecture?

Developing structural mechanics for multi-story buildings.

How did the Maya arts progress in comparison to Europe during the Dark Ages?

Maya arts achieved great heights while Europe struggled.

What objects did the Maya people use as a form of 'money'?

Greenstone beads, cacao beans, and copper bells.

What distinguished Mayan literacy from other indigenous literacies of America?

Mayans developed one of the earliest writing systems on Earth.

What type of opportunities did the calmecac offer compared to the telpochcalli?

More academic opportunities

At what age did children typically begin attending the calmecac?


Why were noble children held to a higher standard than commoner children in Aztec schools?

Due to stricter discipline in the calmecac

In Aztec society, where did the nobility dominate key positions?

Military, state administration, judiciary, and priesthood

What was a limited opportunity for individuals to better their social position in Aztec society?

Military and religious spheres

What prevailed in Aztec society in terms of promotions and demotions?

Nepotism and merit-based promotions/demotions

What defines the northern border of Mesoamerica?

It runs west from the Gulf coast of Mexico above the port of Tampico, then dips south to exclude the central desert of highland Mexico, meeting the Pacific coast opposite the tip of Baja California

Which of the following countries are NOT included in the historic region of Mesoamerica?

Panama and Colombia

Which of the following cultural traits does NOT define the Mesoamerican region?

The domestication of horses

Which of the following statements about the Maya civilization is TRUE?

The Maya developed a highly sophisticated society with art, science, architecture, and writing

What does the term 'nomadic' mean in the context of the Maya civilization?

Neither a nor b

Which of the following groups of people inhabited Mesoamerica for thousands of years?

The Olmec, Zapotec, Maya, Toltec, and Aztec

What was the primary purpose of trephination, the surgical practice of removing a portion of the skull, in pre-Columbian Peru?

To treat head injuries and relieve pressure on the brain

What was a significant achievement of the ancient Maya civilization in terms of land management?

They converted wetlands into productive farmland through drainage and land reclamation

According to a recent interpretation, what was the primary purpose of the Aztec Sun Stone?

To depict rituals and sacrifices performed by Aztec priests

Which of the following statements best describes the Aztec society's approach to waste management?

They aimed to minimize waste by reusing and recycling materials

What was a common practice among the Inca civilization related to their religious beliefs?

Mummification of deceased rulers and nobility

Which of the following statements best describes the purpose of public ritual sacrifices in Mesoamerican civilizations?

To demonstrate the power and authority of the ruling class

Study Notes

Aztec Agriculture and Sustainability

  • The Aztecs developed chinampas, a system of floating gardens that provided crop irrigation and an easy way to transport products to market.
  • Chinampas were highly productive, producing up to four crops a year, and about two-thirds of the food consumed in the city.
  • They grew a variety of crops, including maize, beans, tomatoes, pumpkins, chilis, flowers, and medicinal herbs.
  • The Aztecs used organic waste, including food leftovers and agricultural residues, to fertilize their crops.
  • Human excrement was used as a valuable fertilizer, and human urine was used as a mordant in the dyeing of fabrics.

Maya Achievements

  • The Maya people developed a number system based on the numeral 20.
  • They developed different preparative strategies to obtain inorganic-organic hybrid materials, similar to Maya Blue.
  • Maya architecture is unique and unlike any other style in the world, with structural mechanics for multi-story buildings.
  • The Maya people invented the blast furnace 2,000 years before it was patented in England.
  • They used various objects, including greenstone beads, cacao beans, and copper bells, as a form of currency.

Maya Education and Culture

  • Maya literacy stands out from most other indigenous literacies of America.
  • The average Mayan family size was about 5 to 7.
  • They used three different ways of recording: codices, hieroglyphic symbols written on paper and cloth or animal skin.
  • Only noble families were allowed to go to school, while commoner children were taught at home.
  • Maya children typically began attending school between the ages of 6 and 13.
  • The schools imposed harsh punishments on their students for misbehavior, with the calmecac being especially strict.

Aztec Society and Culture

  • Aztec society was hierarchical and divided into clearly defined classes.
  • The nobility dominated the key positions in the military, state administration, judiciary, and priesthood.
  • Traders could become extremely wealthy and powerful, but their prosperity was based on their class.
  • There was a limited opportunity for individuals to better their social position, especially in the military and religious spheres.
  • Nepotism prevailed, but promotions could be obtained on merit as well as demotions from incompetence.


  • The northern border of Mesoamerica runs west from a point on the Gulf coast of Mexico above the modern port of Tampico.
  • The historic region of Mesoamerica comprises the modern-day countries of northern Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize, and central to southern Mexico.
  • Cultural traits that define the region include the domestication of maize, beans, avocado, and vanilla, and a common architectural style.
  • The region was populated by groups such as the Olmec, Zapotec, Maya, Toltec, and Aztec people.

Test your knowledge on the advanced native people of Mesoamerica and their historic region. Explore topics such as indigenous cultures, geography, and civilizations in this quiz.

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