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PodcastPodcast: Tuesday, November 16, 2010


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Blog EntryBlog: Friday, October 16, 2009

Pre-Columbian Indigenous Societies: from the Olmec to the Mississippians

Around 3,000 years ago the indigenous societies in the Americas began planting crops that allowed them to become agricultural instead of nomadic.  Maize, or corn was probably the first crop developed followed by gourds, pumpkins, peppers, beans, and potatoes. (Danzer, 5)   There were several thriving civilizations south of what would become the United States.  There was the Olmec who lived in the Gulf of Mexico from 1200-400 BC, the Mayan who lived in Guatemala and Yucatan peninsula from 250-900 AD, the Aztec who dominated the Valley of Mexico from 1200-1500, and the Inca who lived in South America from 1200-1500. 

Several other civilizations developed in what would become the United States.  The Hohokam introduced crops into the southwest, especially central Arizona, between 300 BC and 1400 AD.  At the same time the Anasazi took the mesa tops and built cliff dwellings in the four corner region of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.  (Danzer, 7)  East of the Mississippi extending from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico lived the Adena, Hopewell, and Mississippian cultures.  The Adena and Hopewell cultures built huge burial mounds filled with intricately carved crafts.  (Danzer, 7)  Although the Mississippian, Aztec, and Incan cultures still existed when Columbus arrived in the Caribbean, the others had all disappeared.

Your turn: Which accomplishments of these ancient civilizations do you think is the most significant?    

Danzer, Gerald A., et al.  The Americans. New York: McDougal Littell, 2005.

Blog EntryBlog: Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Fall of the Aztecs

When the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes landed on the coast of Mexico in 1519, it was his charge to explore and secure Mexico for Spanish colonization.  Unfortunately to reach this goal he would have to conquer the great empire of the Aztecs.  Cortes and his men began to make their way to central Mexico, the great Azteccity of Tenochtitlan (modern-day Mexico City).  Hernan Cortes and his small group of conquistadors were equipped with firearms and horses, a weapons technology unknown to the Aztecs. They also began to build allies with the Aztec enemies, expanding their numbers. But they carried another weapon unbeknownst to them, smallpox. Europeans had been living with domesticated animals or livestock for thousands of years, therefore they had developed a different immune system than the native people of Mexico and carried with them different germs. In 1520 a smallpox outbreak devastated the Aztec community in the city of Tenochtitlan. This dramatically decreased the population of the city and therefore the ability of the city to defend itself.  The Spanish had built their army using the native people of the Tlaxcala tribe who had been warring with the Aztecs for many years.  After several attacks by the Spanish on the city, indcluding the murder of the Aztec ruler Moctezuma II the Aztec capital fell and Cortes was able to achieve his goal of colonizing the land for Spain.  
To read more about the fall of Tenochtitlan click here!
Consider the factors that played a role in the downfall of Tenochtitlan. Which factor do you think was most significant? Was it the superior weapons and military strategies of the Spanish conquistadors? Was it the ability of the Spanish to ally with the Aztec enemies to fight against them? Or was it the smallpox outbreak that diminished the Aztec population? Be sure to defend your answer!

Blog EntryBlog: Thursday, October 15, 2009

City or Country?

The Mayans were a native culture that existed in Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize from 250-900CE.  Historians can tell from archeological evidence that among their many characteristics one of the things the Mayans had was an advanced system of urban centers.  Each city had a large temple in the middle & was ruled by a God-King.  The city sprawled out around the temple and up to 10,000 Mayans would live in the urban center.  The cities such as Tikal, Palenque and Chichen Itza, were connected by a system of roads, and the economy of the cities were supported by trade with each other. 

What do you think are the advantages for the Mayans living in urban areas?  People today also choose to live near urban areas for different reasons.  With this in mind, where would you choose to live?  Would you live in a city or the country?  Explain your choice. 

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