Maya, Aztecs and Inca Civilization
The Maya civilization was one of the most advanced ancient civilizations in the Central and South America before arrival of Europeans. They had an estimated reign of over 2000 years. The Maya developed a written language using hieroglyphs, art and architecture, mathematical and astronomical systems. They built huge stone pyramids, sculpture and temples. The Maya achieved their highest state of development during the period between 300 AD and 900 AD. After 900 AD the Maya mysteriously declined in the southern areas, but continued to thrive till the arrival of the Europeans.
The Aztec Empire was located in central Mexico. It ruled much of the region from the 1400s until the Spanish arrived in 1519. Much of the Aztec society centered around their religion and gods. They built large pyramids as temples to their gods and went to war to capture people they could sacrifice to their gods. The capital city of the Aztec Empire was Tenochtitlan. This city was founded in 1325 on an island in Lake Texcoco. At the height of its power, the city likely had a population of 200,000 people. At the center of the city was a large temple complex with pyramids and a palace for the king. The rest of the city was planned out in a grid-like fashion and divided up into districts. It had causeways built to get to the mainland and aqueducts to bring fresh water into the city.
The Inca Empire was centered in Peru and ruled over much of the west coast of South America from the 1400s to the time of the Spanish arrival in 1532. This wide ranging empire did not have the wheel, iron tools, or a writing system, but its complex government and system of roads created a society where everyone had a job, a home, and something to eat.
The emperor of the Inca was known as the Sapa Inca. The first Sapa Inca was Manco Capac. He founded the Kingdom of Cuzco around 1200 AD. The city of Cuzco would remain the capital of the empire as it expanded in the coming years. The Inca expanded into a great empire under the reign of Pachacuti. Pachacuti created the Inca Empire which the Inca called the Tawantinsuyu. At its height, the Inca Empire had an estimated population of over 10 million people.
Summary: The Maya, Aztec, and Inca civilizations developed independently of each other. Further, the religious heritage of each was heavily influenced by preceding cultures. Nevertheless, despite their historical uniqueness, the Maya, Aztec, and Inca religions had important features in common. The Mayas, Aztecs, and Incas all believed that the universe was composed of the heavens, the earth's surface, and an underworld.