Q. 1. What do you know about the Arawakian Lucayos and their way of life?
Ans. The Arawakian Lucayos inhabited hundreds of small islands in the Caribbean Sea and the Greater Antilles. They had been expelled from the Lesser Antilles by a fierce tad so much more beautiful. They were highly skilled in the art of weaving. The hammock was one of their specialities, which the Europeans liked very much.
The Arawakian Lucayos were very generous. They were always ready to collaborate with the Spanish in their search for gold. When the Spanish policy became brutal, they were forced to resist. For this they had to have disastrous consequences. Within 25 years of contact with Spanish, very little remained of the Arawakian Lucayos or their way of life.
Q. 2. Discuss the chief features of the major civilisations of the early Americas.
Ans. There flourished several civilisations in the early Americas but the Maya, Aztec and Inca civilisations were prominent among them.
(a) The Maya Civilisation: The Maya civilisation flourished around 1500 A.D. It spread on large part of Central America. Chichen and Itza were main centres of this civilisation. People of this civilisation knew little about metals. Still they made many significant achievements. Chief features of the Mayan civilisation are described below:
(i) These people lived in colonies near their fields.
Their food included corn, beans, potatoes, papaya, squash and chilli. They used to wear cotton clothes.
They also used earthern utensils made on the wheel.
(ii) Agriculture was their main occupation. They tried to please their gods in order to produce maximum corn for food.
(iii) They believed in many types of religious ceremonies and rituals. A game of rubber ball was one of their religious ceremonies. They had many gods among whom the gods of fire and corn were the main.
They performed sacrifices to please their gods.
(iv) Their script was pictorial. At times vowels were also used.
(v) They built many splendid pyramids, crossings, observatories and temples. They were skilled in sculpturing and painting.
(vi) They made a solar calendar, according to which a year had 365 days. They showed their brilliance in the knowledge of mathematics, hieroglyphic writing and use of paper.
(b) The Aztec Civilisation: The Aztec civilisation developed in the Americas after decline of the Mayan civilisation in the twelfth century. The Aztecs, known as Tenocas, set up two capitals, namely Tenochtitlan and Teleteloco.
Chief features of civilisation of these people are given below:
(i) Their empire expanded over two lac squarekm. It had been divided into 38 provinces. Each province was ruled by a governor.
(ii) They worshipped many gods and goddesses, among whom the god of sun and the goddess of food were the main. They regarded the goddess of food as the mother of other gods.
(iii) These people had learnt how to melt metals and use them.
(iv) They made a calendar related to religious functions. According to it, there were 260 days in a year.
(c) The Inca Civilisation: This civilisation was founded by the Incas. They developed their civilisation in the Indies region of the Americas between the fourteenth and the fifteenth centuries.
Chief features of this civilisation were as follows:
(i) The Incas established a vast empire, which had many large towns. The town Cuzco was the main centre of this empire. Whole of the empire was divided into four parts. Each part was ruled over by a noble.
(ii) They constructed splendid forts, roads and temples in towns.
(iii) They made terraced fields and cultivated corn, potato, sweet potato, etc.
(iv) Food grains were kept safe in large governmental godowns for use in crisis.
(v) Some people made earthen utensils, woollen cloth and obtained wool from Llama and alpaca.
(vi) They made ornaments of gold, silver and copper. Weapons and tools were made of bronze.
(vii) They made progress in medicine and surgery.
Q. 3. Discuss the social system and architecture of the early civilisations of the Americas.
Ans. Main features of the early civilisations of the Americas, viz. the Maya, Inca and Aztec, were as follows:
I. Social System
(i) Priests held a much higher place in the Mayan society.
(ii) In time of the Inca civilisation, the American society had enlarged. The king possessed the most significant place in society, who was regarded as the representative of the sun on the earth. Then there came the places of the nobility and priestly class.
(iii) The whole land of the state was under possession of the king. He distributed it amongst peasants in accordance with the size of their families.
Nobles, priests and state officials got food grains from governmental godowns. But when crops were destroyed, general public was also given foodgrains from governmental godowns.
(iv) Life was much planned in the Inca society.
The minimum age for marriage of a boy was fixed at 24 years and that of a girl was 18 years. Trees and cattle were given a complete protection.
(v) Laws were very rigid in the Inca society. One who violated law was burnt alive. Tongue of a liar was nailed. Bodies of theives were stamped.
(vi) Soliders enjoyed special privileges in the Aztec society. State officials were selected from respected families.
The Americans made a great progress in architecture. Their palaces, temples and other buildings were so beautiful that they are appreciated by visitors even today. A building was often constructed on a pyramid. Some of the buildings were 200 feet high. The sun pyramid in Mexico is 216 feet high. It is a square, which spread over an area of 750 square feet. Buildings were decorated with stone statues and paintings. There was an observatory at Copan.
Magnificent buildings were also constructed in the Inca civilisation. The sun temple at Cuzco is the greatest specimen of architecture of the Inca civilisation. Besides, forts, roads, bridges and palaces had also been beautifully built. Large pieces of stone were used in the construction of buildings. These buildings had greatly increased the beauty of towns.
The Aztec capital Tenochtitlan was counted in the most beautiful towns of Central America. The Incan engineering was very famous. In the town Cuzco, there was a series of roads which connected all parts of the empire with each other. Canals were dug in towns for irrigation.
Q. 4. Write down about society, religion and science of people of the native Mayan civilisation of the Americas.
Ans. The Mayan civilisation possessed a significant place in the native American civilisations. Chief features of society, religion and science of this civilisation are described as under:
(i) Society: The Mayan society was dominated by priests. They were greatly respected. In the citystates of Chichen and Itza of this civilisation, they had full control on government. They could act arbitrarily in the state, but at local level there was a provision of self-government.
Economy of the Mayan civilisation was based on agriculture. Corn was the main crop of the Mayans.
Some people were engaged in weaving and dyeing of clothes and some in other handicrafts. Corn, beans, potato, papaya, etc., were major food items of people.
They also used chillies.
(ii) Religion: The Mayan people worshipped many gods and goddesses. These included the gods of forest, rain, fertility, fire and corn. People threw their valuable goods into water for more rains. Some people offered a part of their body to please gods. Human sacrifice was also in practice.
(iii) Science: (a) The Mayans made a great progress in science. They invented a calendar. This calendar symbolised their progress in astronomy.
According to this calendar, there were 365 days and 18 months in a year. Each month had 20 days.
(b) In mathematics, the Mayas provided the knowledge of zero.
(c) The use of paper and hieroglyphic script were their other major achievements.
In fact, the Mayan civilisation did not lag behind other American civilisations on any aspect.
Q. 5. Who were the Aztecs? Discuss the main features of their civilisation and culture.
Ans. The Aztecs were the people who had migrated from the north into the central valley of Mexico in the twelfth century. They defeated various tribes in order to expand their empire. The defeated tribes were forced to pay tribute.
Main features of the Aztec civilisation and culture were as follows:
(i) Society: Aztec society was actually a hierarchical society. Nobles, priests and others, who were given the rank, were included in the nobility.
The hereditary nobles were small in number. They were given the senior positions in the army, the priesthood and the government. The nobles chose their leader among them who ruled until his death. The king was observed as the representative of the sun on earth. Three groups were most respected in the society and these were warriors, priests and nobles.
Traders were also given a number of privileges. They often worked for the government as ambassadors and spies. Except these physicians, talented artists and wise teachers were also respected in the society.
(ii) Reclamations and Construction Works: The Aztecs had limited land, so they undertook reclamations. They made artificial islands called Chinampas in Lake Mexico by weaving huge reed mats and covering from with mud and plants. Canals were constructed between these exceptionally fertile islands and on these canals the capital city Tenochtitlan was built in 1325 CE. Its palaces and pyramids appeared as if they were seeing out of the lake. The most impressive temples of the Aztecs were dedicated to the gods of war and the Sun. This was because the Aztecs were frequently engaged in war.
(iii) Rural Base of Empire: Rural society was the base of the Aztec society. Crops like corn, squash, beans, maniac root, pumpkins, potatoes, etc., were cultivated by the people. Clan was owner of the land and it was not owned by any individual. The clans also organised public construction works. Peasants like European serfs, cultivated land owned by the nobility. In exchange, they obtained a part of the harvest.
(iv) Educational Policy: The Aztecs were very particular about education. They made sure that all children must attend ther school. Calmecan was attended by the children of the nobility. There they were trained to become military and religious leaders.
All other children studied in the Telpochcalli in the neighbourhood. There they learned religion, history, myths and ceremonial songs. Boys were not only given military training but were given training in agriculture and trade as well. Girls were trained in domestic skills.
(v) End of the Empire: The Aztec empire started showing sight of instability in the early sixteenth century. In 1561 CE, the powerful Aztec empire came to an end.