NCERT Textbook - Confrontation of Cultures Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

History Class 11

Humanities/Arts : NCERT Textbook - Confrontation of Cultures Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

 Page 1


168  THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
CONFRONTATION OF
CULTURES
THIS chapter will examine some aspects of the encounters
between Europeans and the people of the Americas between
the fifteenth and the seventeenth centuries. Some Europeans
ventured out on unknown oceans in order to find trading routes
to areas where spices and silver were to be obtained. The first
to do this were the Spanish and the Portuguese. They persuaded
the Pope to give them the exclusive right to rule over any new
regions they might locate. Christopher Columbus, an Italian,
sponsored by the rulers of Spain, sailed west in 1492, and
thought that the lands he had reached were ‘the Indies’ (India
and countries east of India about which he had read in the
Travels of Marco Polo).
Later exploration indicated that the ‘Indians’ of the ‘New
World’ actually belonged to different cultural groups and were
not part of Asia. Two types of culture were to be found in the
Americas. There were small subsistence economies in the
Caribbean region and in Brazil. There were also powerful
monarchical systems based on well-developed agriculture and
mining. These, like the Aztecs and Mayas of central America
and the Incas of Peru, also had monumental architecture.
The exploration and later the settlement of South America
were to have disastrous consequences for the native people
and their cultures. It also marked the beginning of the slave
trade, with Europeans selling slaves from Africa to work in
plantations and mines in the Americas.
European conquest of the people of America was accompanied
by the ruthless destruction of their manuscripts and
monuments. It was only in the late nineteenth century that
anthropologists began to study these cultures. Still later,
archaeologists found the ruins of these civilisations. The Inca
city of Machu Picchu was rediscovered in 1911. Recently,
photographs taken from the air have shown traces of many
cities now covered by forest.
By contrast, we know the European side of the encounters
in great detail. The Europeans who went to the Americas kept
log-books and diaries of their journeys. There are records left
by officials and Jesuit missionaries (see Theme 7). Europeans
wrote about their ‘discovery’ of the Americas, and when
histories of the countries of America were written, these were
in terms of European settlements, with little reference to the
local people.
THEME
8
2020-21
Page 2


168  THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
CONFRONTATION OF
CULTURES
THIS chapter will examine some aspects of the encounters
between Europeans and the people of the Americas between
the fifteenth and the seventeenth centuries. Some Europeans
ventured out on unknown oceans in order to find trading routes
to areas where spices and silver were to be obtained. The first
to do this were the Spanish and the Portuguese. They persuaded
the Pope to give them the exclusive right to rule over any new
regions they might locate. Christopher Columbus, an Italian,
sponsored by the rulers of Spain, sailed west in 1492, and
thought that the lands he had reached were ‘the Indies’ (India
and countries east of India about which he had read in the
Travels of Marco Polo).
Later exploration indicated that the ‘Indians’ of the ‘New
World’ actually belonged to different cultural groups and were
not part of Asia. Two types of culture were to be found in the
Americas. There were small subsistence economies in the
Caribbean region and in Brazil. There were also powerful
monarchical systems based on well-developed agriculture and
mining. These, like the Aztecs and Mayas of central America
and the Incas of Peru, also had monumental architecture.
The exploration and later the settlement of South America
were to have disastrous consequences for the native people
and their cultures. It also marked the beginning of the slave
trade, with Europeans selling slaves from Africa to work in
plantations and mines in the Americas.
European conquest of the people of America was accompanied
by the ruthless destruction of their manuscripts and
monuments. It was only in the late nineteenth century that
anthropologists began to study these cultures. Still later,
archaeologists found the ruins of these civilisations. The Inca
city of Machu Picchu was rediscovered in 1911. Recently,
photographs taken from the air have shown traces of many
cities now covered by forest.
By contrast, we know the European side of the encounters
in great detail. The Europeans who went to the Americas kept
log-books and diaries of their journeys. There are records left
by officials and Jesuit missionaries (see Theme 7). Europeans
wrote about their ‘discovery’ of the Americas, and when
histories of the countries of America were written, these were
in terms of European settlements, with little reference to the
local people.
THEME
8
2020-21
  169
People have been living in North and South America and nearby islands
for thousands of years, and many migrations from Asia and from the
South Sea Islands have taken place over time. South America was (and
still is, in parts) densely forested and mountainous, and the Amazon, the
world’s largest river, flows through miles of dense forest. In Mexico, in
central America, there were densely settled areas of habitation along the
coast and in the plains, while elsewhere villages were scattered over
forested areas.
Communities of the Caribbean and Brazil
The Arawakian Lucayos lived on a cluster of hundreds of small islands
in the Caribbean Sea, today known as the Bahamas, and the Greater
Antilles. They had been expelled from the Lesser Antilles by the Caribs,
a fierce tribe. In contrast to them, the Arawaks were a people who
preferred negotiation to conflict. Skilled boat-builders, they sailed the
open sea in dugout canoes (canoes made from hollow tree trunks).
They lived by hunting, fishing and agriculture, growing corn, sweet
potatoes, tubers and cassava.
A central cultural value was the organisation of people to produce
food collectively and to feed everyone in the community. They were
organised under clan elders. Polygamy was common. The Arawaks
were animists. As in many other societies, shamans played an
important role as healers and intermediaries between this world
and that of the supernatural.
MAP 1: Central
America and the
Caribbean Islands
Animists believe
that even objects
regarded by
modern science as
‘inanimate’ may
have life or a soul.
 CONFRONTATION OF CULTURES
2020-21
Page 3


168  THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
CONFRONTATION OF
CULTURES
THIS chapter will examine some aspects of the encounters
between Europeans and the people of the Americas between
the fifteenth and the seventeenth centuries. Some Europeans
ventured out on unknown oceans in order to find trading routes
to areas where spices and silver were to be obtained. The first
to do this were the Spanish and the Portuguese. They persuaded
the Pope to give them the exclusive right to rule over any new
regions they might locate. Christopher Columbus, an Italian,
sponsored by the rulers of Spain, sailed west in 1492, and
thought that the lands he had reached were ‘the Indies’ (India
and countries east of India about which he had read in the
Travels of Marco Polo).
Later exploration indicated that the ‘Indians’ of the ‘New
World’ actually belonged to different cultural groups and were
not part of Asia. Two types of culture were to be found in the
Americas. There were small subsistence economies in the
Caribbean region and in Brazil. There were also powerful
monarchical systems based on well-developed agriculture and
mining. These, like the Aztecs and Mayas of central America
and the Incas of Peru, also had monumental architecture.
The exploration and later the settlement of South America
were to have disastrous consequences for the native people
and their cultures. It also marked the beginning of the slave
trade, with Europeans selling slaves from Africa to work in
plantations and mines in the Americas.
European conquest of the people of America was accompanied
by the ruthless destruction of their manuscripts and
monuments. It was only in the late nineteenth century that
anthropologists began to study these cultures. Still later,
archaeologists found the ruins of these civilisations. The Inca
city of Machu Picchu was rediscovered in 1911. Recently,
photographs taken from the air have shown traces of many
cities now covered by forest.
By contrast, we know the European side of the encounters
in great detail. The Europeans who went to the Americas kept
log-books and diaries of their journeys. There are records left
by officials and Jesuit missionaries (see Theme 7). Europeans
wrote about their ‘discovery’ of the Americas, and when
histories of the countries of America were written, these were
in terms of European settlements, with little reference to the
local people.
THEME
8
2020-21
  169
People have been living in North and South America and nearby islands
for thousands of years, and many migrations from Asia and from the
South Sea Islands have taken place over time. South America was (and
still is, in parts) densely forested and mountainous, and the Amazon, the
world’s largest river, flows through miles of dense forest. In Mexico, in
central America, there were densely settled areas of habitation along the
coast and in the plains, while elsewhere villages were scattered over
forested areas.
Communities of the Caribbean and Brazil
The Arawakian Lucayos lived on a cluster of hundreds of small islands
in the Caribbean Sea, today known as the Bahamas, and the Greater
Antilles. They had been expelled from the Lesser Antilles by the Caribs,
a fierce tribe. In contrast to them, the Arawaks were a people who
preferred negotiation to conflict. Skilled boat-builders, they sailed the
open sea in dugout canoes (canoes made from hollow tree trunks).
They lived by hunting, fishing and agriculture, growing corn, sweet
potatoes, tubers and cassava.
A central cultural value was the organisation of people to produce
food collectively and to feed everyone in the community. They were
organised under clan elders. Polygamy was common. The Arawaks
were animists. As in many other societies, shamans played an
important role as healers and intermediaries between this world
and that of the supernatural.
MAP 1: Central
America and the
Caribbean Islands
Animists believe
that even objects
regarded by
modern science as
‘inanimate’ may
have life or a soul.
 CONFRONTATION OF CULTURES
2020-21
170  THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
The Arawaks used gold for ornaments, but did not attach the
value to the metal that the Europeans did. They were quite happy to
exchange gold for glass beads brought by the Europeans, because
these seemed so much more beautiful. The art of weaving was highly
developed – the hammock was one of their specialities, and one which
captured the imagination of the Europeans.
The Arawaks were generous and were happy to collaborate with
the Spanish in their search for gold. It was when Spanish policy became
brutal that they were forced to resist, but this was to have disastrous
consequences for them. Within twenty-five years of contact with the
Spanish very little remained of the Arawaks or their way of life.
People called the Tupinamba lived on the east coast of South
America, and in villages in the forests (the name ‘Brazil’ is derived
from the brazilwood tree). They could not clear the dense forests for
cultivation as they had no access to iron. But they had a healthy and
plentiful supply of fruits, vegetables and fish, and so did not have to
depend on agriculture. The Europeans who met them envied their
happy freedom, with no king, army or church to regulate their lives.
The State Systems of Central and South America
In contrast to the Caribbean and Brazil, there were some highly
organised states in central America. There was a generous surplus of
corn, which provided the basis for the urbanised civilisations of the
Aztecs, Mayas and Incas. The monumental architectural remains of
these cities continue to mesmerise visitors today.
The Aztecs
In the twelfth century, the Aztecs had migrated from the north into
the central valley of Mexico (named after their god Mexitli). They
expanded their empire by defeating different tribes, who were forced
to pay tribute.
Aztec society was hierarchical. The nobility included
those who were nobles by birth, priests, and others
who had been awarded the rank. The hereditary
nobility were a small minority who occupied the
senior positions in the government, the army and
the priesthood. The nobles chose from among
them a supreme leader who ruled until his death.
The king was regarded as the representative of
the sun on earth. Warriors, priests and nobles
were the most respected groups, but traders
also enjoyed many privileges and often served the
government as ambassadors and spies. Talented
artisans, physicians and wise teachers were
also respected.
ACTIVITY 1
Discuss the
differences
between the
Arawaks and the
Spanish. Which
of these
differences
would you
consider most
significant and
why?
A ball-court marker,
with inscribed dates,
Maya culture,
Chiapas, sixth
century.
2020-21
Page 4


168  THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
CONFRONTATION OF
CULTURES
THIS chapter will examine some aspects of the encounters
between Europeans and the people of the Americas between
the fifteenth and the seventeenth centuries. Some Europeans
ventured out on unknown oceans in order to find trading routes
to areas where spices and silver were to be obtained. The first
to do this were the Spanish and the Portuguese. They persuaded
the Pope to give them the exclusive right to rule over any new
regions they might locate. Christopher Columbus, an Italian,
sponsored by the rulers of Spain, sailed west in 1492, and
thought that the lands he had reached were ‘the Indies’ (India
and countries east of India about which he had read in the
Travels of Marco Polo).
Later exploration indicated that the ‘Indians’ of the ‘New
World’ actually belonged to different cultural groups and were
not part of Asia. Two types of culture were to be found in the
Americas. There were small subsistence economies in the
Caribbean region and in Brazil. There were also powerful
monarchical systems based on well-developed agriculture and
mining. These, like the Aztecs and Mayas of central America
and the Incas of Peru, also had monumental architecture.
The exploration and later the settlement of South America
were to have disastrous consequences for the native people
and their cultures. It also marked the beginning of the slave
trade, with Europeans selling slaves from Africa to work in
plantations and mines in the Americas.
European conquest of the people of America was accompanied
by the ruthless destruction of their manuscripts and
monuments. It was only in the late nineteenth century that
anthropologists began to study these cultures. Still later,
archaeologists found the ruins of these civilisations. The Inca
city of Machu Picchu was rediscovered in 1911. Recently,
photographs taken from the air have shown traces of many
cities now covered by forest.
By contrast, we know the European side of the encounters
in great detail. The Europeans who went to the Americas kept
log-books and diaries of their journeys. There are records left
by officials and Jesuit missionaries (see Theme 7). Europeans
wrote about their ‘discovery’ of the Americas, and when
histories of the countries of America were written, these were
in terms of European settlements, with little reference to the
local people.
THEME
8
2020-21
  169
People have been living in North and South America and nearby islands
for thousands of years, and many migrations from Asia and from the
South Sea Islands have taken place over time. South America was (and
still is, in parts) densely forested and mountainous, and the Amazon, the
world’s largest river, flows through miles of dense forest. In Mexico, in
central America, there were densely settled areas of habitation along the
coast and in the plains, while elsewhere villages were scattered over
forested areas.
Communities of the Caribbean and Brazil
The Arawakian Lucayos lived on a cluster of hundreds of small islands
in the Caribbean Sea, today known as the Bahamas, and the Greater
Antilles. They had been expelled from the Lesser Antilles by the Caribs,
a fierce tribe. In contrast to them, the Arawaks were a people who
preferred negotiation to conflict. Skilled boat-builders, they sailed the
open sea in dugout canoes (canoes made from hollow tree trunks).
They lived by hunting, fishing and agriculture, growing corn, sweet
potatoes, tubers and cassava.
A central cultural value was the organisation of people to produce
food collectively and to feed everyone in the community. They were
organised under clan elders. Polygamy was common. The Arawaks
were animists. As in many other societies, shamans played an
important role as healers and intermediaries between this world
and that of the supernatural.
MAP 1: Central
America and the
Caribbean Islands
Animists believe
that even objects
regarded by
modern science as
‘inanimate’ may
have life or a soul.
 CONFRONTATION OF CULTURES
2020-21
170  THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
The Arawaks used gold for ornaments, but did not attach the
value to the metal that the Europeans did. They were quite happy to
exchange gold for glass beads brought by the Europeans, because
these seemed so much more beautiful. The art of weaving was highly
developed – the hammock was one of their specialities, and one which
captured the imagination of the Europeans.
The Arawaks were generous and were happy to collaborate with
the Spanish in their search for gold. It was when Spanish policy became
brutal that they were forced to resist, but this was to have disastrous
consequences for them. Within twenty-five years of contact with the
Spanish very little remained of the Arawaks or their way of life.
People called the Tupinamba lived on the east coast of South
America, and in villages in the forests (the name ‘Brazil’ is derived
from the brazilwood tree). They could not clear the dense forests for
cultivation as they had no access to iron. But they had a healthy and
plentiful supply of fruits, vegetables and fish, and so did not have to
depend on agriculture. The Europeans who met them envied their
happy freedom, with no king, army or church to regulate their lives.
The State Systems of Central and South America
In contrast to the Caribbean and Brazil, there were some highly
organised states in central America. There was a generous surplus of
corn, which provided the basis for the urbanised civilisations of the
Aztecs, Mayas and Incas. The monumental architectural remains of
these cities continue to mesmerise visitors today.
The Aztecs
In the twelfth century, the Aztecs had migrated from the north into
the central valley of Mexico (named after their god Mexitli). They
expanded their empire by defeating different tribes, who were forced
to pay tribute.
Aztec society was hierarchical. The nobility included
those who were nobles by birth, priests, and others
who had been awarded the rank. The hereditary
nobility were a small minority who occupied the
senior positions in the government, the army and
the priesthood. The nobles chose from among
them a supreme leader who ruled until his death.
The king was regarded as the representative of
the sun on earth. Warriors, priests and nobles
were the most respected groups, but traders
also enjoyed many privileges and often served the
government as ambassadors and spies. Talented
artisans, physicians and wise teachers were
also respected.
ACTIVITY 1
Discuss the
differences
between the
Arawaks and the
Spanish. Which
of these
differences
would you
consider most
significant and
why?
A ball-court marker,
with inscribed dates,
Maya culture,
Chiapas, sixth
century.
2020-21
  171
Since land was limited, the Aztecs undertook reclamations. They
made chinampas, artificial islands, in Lake Mexico, by weaving huge
reed-mats and covering them with mud and plants. Between these
exceptionally fertile islands, canals were constructed on which, in 1325,
was built the capital city Tenochtitlan. Its palaces and pyramids rose
dramatically out of the lake. Because the Aztecs were frequently engaged
in war, the most impressive temples were dedicated to the gods of war
and the sun.
The empire rested on a rural base. People cultivated corn, beans, squash,
pumpkins, manioc root, potatoes and other crops. Land was owned not
by individuals but by clans, which also organised public construction
works. Peasants, like European serfs, were attached to lands owned by
the nobility and cultivated them in exchange for part of the harvest. The
poor would sometimes sell their children as slaves, but this was usually
only for a limited period, and slaves could buy back their freedom.
The Aztecs made sure that all children went to school. Children of
the nobility attended the calmecac and were trained to become military
and religious leaders. All others went to the tepochcalli in their
neighbourhood, where they learned history, myths, religion
and ceremonial songs. Boys received military training
as well as training in agriculture and the trades. Girls
were trained in domestic skills.
In the early sixteenth century, the Aztec empire
was showing signs of strain. This was largely to do
with discontent among recently conquered peoples
who were looking for opportunities to break free from
central control.
The Mayas
The Mayan culture of Mexico
developed remarkably between
the eleventh and fourteenth
centuries, but in the sixteenth
century they had less political
power than the Aztecs. Corn
cultivation was central to their
culture, and many religious
ceremonies were centred on
the planting, growing and
harvesting of corn. Efficient
agricultural production generated
surplus, which helped the ruling classes,
priests and chiefs to invest in architecture and
in the development of astronomy and mathematics.
The Mayas devised a pictographic form of writing that
has only been partially deciphered.
Reclamation is the
conversion of
wasteland into land
suitable for
habitation or
cultivation.
Maya temple, Tikal,
Guatemala, eighth
century.
 CONFRONTATION OF CULTURES
2020-21
Page 5


168  THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
CONFRONTATION OF
CULTURES
THIS chapter will examine some aspects of the encounters
between Europeans and the people of the Americas between
the fifteenth and the seventeenth centuries. Some Europeans
ventured out on unknown oceans in order to find trading routes
to areas where spices and silver were to be obtained. The first
to do this were the Spanish and the Portuguese. They persuaded
the Pope to give them the exclusive right to rule over any new
regions they might locate. Christopher Columbus, an Italian,
sponsored by the rulers of Spain, sailed west in 1492, and
thought that the lands he had reached were ‘the Indies’ (India
and countries east of India about which he had read in the
Travels of Marco Polo).
Later exploration indicated that the ‘Indians’ of the ‘New
World’ actually belonged to different cultural groups and were
not part of Asia. Two types of culture were to be found in the
Americas. There were small subsistence economies in the
Caribbean region and in Brazil. There were also powerful
monarchical systems based on well-developed agriculture and
mining. These, like the Aztecs and Mayas of central America
and the Incas of Peru, also had monumental architecture.
The exploration and later the settlement of South America
were to have disastrous consequences for the native people
and their cultures. It also marked the beginning of the slave
trade, with Europeans selling slaves from Africa to work in
plantations and mines in the Americas.
European conquest of the people of America was accompanied
by the ruthless destruction of their manuscripts and
monuments. It was only in the late nineteenth century that
anthropologists began to study these cultures. Still later,
archaeologists found the ruins of these civilisations. The Inca
city of Machu Picchu was rediscovered in 1911. Recently,
photographs taken from the air have shown traces of many
cities now covered by forest.
By contrast, we know the European side of the encounters
in great detail. The Europeans who went to the Americas kept
log-books and diaries of their journeys. There are records left
by officials and Jesuit missionaries (see Theme 7). Europeans
wrote about their ‘discovery’ of the Americas, and when
histories of the countries of America were written, these were
in terms of European settlements, with little reference to the
local people.
THEME
8
2020-21
  169
People have been living in North and South America and nearby islands
for thousands of years, and many migrations from Asia and from the
South Sea Islands have taken place over time. South America was (and
still is, in parts) densely forested and mountainous, and the Amazon, the
world’s largest river, flows through miles of dense forest. In Mexico, in
central America, there were densely settled areas of habitation along the
coast and in the plains, while elsewhere villages were scattered over
forested areas.
Communities of the Caribbean and Brazil
The Arawakian Lucayos lived on a cluster of hundreds of small islands
in the Caribbean Sea, today known as the Bahamas, and the Greater
Antilles. They had been expelled from the Lesser Antilles by the Caribs,
a fierce tribe. In contrast to them, the Arawaks were a people who
preferred negotiation to conflict. Skilled boat-builders, they sailed the
open sea in dugout canoes (canoes made from hollow tree trunks).
They lived by hunting, fishing and agriculture, growing corn, sweet
potatoes, tubers and cassava.
A central cultural value was the organisation of people to produce
food collectively and to feed everyone in the community. They were
organised under clan elders. Polygamy was common. The Arawaks
were animists. As in many other societies, shamans played an
important role as healers and intermediaries between this world
and that of the supernatural.
MAP 1: Central
America and the
Caribbean Islands
Animists believe
that even objects
regarded by
modern science as
‘inanimate’ may
have life or a soul.
 CONFRONTATION OF CULTURES
2020-21
170  THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
The Arawaks used gold for ornaments, but did not attach the
value to the metal that the Europeans did. They were quite happy to
exchange gold for glass beads brought by the Europeans, because
these seemed so much more beautiful. The art of weaving was highly
developed – the hammock was one of their specialities, and one which
captured the imagination of the Europeans.
The Arawaks were generous and were happy to collaborate with
the Spanish in their search for gold. It was when Spanish policy became
brutal that they were forced to resist, but this was to have disastrous
consequences for them. Within twenty-five years of contact with the
Spanish very little remained of the Arawaks or their way of life.
People called the Tupinamba lived on the east coast of South
America, and in villages in the forests (the name ‘Brazil’ is derived
from the brazilwood tree). They could not clear the dense forests for
cultivation as they had no access to iron. But they had a healthy and
plentiful supply of fruits, vegetables and fish, and so did not have to
depend on agriculture. The Europeans who met them envied their
happy freedom, with no king, army or church to regulate their lives.
The State Systems of Central and South America
In contrast to the Caribbean and Brazil, there were some highly
organised states in central America. There was a generous surplus of
corn, which provided the basis for the urbanised civilisations of the
Aztecs, Mayas and Incas. The monumental architectural remains of
these cities continue to mesmerise visitors today.
The Aztecs
In the twelfth century, the Aztecs had migrated from the north into
the central valley of Mexico (named after their god Mexitli). They
expanded their empire by defeating different tribes, who were forced
to pay tribute.
Aztec society was hierarchical. The nobility included
those who were nobles by birth, priests, and others
who had been awarded the rank. The hereditary
nobility were a small minority who occupied the
senior positions in the government, the army and
the priesthood. The nobles chose from among
them a supreme leader who ruled until his death.
The king was regarded as the representative of
the sun on earth. Warriors, priests and nobles
were the most respected groups, but traders
also enjoyed many privileges and often served the
government as ambassadors and spies. Talented
artisans, physicians and wise teachers were
also respected.
ACTIVITY 1
Discuss the
differences
between the
Arawaks and the
Spanish. Which
of these
differences
would you
consider most
significant and
why?
A ball-court marker,
with inscribed dates,
Maya culture,
Chiapas, sixth
century.
2020-21
  171
Since land was limited, the Aztecs undertook reclamations. They
made chinampas, artificial islands, in Lake Mexico, by weaving huge
reed-mats and covering them with mud and plants. Between these
exceptionally fertile islands, canals were constructed on which, in 1325,
was built the capital city Tenochtitlan. Its palaces and pyramids rose
dramatically out of the lake. Because the Aztecs were frequently engaged
in war, the most impressive temples were dedicated to the gods of war
and the sun.
The empire rested on a rural base. People cultivated corn, beans, squash,
pumpkins, manioc root, potatoes and other crops. Land was owned not
by individuals but by clans, which also organised public construction
works. Peasants, like European serfs, were attached to lands owned by
the nobility and cultivated them in exchange for part of the harvest. The
poor would sometimes sell their children as slaves, but this was usually
only for a limited period, and slaves could buy back their freedom.
The Aztecs made sure that all children went to school. Children of
the nobility attended the calmecac and were trained to become military
and religious leaders. All others went to the tepochcalli in their
neighbourhood, where they learned history, myths, religion
and ceremonial songs. Boys received military training
as well as training in agriculture and the trades. Girls
were trained in domestic skills.
In the early sixteenth century, the Aztec empire
was showing signs of strain. This was largely to do
with discontent among recently conquered peoples
who were looking for opportunities to break free from
central control.
The Mayas
The Mayan culture of Mexico
developed remarkably between
the eleventh and fourteenth
centuries, but in the sixteenth
century they had less political
power than the Aztecs. Corn
cultivation was central to their
culture, and many religious
ceremonies were centred on
the planting, growing and
harvesting of corn. Efficient
agricultural production generated
surplus, which helped the ruling classes,
priests and chiefs to invest in architecture and
in the development of astronomy and mathematics.
The Mayas devised a pictographic form of writing that
has only been partially deciphered.
Reclamation is the
conversion of
wasteland into land
suitable for
habitation or
cultivation.
Maya temple, Tikal,
Guatemala, eighth
century.
 CONFRONTATION OF CULTURES
2020-21
172  THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
The Incas of Peru
The largest of the indigenous civilisations in South America was
that of the Quechuas or Incas in Peru. In the twelfth century the
first Inca, Manco Capac, established his capital at Cuzco. Expansion
began under the ninth Inca and at its maximum extent the Inca
empire stretched 3,000 miles from Ecuador to Chile.
The empire was highly centralised, with the king representing
the highest source of authority. Newly conquered tribes were absorbed
effectively; every subject was required to speak Quechua, the language
of the court. Each tribe was ruled independently by a council of elders,
but the tribe as a whole owed its allegiance to the ruler. At the same
time, local rulers were rewarded for their military co-operation. Thus,
like the Aztec empire, the Inca empire resembled a confederacy, with
the Incas in control. There are no precise figures of the population, but
it would seem that it included over a million people.
Like the Aztecs, the Incas too were magnificent builders. They built
roads through mountains from Ecuador to Chile. Their forts were
built of stone slabs that were so perfectly
cut that they did not require mortar. They
used labour-intensive technology to
carve and move stones from nearby
rock falls. Masons shaped the blocks,
using an effective but simple method called
flaking. Many stones weighed more
than 100 metric tons, but they did not
have any wheeled vehicles to transport
these. Labour was organised and very
tightly managed.
The basis of the Inca civilisation was
agriculture. To cope with the infertile soil
conditions, they terraced hillsides and
developed systems of drainage and
irrigation. It has been recently pointed out
that in 1500, cultivation in the Andean
highlands was much greater than what
it is today. The Incas grew corn and
potatoes, and reared llamas for food
and labour.
Their weaving and pottery were of a high
quality. They did not develop a system of
writing. However, there was an accounting
system in place – the quipu, or cords upon
which knots were made to indicate specific
mathematical units. Some scholars now
suggest that the Incas wove a sort of code
into these threads.
MAP 2: South America
2020-21
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