Chapter 11 Outline
American societies during the postclassical era remained isolated from other civilizations. The societies continued to show great diversity, but there were continuities. American civilizations were marked by elaborate cultural systems, highly developed agriculture, and large urban and political units. Columbus’ mistaken designation of the inhabitants of the Americas as Indians implies a nonexistent common identity. The great diversity of cultures requires concentration on a few major civilizations, the great imperial states of Mesoamerica (central Mexico) and the Andes, plus a few other independently developing peoples.
Postclassical Mesoamerica, 1000-1500 C.E. The collapse of Teotihuacan and the abandonment of Mayan cities in the eighth century C.E. was followed by significant political and cultural changes. The nomadic Toltecs built a large empire in central Mexico. They established a capital at Tula in about 968 and adopted many cultural features from sedentary peoples. Later peoples thought of the militaristic Toltecs as givers of civilization. The Aztecs organized an equally impressive successor state.
The Toltec Heritage. The Toltecs created a large empire reaching beyond central Mexico. Around 1000, they extended their rule to Yucatan and the former Mayan regions. Toltec commercial influence extended northward as far as the American southwest, and perhaps to Hopewell peoples of the Mississippi and Ohio valleys. Many cultural similarities exist, but no Mexican artifacts have been found.
The Aztec Rise to Power. Northern nomadic invasions probably caused the collapse of the Toltec Empire around 1150. The center of population and political power shifted to the valley of Mexico and its large chain of lakes. A dense population used the water for agriculture, fishing, and transportation. The region became the cultural heartland of postclassical Mexico. It was divided politically into many small competing units. The militant Aztecs...