Week 6 – The Mesoamerican Triad


When people think of the ancient and great civilizations of South America, there are three that come to everyone’s mind – the Inca, Aztec and Mayans. Each was remarkable unique when compared with another given they were isolated and in close proximity. These three powerhouses ruled the land for some time, each developing a complicated society. When one studies the native peoples of America, one can truly gain a sense of how astonishing the culture could be; each society pioneered a number of achievements.


Starting respectively with the Inca, though their feats number greatly, one such innovation stood out to me. The Incans created an instrument called the “quipus” which recorded certain measurements. I hesitate to say to say “does math” because it is much more complicated than that. The quipus had a central string around two feet long, to which other smaller strings were attached; knots were tied throughout, using a base of ten to manage information. It was also used as a portable communique. (http://www.carlos.emory.edu/ODYSSEY/AA/quipo.htm)


Moving on to the Aztec, the invention that recurrently pops into my head is the floating gardens. For a people that lived in a swampy valley, their ability to produce enough food to accommodate an enormous populace is staggering. Their Aztec living in their capitol city alone would have required 88 million pounds of corn per year. So how did they keep everyone fed? By staking out plots of land in a lake, they would connect the corners and fill in the resulting rectangle to create a “floating garden” where they raised all manner of crop and even animals. The more you research into it, the more complicated it gets. (http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/inventions/5-ancient-aztec-inventions.htm#page=1)


Finally, the Mayans. If you had never heard of them before December of last year then you have been living under a rock. Yes, the famous “Mayan calendar” has probably been one of the single most misunderstood inventions ever. Basically, the cosmos was an object of huge spiritual devotion within Mayan culture and because of this they had an innate interest in astronomy, mapping out precise star charts that could rival ours today. Specifically the Calendar Round which measured time in an endless loop and could even predict solar eclipses. (http://www.history.com/topics/mayan-scientific-achievements)