Mayan, Aztec, and Incan Civilizations

Standard(s) of Learning


The student will demonstrate knowledge of major civilizations of the Western Hemisphere, including the Mayan, Aztec, and Incan, by


describing geographic relationship, with emphasis on patterns of development in terms of climate and physical features;


describing cultural patterns and political and economic structures.

Mayan Temple of Inscriptions

Explain that the Mayan, Aztec, and Incan civilizations emerged in South America, Central America, and Mexico.;

Identify the characteristics of the Mayan, Aztecs, and Incan civilizations, using the following information as a guide:
Mayan civilization
•    Located in the Mexican and Central American rain forest
•    Represented by Chichén Itzá
•    Group of city-states ruled by a king
•    Economy based on agriculture and trade
•    Polytheistic religion—Pyramids
Aztec civilization
•    Located in arid valley in central Mexico
•    Represented by Tenochtitlan
•    Ruled by an emperor
•    Economy based on agriculture
•    Polytheistic religion, based on warfare
•    Pyramids                                                                                                                     
Incan civilization
•    Located in the Andes Mountains of South America                                                        
•    Represented by Machu Picchu                                                                                      
•    Ruled by an emperor                                                                                                    
•    Economy based on high-altitude agriculture                                                                    
•    Polytheistic religion                                                                                                       
•    Road system

Identify the achievement of Mayan, Aztec, and Incan civilizations, using the following information:
•    Calendars                                                                                                                    
•    Mathematics                                                                                                                
•    Writing system                                                                                                             

Sample Resources

Below is an annotated list of Internet resources for this organizing topic. Copyright restrictions may exist for the material on some Web sites. Please note and abide by any such restrictions.

“Civilizations in America: The Mayas.” Washington State University. <>. This site provides historical background on the Mayas, including information on the region, economy and society, and religion.

“Civilizations in America: The Mexica / Aztecs.” Washington State University. <>. This site provides historical background on the Aztecs, including information on economy and society, religion, and writing.

“Religion in the Inca Empire.” Truman University. <>. This site contains information on the Incan religion, including overview, cosmology, ritual, and deities.

Virginia Standards of Learning Assessments, Selected Items for World History I, Spring 2003. Virginia Department of Education. <>.

Virginia Standards of Learning Assessments for the 2001 History and Social Science Standards of Learning. World History and Geography  to 1500 A.D. (C.E.) Test Blueprint. Virginia Department of Education, 2009. < . . .pdf>. This site provides assessment information for World History and Geography to 1500 A.D. (C.E.)

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