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The Collapse of the Greatest World Civilizations: the Maya, the Aztec, and the Inca Civilizations Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 18th, 2019

Introduction

The collapses of such great civilizations as the Maya, the Aztec, and the Inca civilizations are discussed by many researchers as rather unexpected and influenced by a lot of different factors, including environmental and social changes along with the war conflicts. The stages of the development of the Mesoamerican civilization and of the Incas were rather similar.

However, different factors led to the societies’ collapses. If the territories of the Aztec and the Inca civilizations were invaded by the Spaniards and that situation resulted in the civilizations’ decline, the causes for the Mayan civilization’s collapse are not determined clearly.

Thus, changes in the climate, environments, social, trade, and political development can be discussed as significant factors to influence the great civilizations’ development and further decline. The Role of Environmental Changes and Ecological Stress in the Civilizations’ Collapse.

The Case of the Mayan Civilization

The Maya civilization developed during the period of 2000 B.C. – 250 A.D. The Maya population achieved significant results in developing mathematics, astronomy, and solar calendars. The accomplishments in science contributed to developing the effective seasonal planting (Demarest, 2004). However, such environmental and ecological changes as continuous droughts and hurricanes could lead to exhausting the farming lands and lack of nutrition for the Maya population.

The Impact on the Aztec and Inca Civilizations

The Aztec, living during the period of 1325 – 1523 A.D., were military tribes of hunters who could achieve the great development at the small territories. They were successful engineers, and the Aztec population developed the important irrigation system, but definite changes in climate could lead to weakening of the irrigation system’s work and the Aztec could become more vulnerable when the Spaniards came to invade these lands (Leon-Portilla, 2012).

The ecological stress at the mountainous territories with great deserts could also influence the power of the Inca civilization at the face of the Spaniards’ threat (Thompson, 1999). The Impact of the Endemic Warfare on the Civilizations’ Decline.

The Impact on the Mayan Civilization

The Mayan civilization is the combination of many small kingdoms united by the same territory, culture, and religious beliefs (Hunt, 2005). Any military conflict between the kingdoms could lead to the decline of the whole civilization because of possible peasants’ revolts and struggles for the power.

The Effects on the Aztec and Inca Civilizations

If there was a risk of the endemic warfare for the Maya civilization, the Aztec and Inca civilizations became the victims of the wars with the Spaniards. The territories the Aztec civilization and their weapons were too small in comparison with the potential of the Spaniards.. Furthermore, the Spaniards used the neighborhood conflicts of the Aztec with the other tribes. The Incas were more successful in the war with the Spaniards, but the scholars pay attention to the risk of the civil wars in the Inca civilization as a result of the quick progress (Thompson, 1999). The Competition for Trade as the Significant Factor for Collapse.

Trade and the Mayan Civilization

The competition of the Mayan kingdoms for the trade benefits is discussed by researchers as one of the reasons for decline (Webster, 2002). Nevertheless, this factor can be considered as influential only with references to significant climatic and social changes.

The Impact on the Aztec and Inca Civilizations

The Aztec and Inca populations were successful in trading because of developing effective counting systems and roads. However, in the process of the civilizations’ development, the exchange routes could change under the impact of the other civilizations and tribes. Moreover, developing during the same period, the Aztec and Inca civilizations could influence each other and their trade connections (Wakild, 2011). The Environmental Social and Physical Fluctuations.

The Effects on the Mayan Civilization

The researchers are inclined to agree that environmental social and physical fluctuations influenced the Mayan Civilization’s decline significantly. Thus, the collapse of the civilization could become the result of overpopulation and the lack of nutrition because of the lands’ exhaustion and decline in farming techniques along with the development of civil wars and corruption of the social networks (Golitko, 2012).

The Inca and Aztec Civilizations

The Inca and Aztec civilizations could decline because of the Spaniards’ invasion and their superiority in warfare (Fagan, 2004). Furthermore, the Inca and Aztec populations suffered from the European diseases and could not preserve effective farming methods because of catastrophic climate changes.

Conclusion

The focus on the possible reasons for the great civilizations’ decline can contribute to determining the basic causes which can lead to the civilizations’ collapses after the decades of prosperity. The situation with the Inca and Aztec civilizations’ decline is explained with references to the Spaniards’ invasion.

Nevertheless, there is a range of factors which contributed to the success of the invasion. The secret of the Mayan civilization’s decline is not resolved, but the comparison of the basic causes for civilizations’ collapses can lead to finding the answers to important questions about the main stages of the civilizations’ development.

References

Demarest, A. (2004). Ancient Maya: The rise and fall of a rainforest civilization. USA: Cambridge University Press.

Fagan, B. (2004). People of the earth: an introduction to world prehistory. USA: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Golitko, M. (2012). Complexities of collapse: the evidence of Maya obsidian as revealed by social network graphical analysis. Antiquity, 86(332), 507-523.

Hunt, B. (2005). A simulation of the climatic conditions associated with the collapse of the Maya civilization. Climatic Change, 69(3), 393-407.

Leon-Portilla, M. (2012). Aztec thought and culture: A study of the ancient Nahuatl mind. USA: University of Oklahoma Press.

Thompson, W. (1999). The military superiority thesis and the ascendancy of Western Eurasia in the world system. Journal of World History, 10(1), 143-178.

Wakild, E. (2011). Questioning collapse: Human resilience, ecological vulnerability, and the aftermath of empire. Journal of World History, 22(2), 355-359.

Webster, D. (2002). The fall of the ancient Maya: Solving the mystery of the Maya collapse. USA: Thames & Hudson.

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IvyPanda. "The Collapse of the Greatest World Civilizations: the Maya, the Aztec, and the Inca Civilizations." September 18, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-collapse-of-the-greatest-world-civilizations-the-maya-the-aztec-and-the-inca-civilizations/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "The Collapse of the Greatest World Civilizations: the Maya, the Aztec, and the Inca Civilizations." September 18, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-collapse-of-the-greatest-world-civilizations-the-maya-the-aztec-and-the-inca-civilizations/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'The Collapse of the Greatest World Civilizations: the Maya, the Aztec, and the Inca Civilizations'. 18 September.

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