10 Difference Between Maya, Aztec And Inca

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Maya

The Maya are an indigenous people of Mexico and Central America who have continuously inhabited the lands comprising modern-day Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Campeche, Tabasco, and Chiapas in Mexico and southward through Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras. The designation Maya comes from the ancient Yucatan city of Mayapan, the last capital of a Mayan Kingdom in the Post-Classic Period. The Maya people refer to themselves by ethnicity and language bonds such as Quiche in the south or Yucatec in the north (though there are many others).

The Maya were deeply religious and worshipped various religious gods related to nature including the gods of the sun, the moon, rain and corn. The classic Maya built many of their temples and palaces in a stepped pyramid shape, decorating them with elaborate reliefs and inscriptions. They also made significant advances in Mathematics and Astronomy including use of Zero and the development of complex calendar systems like the Calendar round based on 365 days and later, the Long Count calendar, designed to last over 5000 years.

The Maya today number about six million people, making them the largest single block of indigenous people north of Peru. Some of the largest Maya groups are found in Mexico, the most important of these being the Yucatecs (300000), the Tzotzil (120000) and the Tzeltal (80000). The Yucatecs live in the highlands of Chiapas. Other large Maya groups include the Quiche and Cakchiquel Maya of Guatemala, the Chontal and Chol Maya of Mexico and the Kekchi Maya of Belize. Each of the 31 Maya groups throughout Central America speaks a different, mutually unintelligible language, although all belong to the Mayan language family.

What You Need To Know About Maya

  • The Maya were native people of Mexico and were mainly settled on and around Yucatan Peninsula in Central America.
  • The Maya society was made up of city-states and was not united politically. There was an independent ruler for each city-state.
  • Maya practiced Human Sacrifice and were polytheistic (never worshipped a particular God). 
  • Maya built huge arrays of structures and have left a considerable architectural heritage. A classical period city called ‘’Tikal’’ was reconstructed by Maya which was spread over 20 square kilometers.
  • The Maya created a writing system of hieroglyphics.
  • The Maya used two calendars. One which was based on the solar year while the other was a kind of sacred almanac.
  • The exact reason why Maya declined is still not known to Archeologists but presently more than 2 million Maya people live in Guatemala and Southern Mexico.

Aztecs

The Aztec people included different ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica from the 14th to the 16th centauries. They called themselves Mexica. The Republic of Mexico and its capital, Mexico city derive their names from the word ‘’Mexica’’. The capital of the Aztec empire was Tenochtitlan, built on a raised island in Lake Texcoco. Modern Mexico City is built on the ruins of Tenochtitlan. Aztec civilization flourished until the Spanish conquest in the 16th century and the Spanish settlement of Mexico city.

Aztecs kept immaculate records and had a complex system of writings. Much like Egyptian hieroglyphs, their alphabet was a series of pictures, written by scholars and priests and inscribed in deer skin or tree bark. The Aztec religion was primarily polytheistic. They had different gods, male and female. The sun god was Tonatiuh. There were many deities and they were revered in monthly festivities with rich offerings.

Historians believe that what decimated the Aztec population was smallpox, an infectious disease imported from Europe. In the first five years of European influence, almost 15 million Aztecs are thought to have died of this illness, mostly leaders as they were the ones in contact with the Spanish conquistadores.

What You Need To Know About Aztec

  • Aztec lived in the Valley of Mexico in Central Mexico.
  • The Aztec society was ruled by an Emperor whose main purpose was to lead in the wars. The local rulers and conquered people had to pay tax to the Aztec.
  • Aztec worshiped Huitzilopochtli as their main God.
  • Monumental sculptures were mainly their favorite. They build statutes like that of colossal Coatlicue or very alive and famous sculpture of a seated Xochipilli. Aztec art portrayed all varieties of a subject but especially famous were animals, plants and gods, specifically those related to fertility and agriculture.
  • The Aztec created the famous mask of Xuihetecuhtli that employed turquoise mosaic.
  • Aztec used a sacred calendar and a 365-day agricultural calendar. The Aztec writing system was based on glyphs, symbols that stand for sound or words.
  • Aztec were defeated ultimately by Spanish conquistadors led by Hernan Cortes.

Inca

The Inka or Inca civilization emerged in the 13th century and lasted until it was conquered by the Spanish in 1572. The administrative, political and military center of the empire was located in Cusco (Cuzco) in modern-day Peru. In the 14th and 15th Century, the Incas used a variety of methods, from conquest to peaceful assimilation, to incorporate a large portion of western South America. The Incas expanded their borders to include large parts of modern Ecuador, Peru, western and south-central Bolivia, Northwest Argentina, north and north-central Chile and southern Columbia.

Famed for their unique art and architecture, they constructed finely-build and imposing buildings wherever they conquered and their spectacular adaptation of natural landscapes with terracing, highways and mountaintop settlements continues to impress modern visitors at such world famous sites as Machu Picchu located in the Andes Mountain range above the Urubamba Valley. The Inca Empire was connected by its vast road system, which made communication between far away points possible within days.

The Inca had no writing system. They had a system of record-keeping known as quipu which used knotted strings to signify a certain amount of information. Exactly what that information was and what the quipu meant to the people is unknown.

The religion of the Inca was polytheistic; the gods were thought to control the natural world and significantly influenced the lives of people. The best example of this is the god Pachacamac, a creator-deity who made humans, vegetation and oversaw agriculture and good harvests. The gods of the Inca were considered as real to them as any god of any modern-day religion is to believers.

What You Need To Know About Inca

  • The Inca lived in the Valley of Cuzco in the Andes Mountains of Central Peru.
  • Inca society was ruled by Sapa Inca, the emperor who had absolute power. This emperor was also the empire’s religious leader.
  • Inca worshipped Inti as the main God, who they referred to as the Sun God.
  • The Inca buildings were in uniformity with huge imperial structures. The Inca architecture incorporated natures beauty, yet creating an amazing mixture of geometrical and natural forms.
  • The Inca created a massive road network through mountains and rivers.
  • The Inca didn’t develop a writing system; their records were kept on the bundles of knotted cords referred to as quipus.
  • Inca was defeated by Spanish conquistadors led by Francisco Pizarro. Also prevalence of smallpox killed most of the Inca.

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Difference Between Maya, Aztec And Inca In Tabular Form

BASIS OF COMPARISON MAYA AZTEC INCA
Description The Maya mainly settled on and around Yucatan Peninsula in Central America.   Aztec lived in the Valley of Mexico in Central Mexico.   The Inca lived in the Valley of Cuzco in the Andes Mountains of Central Peru.  
Political Organization The Maya society was made up of city-states and was not united politically. There was an independent ruler for each city-state.   The Aztec society was ruled by an Emperor whose main purpose was to lead in the wars. Inca society was ruled by Sapa Inca, the emperor who had absolute power
Religion They practiced Human Sacrifice and were polytheistic (never worshipped a particular God).    They worshiped Huitzilopochtli as their main God.   They worshipped Inti as the main God, who they referred to as the Sun God.    
Architectural Art Maya built huge arrays of structures and have left a considerable architectural heritage. Monumental sculptures were mainly their favorite. The Inca architecture incorporated natures beauty, yet creating an amazing mixture of geometrical and natural forms.
Structures Maya architect used local materials like limestone to construct towering temples and elaborate palaces. The Aztec created the famous mask of Xuihetecuhtli that employed turquoise mosaic.   The Inca created a massive road network through mountains and rivers.  
Buildings Maya constructed towering temples and elaborate palaces. Aztec constructed their capital city Tenochtitlan on an Island. Inca constructed stone temples without using mortars yet the stone fit together so well that a knife would not fit between the stones.
Writing The Maya created a writing system of hieroglyphics. Aztec had a writing system and kept immaculate records and had a complex system of writings. The Aztec writing system was based on glyphs, symbols that represent sound or words. The Inca had no writing system. They had a system of record-keeping known as quipu which used knotted strings to signify a certain amount of information
Calendar Maya used two calendars. One which was based on the solar year whereas the other was a kind of sacred almanac.   Aztec used a sacred calendar and a 365-day agricultural calendar. The Inca had no writing system. Their records were kept on bundles of knotted cords referred to as quipus.
Decline The exact reason why Maya declined is still not known to Archeologists but presently more than 2 million Maya people live in Guatemala and Southern Mexico.   Aztec were defeated ultimately by Spanish conquistadors led by Hernan Cortes.   Inca was defeated by Spanish conquistadors led by Francisco Pizarro. Also prevalence of smallpox killed most of the Inca.