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The Age of Exploration


Students compare and contrast the geographic, political, religious, social, and economic structures of the Mesoamerican and Andean civilizations. Students analyze reasons for movement of people from Europe to the Americas, describing the impact of exploration by Europeans and American Indians.



South America Map
South America Map

An exciting chart of South America According to the Latest and Best Authorities. It was taken in 1826. Scale 1:15,500,000.

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Map of the Aztec Migration
Map of the Aztec Migration

This unusual 1704 map, drawn by Giovanni Francesco Gemelli Careri, is the first published representation of the legendary Aztec migration from Aztlan, a mysterious paradise somewhere to the northwest of Mexico, to Chapultepec Hill, currently Mexico City.

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South America
South America

A collectible chart of South America, shewing it's general divisions, chief cities & towns, rivers, mountains &c. / dedicated to His Highness William Duke of Gloucester ; B. Cole sculp. It was made in 1700. Relief shown pictorially. Published from 1700 to 1738. Scale ca. 1:23,000,000 (W 1100--W 150/N 140--S 600).

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South America Map
South America Map

An exciting chart of South America According to the Latest and Best Authorities. It was taken in 1826. Scale 1:15,500,000.

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  • How did Portugal’s early explorations influence history?

  • Why did European rulers want to spread Christianity?

  • How does technology affect the spread of culture and the preservation of cultural identity?

  • How did the interactions between colonizers and native peoples impact how each on saw the other and the world?

  • What are the lasting impacts of European colonization?



“In unsettled times like these, when world cultures, countries and religions are facing off in violent confrontations, we could benefit from the reminder that storytelling is common to all civilizations. Whether in the form of a sprawling epic or a pointed ballad, the story is our most ancient method of making sense out of experience and of preserving the past.”  ~William Collins, English Poet, 1721-1759



  • As Europeans explored, they came into contact with other races of people, whom they exploted for commercial gain. This resulted from and reinforced racism and an attitude of white supremacy.

  • Advances in technology helped make exploration possible.

  • The effects of colonization on native people. (Spanish and Portuguese in Latin and South America and other European countries in North America.)

  • The triangular trade had an important and devestating impact on enslaved Africans in the Americas as well as on the West African culture and population.

Guns, Germs, and Steel:  Conquest of the Americas...

Guns, Germs and Steel traces humanity's journey over the last 13,000 years.


Diamond argues that the gaps in power and technology between human societies originate in environmental differences, which are amplified by various positive feedback loops. He asserts that these advantages occurred because of the influence of geography on societies and cultures, and were not inherent in the Eurasian genomes.

History, War Documentary narrated by Jared Diamond published by National Geographic in 2005. Based on Jared Diamond's Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name, Guns, Germs and Steel traces humanity's journey over the last 13,000 years ? from the dawn of farming at the end of the last Ice
Age to the realities of life in the twenty-first century.Inspired by a question put to him on the island of Papua New Guinea more than thirty years ago, Diamond embarks on a world-wide quest to understand the roots of global inequality.

On November 15th 1532, 168 Spanish conquistadors arrive in the holy city of Cajamarca, at the heart of the Inca Empire, in Peru. They are exhausted, outnumbered and terrified -- ahead of them are camped 80,000 Inca troops and the entourage of the Emperor himself.
Yet, within just 24 hours, more than 7,000 Inca warriors lie slaughtered; the Emperor languishes in chains; and the victorious Europeans begin a reign of colonial terror which will sweep through the entire American continent.

7.64 Identify the locations of the Olmecs, Mayans, Aztec, and Incas and explain the impact of the geographical features and climates of Mexico, Central America, and South America on their civilizations.


  • Aztec calendar

  • Mayan calendar

  • Mayan mathematics

  • Aztec sacrificial offerings

  • messengers

  • causeway

  • Moche

  • matriarchy

  • patriarchy







Lost Cities of the Maya...

Between the 3rd and 10th centuries A.D., the Mayan civilization ruled much of Central America. Travel back to the magnificent Mayan cities of Uxmal, Tulum, Chichén Itza and the capital Palenque, with its breathtaking pyramid built by master mathematicians. Being that it is located on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, it is, to this day, one of the most picturesque places in the world.

7.65 Describe the highly structured social and political system of the Maya civilization, ruled by kings and consisting of agriculturally intensive centers around independent city-states.


The pictures and description of Mayan ruins at this site are the result of five trips by Barbara McKenzie to Mexico, Gautemala and Belize. The site is navigated by clicking on the name of the site on the homepage map. A bibliography is also incuded.




Mayan Calendar.  Learn More by investigating the Maya Empire Project

7.67 Explain the roles of peoples in the Aztec and Incan societies, including class structures, family life, warfare, religious beliefs and practices, and slavery.



Aztec Sun Stone Calendar.  Learn More by investigating the Aztec Empire Project

7.66 Create a graphic organizer or concept map explaining how and where each empire arose (how the Aztec and Incan empires were eventually defeated by the Spanish in the 16th century).



The Inca Civilization and Pizarro...

7.68 Use multimedia components and visual displays in presentations to describe the artistic and oral traditions and architecture in the four civilizations (Olmecs, Mayan, Aztec, and Incan civilizations).



Lost Kingdoms of South America (2013) Ep1 People of the Clouds...

Archaeologist Dr Jago Cooper reveals the true character of this stunning continent through its culture, people and landscapes. There is a rich and fascinating history that has been forgotten. The Incas and the Spanish interrupted millennia of independent development of important and influential civilisations. Across four episodes, we explore Chimor in Peru, Muisca and Tairona in Colombia, Chachapoya in Peru and Tiwanaku in Bolivia. There are temples hidden deep in the jungle, sprawling mountain citadels and long-forgotten gods and kings carved in stone. The Lost Kingdoms of South America have only just begun to relinquish their secrets.

America Before Columbus...

7.70 Compare the varied economies and trade networks within and among major indigenous cultures prior to contact with Europeans and their systems of government, religious beliefs, distinct territories, and customs and traditions.






Context of 15th Century European Exploration...

7.72 Analyze why European countries were motivated to explore including religion, political rivalry, and economic gain.



The Aztecs, Maya, and Incas - What they Did For Us...


The Aztec Empire was located in central Mexico. It ruled much of the region from the 1400s until the Spanish arrived in 1519. Much of the Aztec society centered around their religion and gods. They built large pyramids as temples to their gods and went to war to capture people they could sacrifice to their gods.

The capital city of the Aztec Empire was Tenochtitlan. This city was founded in 1325 on an island in Lake Texcoco. At the height of its power, the city likely had a population of 200,000 people. At the center of the city was a large temple complex with pyramids and a palace for the king. The rest of the city was planned out in a grid-like fashion and divided up into districts. It had causeways built to get to the mainland and aqueducts to bring fresh water into the city.

The Aztec called their ruler the Tlatoani. The Empire reached its height under the rule of Tlatoani Montezuma I. Around 1517 the priests of the Aztecs began to see omens of doom. They felt that something bad was going to happen. They were right. In 1519 Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes arrived in Mexico. By 1521 the Spanish had conquered the Aztecs. They tore down much of the city of Tenochtitlan and built their own city on the site called Mexico City.


The Maya civilization began as early as 2000 BC and continued to have a strong presence in Mesoamerica for over 3000 years until the Spanish arrived in 1519 AD. The Maya were organized into powerful city-states. Over the course of Maya history, different city-states came into power such as El Mirador, Tikal, Uxmal, Caracol, and Chichen Itza.

The Maya were located in Central America in a region that is today made up of southern Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula, Guatemala, Belize, and northern El Salvador. They built hundreds of cities filled with large stone structures. The Maya are perhaps best known today for their many pyramids. They built pyramids to their gods that towered hundreds of feet tall above the jungle.

The Maya were the only American civilization to develop an advanced written language. They also excelled in mathematics, art, architecture, and astronomy. The golden age of the Maya civilization occurred during what is called the Classic Period from 250 AD to 900 AD.


The Inca Empire was centered in Peru and ruled over much of the west coast of South America from the 1400s to the time of the Spanish arrival in 1532. This wide ranging empire did not have the wheel, iron tools, or a writing system, but its complex government and system of roads created a society where everyone had a job, a home, and something to eat.

The emperor of the Inca was known as the Sapa Inca. The first Sapa Inca was Manco Capac. He founded the Kingdom of Cuzco around 1200 AD. The city of Cuzco would remain the capital of the empire as it expanded in the coming years. The Inca expanded into a great empire under the reign of Pachacuti. Pachacuti created the Inca Empire which the Inca called the Tawantinsuyu. At its height, the Inca Empire had an estimated population of over 10 million people.

The Inca were conquered by the Spanish and conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1533. The empire was already severely weakened by civil war and diseases such as smallpox when Pizarro arrived.

7.69 Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support the analysis of the impacts of the Mesoamerican developments in astronomy and mathematics, including the calendar, and the Mesoamerican knowledge of seasonal changes to the civilizations’ agricultural systems.



7.71 Identify the European countries responsible for North American exploration and the modern day countries in which they settled, including France, Spain, England, Portugal, and the Dutch. Summarize the reasons for the success of these countries in colonization or North and South America.








When European conquerors sailed to the New World, native peoples had no way to understand the newcomers except by reference to their own beliefs and traditions. In this reading, we can see the response of King Moctezuma to the European Hernan Cortez in 1519 as the latter entered the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. As Moctezuma would soon discover, he had misjudged his visitor's identity and intentions.

The Great Age of Exploration 1400-1550...

7.73 Identify the voyages of discovery, the locations of the routes, and the influence of technology in the developments of a new European worldview including cartography, compass, caravel, astrolabe.



Effects of European Colonization: Christopher Columbus and Native Americans...

7.74 Examine the impact of the exchanges of plants, animals, technology, culture, ideas, and diseases among Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries and the major economic and social effects on each continent.




The following are two documents relating to the reign of Philip II of Spain (1527-1598). He was perhaps the most powerful monarch in Europe, controlling both vast territories in Europe and the Americas. The two documents which follow are from anonymous sources.




Imagine you are an archaeologist working in the ancient Inca city of Huanuco Pampa.  Your goal is to figure out what each of the buildings marked on the map were used for.  




Students will utilize A.D./B.C. & B.C.E./C.E. to create a living time line using dates on cards. They will then research and create individual time lines.



The Spanish may have taken them down, but the Aztecs in their prime were not an empire you wanted to mess with! In this BrainPOP movie, Tim and Moby lead you into the Valley of Mexico for an up-close look at this powerful Mesoamerican civilization. 



They ruled the jungles of the Yucatan for over a thousand years. Ferocious warriors, the Maya fought the Spanish and held them in a stalemate for twenty years. Finally, in the end, they walked away from their pyramids and temples and returned to the fields leaving behind ruins that boggle the imagination. Who were the Mayans, what were their beliefs, and what happened to them? Follow the links above for answers to these questions and to find out how you can journey in the footsteps of this mysterious culture. 

Crash Course:  The Columbian Exchange...




A photographic tour of the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico.



The real Inca Trail is a walking route that leads through the mountains above the Urubamba river, following (at least partly) the course of an old Inca roadway leading to the city of Machu Picchu.

Pre-Columbian Civilization:  North American Indians Before Europeans...



Huge triangles, trapezoids, zig-zags, and animals. How did the ancient people of the Nazca desert achieve such geometrical precision, and what is the meaning of the drawings of giant spiders and birds?  Read more of the various Nazca Lines Theories...

7.75 Write an opinion piece with supporting details that describes the effects of exploration on the indigenous American cultures.



Primary Documents and Supporting Texts to Read: excerpts from the journals of Christopher Columbus Primary Documents and Supporting Texts to Consider: excerpts from Indigenous Peoples of North America, James D. Torr


Join Bob Hale from HHTV News as he talks about the Incans.


Horrible Histories Series 3;all ; deleted scenes-unseen sketches angry Aztec's- chocolate.

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