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Micmac and Aztec cultures were dramatically different, as might be expected of two peoples who lived in such dramatically different conditions. The Aztecs, of course, lived in what is now central Mexico, occupying fertile lands that enabled them to practice high-yield agriculture, particularly of maize. They produced maize in such large quantities that it enabled them to live a settled lifestyle, with urban centers surrounded by farming communities. Like other settled agricultural socieites, the Aztecs were highly stratified, with a king and a priestly class that commanded immense authority. By the sixteenth century B.C.E., political power was centered in Tenochtitlan. The Aztecs, including those at Tenochtitlan and their allies, also exercised control over surrounding polities, demanding onerous annual tributes. It was the enmity of these peoples that helped Cortes conquer the Aztecs in the sixteenth century.
The Micmac, on the other hand, lived in what is now Nova Scotia, and did not practice settled agriculture until well into the eighteenth century. This was due to two crucial factors. First, Nova Scotia is far less suited to agriculture than Mexico, with poorer soils and a shorter growing season. Second, the Micmac lived in close proximity to the sea, and were able to live in relative prosperity by hunting, fishing, harvesting shellfish, and shore whaling. These activities, however, did not contribute to a settled society, and furthermore, because they were not settled, they lacked anything like the degree of social stratification that characterized Aztec society. They were also not politically unified, but rather a loose confederacy of largely independent clans.
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