Were the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas different from the North American Indians ?

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larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The native American people of Central and South America tended to be more advanced than those of North America, although they both have been classified as "Native Americans," or "Indians."

The early inhabitants of Central and South America often built large cites and had highly developed civilizations.  They had a complex social structure and the Maya even had a system of writing consisting of hieroglyphs.  They had highly advanced calendars which in many respects were more accurate than the Gregorian Calendar used today.  The Aztec city of Tenochtitlan was described by Hernan Cortes as more magnificent than Constantinople.  They also had a very highly developed religious structure which differed from one group to another.  The Aztec were the most notorious for their practice of human sacrifice.

The Indians of North America never developed large cities, but tended to live and function within small communities.  Their social structure was much simpler, normally consisting of a tribal council and a number of chiefs who were chosen by he council.  Although they practiced some form of religion, they did not erect temples and monuments as were found in the Southern areas.

Two important elements were found in both groups:  No people in the Americas developed the use of metals for tools and weapons; and none developed the use of the wheel except as a toy.

thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas are considered to have been more advanced compared to the North American Indians with regards to social structure and organization. The Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas developed centralized communities with a well-defined administrative structure. Native Americans established decentralized communities and were generally nomads. The Native Americans were mainly hunters and gatherers and did not hold much in personal possessions, which would inhibit their movement.

The Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas were predominantly farmers, and they developed elaborate irrigation schemes within their territories to improve their food security. They also erected temples, built roads, and established cities. Due to their lifestyles, Native American Indians did not establish cities or governments, and they mostly relied on chieftains for administrative needs. On the other hand, the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas had governments that established laws to govern the people.