Unit 7: Age of Exploration and Mesoamerica


Unit Three Essential/Guiding Questions             

Essential Questions:

Why did Europeans begin to explore the world? 

Why is this time period called the "first global age"?

How did exploration affect the "New World"?

Guiding Questions:

What advance civilizations existed in Latin American before the arrival of Europeans?

What innovation and motivations encouraged the Europeans to begin to explore?

Why were the Aztec and Incas defeated by the Spanish?

What effect did Spanish rule have on the natives of Latin America?

What is the Colombian exchange and how did it change the world?

What is the encomienda system?


History Detectives: Why did the Maya Disappear? 

The ancient Maya once occupied a vast geographic area in Central America. Their civilization extended to parts of what is now Mexico, Honduras, and El Salvador, and most of Guatemala and Belize.  From the third to the ninth century, Maya civilization produced awe-inspiring temples and pyramids, highly accurate calendars, mathematics and hieroglyphic writing, and a complex social and political order. Looking at the impressive remains of ancient Maya civilization, it's hard to imagine how such a society could collapse. 

In spite of its wealth, power, and size, Copán, a Maya city, collapsed. No monuments seem to have been produced after A.D. 822. Does this mean that the collapse was sudden? Or is it possible that the society collapsed more gradually? To explore why Copán collapsed, try an archaeological activity and discover what scientists recently found when they examined the site.


You Need a Check-up From the Neck Up...

The Inca were not only skilled engineers and warriors but also successful surgeons. Five hundred years ago, without the benefit of steel scalpels or antibiotics, the Inca performed a type of operation called trepanation—literally carving holes in patients' skulls. How did they do it, and why? In this audio slide show, bioarcheologist Valerie Andrushko of Southern Connecticut State University explains.


A Maya Masterpiece Revealed!

The ancient Maya civilization of Central America left behind an intricate and mysterious hieroglyphic script, carved on monuments, painted on pottery, and drawn in handmade bark-paper books. For centuries, scholars considered it too complex ever to understand—until recently, when an ingenious series of breakthroughs finally cracked the code and unleashed a torrent of new insights into the Mayas' turbulent past. For the first time, NOVA presents the epic inside story of how the decoding was done—traveling to the remote jungles of southern Mexico and Central America to investigate how the code was broken and what Maya writings now reveal. Watch the entire episode here...



A Maya Masterpiece Revealed

In March 2001, archeologist Bill Saturno, eager to find shade and rest after a grueling trek through northern Guatemala in search of Maya hieroglyphics, crawled down a looter's trench into the base of an ancient, jungle-covered Maya structure. Finding himself in darkness, he casually switched on his flashlight—and that is when he discovered a masterpiece of early Maya art, which includes some of the earliest and most enigmatic Maya glyphs yet found. The colorful mural graces a long-buried room predating the time of Christ, one of many structures in a site now known as San Bartolo. Explore a 2,000-year-old mural, one of the most exciting recent discoveries of early Maya art!

Sail the Seven Seas and Become a Spice Trader!

You are the owner of a large sailing ship. You sail around the world and trade goods with other countries.

A Genoese investor has agreed to pay for your next trip if you can bring back a profit and, hopefully, goods that he can sell to local merchants. If for any reason you do not return with a profit, he has the right to back out of the deal, and you'll be stuck paying for everything.

Before you sail from your home port in Lisbon, Portugal, you will need to make several important decisions about how to prepare for your journey and what route to take. If you succeed, you will be extremely wealthy and will cement your reputation as a spice trader, ensuring that more rich investors come your way. But if you fail, you may go bankrupt and lose your ship, not to mention ruin your reputation. Begin your voyage here... 

Unwrap this Mystifying Mummy...

Buried beneath a Peruvian shantytown, hundreds of Inca mummies were nearly lost to bulldozers and development. Now, as researches unwrap the mummies from their bundle - layer by layer, artifact by artifact - a rare picture of an ancient world unfolds. Now you can unwrap an Inca mummy too... 


Inca Culture

Explore Incan culture with this interactive gallery...


Ghosts of Machu Picchu 

Perched atop a mountain crest, mysteriously abandoned more than four centuries ago, Machu Picchu is the most famous archeological ruin in the Western Hemisphere and an iconic symbol of the power and engineering prowess of the Inca. In the years since Machu Picchu was discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911, there have been countless theories about this "Lost City of the Incas," yet it remains an enigma. Why did the Incas build it on such an inaccessible site? Who lived among its stone buildings, farmed its emerald green terraces, and drank from its sophisticated aqueduct system? NOVA joins a new generation of archeologists as they probe areas of Machu Picchu that haven't been touched since the time of the Incas. See what they discover when they unearth burials of the people who built the sacred site. Watch the entire episode here...


Map of the Maya World

In its heyday from about A.D. 300 to 900, the Maya civilization boasted hundreds of cities across a vast swath of Central America. Now archeological sites, these once-flourishing cities extended from Chichén Itzá in the northern Yucatán to Copán, about 400 miles to the south in modern-day Honduras. Each bore ceremonial centers where theocratic rulers practiced a complex religion based on a host of gods, a unique calendar, and ceremonies that featured a ball game and human sacrifice. The ancient Maya also mastered astronomy, mathematics, art and architecture, and a glyph system of writing on stone, ceramics, and bark paper. Using an interactive map, visit 15 of the better-known Maya sites.