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Inca, Aztec, and Maya

Page history last edited by Patricia Bunch 4 years, 5 months ago



Criteria of a civilization 





Archeologists, like other scientists, like to find general rules that will bring some order and meaning to the vast amounts of material they dig up. Because scientists are uneasy when every object they uncover is seen as unique, they work to find general principles that explain seemingly unrelated objects and events. They look for regularities in the material they study. One archeologist, V. Gordon Childe, sought to understand the emergence of civilizations by examining archaeological material for evidence of such regularities. On the basis of his study, he proposed a set of criteria or characteristics which he believed defined a civilization.


Childe's criteria are:

  1. Large and thickly populated settlements
  2. A variety of specialized occupations
  3. The ability to produce and store surplus food and other goods
  4. Large public buildings
  5. A variety and ranking of social positions
  6. Writing and a system of notation
  7. The beginning of science
  8. The development of an important art style
  9. Trade over long distances
  10. The beginning of social control based on a central government rather than kinship
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Imagine you have traveled back through time to a Pre-Columbian period in what is now Latin America.

Upon your return, you decide to share the excitement of your discoveries with your classmates.



Essential Question:

How can the criteria used to define a civilization be applied to Pre-Columbian societies?

How do the Pre-Columbian societies such as the Aztecs, Inca, and Maya compare and contrast in their ability to survive as a civilization?




Keep these questions

in mind while researching:



Use Cornell Notes to collect information 





Settlement Patterns 

Did these people live in a large and thickly populated settlements?

What did their cities look like?

Did they have large public buildings in their cities?

Describe what their houses looked like.


Describe the government of these people.

What kind of rules of laws did they have?

Who made their laws?

Who was the leader?


What were the main jobs or occupations of these people?

Did this group produce and store surplus food and other goods?

Describe the kind of trading that occurred in this civilization.


What were the social classes?

Who was the most important?

Least important?


What kinds of art did these people appreciate?


What did these people worship?

What did they know about the person or thing they worshiped?


What kinds of technology did these people invent?

What kinds of science did these people develop?

Did these people have a written language?




Use the following sources to find evidence that does/does not support that the Olmec are considered civilized according to Childe's Criteria:


Archaeology: Olmec People, Olmec Art

Fact Monster: Olmec

TFK: The Mystery of the Olmec

History for Kids: Olmec




Cite your sources using MLA style! Keep Track of Your Resources! 


You need to cite sources for information and PICTURES!


To avoid risking plagiarism, properly paraphrase and quote in your writing.


Website Citations

Picture Citations


Maya Inca Aztec



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Qualified librarians, teachers, professionals have approved!

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You are to use the information you collect to create a visual presentation in one of the following formats. Click on each format for tips and suggestions

One of the following multimedia tools are suggested to create your presentation:

If you wish to use another tool, please get approval.




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