HUMANPAST.NET

History                  1,000 AD
Africa
Southwest Asia
Egypt
Indus Valley
China
Europe
South America
Mesoamerica
North America
Other

Africa

 …one of the big problems with all Phoenician research is that most of the Phoenician cities at one time or other were not merely defeated, but methodically razed to the ground. So little remains of Phoenician culture because the Phoenicians were probably the most hated people of the ancient world. (120)

Southwest Asia

 

Egypt

 Later, the Romans, Arabs, and British would complete the conquest of Egypt, submerging almost entirely this distinctive civilization that was for so many years the light of the ancient world. Not until AD 1952 was Egypt again ruled by Egyptians. (47)

Indus Valley

 

China

 

Europe

 Eventually, steppe peoples in general, regardless of their language, ceased to win in the face of western Europe's advancing technology. When the end came, it was swift. In 1241 AD the Mongols achieved the largest steppe empire that ever existed, stretching from Hungary to China. But after about 1500 AD the Indo-European-speaking Russians began to encroach on the steppes from the west. It took only a few more centuries of tsarist imperialism to conquer the steppe horsemen who had terrorized Europe and China for over five thousand years. Today the steppes are divided between Russia and China, and only Mongolia remains as a vestige of steppe independence. (114)

When Jacobite Christianity came first to Wales, and later to Ireland and Scotland, it was easily accepted. The remnants of the native Druidism readily mutated into Celtic Christianity. This Enochian form of Christianity survived well into the sixth century AD, and we traced it through the teachings of the early Celtic saints and the poems of Taliesin. The sites of the Grooved Ware People have always been held sacred, and for the last 3,000 years have been the object of battles between the various lines of the royal houses of Britain and the descendants of the Priests of the Jerusalem Temple. (160)

South America

 The largest and most highly integrated ancient political system ever to appear in the New World evolved in Andean south America within the space of only eighty seven years. Centered in the Cuzco Valley, the Inka Empire (more properly known ass the Empire of Tahuantinsuyu [“world of the four quarters”]) eventually stretched from Colombia to central Chile and from the Pacific to the eastern jubgles, tying together under the administration of a single royal lineage many diverse regional economic and political systems. At its height, as many as six million people may have been living under Inka rule in one of the most strictly ordered societies of all time. Like Egypt, the Inka polity was a “hegemonic-territorial” state…with its population spread rather thinly over a large area but with effective government control over most aspects of life. (52)

Native and Spanish accounts say that the Inka began their rise to power out of the dissolution of the many small competing Andean South American states of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries AD. The people of Cuzco were attacked by a rival state at about AD 1435 and managed to prevail. Succeeding monarchs of Cuzco added new provinces to the empire by conquest, treaty, and simple annexation. The Inka’s oral histories—recorded by the Spanish—speak of military campaigns in which Inka kings smashed the rival power of Chan-Chan in the 1460s, put down large-scale revolts in the 1470s, and greatly expanded the empire in the 1480s. (52)

Mesoamerica

 Trade between the Maya area and Teotihuacan probably occurred, but much of Maya development was autonomous and distinctive. After AD 600 when Teotihuacan rapidly began to lose influence and population, the Maya began a three-hundred-year period of intense development. Hundreds of temple complexes were constructed and beautiful stone sculptures executed--many dated and inscribed. (51)

In the centuries between about AD 600 and AD 800, most of the people of Copan (which probably featured a population of about 25,000-30,000 at its peak) lived in an oasis-like forty-kilometer stretch of fertile river valley hemmed in by largely unpopulated mountains. (51)

Themes of military triumph, the torture of captives and the power of the ruling classes were also commonly depicted in bas-relief sculpture throughout the Classic period--even in the Valley of Oaxaca and the peripheral areas of the Maya sphere of influence. (51)

"Collapse" in the sense of what happened to the Maya has many meanings, since hundreds of thousands of people who spoke Mayan and were the direct genetic descendants of the classic first millennium AD Maya were there to greet the first Europeans on their arrival in the sixteenth century. And as Andrews and others have noted, the "collapse" of the Maya may be more apparent than real. A decline in temple construction and in the production of lavish goods does not necessarily mean societal collapse.

Until about AD 910, the Maya usually accompanied any new monumental building with a stone stela engraved with the date of its construction, and thus we know that while many buildings were completed during the eighth and ninth centuries AD, by AD 889 only three sites were under construction, and by about AD 900, construction seems to have ended for good.

But in the northern lowlands, the and tenth centuries AD were a time of great expansion. Cities such as Chichen Itza established empires at transcend in size and power those of the Classic period. Despite these periods of regional florescence and empire, however, Maya writing fell out of use, and with it, perhaps, the central ideology of the Maya world--the complex ideas about the universe and human affairs that melded these people into a culture and inspired them to build their civilization.

Shortly after AD 900 the Toltecs, a people whose culture was centered at Tula in the Valley of Mexico, apparently established feudal control over some areas of the Maya lowlands...

Whatever was at the root of the Maya cultural evolution, the collapse of this culture poses equally interesting questions. Warfare seems to have increased toward the end of the Maya period, an we might ask why it became more prevalent then and why the Maya were unable to fight off its effects at this time, after so many centuries of successful dealings among themselves and with their neighbors. No appreciable land shortages or over population seem to have occurred nor is there much evidence of foreign military pressures on these people.

As Maya political power n the lowlands was beginning to wane, much of the highland Puebla, Mexico, and Hidalgo was apportioned among several competing power centers. One group, the Toltecs, began to dominate the Valley of Mexico after about AD 900. According to Aztec legends (the Aztecs claimed descent from the Toltecs), the Toltecs came to central Mexico from northwestern Mexico. The desert plateaus of northwestern Mexico were for many millennia the home of the “Chichimeca,” groups of nomadic hunter-foragers, and it is possible that some of these people migrated south and did, in fact, join with (or displace) local cultures to produce the Toltec culture. One of the major centers of the Toltec polity was at Tula, just north of the Valley of Mexico. Shortly after about AD 900, the Toltec built two stone pyramids and a ball-court at Tula. On one of the pyramids they placed a temple dedicated to the Serpent god, Quetzalcoatl.

The Toltecs established trade and military outposts in many areas of northern and western Mexico, and exported metal, gemstones and other commodities as far north as Arizona and New Mexico.

Eventually, Toltec power weakened. Under the onslaught of the invading Chichimec from the north, the Toltecs broke up into many smaller competitive groups. Tula itself was almost entirely destroyed by invaders at about AD 1156. Chichen Itza also went into a period of decline, to be replaced by a loose confederation of provinces, called the "League of Mayapan,” and the island of Cozumel, on Yucatan's east coast, which was a major trading center between AD 1250 and the arrival of the Spanish in AD 1519. But by the time of the arrival of the Spanish, the community at Mayapan had been abandoned and the Maya areas were a welter of small chiefdoms at war with one another.

At war with various groups, the Aztecs were forced to take refuge on islands in the lake where, according to legend, they built their first city, Tenochtitlan. In time Tenochtitlan grew to become a massive complex of pyramids, courts, and other buildings (now largely buried beneath the streets of Mexico City.

As allies of the Tepanec kingdom of Atzcapotzalco, the Aztecs conquered many of the surrounding cities, and at about AD 1427 the turned on their erstwhile allies and through savage warfare brought most of central Mexico under their control. Military expeditions conquered peoples all the way to the Guatemalan border, an garrison towns were established from the Pacific Coast to the Gulf of Mexico.

Although the Aztecs are usually associated with militarism, they also created an impressive civil and commercial administration. Between about AD 1300 and AD 20 they drained large areas of the Valley of Mexico, transforming them into productive agricultural plots. Michael Smith has argued that the Valley of Mexico settlement pattern during Aztec times was a hierarchically -arranged marketing system of products with intense local specialization in goods and services. In AD 1519 Tenochtitlan is estimated to have had about 200,000 to 300,000 inhabitants…(51)

In AD 1519 Cortez left Cuba with a sizable force of ships, men, armaments, and horses and sailed to the coast of Veracruz. With the advantage of horses, cannons, war dogs, and an extraordinary esprit de corps, Cortez and his men were able to march directly into the Aztec capital at Tenochtitlan, where they were at first welcomed by the Aztec king, Moctezuma, who was under the delusion that the Spanish were-gods returning to their ancestral homeland. He could hardly have been more wrong. Within a short time, the Spanish had kidnapped and jailed him and were forming alliances with local non-Aztec peoples, who were only too happy to help the Spanish displace the Aztecs. Moctezuma and many of his people were eventually killed in a fierce battle at Tenochtitlan, after which Aztec resistance stiffened; but within a few years the Spanish had captured most of the Aztec heartland. In 1524 they hanged the last Aztec king, and thereafter Spanish domination of Mexico was rapid. When the Spanish first arrived, the population of the heartland of the Aztec empire was probably more than a million; 150 years later it probably held fewer than 70,000 people--the survivors of war, disease, slavery, and the other plagues of this epic clash of cultures. (51)

Much of Mesoamerican religion, and one of the principal Mayan prophecies, was focused on the belief that Kukulcan would return. This belief was so deeply embedded, that in November 1519, Montezuma II, ruler of the Aztecs, virtually surrendered to Cortez believing him to be either an emissary of Quetzalcoatl or the god himself, newly reincarnated. He greeted Cortez with the words, 'My royal ancestors have said that you would come to visit your city and that you would sit upon your mat and chair when you returned'. (150)

The lintel of the Gateway at Tiahuanaco reveals the ancient logic that inspired the capacocha, now enlisted in desperate urgency for the sole purpose of getting a message through, before Time ran out. The message was indeed in the form of a plea, a mantra really, because it was repeated over and over again during the weeks it must have taken for the stately processions of the capacocha to reach the limits of the Empire. As the priests walked "four by four," eyes downcast, they paused every few hundred yards ("the distance of an arcabus [arquebus] shot") and repeated these words, words that represent the distillation of two millennia of Andian thought: "May the Sun remain a young man and the Moon a Young maiden; may the world not turn over; let there be peace." This, then, was the plea that the Incas directed to Wiraqocha. When a god got old, as had happened to Wiraqocha himself, the end of his reign was nigh, and the time to leave the earth at hand. So the Incas prayed that Sun and Moon, the Fifth Sun and Moon, remain young. The Incas pleaded for peace, for the survival of the Fifth Sun, for Wiraqocha to hold back the deluge. To all the world, the Inca Empire appeared to be at its zenith. But as Huayna Capac lay dying, and the bridge to an ancestral world already lost sank beneath the waters of time, Wiraqocha sent his reply. He sent the Spanish. (167)

The Incas are the more remarkable for rising above the temptation to indulge in the easy tribal hatreds of their time. In struggling with a terrible vision of the future, the Incas drew upon the waters of sorrow, rather than rage, to fashion an empire in the image of a prayer. And if this plea, carried on high by the souls of slain children, displayed flawed powers of faith, it also revealed the most terrible sorrow of all: a sense that the Creator might abandon his creation. Like the compulsive gambler who searches, grief-stricken, for divine recognition in the perfect winning streak, the Incas risked everything for a sign in the sky. For the Incas, gold was the symbolic expression of this sorrow, called by them "the tears of the Sun," tears shed at the spectacle of human folly. Gold--and silver as well, the tears of the Moon--were metals so sacred that no object fashioned from them and brought to Cuzco could ever be removed, under pain of death. In a land with no monetary system, gold's value lay in its inherent beauty, a beauty that the Incas used to express the imperishable wonder of the living world. (167)

North America

 In contrast to most other ancient cultures, there is little question about the immediate cause of the decline of Mississippian culture. These people had no natural immunities to measles, smallpox, and cholera, and the densely settled Mississippian areas provided an ideal medium for the rapid spread of these highly contagious diseases. …in each area there are significantly fewer settlements that date to the decades just prior to European invasion of these areas, which suggests that epidemic European diseases spread rapidly inland from the first physical encounters between most Native Americans and Europeans. Native Americans died by the hundreds of thousands from diseases introduced by people they never saw. (53)

Mogollon cultural traditions and population densities appear to have declined rapidly by AD 1300, perhaps as droughts contracted the areas in which they could survive, or as a result of invasion or absorption by neighboring Anasazi groups. (53)

Shortly before AD 1300, many once-prosperous Anasazi communities began to be abandoned, and when the Spanish arrived in the sixteenth century, they found the descendants of the Anasazi living along the Rio Grande in small villages, each a largely autonomous political and economic unit. (53)

Other

 New Zealand appears to have been first settled, by colonists from Polynesia, between about A.D. 1000 and 1200. (50)

Maori culture became extremely militaristic, with repeated warfare--here, too, not unlike the Aztecs and Maya of the New World. And like New World cultures, the Maori were decimated by European diseases. (50)

…living Easter Islanders showed Thor Heyerdahl how their ancestors had used logs as rollers to transport the statues and then as levers to erect them. The other questions were solved by subsequent archaeological and paleontological studies that revealed Easter's gruesome history. When Polynesians settled Easter around 400 AD, the island was covered by forest that they gradually proceeded to clear, in order to plant gardens and to obtain logs for canoes and for erecting statues. By around 1500 AD the human population had built up to about 7,000 (over 150 per square mile), about 1,000 statues had been carved, and at least 324 of those statues had been erected. But the forest had been destroyed so thoroughly that not a single tree survived. (114)