Map Of Mesoamerican Civilizations

The jewelry worn by the Mayan, Aztec, and Inca people was rich in variety and quite beautiful. Without metalworking skills, Mayans made jewelry from many other materials. Mayan men wore nose ornaments, earplugs, and lip plugs made of bone, wood, shells, and stones, including jade, topaz, and obsidian. Necklaces, bracelets,


Maps Mesoamerica Civilizations
Map of the Americas showing the Mesoamerican civilizations of the Middle Ages: Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas. Reproduced by permission of the Gale Group.

anklets, and headgear were made with jaguar and crocodile teeth, jaguar claws, and feathers. Mayan women and children wore less elaborate necklaces and earrings of similar materials.

Aztecs and Incas perfected metalworking to a great art. Gold and silver jewelry was worn alongside ornaments made of feathers, shells, leather, and stones. Among the Aztecs, laws about which ornaments could be worn were strictly enforced. Only royalty could wear headdresses with gold and quetzal (a bird with brilliant blue-green feathers that reach three feet in length) feathers, for example. The weaving tradition, so important to Incas, helped create beautiful woven headdresses. Inca emperors wore woven hats trimmed with gold and wool tassels or topped with plumes, or showy feathers. Incas also created elaborate feather decorations for men: headbands made into crowns of feathers, collars around the neck, and chest coverings. In addition, wealthy Inca men wore large gold and silver pendants hung on their chests, disks attached to their hair and shoes, and bands around their arms and wrists. Inca women adorned themselves simply with a metal fastening for their cloak called a tupu. The head of their tupu was decorated with paint or silver, gold, or copper bells.


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Cobo, Bernabé. Inca Religion and Customs. Translated and edited by Roland Hamilton. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1990.

Day, Nancy. Your Travel Guide to Ancient Mayan Civilization. Minneapolis, MN: Runestone Press, 2001.

Drew, David. Inca Life. New York: Barron's, 2000.

Netzley, Patricia D. Maya Civilization. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books, 2002.

Wood, Tim. The Aztecs. New York: Viking, 1992.

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