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Latin American History Before Columbus

Latin America had a long, rich history for centuries before they were "discovered" by Europeans. The Aztecs, Inca and Maya were but three of the many fascinating civilizations that thrived in the Americas before the arrival of the Spanish. The ancient history of Latin America is full of important people, places and events.
  1. Precolombian Books and Codices (8)
  2. The Inca (8)
  3. The Maya (22)
  4. The Olmec (14)

Huascar, Inca Emperor 1527-1532
When Inca Emperor Huayna Capac died in 1527, his sons Atahualpa and Huascar fought bitterly over his throne. Huascar held Cuzco, but Atahualpa had the army.

Huáscar and Atahualpa: An Inca Civil War
From 1527 to 1532, brothers Huáscar and Atahualpa were locked in a brutal civil war over who would lead the mighty Inca Empire, high in the South American mountains. Atahualpa had only a short time to savor his victory, however, as Spanish conquistadors under Francisco Pizarro arrived with their own notions of who should rule the Andes.

Biography of Atahualpa, Last King of the Inca
In 1532, Spanish conquistadors discovered the wealthy Inca Empire, high in the South American Andes. The only thing standing between these greedy men and the gold they dreamed of was young Emperor Atahualpa, fresh off a victory in a civil war.

Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino (Chilean Pre-Colombian Art Museum)
One of Santiago, Chile's best-loved and oft-visited museums, the Pre-Colombian Art Museum is a fascinating cross between a history and an art museum. There is ample information on the cultures that produced the pieces on display, but they were selected for aesthetics. It's a don't-miss when in Santiago for lovers of art, history and both.

The Colonization of Guatemala
The region of present-day Guatemala posed many challenges for would-be conquistadors and colonizers.

The Borgia Codex
The Borgia Codex is one of only a handful of surviving precolonial books from Central Mexico.

The Treasure of the Inca
When it was discovered by Spanish conquistadors in 1532, the Inca Empire of present-day Peru was the wealthiest culture in the Americas. Where did this treasure come from, and where did it go?

Chuqui Illa - The Inca Thunder God
Chuqui Illa, the Inca Thunder God, was responsible for rain, storms and other aspects of the weather. He was one of the more important Gods in the Inca religion.

Inti - the Inca Sun God
Inti, the Sun God, was the second-most important god to the Inca culture after Viracocha, the Creator. There were magnificent temples dedicated to him and an important annual festival celebrated in his name. A benevolent God, he caused crops to grow and livestock to thrive.

Inca Star Worship and Constellations
The Inca culture placed great importance on stars and constellations. They saw "dark" constellations living in the celestial river we call the Milky Way.

Viracocha and the Legendary Origins of the Inca
The Inca culture of South America had a complex creation myth centered around their Creator God, Viracocha.

Olmec Religion
The ancient Olmec civilization of Mexico had disappeared by 400 B.C., but their religion and culture were hugely influential in later cultures such as the Maya.

The Yumbo Culture

The Colossal Heads of the Olmec
The Olmec civilization is today remembered as the creators of seventeen giant stone heads. These heads have been found at a handful of archaeological sites and are currently in Mexican museums.

The Tulipe Archaeological Site
The Tulipe archaeological site is located in central Ecuador not far from Quito. It was the ceremonial heart of the Yumbo civilization.

Chac Mool
The distinctive Chac Mool statues of ancient Mesoamerica still present many mysteries to modern researchers.

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