Aztecs vs. Mayans: What's the Difference?
"Aztecs" refers to a Mesoamerican civilization in central Mexico, known for empire-building and human sacrifice, while "Mayans" describes a people in southern Mexico and Central America, noted for advanced writing, astronomy, and city-states.
"Aztecs" dominated central Mexico, building an empire based on military conquest and tributary states, while the "Mayans," independent city-states, thrived in the Yucatán Peninsula, Guatemala, and Belize, renowned for their sophisticated calendar and hieroglyphic writing.
"Aztecs" practiced human sacrifice as part of their religious rituals, a stark contrast to the "Mayans," whose religious practices, while complex, did not emphasize human sacrifice on the same scale.
The "Aztecs" ruled their empire from the city of Tenochtitlán, known for its complex social and political organization; the "Mayans," however, didn't form a single unified empire, but rather a network of powerful city-states, each with its distinct ruler.
"Aztecs" used a pictographic writing system, Nahuatl, not fully deciphered today; "Mayans" developed a complex writing system using hieroglyphs, recording detailed histories, astronomical observations, and religious texts.
"Aztecs" met their decline with the Spanish conquest in the early 16th century; "Mayans" experienced a classical period collapse but continued to thrive in post-classical times until Spanish colonization.
Yucatán Peninsula, Guatemala, Belize
Spanish conquest (16th century)
Classical collapse, then Spanish colonization
Human sacrifice, empire-building
Advanced writing, astronomy
Aztecs and Mayans Definitions
"Aztecs were a Mesoamerican culture in Mexico."
The Aztecs were known for their intricate religious ceremonies.
"Mayans had a sophisticated hieroglyphic writing system."
The Mayans recorded their history and knowledge in codices.
"Aztecs had a powerful military tradition."
The Aztecs conquered various neighboring peoples.
"Mayans were an ancient civilization in Mesoamerica."
The Mayans created a detailed calendar system.
"Aztecs' capital was Tenochtitlán."
The Aztecs' floating gardens of Tenochtitlán were an agricultural innovation.
"Mayans' civilization declined before European colonization."
The Mayans' classical era ended, but their descendants persist today.
"Aztecs fell to Spanish conquerors in the 16th century."
The Aztecs were defeated by Hernán Cortés' forces.
"Mayans lived in city-states, not a unified empire."
Each Mayan city was ruled by a distinct sovereign.
"Aztecs were known for their massive human sacrifices."
Aztecs performed sacrifices to appease their gods.
"Mayans were advanced in astronomy and mathematics."
The Mayans made accurate astronomical observations.
A member of a people of central Mexico whose civilization was at its height at the time of the Spanish conquest in the early 16th century.
The Nahuatl language of the Aztecs.
A linguistic stock of Central America that includes Quiché and Yucatec.
Of or relating to the Aztecs or their language, culture, or empire.
Of or relating to the Maya, their culture, or the Mayan linguistic stock.
Who were the "Aztecs"?
The Aztecs were a Mesoamerican people who built a vast empire in central Mexico.
Did the "Aztecs" and "Mayans" coexist?
Their classical periods didn't overlap; the Aztecs rose after the Mayans' classical era decline.
Where did the "Aztecs" live?
The Aztecs lived in central Mexico, with their capital at Tenochtitlán.
Who were the "Mayans"?
The Mayans were an ancient civilization known for their art, architecture, mathematics, calendar, and astronomical system.
Were the "Aztecs" known for human sacrifices?
Yes, they regularly performed human sacrifices as religious rituals.
Did the "Mayans" perform human sacrifices?
Yes, but not on the scale practiced by the Aztecs.
Where did the "Mayans" live?
The Mayans occupied the Yucatán Peninsula, Guatemala, Belize, and parts of Honduras and El Salvador.
What language did the "Mayans" speak?
They spoke various Mayan languages.
What caused the "Mayans" classical era to end?
It's unclear, but factors like famine, war, and political upheaval likely played parts.
How did the "Aztecs" write?
They used a pictographic writing system.
How did the "Mayans" write?
They used a hieroglyphic writing system.
What ended the "Aztecs" civilization?
The Spanish conquest led by Hernán Cortés.
Are the "Aztecs" and "Mayans" still around today?
Their descendants are, preserving many cultural practices.
What language did the "Aztecs" speak?
They spoke Nahuatl.
Were the "Aztecs" and "Mayans" advanced in astronomy?
The Mayans were, with less evidence of this for the Aztecs.
What are some achievements of the "Aztecs"?
They built monumental architecture and were skilled warriors and administrators.
Did the "Aztecs" have a calendar?
Yes, two: a 365-day agricultural calendar and a 260-day sacred calendar.
What are some achievements of the "Mayans"?
They excelled in art, architecture, mathematics, astronomy, and writing.
Did the "Mayans" have a calendar?
Yes, they had a complex calendar system, including the 365-day Haab' and the 260-day Tzolk'in.
What's the most significant difference between the "Aztecs" and "Mayans"?
The Aztecs were an empire-focused, militaristic society; the Mayans, known for intellectual achievements, were organized in city-states.
Written bySawaira Riaz
Sawaira is a dedicated content editor at difference.wiki, where she meticulously refines articles to ensure clarity and accuracy. With a keen eye for detail, she upholds the site's commitment to delivering insightful and precise content.
Edited byHuma Saeed
Huma is a renowned researcher acclaimed for her innovative work in Difference Wiki. Her dedication has led to key breakthroughs, establishing her prominence in academia. Her contributions continually inspire and guide her field.