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Maya and Aztec Economies (Background)

The marketplace of an Aztec or Mayan city of central or southern

Mexico and northern Central America was the pulse of these Meso-American

cultures. In major Aztec cities, up to 60,000 people would crowd the markets

several times weekly. Vegetables (maize was the predominant food of the

masses), fruits, copper axes, feathers, and even specially prepared puppies

which were considered delectable edibles, were offered for trade.

Busy Mayan markets also featured cocoa beans, shells, salt, fish,

animal skins, and cotton cloth. In both cultures cocoa beans served as a

version of small change to equal out trade transactions. However, in the

Mayan civilization some dishonest traders mastered counterfeit cocoa beans.

Husks were removed from shells and filled with sand. The false beans were

then mixed in with the real cocoa beans.

Maya and Aztec Economies Vocabulary

Words Definition Picture


Open space where

a market is or was
formerly held in a


Maize was planted

by Mesoamerican
civilizations. British
term for corn.


The action of
buying and selling
goods and services.

Cocoa Beans

A cocoa seed. Dried

seed used to make

Made an exact
imitation of
something valuable
or important with
the intention to
deceive or defraud.

Barter Exchange goods or

services for other
goods or services
without using

Review Questions
1. Why was it difficult for people to settle in the lowland forests of

2. What were the three types of agriculture used by the Maya, Inca

and Aztec?
3. What were the two main regions that traded in the Maya

4. What were the advantages of living in an island like Tenochtitlan?
5. How did the life of Native Americans change after the arrival of the

6. Why was Hernn Cortes able to defeat the Aztecs despite of his

small army?
7. Why was Pizarro able to defeat the Inca Empire?
8. How was Spain enriched by Aztec and Inca empires it conquered?
9. What was the purpose of the two Mayan calendars?
10. What was the type of architecture used by the Mayas to build

their cities?
11. What were some of the products featured in Maya and Aztec