By the fifteenth century, the Americas had witnessed the rise and fall of numerous empires and kingdoms. Although about half of the natives in the Americas lived outside their realms, two new imperial states, the Aztec and the Inca, emerged borrowing heavily from their predecessors. From their humble origins, both the Aztec and the Inca rose to imperial status through conquering and control, and they used tributes to maintain that power until the Europeans arrived. However, in both cases, it was their own policies and procedures that led to their downfall, as much as it was the arrival of the Europeans. While having their differences, the Aztec and Inca shared many similarities in their agricultural growth and their religious orientations and practices. Many more so with each other, than with the peoples of the North American Eastern Woodlands, who are examined in the Counterpoint of this chapter. While native American life was divided by language, custom, and geographical barriers, it was linked by religion, trade, and war. The Aztec and Inca created formidable capitals and empires, more similar to those of earlier Eurasia, but both were in crisis by the time Europeans first encountered them, and the smaller chiefdoms and confederacies of the Eastern Woodlanders would prove more resilient in the face of similar European invasions.

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