Mayan vs Aztec: Difference and Comparison

The conquering Spaniards encountered ancient American civilizations like the Aztecs and Mayans when they first set foot on that continent.

These two civilizations have been used interchangeably at times and do have some similarities between them. However, they both belong to different periods and have some considerable differences from each other. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Mayans developed a complex writing system using hieroglyphics, while Aztecs used pictographs and ideograms.
  2. Mayan civilization originated in southeastern Mexico and Central America, while Aztec civilization was centered in the Valley of Mexico.
  3. Mayans excelled in astronomy and mathematics, whereas Aztecs were known for their military prowess and human sacrifices.

Mayan vs Aztec 

The Maya civilization developed around 2000 BCE and lasted until the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. The Maya were known for their impressive achievements in mathematics, astronomy, writing, and art. The Aztec civilization developed later than the Maya, around the 14th century CE. The Aztec empire was known for its military conquests, complex social hierarchy, and sophisticated agriculture system.

Mayan vs Aztec

The Mayan Civilization is a Mesoamerican civilization covering vast territories in North Central America and southern Mexico. These people came into existence as early as 2600 BC.

The Mayan civilization dates back to the preclassical period. This civilization started spreading from Southern Mexico and continued throughout Guatemala, Belize, Western Honduras, and Northern El Salvador.

Mayans were quite interested in the study of astronomy and developed a very scientific calendar comparable to the modern calendar. Southern Mayan civilization started to decline during the 8th and 9th centuries, and the Northern Mayan cities declined after the Spanish conquest.  

The Aztec civilization covered Central Mexico and inhabited it there from the 14th to 16th century. They speak the Nahuatl language and belong to the Pre-Columbian era. The civilization began as a result of the alliance between Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan. This alliance happened to defeat Azcapotzalco.

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The Aztec civilization people believed in human sacrifice and were extremely proud and warlike. They waged war. The Aztec civilization started declining around 1521 after the arrival of the Spanish in Tenochtitlan. 

Comparison Table

 Parameters of ComparisonMayan  Aztec 
 Inhabitation   The Mayan Civilization covered vast territories in North Central America and southern Mexico.   The Aztec Civilization covered Central Mexico.  
 Period   Belongs to the Preclassical period.    Belongs to the Pre-Columbian period. 
 Existence    Came into existence way before the Aztec civilization, around 2600 BC.   From the 14th to 16th century, they lived in Central Mexico. 
 Written language   Mayan Civilization had a fully well-developed written language.  Aztec Civilization people did not use a written language.  
 Languages spoken   Mayan civilization could speak several languages like Yucatec Maya, Sacapultec, Tojolabal, and many more.   Aztec Civilization only used the Nahuatl language. 
 Behaviour    Mayan people liked astronomy and developed a scientific calendar.   Aztec people were proud and warlike people. They waged war. 
 Decline   Southern Mayan civilization started to decline during the 8th and 9th centuries, and the Northern Mayan cities declined after the Spanish conquest.   The Aztec civilization started declining around 1521, after the arrival of the Spanish in Tenochtitlan.  
 Violence    Less violent civilization compared to Aztec.  Much more violent civilization compared to Mayan.  

What is Mayan?

The Mayan Civilization is a Mesoamerican civilization covering vast territories in North Central America and southern Mexico. These people came into existence as early as 2600 BC.

The Mayan civilization dates back to the preclassical period. This civilization started spreading from Southern Mexico and continued throughout Guatemala, Belize, Western Honduras, and Northern El Salvador.

Mayan civilization had a fully developed written language, and they spoke in several languages like- Yucatec Maya, Sacapultec, Tojolabal, and many more. Mayans were quite interested in the study of astronomy and developed a very scientific calendar comparable to the modern calendar.

They were less violent compared to the Aztec civilization. Southern Mayan civilization started to decline during the 8th and 9th centuries, and the Northern Mayan cities declined after the Spanish conquest. 

mayan

What is Aztec?

The Aztec civilization covered Central Mexico and inhabited it there from the 14th to 16th century. They speak the Nahuatl language and belong to the Pre-Columbian era.

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The civilization began as a result of the alliance between Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan. This alliance happened to defeat Azcapotzalco. The Aztec civilization people believed in human sacrifice and were extremely proud and warlike.

They waged war. This civilization was much more violent compared to the Mayan civilization. The Mayan civilization came into existence before the Aztec civilization.

Hence, by the time the Aztec civilization came into existence, the Mayan civilization had already disappeared. The Aztec civilization started declining around 1521 after the arrival of the Spanish in Tenochtitlan. 

aztecs

Main Differences Between Mayan and Aztec 

  1. The Mayan Civilization is a Mesoamerican civilization coming into existence around 2600 BC, covering vast territories in North Central America and southern Mexico, whereas The Aztec civilization covered Central Mexico and inhabited it there from the 14th to 16th century. 
  2. The Mayan civilization dates back to the preclassical period. Conversely, the Aztec Civilization dates back to pre-Columbian times. 
  3. The Mayan Civilization started spreading from Southern Mexico and continued throughout Guatemala, Belize, Western Honduran, and Northern El Salvador, whereas the Aztec civilization began as a result of the alliance between Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan. This alliance happened to defeat Azcapotzalco. 
  4. Mayan civilization had a fully developed written language, whereas The Aztec civilization people did not use a written language. 
  5. Mayan civilization people in several languages like- Yucatec Maya, Sacapultec, Tojolabal, and many more. On the other hand, the Aztec civilization people spoke only in the Nahuatl language. 
  6. Mayans were quite interested in the study of astronomy and developed a very scientific calendar comparable to the modern calendar, whereas The Aztec civilization people believed in human sacrifice and were extremely proud and warlike. They waged war. 
  7. Southern Mayan civilization started to decline during the 8th and 9th centuries, and the Northern Mayan cities declined after the Spanish conquest. On the other hand, The Aztec civilization started declining around 1521 after the arrival of the Spanish in Tenochtitlan. 
Difference Between Mayan and Aztec

References 

  1. https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/9783110822830.167/html
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1526952304001151 

Last Updated : 08 August, 2023

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22 thoughts on “Mayan vs Aztec: Difference and Comparison”

  1. The detailed descriptions of the Mayan and Aztec civilizations provide a comprehensive understanding of their historical and cultural significance.

    Reply
  2. The differences and similarities highlighted here provide a comprehensive overview of these ancient civilizations and their contributions to human history.

    Reply
  3. The Mayans’ scientific calendar and the Aztecs’ military conquests reveal their distinct areas of expertise and influence in history.

    Reply
  4. It’s really interesting to see the differences and similarities between Mayan and Aztec civilizations. I didn’t know Mayans had multiple spoken languages.

    Reply
  5. The comparison table effectively outlines the key differences and similarities between the Mayan and Aztec civilizations.

    Reply
  6. These civilizations have left a significant mark on history, and it’s fascinating to study their cultural and technological advancements.

    Reply
  7. I believe the contributions of the Mayans and Aztecs to human history are remarkable. The Mayans’ interest in astronomy and mathematics is particularly noteworthy.

    Reply
  8. I didn’t realize the Mayans had a fully developed written language. That’s a testament to their intellectual prowess.

    Reply
  9. The comparison between the Mayan and Aztec civilizations provides an insightful understanding of their historical significance.

    Reply

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