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Would the Middle American Cultures have conquered North America?

This is a discussion on Would the Middle American Cultures have conquered North America? within the Military Strategy and Tactics forum, part of the Global Defense & Military category; Perhaps this question doesn't totally fit in here at this forum, but since there are relatively many "what if?"-threads here ...

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Old April 23rd, 2009   #1
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Would the Middle American Cultures have conquered North America?

Perhaps this question doesn't totally fit in here at this forum, but since there are relatively many "what if?"-threads here and medieval and ancient warfare have been discussed as far as i remember, i thought i might dare to ask it here.

I recently had a discussion with a native American. He said he wishes the Europeans never came to America, so his people could still live as they used to. While i have some sympathy to the regret he feels, i pointed out to him that that might be a wish not totally thought through.
The reason for that is that i think it is quite a possible and perhaps likely cenario to assume that if the Europeans never would have conquered America, the Aztecs or the Maya might have expanded north and conquered North America.
If that would have happened, the northern natives would most likely have been off worse than they are now.
Life might not be that great in the reservations, but i'm pretty sure it beats being sacrificed to a Mayan or Aztec god on top of one of their pyramids.

What do you think about that?
Could and would one of those two advanced but brutal civilisations have conquered North America if given enough time, or do you think the northern natives would have been able to defend themselves against that kind of threat?
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Old April 24th, 2009   #2
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I like the imagination of the question but I am highly skeptical of the Aztec/ Mayan ability to conquer beyond the scope of their achieved territorial conquest.

I will not pretend to be an expert on Mesoamerican cultures, but I am not sure that the organizational structures of the societies would support expansionist policies. My understanding is that the Maya, who predate the Aztecs were the more expansionist with territory spanning from the Yucatan south into Guatemala. The Aztec remained predominantly in Mexico city, subjugating all rivals in the vicinity.

Who is to say, the Maya and Aztec while powerful in their own right, what the results of an overextended winter on the Great Plains or in the Northeast. Both civilizations enjoyed some technological success but I don't think it extended to complex military logistics required for campaigning deep in foreign lands. Ask the French in Russia, or the Moors in France.

Militarily both Maya and Aztec were fairly unsophisticated employing similar tactics, like "counting coup," to northern cultures. Obsidian is probably the only technological advantage the Maya and Aztec had over cultures located to the north.

Just some thoughts.
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Old April 24th, 2009   #3
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If I recall Meso-American history correctly, the Mayan "Empire" had already collapsed at the time of the European arrival, and no central authjority obtained

The Aztecs (actually a three party alliance) were at their height at that time

Their conquests were usually preceded by trade emissaries who as part of their trade missions, reported strategic information on which any invasions were subsequently
based on (much as the PRC is doing these days)

As far as their military strategies, yes, they were somewhwat unsophisticated, but as the record shows, they quickly adopted, and were capable of formulating new, and appropriate strategic responses, as the record shows of their encounter with the Spanish forces

So, given the foregoing, their first target would have been the different pueblo groups, where the archaeological record shows there was, in fact, some trade going on

In fact, it might explain the incident of cannibalism recorded at that site

Other than that, I see little opportunity or need for invasions given that the other North American groups were nomadic, and their proximate surrounding areas and societies provided them with the trade they needed, as well as sacrificial victims

I recall one source also, that indicated that the primary drive for their militarism was the acquisition of sacrificial victims, and that even that was beginning to change as there was an inkling of a change from actual blood sacrifices to a more symbolic use of corn foodstuffs, similar to the bead and wine of Christianity -- had Cortes not invaded, history might have recorded a transfornation of their religious practices, and the abandonment of blood sacrifices

Had they actually started invading, alliances among the North American groups would have been difficult, given their nomadic lifestyles, and the difficulties of communicating across vast distances

Last edited by Nick4444; April 24th, 2009 at 09:47 PM.
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