Inca vs. Aztec vs. Maya: 5 Key Differences,Definition, Pros & Cons

Inca vs. Aztec vs. Maya: The Inca, the Aztec, and the Maya are all ancient cultures. In their own times, all three civilizations did amazing things.

The difference between the Maya, the Aztecs, and the Incas is that the Incas came into existence in the 12th century and built an empire in the mountainous region of South America.

At the beginning of the 13th century, the Aztecs came to Mesoamerica. The Maya built the Yucatan Peninsula in Central America. All three of these people had different ideas about religion and politics.

What Are Aztecs?

At the start of the 13th century, the Aztecs came to Mesoamerica. At the time, they were similar to nomadic tribes from northern Mexico. The Aztecs are thought to have come from a northern tribe of hunter-gatherers, but there isn’t much proof of this.

The Aztecs were also called Tenocha or the Mexica. The Aztecs have a long and illustrious history because they cared about the arts. They do a lot of creative things, like dance, sing, and write poetry.

Inca vs. Aztec vs. Maya

What Are Incas?

People know about the Incas because they built the Inca Empire in pre-Columbian America. From 1438 to 1533, this kingdom was the height of Inca culture.

The Inca Empire united Peru under the rule of a powerful Emperor of Western South America through both war and peaceful integration.

But soon after the civil war, the last Spa Inca of the Inca Empire was caught by the conquistador Franciso Pizzaro and put to death. After it, a “neo-Inca” state was set up, but the Spanish took it over in 1572.

What Are Maya?

Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization founded by the Maya people around 2600 B.C.The area is made up of southeastern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and the western parts of El Salvador and Honduras.

I knew about this culture because of the hieroglyphics they used. Maya didn’t have an emperor; instead, a prince and priests ran the country. Maya was very smart and had a lot of knowledge about math and astronomy.

They were able to watch how planets and stars moved. They have also made important contributions to the arts, like painting and building different kinds of buildings.

Inca vs. Aztec vs. Maya

Key differences between Maya vs Aztec vs Inca

These are all common choices on the market. Let’s look at some of the main differences between them:

  • The Maya were from Mexico and Central America. Between about 1345 and 1521 CE, the Aztecs ruled most of northern Mesoamerica, and between about 1400 and 1533 CE, the Inca ruled ancient Peru and most of western South America.
  • The Maya believed in many gods, but they didn’t have a main one. In contrast, the Aztecs worshipped Huitzilopochtli as their main god, and the Inca loved Inti as their main god.
  • The Maya made a writing system called hieroglyphs, the Aztecs made the famous Xuihetecuhtli mask out of a mosaic of turquoise, and the Incas built a large network of roads through mountains and rivers.
  • The Maya built tall temples and beautiful palaces. The Aztecs built their capital city, Tenochtitlan, on an island. The Incas built stone structures without mortar, but the stones fit together so well that a knife could not fit between them.
  • The Maya used two kinds of calendars. The first one was based on the solar year, and the second was a kind of religious almanac. The Maya people also used a numbering system with three symbols to write down numbers in the millions. The Aztecs had both a religious calendar and a 365-day agricultural calendar, but their writing system was based on glyphs, which are symbols that represent sounds or words. The Incas did not create a way to write. Instead, they kept records on quipus, which were bundles of ropes that were tied together.
  • At Palenque and Tikal, the Maya used local materials like limestone, while the Aztecs were best at making things out of metal. The most famous thing made with turquoise by the Aztecs is the decorated human skull that stands for the god Tezcatlipoca. The Inca were influenced by the art and skills of the Chimu people.

Maya vs Aztec vs Inca Comparison Table

Compare the following two things:

The basis of comparison MayaAztecInca
ExistenceThey were mainly settled on and around Yucatan Peninsula in Central AmericaThey lived in the Valley of Mexico in Central MexicoThey Comprised an empire in the Andes Mountain of South America
Political ConditionMaya comprised up of city-states and was not united politically. There was an independent ruler for each city-state.Aztec was ruled by an Emperor whose main purpose was to lead in the wars. The local rulers and conquered people had to pay tax to the Aztec.Inca was ruled by Sapa Inca, the emperor who had absolute power. This emperor was also the empire’s religious leader.
ReligionMaya practiced Human Sacrifice and was polytheisticAztecs were polytheistic. They build huge temples and pyramids in dedication to their god Huitzilopochtli.Inca was polytheistic. They worshiped their primary God, Inti, who they called the sun god.
Art & ArchitectureThe Maya built huge arrays of structures and have left a considerable architectural heritage. A classic period city called “Tikal” was reconstructed by Maya, which was spread over 20 sq. Kilometers.Monumental sculptures were mainly favorite. They build statues like that of colossal Coatlicue or very alive and famous sculpture of a seated Xochipilli.
Aztec art portrayed all varieties of a subject, but especially famous were animals, plants and gods, specifically those related to fertility and agriculture.
The Inca buildings were in uniformity with huge imperial structures. The Inca architecture incorporated natural beauty yet creating an amazing mixture of geometrical and natural forms.
DeclineThe fact that Maya declined is still not known to Archeologists, but presently more than 2 million Maya people live in Guatemala and southern Mexico.Aztec were ultimately defeated by Spanish conquistadors led by Hernan Cortes.Inca was defeated by Spanish conquistadors led by Francisco Pizarro. Also, Smallpox spread, which killed most of the Inca.

Inca vs. Aztec vs. Maya Pros and Cons

Inca Pros and Cons

Pros of Inca

  • The Incas’ best technological skill was engineering, which let them build roads all over their empire.
  • In agriculture, the Incas also showed how technologically advanced they were. They planted different crops to get the best results.

Cons of Inca

  • Because of where they lived, the Incas had to deal with many physical challenges, such as tall mountains, roaring rivers, and tropical forests.
  • The Incas didn’t have very good weapons, which helped lead to their downfall.

Aztec Pros and Cons

Pros of Aztec

  • One of the most important things the Aztecs did was build their island capital, Tenochtitlán.
  • The Aztecs did many different kinds of art, like music, dance, sculpture, and poetry. A lot of music and dancing were part of what they did.

Cons of Aztec

  • During the rise of the Aztec empire, the people had to deal with a lot of problems, like sickness, ritual sacrifices, political problems, and feeding a very large population.
  • European diseases did not stay away from the Aztecs. The Aztecs died out because smallpox spread.

Inca vs. Aztec vs. Maya

Maya Pros and Cons

Pros of Maya

  • In math and astronomy, the Mayas made important contributions. They were able to watch how planets and stars moved.
  • The Mayas were also very good artists. They were very good painters who used plants and rocks in their work. They were also very good at building things.

Cons of Maya

  • From late at night until the end of the ninth century, something terrible happened to the
  • Maya culture that shook it to its core. During this time, the Maya area fell apart.
  • In the ninth century, drought killed off many civilizations, including Tikal, because people and crops needed rainwater.


The Maya, Aztec, and Inca cultures are similar in many ways, like how they all built pyramids. The Maya, Aztec, and Inca people all believed in many gods and sacrificed people, but they were all different and grew and died at different times for different reasons.

Lastly, the Maya were the first people to use writing and calendars. The Maya started to fall apart about 400 years before the Aztecs came. The Inca were from a completely different area, so they couldn’t make their own writing system.

Instead, they kept records on bundles of knotted ropes called quipus, which only lasted about 300 years. In the short time they were around, they managed to become the most advanced.

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