What Are the Mayas, Incas and Aztecs?

Xuan Che/CC-BY 2.0

The Mayas, Incas and Aztecs were three groups of people in Central and South America. The Aztecs and the Mayas lived in what is now southern and central Mexico, and the Incas lived around the Andes on South America’s Pacific Coast.

The three groups flourished at different times. The earliest of the three were the Mayan people, who dominated their area between A.D. 250 and 900, when they mysteriously abandoned their cities. The Aztecs dominated a similar region beginning in the 14th century and ending with the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. The Incas had a relatively short-lived reign, consolidating power in the mid-15th century and falling to the Spanish less than a century later.