The Aztec, Inca and Maya – Martin J. Dougherty

Update: I had a chat with the publisher, and they told me about the existence of two different editions, Mine had black and white pictures only, while the other featured colored pictures too.

Sometimes I grab a book that leaves me with mixed feelings. The Aztec, Inca, and Maya, written by Martin J. Dougherty, is one of them. 

I decided to get it because my kid is into history as much as I am, so I thought it would be a good idea to read it and have all the answers at hand should he pop up one day with ‘Hey, Mom, do you know why [insert pre-Columbian civilizations related question here]’. I like to be prepared, is all.

Did The Aztec, Inca, and Maya get me those (still hypothetical) answers? Yes. My mental rolodex has been updated with success. Am I satisfied? Not really.


The Aztec, Inca and Maya charts the rise and fall pre-Columbian civilizations in Mesoamerica and South America, from the Maya to the Aztec and Inca empires, as well as the Zapotec, Olmec, Teotihuacan and Toltec civilizations. From government structures to marriage rites, from pyramids to human sacrifice, from agriculture to textiles, astronomy to hieroglyphics to ball games, the book explores the history of what today we call Latin America from its early kingdoms up to the crippling of the societies with the arrival of conquistadores and smallpox. The biggest Mesoamerican cities, such as Teotihuacan, Tenochtitlan and Cholula, were among the largest in the world. Mesoamerican civilisations are credited with many inventions: building pyramid-temples, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, writing, highly accurate calendars, fine arts, intensive agriculture, engineering, an abacus calculator, and complex theology. In South America, the Inca Empire, the largest empire in pre-Columbian America, was, at its height, possibly the largest in the world. And yet it achieved this without wheeled vehicles, animals to ride or draft animals, without using iron or steel, or developing a written script. Easily accessible and illustrated with 180 colour and black-and-white photographs, maps and artworks, The Aztec, Inca and Maya is a fascinating account of Mesoamerican and South American civilisations from the 2nd century BCE to the 16th century CE.

226 pages
Amber Books LTD


Cover: I’m not sure which cover is correct! The golden one on Netgalley is very cool, while the one I’m seeing on Goodreads is a nope. I don’t like the color palette there.


  • Dougherty compiled an informative, well-rounded book about the three main pre-Columbian civilizations: Maya, Inca, and Aztec. The first two chapters are dedicated to the Mesoamerican populations that preceded them instead, offering the reader a broad insight into those cultures too. That’s maybe my favorite section, because I knew precious little about Toltecs or Olmecs before reading this part.
  • If you’re into history, then you’re in for a treat. The Aztec, Inca, and Maya is rich in information, from historical timelines to ancient religions, from social organization to practical tools and eating habits. The prose itself flows nicely enough, making it an interesting read. Good editing is a trademark of Amber Books LTD by now, something I’m grateful for.  
  • There are a lot of pictures and drawings, a nice touch! I appreciated sculptures more than paintings this time around.


  • All the photos are in black and white hues. This is disappointing, because they end up not doing any justice to the entire work. It just seems like I picked an outdated book, you know? I can’t figure out the reason behind this choice, and that’s why I had to skip the Special Mention section. I’m so sorry, but it’s a real shame.


3.5 stars on GR, rounded up to 4.

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