North America 1486: Aztec expansion
Under Moctezuma I (1440–1468) the Aztec Empire expanded rapidly, surrounding Tlaxcala—which it continued to engage in sporadic “flower wars”—and reaching the Gulf of Mexico. The empire continued to grow under Moctezuma’s grandsons, Axayacatl and Tizoc, but was halted in the mountainous west by its first great challenger—the Purépecha Empire of Tzintzuntzan.
1450?–1486? Purépecha expansion▲
In the 1450s the Purépecha state, also called Michoacan or the Tarascan Empire, began a period of expansion which brought it from its mountain capital of Tzintzuntzan to the Pacific coast and the borders of the Aztec Empire. Defeating an Aztecs invasion in the 1470s, the Purépecha were eventually contained by an Aztec counteroffensive in the following decade.
1451? Iroquois Confederacy▲
According to oral traditions, the Iroquois Confederacy or Haudenosaunee was established near what is now Montreal in around 1451 (although earlier dates have also been suggested). Formed through the efforts of two men and one women—Dekanawida the Great Peacemaker, Hiawatha, and Jigonhsasee—the confederacy brought together the Great Lakes tribes of the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca. Despite this, the political unity of the confederacy appeared to remain weak until the early 17th century.
? ?? 1454–1 Feb 1519 Flower Wars▲
When five years of crop failure and severe drought (1450–54) hit the central Mexican highlands, the priests of Tenochtitlan decreed that the gods needed to be appeased with the sacrifice of many men. This allegedly led to the first flower war, where the Aztecs fought ritual battles with Tlaxcala and other central Mexican states to obtain captives for sacrifice. The flower wars continued for six more decades, ending only when Tlaxcala sided with the arriving Spanish in 1519.
1469–1481 Reign of Axayacatl▲
Axayacatl (“face of water”) succeeded his grandfather Moctezuma I in 1469 at about the age of twenty. Axayacatl devoted most of his reign to consolidating his military reputation, leading a number of successful expeditions against his neighbors only to suffer a major defeat at the hands of the Purépecha in 1476. In 1480 he fell gravely ill, dying the following year in his early 30s.
1470 Kaqchikel Kingdom▲
The K’iche’ Mayan kingdom of Q’umarkaj dominated the Guatemalan highlands in the fifteenth century, in part due to an alliance between the K’iche’ and the Kaqchikel Maya. In c.1470 a K’iche’ soldier attempted to seize bread from a Kaqchikel woman in Q’umarkaj but was beaten off with a stick, leading to a rift between the two peoples as the K’iche’ demanded punishment of the woman and the Kaqchikel of the soldier. As a result, the Kaqchikel nobles fled Q’umarkaj, establishing their own capital at Iximche.
1480?–1510? Salitre War▲
In c.1480 the Purépecha Empire, under the caltzontzin Tangaxoan II, expanded into the salt-rich central valleys of what is now Jalisco state. However, the subjugated peoples soon revolted, supported by neighboring chiefdoms and the Kingdom of Colliman. Eventually, in the early 1500s King Colimotl of the Colliman defeated the Purépecha at Zacoalco, forcing them to abandon the region altogether.
1481–1486 Reign of Tizoc▲
Tizocicatzin (“he who makes sacrifices”), usually known as Tizoc in English, succeeded his older brother Axayacatl in 1481. His most notable achievements were to begin the rebuilding of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan and suppress a rebellion in the Toluca valley. Tizoc’s short reign came to an end in 1486, when he died of unknown causes.