Another thing Columbus had going: Poor public sanitation, and a disease-infested population in Europe that had resistance to a set of diseases the North American natives had zero resistance to.
The Vikings were relatively hygienic, by comparison,
Oh no they weren't! Archaeological excavations of abandoned Viking longhouses, & mediaeval Norse accounts, suggest that even by the standards of late 15th century Europe they were a filthy lot. For example, floors covered with a thick layer of debris. Basically, dirt & rubbish was dropped on the floor & trodden in, including food waste, faeces, & small dead animals. In winter up north, e.g. Greenland, the cows would be brought indoors all winter. They'd be in a separate space, but one opening into the main room, so the whole place would have the smell of fresh cow dung to add to the other reeks. There are contemporary accounts of people sleeping with the cows for warmth in particularly cold weather.
It's disconcerting to realize that Tenochtitlan was two to three times the size of the largest European city of it's time, and that the Aztecs living there had better public sanitation and an arguably higher standard of living than the average city-dweller in Europe. Makes you wonder who would have conquered who, absent the disease factor.
Size of Tenochtitlan, & even more its population, is hotly disputed, & size of a city is not necessarily a measure of wealth per head. It seems to have been to a large degree an agricultural (lots of gardens intensively worked for food) & ceremonial centre, with less trade & industry than European cities.
Given what we know of Aztec material culture, it is inconceivable that they could have equalled the wealth of Europe at the time. They did by hand what Europeans used animal drawn ploughs & carts, watermills, windmills, etc. for. They had stone & some slightly hardened copper tools: Europe had steel. Their tools were all from the distant past, by European standards. European looms, for example, were millennia ahead, not just centuries. Their productivity per hour worked must, because of their lower technology & smaller capital base, have been much worse, & the evidence we have suggests that they had fewer possessions, & a more restricted diet, than Europeans.
Edited by swerve, 08 September 2010 - 0647 AM.