Aztec ancient civilizations

Wikijunior:Ancient Civilizations/Aztecs
October 1, 2019 – 08:13 am
Xiuhtecuhtli Aztec Death God

The Aztecs lived in what is now Mexico. The name Mexico comes from the Aztec word Mexica, a name they used to describe themselves. Their capital city, Tenochtitlan, was located where Mexico City is today.

What did their buildings look like?[edit]

The Aztec's city, Tenochtitlan, was built on a self-made island. When they first arrived in the area, there was nothing but a swampy island in the middle of Lake Texcoco. They developed a system, called the chinampa system to dry the land by setting up small plots in which they produced all the food they needed. When enough land was dry they would begin to build there. Over time, they added to the size of the island using this system.


Tenochtitlan was divided into four zones or campan. Each campan was divided into 20 districts (calpullis), and each calpulli was crossed by streets, or tlaxilcalli. There were three main streets that crossed the city and extended to firm land; the calpullis were divided by channels used for transportation, with wood bridges that were removed at night. Each calpulli had its own tianquiztli (marketplace), but there was also a main marketplace in Tlatelolco.

Tenochtitlan was created symmetrical, that is, a mirror image on both sides. At the heart of the city lay public buildings, temples and schools. Inside a walled square, 300 meters to the side, was the ceremonial center. There were public buildings, the main temple, the temple of Quetzalcoatl, the ball game, the tzompantli, or rack of skulls, the temple of the sun, the platforms for the sacrifice of gladiators, and some minor temples. Outside was the palace of Moctezuma. Nearby was the cuicalli or house of the songs, and the calmecac, or school. All construction had to be approved by the calmimilocatl, a person in charge of city planning.

Moctezuma's palace had 100 rooms and bathrooms for the lords and ambassadors of allies and conquered people. It also had two zoos, one for birds of prey and another for other birds, reptiles, and mammals. There was also a botanical garden and an aquarium. The aquarium had ten salt water ponds and ten fresh water ponds, containing fish and aquatic birds.

What did they wear?[edit]

Aztec men wore cloth around their waists and cloaks around their shoulders. Aztec women wore sleeveless blouses and wraparound skirts. Nobles dressed in brightly coloured cotton clothes decorated in gold and feathers. This was done to attract attention to themselves. The poor wore clothes made of maguey fibres, and slaves did not wear much at all!

The Aztec army dressed differently from everyday people. Warriors wore vests made of quilted cotton, feathered plumes dusted with stones and precious metals. They also wore collars, bracelets and earrings made of the same materials. Depending on how many enemies they captured, warriors could earn the right to wear animal costumes. Chiefs wore layers of gold or silver with feathers underneath. Both chiefs and warriors wore wooden helmets shaped like animals, and carried shields made of woven reeds and feathers. Common soldiers did not have these items. They painted themselves in the colours of their chief's banner, and wore a simple girdle.

When sacrificing humans to the gods, priests wore black blood-stained robes, while the victim was painted with chalk. Often, masks were worn during the ceremony.

The name glyph for Ahuitzotl, an Aztec emperor.

What did their writing look like?[edit]

Like the Mayans, the Aztecs wrote using a series of glyphs, or pictures. For example, a snake (coatl) was represented by a drawing of a snake's head. Numbers below 20 were represented by a series of dots. Numbers larger than 20 were represented by glyphs. For example, the number 500 would be represented by a feather and four flags (400 + 5*20 = 500). To show that glyphs belonged to a single group, a line was drawn to connect them. Next, a line was drawn to the object being counted.

What did they believe?[edit]

According to Aztec legend, the ancestors of the Aztecs came from a place in the north called Aztlán. They were guided by a god named Huitzilopochtli, meaning "Left-handed Hummingbird." There was a prophecy that said that they should build their home where they saw an eagle eating a snake while perched on a nopal cactus. When they arrived on the island in Lake Texcoco, they saw this, and settled there.

The Aztecs also believed that their ancestors were considered by other groups to be uncivilized. However, they decided to learn, and took knowledge from other peoples, especially the Toltec. They believed all culture came from them.

The Aztecs had several creation myths. One said that there were four ages before our time, each of which ended in a catastrophe. Our age – Nahui-Ollin, the fifth age, or fifth creation – escaped destruction because of the sacrifice of Nanahuatl ("full of sores", the smallest and humblest of the gods), who was transformed into the Sun. Another says that Earth was created by the twin gods Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl. Tezcatlipoca lost his foot in the process of creating the world and all representations of these gods show him without a foot and with a bone exposed.

Popular Q&A
What was the ancient Mayans challenges?

drought or no rain for long time

What was an ancient Mayan codex.

A codex is an old manuscript, in the form of a book, which replaced the scroll between the years 0-300 AD. They were written in Maya hieroglyphic script on Mesoamerican bark cloth.

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