Dating back to the 1400s, these Aztec temples represent an architectural marvel. (Photo: La Pelota en Chichen image by Mr.Papeete from Fotolia.com )
Because archaeologists have been able to decode the written language of its people, the Aztec Empire is one of the best understood of the ancient civilizations. The Aztec pyramids played a central role in the polytheistic society, and several are still standing in archaeological parks throughout Mexico, where travelers can explore the symbolism and architecture of these ancient structures.
The Aztec pyramids date back to the 1400s, when the Aztec Empire, a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual kingdom that occupied whit is now south-central Mexico, was heralded as the most powerful empire in the New World. The Aztec reign began sometime around 1428 and lasted until the Spanish, led by Hernando Cortes, conquered the civilization in 1521. During the nearly 100 years that the Aztecs ruled the land, they built many cities, and the central point of the cities was a temple sitting atop a pyramid, where religious ceremonies and human sacrifices occurred.
According to Aztec writings and religious artwork found at archeological sites, the Aztec pyramids were central to the civilization’s religion. The pyramids housed temples, and religious sacrifices were made in front of the temples. Human sacrifice was the most common type of sacrifice. The priests would sacrifice the victim by cutting out her heart, offering that to the deity, and then throwing the body down the steps. Voluntary bloodletting was another type of sacrifice performed on the pyramids.
The Aztec pyramids served as religious centers. Aztecs had a polytheistic society, with three head gods: Huitzilopochtli, Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca. Each temple was dedicated to a one of these deities. Typically, the temple housed a shrine to the deity, in addition to schools, dormitories, altars, gardens and sacred pools. Some temples also had arsenals and ball courts. In 2009, archaeologists found what they believe to be the tomb of an Aztec king in Templo Mayor, which indicates the pyramids may also have served as burial grounds.
Five archaeological parks currently have Aztec pyramids open for exploration. These include Teotihuacan, Templo Mayor, El Tajin, Monte Alban and Mitla. Of these sites, Teotihuacant is prominent, as it has two of the world's largest pyramids, the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. Mexico City's Templo Mayor also draws many guests, as it is in Tenochtitlan, the site archaeologists believe to be the capital of the Aztec empire. At most sites, visitors can climb to the top of the pyramids and explore the surrounding ruins.
Mayas • Aztecs • Incas: All-in-One Resource With Background Information, Map Activities, Simulations and Games, and a Read-Aloud Play to Support Comprehension and Critical Thinking in Social Studies
Book (Scholastic, Inc.)
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.