The Aztecs were a pretty cool, yet barbaric bunch. They had an educational system, were prolific in art and pottery, but they killed tens of thousands of their own people every year for ritualistic and cannibalistic reasons… yikes!
The killing part doesn’t make them awesome, so lets focus on some of the better aspects of this powerful culture.
The Aztecs reigned supreme throughout the 14th to 16th century, and actually referred to themselves as the Mexica people (Mexica – Mexico…makes sense). The name Aztec refers to the people from the Aztlan region and spoke the language of Nahuatl. The main centre of the Aztecs was Tenochtitlan situated on Lake Texcoco.
They conquered neighbouring cities, but excavations show that they used these cities as extra passages for trade, roads and cultural uses and didn’t destroy them. Their use of trade included some of the amazing material they created. They were skilled sculptors (wood and stone) as well as painters and pottery makers (they made the clay and shape with their hands instead of a pottery wheel), and were also affluent in making head dresses that would put the Rio festival to shame.
They used two types of calendars, one for time and another for festivals which were very common in their tradition. Their approval of the gods was an important part of Aztec life, which resulted in the sacrificial ceremonies every festival. It’s estimated that 20,000 people were killed every year for this reason.
There was a schooling for boys and girls of noble descent, and a very strict law system that usually led to either slavery or death. Their entertainment was filled with games mainly tlachtli and patolli. The former was more of a basketball game where players had to shoot a leather ball into a hoop with their knees. While Patolli was more of a gambling game using pebbles and beans.
The Aztecs were a thriving culture, and this can be seen from what they’ve left behind. Massive pyramids and elaborate artistic creations show us how powerful and enigmatic they were.
In 1502 the Spanish arrived, and it wasn’t the war that was the downfall of the Aztecs, but the smallpox the Europeans brought with them. It wasn’t long before the Aztecs were conquered, their cities destroyed, and the Spanish their new leaders.
Although they might have been keen sacrificers, they started a civilisation that is still admired and visited.