The Aztecs

Articles on the culture, history, and practices of the Aztecs

Articles on the culture, history, and practices of the Aztecs

aztec empire

The Aztec Empire: Society, Politics, Religion, and Agriculture

The Aztec Empire was the last of the great Mesoamerican cultures. Between A.D. 1345 and 1521, the Aztecs forged an empire over much of the central Mexican highlands. At its height, the Aztecs ruled over 80,000 square miles throughout central Mexico, from the Gulf Coast to the Pacific Ocean, and…

aztec designs

Aztec Designs and Symbols for Tattoos

Aztec design represent the symbology of this ancient civilization. Most Mesoamerican cultures loved adornment. One of the ways they adorned their bodies was through tattooing. While scholars note that Otomi, Huaxtec and Mayans used permanent tattoos, they are not sure that Aztecs did, although there are references to Aztecs getting…

aztec symbols

Aztec Symbols, the Language of Culture

Aztec symbols were a component of material culture in which the ancient society expressed understanding of the corporeal and immaterial world. The members of that culture absorb the symbols and their meanings as they grow up. They see the symbols all around them, on the walls of their temples, in…

Aztec warriors

Aztec Warriors: Weapons and Armor; What Did They Use?

As Aztec warriors showed their courage and craftiness in battle and skill at capturing enemy soldiers for sacrifice, they gained in military rank. The Aztec emperors honored the higher ranks with weapons and distinctive garb that reflected their status in the military. Aztecs warriors carried projectile weapons such as bow…

aztec warrior

The Aztec Warrior: Rank and Warrior Societies

The Aztec warrior was highly honored in society if he was successful. Success depended on bravery in battle, tactical skill, heroic deeds and most of all, in capturing enemy warriors. Since every boy and man received military training, all were called for battle when war was in the offing. Both…

Aztec ritual sacrificial combat. A captured warrior from a Flower war is tied to a heavy stone and given a club of feathers. An Aztec jaguar knight fights him with a club of razor sharp obsidian.

Aztec Warriors: The Flower Wars

As you have read, the Aztecs practiced human sacrifice. Most of the people sacrificed were not residents of the Aztec’s major cities, rather they were captured in wars, both wars of conquest and wars of the flowers. The Aztec term for wars for captives was Xochiyayoyotl. The Xochiyayoyotl came about…

Aztec wariors as depicted in the Codex Mendoza. Note the colorful insignia won in battle.

Aztec Warriors Fighting for Conquest and Captives

The Aztec Empire maintained its supremacy by war or threat of war against its neighboring areas. Aztecs engaged in war for two primary reasons: for conquest to reap tribute or to take captives for religious sacrifices necessary to satisfy the gods. We’ll discuss the war for captives in another article.…

aztec empire

Aztec Empire: Art, Myth and Religion Entwined in Stone

While many other Aztec art works were destroyed, either by the Spanish or by the degradations of time, Aztec stone carvings remain to give us a glimpse into the worldview of this supreme Mesoamerican culture. These masterpieces were discovered in Mexico City in the buried ruins of the former Aztec…

British Museum, Aztec Double Headed Serpent detail, turquoise mosaic, Neil Henderson

Aztec Art: A Way of Life

The Aztecs created a rich variety of art works from massive stone sculptures to miniature, exquisitely carved gemstone insects. They made stylized hand crafted pottery, fine gold and silver jewelry and breathtaking feather work garments. The Aztecs were as intimately involved with art as they were with their religion and…

Part of the first page of Codex Mendoza, depicting the founding of Tenochtitlan

Aztec System of Writing: Pictograms

Codex painter was an honored and necessary profession in the Aztec world. They were highly trained in the calmecacs, the advanced schools of the noble class. Some calmecacs invited commoner children to train as scribes if they were highly talented, but most scribes were nobles. After the Spanish conquest, codex…

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