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Most believe the Aztec civilization originated in the area of present day Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado. Historic accounts commonly begin in the late 12th century as they migrated to what is now central Mexico. Modern day Mexicans are of mixed Spanish and indigenous ancestry, descendants of the Mexicas (Aztecs) or of other indigenous peoples of the Aztec Empire and Mesoamerica. Mexico City now stands on the site of the Aztec’s most elaborate and capitol city.
The Aztecs were an advanced and prosperous civilization who built beautiful and sophisticated cities. At their peak, the Aztec civilization had about 15 million people who lived in nearly 500 communities. The Aztecs were culturally developed in music, arts, crafts, and the sciences. Music played an important role in Aztec religious rituals for worshiping their many gods. About 300,000 people lived in Tenochtitlan, their capitol. In this famous city, the government controlled and was responsible for punishment, agriculture, and all aspects of the civilization’s economy.
The early Aztec economy consisted of a type of barter system as this was a pre-capitalist society. Minor purchases were made with cacao beans imported from lowlands. In the marketplaces, a small rabbit might have been worth 30 beans, an egg cost 3 beans while larger purchases of cloth could range from 65 to 300 cacao beans. The highly developed empire had an elaborate leadership and society that consisted of four classes.
Nobles (highest in power)
Commoners (the majority of population, were mostly farmers)
Serfs (worked land for the nobles)
Slaves (consisted of those captured and indebted who couldn’t pay)
Governmental office positions were usually inherited, but one could be awarded an office through exemplary service to the emperor. Slavery was quite common. Aztec communities were heavily dependant upon agriculture with corn being the central crop; though they also relied somewhat on hunting and gathering. Crop surpluses were stored and used during hard times. The Aztec also had sophisticated irrigation systems, allowing them to farm otherwise dry lands. They farmed shallow lakes by scooping up mud and forming islands called chinampas. These islands provided very fertile land that was profitable for growing crops.
The Aztec religion included human sacrifices in rich ceremonies to the gods. Dress was also important in all parts of Aztec life. The Aztecs worshiped hundreds of gods and goddesses; each represented a different aspect of life. Designing clothes, mainly in the upper class, was one form of art in the Aztec culture. Women usually made the clothing, and they richly decorated them with beads, flowers, and precious metals. Gold was often used and was abundant in the Aztec empire. In fact, the pursuit of gold was the main reason Cortez traveled to Mexico in 1519 (eventually leading to the Aztec demise).
Ceremonies were very important during the agricultural seasons to ensure good crops as well as for Coronations. During these ceremonies human sacrifices were given to the gods. Many of the sacrifices were war prisoners or children. They felt that human hearts and blood gave the gods strength and appeased them when they were angry. Large temples were built to celebrate the offering of sacrifices. The famous Sunstone Calendar, which was twelve feet in diameter, represented the Aztec universe. It is thought that the hearts of human sacrifices were placed on this stone and presented to the gods. The Aztecs believed in many gods, to whom they paid tribute daily. It is estimated that over a quarter of a million people were sacrificed each year by the Aztecs.
The Aztecs were a very religious race and strongly believed in the practice of sacrificing people to please the gods. They sacrificed over 20.000 people a year. The emperor thought that a special temple should be built for the deadly ritual, so, the Aztecs built the Sacrificial Temple. One example of such a temple would be the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan.
The walls were covered with paintings, carvings, and gold panels.
On the ground floor, the rooms were very large and each room had its own purpose. There were columns on this floor to support the second floor. There were also columns on the second level to support the roof. There were steps, most likely made up of marble, which led up from the first to second level and were located directly in the center of the palace.
There were 4 main rooms. The reception chamber where the king would come and meet with travelers, nobles, ect. The emperor's personal apartments . The main meeting chamber , this was like the reception chamber but about three times larger. The Emperor's tribute store.
This design is the same from the peasants to the nobles. The only difference is size and more elaborate decorations. It was composed of two separate buildings. One of which is the main home and the other is the steam bath. The main home had walls which were made up of adobe (dirt and water), and they were supporting the thatched roof. Just one big room. It was divided into 4 separate areas, the bed area where the whole family slept, the kitchen area, there was also a designated eating area. And they had a little family shrine .
Also known as "sweat house" in Nahuatl its literal meaning is "bath house" in fear, bathroom, and quality, home. The Aztecs used the bathroom temazcal much, not only for their daily personal hygiene, but as an effective treatment for certain diseases, and in a much more complex, as a ritual of purification and initiation.
The Temazcal igloo with his way of representing the womb of mother earth and somehow that is experiencing a revival. The door represents the uterus from where we left our mother and re-enter is a sacred act by which we come back to the world, the dark interior, hot and humid contains and protects us like our mother's womb contained and protected us.
There were many shrines built all over the Aztec kingdom. Each had their own special purpose and were located in a special place. For example, one was built to worship the knights and the sun god. Others were built to place offerings, as well as, burn them. One particular shrine was made to honor the god of the sun as well as the Eagle and Jaguar knights. I will discuss this shrine and how each room and compartment had its own purpose. The shrine was placed on the top of a cliff and there were two main buildings.
The Aztecs viewed the creations of art as outlets that helped express their opinions about the human condition. Art, whether it is in the form of poetry, murals, music or paintings, was a fundamental element of life in the era of the Aztecs as well as the in the world today. Religion did not have a clear explanation on the meaning of life, thus art allowed for an exploration of these thoughts on life. Gods and sacrificial victims were often represented by stone statues. Paintings on both paper and on walls (murals) represented gods and religious ceremonies.
different colours symbolized information about the object (i.e. north represented by red or black; south represented by white or blue; east represented by yellow or red; west represented by blue-green).
Architecture of the Aztecs included temples, houses, causeways (roads), and political buildings. Aztec architecture was monumental and expressed an empire's values and its civilization. Exhibiting power while keeping strong religious beliefs was the purpose of the architecture, which is noted by the designs of the many palaces, shrines, temples and houses. Aztec architecture presented a sense of order and symmetry, and it's design elements were portrayals of the power of its kingdom.
Aztec calendar, carved during the reign of Axayacatl , with the face of the Sun god Tonatiuh in the center, the 4 rectangles around the god are symbols of the 4 previous ages, the Aztecs believed they lived in the age of the last or 5th sun which would destroy humanity .
From the 13th century the Valley of Mexico was the nucleus of Aztec civilization. The capital of the Aztecs, the city of Tenochtitlan, was built upon raised islets in Lake Texcoco. The Triple Alliance formed its tributary empire expanding its political hegemony far beyond the Valley of Mexico, conquering other city states throughout Mesoamerica.
The most striking aspect of Aztec culture is the high demands for human sacrifice. In the Aztec world view, the sun and earth had been destroyed and recreated four times and they were in the age of the fifth sun, and destruction was imminent . Naturally, they wished to avoid this fate and believed that through intervention through the sun god, Huitzilopochtli this could be done, if he was appeased .