3 Who were the Aztecs?The Aztecs were rich and powerful people from the valley of Mexico.They were farmers, warriors, traders, engineers, artists and sculptures.They ruled over a great empire in Central America until about five hundred years ago.At its height, the Aztec empire contained 200,000 square kilometres of land and 3 million people.
5 Settling DownNo one knows exactly where the Aztecs came from. They arrived in Mexico about 700 years ago, looking for a new home.After a long journey, they arrived at Lake Texoco in a large Mexican valley.The Aztecs believed that a god had sent them a sign telling them where to live.The sign was an eagle with a snake in its mouth. It was perched on a cactus, as shown in this painting.
6 It was very hard to build on the lake because the Aztecs only had a small piece of land in the surrounding marshes.The Aztecs made the swampy, shallow lake into chinampas. They made islands by piling up mud and reeds in the water. They used them as their city foundations.
7 Over the next few years they expanded their empire by building canals, gardens, aqueducts, temples and a very grand palace.They named their new home Tenochtitlán.It grew to become one of the largest and most beautiful cities in the world.
8 Then they built causeways and bridges to connect the city to the mainland. The palace was so big, there was even a zoo inside.
11 The SpeakerThe Aztecs were ruled by a very important man called the Speaker.No one was allowed to disobey an order from the Speaker.The speaker was carried when he went outside. The ground was swept in front of him.No one was allowed to turn their back on the Speaker, even when they were walking away from him.This is an old painting of Montezuma II. He was the last Aztec speaker.Insert picture p9 Aztec book.
12 What to Wear?There were very strict rules about what people were allowed to wear.Only rich nobles were allowed to wear bright, patterned clothes.Ordinary Aztecs wore plain clothes that were made out of rough material.Priests dressed in black and never washed their long, tangled hair.The best warriors were allowed to wear clothes with lots of feathers and decoration.Insert p11
13 Get the Aztec Look! Men and women painted their bodies. For women, the fashionable colour was yellow.They painted their faces with a yellow paste made from crushed insects.They dyed their hair black with mud or a deep blue colour.
14 Aztecs and FoodThe Aztecs were skilled farmers growing maize, beans, tomatoes, chilli peppers and other vegetables.People also ate dogs, monkeys, frogs, tadpoles, lizards, ants, caterpillars and insects.Many kinds of animals and birds were sold live at Aztec markets.They used cocoa beans, feathers and tools as money.
15 The Aztecs made special cakes from the green algae they collected from the surface of lakes. At banquets, the rich sometimes gave their guests tobacco and drugs made from poisonous frogs skins, cactus tops or mushrooms that gave them hallucinations.Alcohol was drunk at weddings and festivals. It was made from the sap of the maguey cactus.Drunkenness was a serious crime. If anyone was caught drunk in public, they had their head shaved in front of a mocking crowd.If caught a second time, they were beaten to death!
16 The Aztecs even had a god of chocolate! They used cocoa beans to make a rich chocolate drink.They added chillies to make it spicy.
17 Ball SportsTheir favourite sports included a rough ball game that often ended in injuries or even death!This ball game was played by teams of players using a hard rubber ball on a stone court.Players scored points by knocking the ball through goal rings high up on the walls of the court.They were not allowed to kick or handle the ball. They had to use their elbows, hips or knees.The winners could claim clothes or jewellery worn by spectators. The losing team was sometimes killed as a sacrifice to the gods!
18 BirdmenThe Holy Birdman game or ‘Volador’ was a bit like bungee jumping.They dressed up as birds and climbed a 70-metre high post.One sat on a platform at the top playing a flute and drum.The others tied ropes around their bodies and jumped off the post.They each swung round 13 times, getting upright just before they hit the ground!Picture p13 large aztec book
19 Board Games The Aztecs also enjoyed board games and gambling. Players prayed to the god of gambling before they began.Some people gambled away their belongings such a clothes, houses and even their children!They used cocoa beans with dots painted on them as a dice.
20 Religion Religion was very important part of Aztec life. The Aztec religion was based on worship of gods who represented the Earth, Rain and Sun.They held lots of festivals to worship them.
21 This is the mask of a very powerful god called Feathered Snake. It was made from turquoise stone.
22 The god of sun and war was Hummingbird on the Left. Hummingbird on the Left’s mother was an earth goddess called Snake Skirt.The Aztecs believed that the god of water brought rain, thunder and lightning.Smoking Mirror was god of the night sky. He decided if people would be lucky.
23 Human SacrificeThe Aztecs believed that their gods had to be fed with human hearts and blood.People thought this was a good way to die as it helped the gods.More than 10,000 people were once sacrificed in just four days.
24 MusicMusic was a huge part of religious ceremonies, festivals and story-telling.The instruments they used were shells, rattles, whistles, horns, bells and drums.
25 Aztec ChildrenThe Aztecs brought up their children with strict rules and punishments to make them good, obedient citizens.If children were rude or naughty, they were tied up and left outside in the cold all night.Many children died as infants from diseases or accidents at home.
26 Those who survived had to start working from the age of four. The girls learned to cook and clean and the boys worked in the fields or hunted and fished with their fathers.At aged 10 the boys were sent to school to do military training and to learn a craft.At aged 15, some boys went to a special school where they learned about the history and religion of the tribe.These boys became religious leaders.Unfortunately, girls were only allowed to learn about household jobs.
27 Childhood Punishments If they didn’t pay attention in school, the teacher punished them by pinching their arms or ears or pricking them with cactus spines.If the girls were naughty, they were given extra housework.
28 The worst punishment for naughty children was being held over a fire of roasting chilli peppers, so the smoke stung their throats and eyes.If a family was very poor, children were sometimes sold to passing slave traders.
29 Other Aztec CustomsThe Aztecs bound their babies’ heads so they grew into a flatter shape.Cross-eyes were thought to be attractive. Parents used string down the middle of the face to encourage them.They tried to make children taller by pulling on their necks.
30 Aztec Medicine Aztec doctors used a mix of herbs, magic and religion. They made powerful ‘cures’ from plants or mushrooms that sometimes sent their parents mad or even killed them.The Atzecs believed illnesses were caused by evil spirits, or were punishments from the gods.They tried to drive out the spirits by making patients sweat in mud-brick steam baths and by saying prayers and making offerings to the gods.
31 Would you like to visit the Aztec Doctor? To mend a broken leg, they put a paste of cactus and lime and made a splint.To clean cuts and wounds, they used urine!If someone had a cold, they gave them a steam bath and dribbled dew from the fields into their nostrils.
32 If someone had fleas, they painted on a pine resin and set fire to it! For earache, the Aztecs poured liquid rubber into the ear.If someone had taken anything poisonous, the doctor gave them a potion made from fried chameleon that made them sick at once.
33 Spooks and Superstitions The Aztecs believed that every 52 years, the world might come to an end. They held festivals to try and stop this happening.They believed in witches, demons and ghosts.People told tales about spooky dwarf women and creatures without heads and feet.They thought spooks appeared at night as skulls to haunt people.
38 Fierce Fighters The Aztecs were proud, war faring people. Aztecs saw war as a duty to the gods.New born babies were given bows and arrows and children were brought up to fight.When boys were 18, they took part in their first battle.Once they had captured their first prisoner, they became a warrior.The more captives the warriors took, the grander their costumes became.To celebrate taking their first prisoner, young warriors had their faces smeared with blood from a human sacrifice.
40 When they heard the war drum, every man in the city got ready to go off to fight. They attacked enemy towns and took their captives home and then killed them as sacrifices to the gods.The best warriors were eagle knights and jaguar knights. They wore special clothes.They fought with knives, spears, arrows, deadly clubs and shields.The Aztecs thought that brave warriors who died came back to life as hummingbirds and butterflies.
41 Under AttackIn 1519, Spanish soldiers arrived in Tenochtitlan. They had sailed across the ocean searching for treasure.When they arrived, the Aztecs welcomed them. However, the Spanish were shocked when they saw that the Aztecs sacrificed people.The Spanish wanted to take over the city so they attacked it. In 1521, they captured the city and killed lots of people.The Spanish destroyed a lot of the buildings in the city and built their own. This was the end of the Aztec era.
42 The Modern City of Mexico stands on the site of Tenochtitlán.
43 Aztec Gods Chalchiuhtlicue – goddess of the lakes and streams Chantico – goddess of the hearthChicomecoatl – goddess of maizeCoatlicue – goddess for the pain of lifeHuehuetectim - god of fireHuitzilopochtli – god of war, sun and the nationMictlantecuhtl – god of the deadQuetzalcoatl - god of knowledge, creation, priesthood, and windTezcatlipoca – god of magic, war and deathTezcatlipoca – god of speech and languageTlaloc – god of rainTloque Nahuaque - Lord of everywhere, the one supreme force, bothmale and femaleXipe Totec – god of spring and new life, god of suffering Xochipilli - prince of flowers, god of dawn, dance and love
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