The Aztec people, commonly known as the Mexicas were most well known of all the Amerindian civilizations during the sixteenth century to say the least. The Aztecs were the Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican people of central Mexico who lived from the fourteenth century till the sixteenth century.
The Aztecs were basically a small group of nomads before they finally settled on the southwest border of Lake Texcoco in 1325. Perhaps they originated from a place called Aztlan and made their way around the Mexican valley fighting for survival. By the thirteenth century they lived in the central basin of Mexico and finally settled on the small islands in Lake Texcoco. They founded the town of Tenochtitlan what we know as the modern day Mexico. However, in 1521 the Aztecs were colonized by the Spanish, which ultimately led to their downfall.
The Aztecs were supreme builders as they built an empire during the fifteenth century, which is very much at par with the Incas in Peru in terms of size and stature. History also tells us that the Aztecs had formed a highly specific and stratified society and on top of that a majestic administration. They maintained an advanced agrarian economy on one hand and on the other they had a good trading network.
The Aztec civilization spoke of a vivid culture, which emphasized on education and a rich yet complicated mythology. The practice of human sacrifice, which was prevalent throughout Mesoamerica, was a part of their culture too.
The Aztecs made living out of hunting, fishing, gathering and gardening. The nearby rivers abounding in fishes, shrimp, crabs and turtles were the major source of food for the Aztec people. They also hunted animals like deer, rabbits, pumas, snakes, armadillos, and coyotes. And beyond that, they also raised crops like red tomatoes, pumpkin, cocoa, bananas, sweet potatoes, squash, maize, beans, chili, tobacco, onions, green tomatoes, jicama, huautli and vanilla. Insects like crickets, maguey worms, ants, and larvae also formed a part of their diet.
The Aztecs spoke the common language of Nahuatl. Although they did not have a written language but traces of written records however is found. The Aztecs generally used the technique of direct representation and varieties of hieroglyphic paintings.
Although the Aztecs did not participate in war that often, they however conquered most of their neighboring counterparts. Songs and poetries were the highlights of their art life. The Aztec festivals showcased dramatic presentations including players, musicians and acrobats as well as poetry contests.
Religion formed an integral part of Aztec society. They were worshippers of multiple gods and goddesses. And some of them were Centeotl, the corn god, Coatlicue - she of the Serpent Skirt, Huitzilopochtli - the war/sun god and special guardian of Tenochtitlan, Ehecatl, the god of wind, Mictlantecuhtle, god of the dead and many more. Interestingly, Tonatiuh or the sun was considered as a chief source of life mainly worshipped by the warrior. However, in the negative sense, the Aztecs indulged in the act of human sacrifice as part of their offerings to their respective gods in religious occasions.
In the conclusion it would be best said that the Aztecs were great achievers in all aspects of life.
Joseph Paige © 2006