The Aztec Indians created a great civilization in Central Mexico, reaching its peak in the 1500’s. Being late arrivals to the area, and because of their strong neighboring nations, they were forced to live in the swampy western areas of the Lake Texcoco. Because of the swampy surroundings, the Aztecs used mud to create miniature islands in the swamps. These islands are called chinampas, or “floating gardens,” and were used as farming lands. On these fertile islands they grew corn, squash, vegetables, and flowers. Being an agriculturally dependent
empire, the Aztec’s religion was based highly on the forces of nature and worshipped them as gods. The god of war, Huitzilopochtli, was the most important deity. They had many other important gods, such as Tlaloc, the god of rain, Quetzalcoatl, the god of wind and of learning, and Tenochtitlan, the sun god. The Aztecs believed in order to appease these and many other gods that they needed to perform human sacrifices. The main purpose of the great Aztec pyramids was, in fact, human sacrifices. They also believed that there were “lucky” and “unlucky” days for baptism and to declare war on, which were decided by a priest. Most art and architecture in the Aztec civilization was based on their religion. There are many brightly colored murals and paintings on walls and on bark which depict religious ceremonies, along with large idols of gods. One of the most amazing and famous of the Aztec’s art works is a huge calendar stone that weighs 22 tons and is 12 feet in diameter. On the stone is a picture of what the Aztecs thought the universe was like. The sun god is in the middle, with the heavens surrounding it, and pictures of people made out of precious stones. The Aztec form of writing was in pictographs, or small pictures symbolizing objects or sounds. The Aztec numbering system used pictographs also, and was based on the number 20. For example, a...
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