Aztecs: Dominating Mesoamerican History
The Aztecs dominated Mesoamerica from around 1325 until the conquest of the Spaniards around 1520. (1) The Aztecs ruled with brutal force and human sacrifice was very important to continue pleasing the gods. They shared similar gods and symbolism with other Mesoamerican civilizations such as the serpent deity, the Jaguar and the Sun god, and believed themselves to be the heirs of the great warriors of the Toltecs. (1) Their temples and monuments show strong ties to the cultures of Mesoamerica that had inhabited the area before them and it’s obvious they strived to surpass previous civilizations. This paper will highlight the common building methods and purposes of the Aztecs and how those structures represented the Aztec worldview. I’ll also delve into the evidence that suggest they were a dominating, history changing people that took traditions of Mesoamerica much further To completely understand the purpose and the motives to build the great pyramids and temples of the Aztecs, one must look at the civilizations that inhabited the region thousands of years before them. Since the rise of Mesoamerican societies, polytheism has been the most common religion. The native peoples worshipped many gods and seemed to be in search of the meaning of life. Each society throughout the ages centered their religion on the forces of nature, they worshipped gods who controlled forces of nature and each was worshipped in a different way. The practice of monument and temple building in Mesoamerica has generally had the same purpose, to please and worship the gods. Unlike the great pyramids of Egypt that were built as tombs for Pharaohs, the Mesoamerican pyramids were built mainly as ceremonial monuments. The grandest of temples of the Mesoamericans was usually dedicated to the sun god, their protector. Although each civilization worshipped in a different way the concept was usually the same, build huge temples that resembled aspects of nature to please the gods. This is why almost all of the Mesoamerican temples incorporate symbolic animals into their hieroglyphs and art work. Another example of symbolism is the shape of their temples that resemble mountains. (3) So, as we look at how the Aztecs built monuments we can see that they practiced many of the same traditions and ceremonial building processes as their predecessors. In fact, it was acceptable to, instead of destroying old temples build over them. It was believed that since the old temple was blessed by the gods, building over it would further please the gods, adding more stairs, a larger sacrificial are at the shrine at top and reaching closer to the heavens. (2) Aztecs would also add their own symbolism to shrines and temples that they had either discovered or conquered. This was the case at Teohtihuacan, a site believed by the Aztecs to be the place where humanity of the current era started. The Aztecs were amazed by the pyramids of the Sun and Moon and the Avenue of the Dead. They believed the Toltecs were the one who built it but we know now the site is much older; nonetheless the Aztecs used these shrines for their own purpose. The Aztecs were on a divine mission to conquer as much of Mesoamerica as they could. They conquered native peoples and used their existing shrines for their religious purposes and used the captured people as an offering of blood and human sacrifice to the gods. Evidence of this is all over Mesoamerica as many sites have mass burials and altars at temples. The Aztecs believed it was their destiny to continue to expand and build temples and offer blood to please the gods.
One of Mesoamerica’s premiere cities was Tenochtitlan, present day Mexico City. It is no surprise that this is the location of Templo Major. The double temple was constructed of stone and covered in stucco then brightly painted. The Temple was built with two staircases leading up to the two shrines on the top of each temple’s peak, one...
Bibliography: (1) Scarre, Christopher, and Bryan M. Fagan. Upper Saddle River: Pearson, 2008. Print.
(2) "Aztec Temples." Aztec History. Web. 25 Apr. 2012. <http://www.aztec-history.com/aztec-temples.html>.
(3) "Aztec Architecture." ThinkQuest. Oracle Foundation. Web. 25 Apr. 2012. <http://library.thinkquest.org/10098/aztec.htm>.
(4) "El Templo Mayor De Mexico-Tenochtitlan." 35 Años Viajando Por México. Web. 23 Apr. 2012. <http://www.mexicodesconocido.com.mx/el-templo-mayor-de-mexico-tenochtitlan.html>.
(5) Hassig, Ross (2001). Time, History and Belief in Aztec and Colonial Mexico. Austin TX USA: University of Texas Press.
(6) "Templo Mayor." Archaeological Research Institute. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <http://archaeology.la.asu.edu/tm/pages2/mtm10.htm>.
(7) -Gomez, Juana (1997). Dictionary of Mexican Rulers 1325-1997. Westport CT USA: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 8.
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