Were the Aztecs really that brutal? Basic Introduction to the Aztecs. The Aztecs

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1 Basic Introduction to the Aztecs The Aztecs Were the Aztecs really that brutal? found their city. Who were they? The Aztecs were a very successful ancient civilisation who lived in what is now central Mexico. Their capital city was called Tenochtitlan (Ten- Ock- Tit- Lan), remains of which can be found in modern- day Mexico City. Legend states that their capital was built after the early Aztecs followed a dream- prophecy to the shores of Lake Texcoco. Their sun god, Huitzilopochtli (Hoo- It- Zil- Op- Och- Tlee), instructed them that if they found an eagle on a cactus eating a snake, that was where they should Why are they interesting? The Aztecs achieved an advanced level of civilization for the period, with Tenochtitlan's peak population being greater than that of any European or Asian city of the time. They had a well- developed written language, art, poetry, a detailed calendar and sciences. But the aspect of their culture that occasions the greatest interest is their system of human sacrifice. Most of the ancient American cultures of the period practiced some form of sacrifice, but the Aztecs' reputation for this dwarfed everyone else! Examples of extraordinarily detailed Aztec art, as well as an idea of the colourful dress they would display themselves in. 1

2 Task 1: Let s meet the Aztecs you need to undertake research on the Aztecs and answer the following questions: a) What modern- day country was home to the Aztecs? b) What was the name of their capital city? What was its geographical setting? c) Their capital city was built on a site with a number of advantages. Why was it a good site for a city? d) The Aztecs had advanced farming methods. Name three crops they grew in the fertile soil around their capital. e) The Aztecs prayed to hundreds of gods and believed that these deities controlled all aspects of life. What kinds of things did they think the gods controlled? f) Religion was important to the Aztecs. How did they try to please their gods? g) The family was also important to the Aztecs. Each person in the family had a role. h) What did most men do? Women? Sons? Daughters? i) Describe typical homes in their capital city. j) The Aztecs were ruled over by an emperor. What was his name? Describe what the emperor looked like. Task 2: Study the legend of the founding of Tenochtitlan. In particular, try and figure out the connection between the legend and the modern- day Mexican Flag illustrated below 2

3 Task 3: Access the following website about the Aztecs Read the information on the following aspects of Aztec life: Aztec Warrior Aztec Art & Craft Hunting & Fishing Aztec Food Aztec Markets Ball- game Calendar Write a paragraph about which aspect of Aztec life would give a historian the best information about Aztec Civilization (remember a historian would access both primary and secondary sources) Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc, Top Gods of the Aztecs Like most early peoples, the Aztecs worshipped many nature gods. However, their main deities were Huitzilopochtli (weetz- ill- oh- PACHT- lee), the war god, and Tlaloc (til- AH- loc), the rain god. Task 4: Find five interesting facts about Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc (try and find both similarities and differences about the gods). Place them in the following table Huitzilopochtli Tlaloc 3

4 Human Sacrifice in the Aztec Culture The Aztecs were a powerful and dominant society that lived in central Mexico from the 12th to the 14th century. They built a civilization with highly educated and skilled people, complex infrastructure and architecture and a sophisticated political system. However, what most people today know the Aztecs for is the practice of human sacrifice. This source above, created by Spanish invaders, emphasizes the brutality of the Aztecs. On the other hand, are there other aspects of the Aztecs this source does not show? Would other elements of Aztec culture likely to have been shown by the Spanish? Task 5: How useful is this source to a Historian studying the Aztecs? Try to explain using a clear example and phrases like this is important because and this means that Task: 6 (a) Watch the following YouTube clip (b) Visit the following website and find out more about why the Aztecs performed human sacrifice sacrifice- 10- aztec- sacrifice- facts/ 4

5 Stages of Human sacrifice The Aztec believed that they owed everything to the gods who created themselves as well as the world around them. They would perform sacrifices in order for a good crop yield or good weather among other things. They believed that the best way to repay them was to offer up blood to them in regular rituals. Although many just assume this was human blood, they also sacrificed animals as well. Some offerings weren t outright killings as well. They would have been cutting oneself and offering the bloodshed to the gods. Archaeologists estimate that a few thousand people would have been sacrificed each year. Some were members of the Aztec community but they believe that most were prisoners of war. Instead of killing their enemies in battle, they would sometimes capture them and take them back to the capital to be offered up to the gods. In one ritual, the prisoners were forced to walk up the many stairs of the temple. Once they reached the top, the priest would cut open their stomach from throat to stomach. They would rip out their heart to offer it to the gods. The bodies were then pushed down the stairs. At the bottom, the body would be dismembered or carried off depending on the ritual. It s hard to believe this sort of activity happened regularly, especially as a public event where people would gather in the square to watch. Human sacrifice was not only an Aztec event. It happened all over the world in several different cultures. It was a part of their religion and a way to please the gods so the Aztecs would avoid disaster. Source: ss13/2013/04/25/aztec- human- sacrifice/, accessed Saturday May 21 st, 2016 Task 7: Create a storyboard showing the stages of Aztec human sacrifice. You will have to use your imagination in terms of the background and characters to use you may decide to tell the story of human sacrifice by transporting it to the 21 st century. Use the following website to construct your storyboard you have up to 100 cells in each storyboard so you have an excellent opportunity to go into this in depth. 5

6 Make sure you have the following steps in your storyboard 1. Gods create life through sacrificing themselves daily by spilling their own blood. 2. Wanting to pay the Gods back, the Aztecs build huge temples to worship them. 3. To further pay the God s back, the Aztecs regularly raid and capture tribes- people from neighbouring areas 4. The captured warriors are sacrificed at the top of the temples by having their still- beating hearts removed from their chests 5. The hearts and blood offerings are cooked - the essence of the offering makes it way to the Gods 6. Refreshed with new life force from the sacrifices, the Gods can continue to make life Reflection Task 8: Write a reflection on the most memorable part of your inquiry into the Aztec Civilization. 6

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