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The Aztecs
Early Aztecs were nomadic.
They settled around Lake Texcoco
in Central Mexico in the 1320s.
By 1500, the empire ruled from
Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific
Their capital, Tenochtitlan was built on a series of islands in the center of the lake, so
they constructed a system of stone causeways from capital the mainland.
The Aztec farmed in the shallow swamps, so they dug canals and used the
mud they removed to fill in parts of the lake. Then they attached reed mats to
the lake bottom with stakes and piled mud on the mats to create farmland
called chinampas or floating islands.
They were able to grow many crops such as
cocoa, vanilla, bananas, squash, pumpkin,
beans, chili, tobacco, onions, red tomatoes,
green tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and maize.
They caught crabs, oysters, and fish.
The land provided rabbits, snakes, deer, and
wild turkey.
Religion was the center of Aztec life.
The center of the city was a sacred place with
dozens of temples.
Within the wall temple area was a pyramid structure called
the Great Temple. At the top of this building was two separate
They honored thousands
of gods, but the most
important were…
Tlaloc, the god of rain.
the god of the sun
and war.
The four long blue
lines represented
flowing war.
His temple was
marked with skulls.
Some other gods were …
They believed that prosperity depended
on the good will of the gods.
Aztec Priests…
• Studied the heavens.
• Developed complex calendar focused on
planting and harvest seasons.
• Performed rituals designed to please
their many gods.
• Believed the sun god battled its way
across the heavens each day.
• Compared this to their battles
calling themselves “warriors of the
• Believed the sun god required
human sacrifices in order to rise
each day.
• Sacrificed thousands of captives
each year.
Aztec Society
Emperor was chosen
by nobles & priests to
lead in war.
Nobles served as officials,
judges and governors.
Priests performed rituals
and ran schools.
Warriors could
become nobles by
killing or capturing
Merchants often
acted as spies for
the empire.
Artisans passed their
skills onto their
Farmers made up most of the
Slaves were mostly captives or
The Aztecs became rich
through trade and conquest.
Their artisans created jewelry,
clothing, headdresses, pottery,
statues and folded books
called codices.
The Aztecs were effective, but
harsh rulers.
Heavy taxes and huge
numbers of human sacrifices
sparked many revolts, and
many conquered people were
eager for revenge.
The enemies of the Aztecs eventually helped Europeans to destroy their empire .