The people commonly called the Aztecs called themselves the Mexica, pronounced "me-shee-ka." Their empire grew from a small tribe who settled in the Valley of Mexico in the 12th century A.D. By the 16th century, they had expanded throughout what is now central and southern Mexico. The Aztecs built thatched roofed houses out of mud bricks on stone foundations. Each house had a hearth outside for cooking. Archeological excavations of Aztec houses uncover decorated pottery, stone grinding tools, obsidian, stone jewellery and bronze tools.
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Things you need
- Heavy-duty cardboard, at least 12 inches square
- Tempera or poster paints
- Paint brush
- Lightweight cardboard
- White glue in a squeeze bottle
- Pine needles or straw
Spread newspaper on your work surface. Remove the lid from a shoebox.
Draw a rectangle on one long side of the shoebox tor the Aztec house's door. Make the rectangle 2 inches wide and 4 inches tall. Start the rectangle at the top edge of the box. Houses for common people were one-room rectangles or squares with a single door.
Cut out the rectangle to create an open door. Aztec houses had open doors and no windows. Turn the shoebox upside down so the bottom of the box faces up.
Paint the sides of the house tan because the Aztecs generally made houses of mud brick.
Cut a rectangle of lightweight cardboard the same length as the shoebox and twice the width of the shoebox.
Fold the lightweight cardboard in thirds lengthwise to form the roof of your Aztec house model. This will create a flat roof. The finished roof will be flat in the centre and angle down and outward to meet the tops of the house's long walls.
Squeeze glue along the top of the sides of the upside down shoebox to attach the roof. Center the folded cardboard roof on the shoebox. Allow the long sides of the roof to overhang the long sides of the shoebox by 1/4 inch or more. Press down on the cardboard roof's edges to secure it to the shoebox with the glue.
Set the Aztec house on one of its small ends, resting on a piece of lightweight cardboard. Trace around the roof to create an end piece to fill in the gaps between the tops of the walls and the top of the roof on each end of the house. Use a ruler to finish drawing the end piece.
Cut out the end piece. Trace around it to create a second end piece. Cut out the second end piece.
Squeeze glue along the edges of the roof and top of the wall on the end that's still facing up from when you traced the other end. Press one end piece against the glue. Turn the Aztec house so that it rests on the glued end piece. Glue the other end piece in place.
Squeeze glue along the edge of the shoebox -- the edge that was the top of the shoebox. Center the shoebox upside down on a piece of cardboard and hold it down for 15 seconds to help the glue take hold.
Squeeze lines of glue along the sides, top and ends of the roof. Glue pine needles or straw in two or more rows around the roof, starting at the bottom edge and adding the next layer to overlap the top of the first layer of thatch.
Paint two rows of 1/2-inch rocks all the way around the Aztec house at the base of the walls to represent the stone foundation. Make the rocks irregular shapes like real rocks. Mix black and white paint to make light and dark shades of grey for the rocks.
Tips and warnings
- Look at pictures of Aztec houses in books or on websites before you start building your model (see Resources).
- Broom straw will work for roof thatch.
- Transport the Aztec house in a box to protect it if you need to take it to school or an event.
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