The Aztecs lived near Lake Texcoco in the Valley of Mexico between 1300 and 1500. These resourceful people adjusted to their swampy living conditions by building canoes for fishing and hunting as well as growing plants and vegetation on the water surface. The Aztecs eventually became very powerful and wealthy, establishing a successful empire until it was conquered by the Spanish at the onset of the 16th century.
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Because the Aztecs did not have much land to grow crops, they cultivated a unique system of planting, called floating gardens. They constructed rafts which floated on the water surface. Then mud barriers were constructed to keep the rafts in place. The rafts were covered with enough soil to plant seeds, such as beans, squash, corn and peppers. These creative and practical floating gardens were able to feed the growing population.
Home and Dress
Wealthy Aztecs lived in large brick or stone homes, which had private steam baths. Bathing represented a cleansing of both the physical body and the internal spirit. The wealthy also wore colourful feathers and ornately decorated clothing that symbolised their high stature. On the other hand, poor Aztecs, such as farmers, lived in small huts with thatched roofs and were not permitted to wear feathers.
Religion was an integral part of Aztec culture. The Aztecs worshipped many gods, who they believed controlled the sun. They recognised that the sun was responsible for the success of their crops and thus, their livelihood. They often worshipped their gods by practicing rituals featuring human sacrifices. The Aztecs believed that human blood nourished the gods. Human hearts were also considered holy food for the gods. These religious ceremonies usually coincided with significant farming dates, such as harvest or rainfall.
Gender and Relationships
Men dominated Aztec society and politics, whereas women headed the household duties and raised the family. Many Aztec men aspired to become warriors. Successful warriors were glorified by society and also reaped important rewards, such as land. Marriage was considered the beginning of adulthood for Aztecs and each new family was provided a piece of land for a home and garden. Men were also permitted to have multiple wives, but each man only had an official ceremony with the first or primary wife. Additionally, only the first wife's children were the recipients of the father's inheritance.
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