Aztec temples were basically shaped like pyramids with small temples at the top, but the structures were quite complex. Great Aztec temple models might focus on the macrostructure, the construction methodology, how a ritual was carried out or the excavation processes used by archaeologists. Models might also focus on art, ritual staging or the way music and other creative arts were integrated into Aztec temple ceremonies.
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Scale Temple Model
Using 1-inch thick styrofoam squares of gradually decreasing sizes, build a step pyramid on a firm lightweight surface like styrofoam presentation boards. Create the small temple structure on top using Popsicle sticks or similar material. Sand off the edges of your styrofoam to give it a weathered look, then spray paint it grey. Use construction paper to create features like steps or blood channels. Paint any desired artwork around the sides, and use N scale (1:160) model train set parts to decorate with trees, people and other desired surroundings.
Cross Section Model
Aztec temples were build of several different materials. Older temples were built of cut stone. More recent temples were composed of concrete-like walls that were then filled with volcanic rock rubble. A layer of flagstone was laid over this rubble, then a new, smaller wall built atop it and the process repeated. A small model of this cross section could be created either as a scale replica or a three-dimensional flat model glued to a poster or presentation board. Good research and labelling are a must for this Aztec temple model.
An Excavation Model
While this model is challenging to build, it can also be the most creative. One type of excavation model is the full-size Aztec temple ruin. Start by building a scale model of either a full or partial temple as described in Section 1, then cover it with model train spray-on grass and plastic vines. Place small rocks on bare spots, then spray them with model train grass as well. Use notes and labels to show how the "hill" is recognisable to archaeologists as a temple. Another type of excavation model is the dig. In a box with high sides, build the sides of the lowest level of a temple out of plaster of Paris, then fill it in with rocks. Cover the whole thing with sand and let viewers "excavate" the temple with brushes.
An Active Model
Build a scale Aztec temple model, then populate it with priests and victims to show how a ritual was controlled and streamlined. Due to the bloody nature of Aztec ritual, this model might be unsuitable for younger viewers. For a less graphic example, consider using a Quetzalcoatl worship ceremony; instead of humans, this gentler Aztec god preferred sacrifices of flowers and butterflies.
A Tlachtli Model
Creative and sports-minded people might be more interested in building a tlachtli court, in which the Aztec game ullamalitzli was played. While it was a sport, ullamalitzli had strong religious significance to indigenous Mesoamericans and the court was often treated with the same ritual respect as a pyramid temple. The court consisted of a sunken or wall-enclosed field between 100 and 200 feet long, divided into seven sections by six markers, and with vertical stone rings mounted on both walls at the midcourt marker. Spectators sat along the long sides of the field on a low platform (or on the ground, for sunken fields), just above the level of the stone rings. The ball, or ulla, was made of hard black rubber about the size of a head. A model of this court can be made of styrofoam or painted folded cardboard; a small superball makes an excellent ulla.
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