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The Aztecs, or Mexica as they called themselves, were the elite of a militaristic empire centered in Central Mexico when the Spanish conquistadors landed in America at the beginning of the 16th century.
See the fact file below for more information on the Ancient Aztec or alternatively, you can download our 19-page Ancient Aztec worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
ETYMOLOGY AND HISTORY
- It is believed that the Aztecs were nomadic tribes in the northern region of Mexico who began to populate Mesoamerica around the 13th century.
- They were hunter-gatherers from Aztlan, translated as the White Land. Aztecs were also known as Tenochca people. Upon arriving in Mesoamerica, the development of their own civilization contributed to the fall of the previously dominant civilization of the Toltecs.
- The first settlement of the Aztecs was in a marshy land near the southwest border of Lake Texcoco. They were able to drain the swampy land, build artificial islands, and establish the capital city of Tenochtitlan by 1325.
- By 1428, under leader Itzcoatl, the Aztecs formed an alliance with the Texcocans and Tacubans against the rival Tepanecs.
- In 1440, Montezuma I succeeded Itzcoatl, who became known as the father of the Aztec Empire.
- The Aztecs were known to typically grow crops like maize, beans, squash, potatoes, tomatoes, and avocados. Aside from agriculture, they were also fishermen and hunters. Local animals including rabbits, armadillos, snakes, coyotes, and wild turkey were common prey.
- Amidst having swampy lands upon settlement, the Aztecs were able to develop a relatively sophisticated system of agriculture, especially irrigation methods.
- Born as warriors, the Aztecs were able to conquer lands and build an empire.
- Another important factor in Aztec economy was the foundation of its capital, Tenochtitlan. Aside from being the capital city, Tenochtitlan was the center of Aztec tianguis or open-air markets.
- Aztecs were selling goods like food, medicines, and ornaments every five days. They did not use coins or paper as means of trade, instead barter and exchange.
- “There were many …merchants who sold gold in grains as it came from the mines,” Bernal wrote. “ They put it in goose quills…They calculated how much so many blankets or gourds of cacao were worth, or slaves, or whatever else they traded, according to the length and thickness of the quills.”
Bernal Diaz del Castillo, one of Cortes’ men
- Like other civilizations, the Aztec society was rigidly subjected to a caste system; with a high priest at the top, followed by the Council composed of the royal family, the nobles, the merchants and artisans, and finally at the bottom were slaves.
- Social status was passed through lineage, except slaves and serfs who received such status as a punishment. One can become a slave if a crime was committed, a war prisoner, and failure to pay debt.
- Like the Maya and other Mesoamerican civilizations, the Aztecs highly believed in the rite of human sacrifice. Such reverence is seen in the number of temples, palaces, statues, and plazas showing devotion to many Aztec gods, including Huitzilopochtli (god of war and sun), and Quetzalcoatl (feathered serpent).
FALL OF THE AZTEC CIVILIZATION
- In early 1517, Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba became the first European to set foot on the Yucatan Peninsula. He arrived with about three ships and a hundred men.
- By March, 1519, the Spanish governor Diego Velasquez sent Hernan Cortes, another Spanish conquistador to Mexico. Cortes landed in Tabasco and discovered the Aztec civilization and its people.
- Out of his own ambition, Cortes defied Velazquez and founded the city of Veracruz on the southeastern Mexican coast. He commanded his own men, marched into Mexico, and founded an alliance with the native Tlaxcalans.
- In late 1519, Cortes penetrated Tenochtitlan and was greeted by leader Montezuma I. Amidst a large number of Aztec warriors, Cortes took Montezuma hostage and later killed him along with thousands of Aztec nobles.
- The murder of about 240,000 Aztec natives on August 13, 1521, ended the Aztec civilization.
- As a result, Cortes was glorified by the Spanish crown. He then built Mexico City on the ruins of Tenochtitlan and accumulated vast fortunes in the name of the Spanish monarchs.
- Most deaths were caused by European diseases such as smallpox.
Ancient Aztec Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Ancient Aztec across 19 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Ancient Aztec worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Aztecs, or Mexica as they called themselves, which were the elite of a militaristic empire centered in Central Mexico when the Spanish conquistadors landed in America at the beginning of the 16th century.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Ancient Aztec Facts
- Mapping the Aztecs
- Aztec Life
- Storyboard Completion
- Aztec and Mexico
- Pre-Columbian Empires
- Ancient Aztec 101
- Aztec Prophecy
- Cortes and the Aztecs
- Archeological Finds
- Rituals and Meaning
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Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.