Native Americans and Aztecs

By: oscar perez
Two of the biggest and greatest civilization in the Americas were the
Aztecs and Incas. These two civilization were both said to be conquered by
the Spanish, but it wasn’t just the Spanish who conquered them. These two
civilizations both fell from a combination of a weak government, lack of
technology, new disease introduced by the invaders, and not being prepared
for the invaders. For many centuries the Aztec civilization revolved around
a ideological, social, and political system in which expansion was the
cornerstone. Expansion was the cornerstone of their whole civilization,
because their religion requested that a large number of human sacrifices
where to be made to the gods. To get the sacrifices the Aztec went to war
with other tribes in Mexico to get these human sacrifices (Conrad ; Demmest
47-49) . With each conquest more sacrifices and more land was added to the
Aztec kingdom. The Aztec were a strong civilization who were familiar with
organized large scale war, had specialized war chiefs, and a well organized
system of territorial levy in which large armies could be amassed in a
short time (Age of Reconnaissance 124-125). They may have been well
organized for war, but they were not prepared for internal changes in there
civilization. When expansion was no longer an option there system crumbled.

Without expansion they could no longer give human sacrifices in the same
amount in which they use too. Upon the arrival of the Spanish the Aztec
government was falling apart, and “Moctezuma II programs of internal
military consolidation and administrative and social stabilization had
failed” (Conrad ; Demmest). When the Aztec’s first met the Spanish they
were amazed by them. The Spanish used the Aztec’s own legends to take
advantage of them and gain the upper hand. Other disadvantages that the
Aztecs had was the need to take prisoner to sacrifice, they were not untied
with other tribes (Spanish were able to unite with other tribes to help
fight the Aztecs), had primitive weapons, and couldn’t stay on the battle
field for long, because they ran out of supplies quickly (Age of
Reconnaissance 167). The Spaniards didn’t destroy the Aztec civilization
all by their self another factor which helped the Spanish were the disease
that they brought over to the Americas from Europe and Africa. The
introduction of diseases like syphilis, measles, smallpox, malaria, mumps
and yellow fever are just some sickness that plagued the Budhu 2 Aztecs.

Also the introduction of different species of animals and plants caused a
ecological imbalance (Plagues and Peoples 176-199). All these are some
reasons to why the Aztec civilization was destroyed. With the arrival of
the Spanish in Mexico rumors started to reach the ears of Spaniards about a
great civilization to the south. This civilization was the Inca. The Inca
civilization was inland so it made it harder on the Spanish to reach them.

Unlike the Aztecs the Inca empire was held together by a tight social
discipline based on commercial land holding and a system of forced labor.

Discipline was enjoined by an elaborate cult of ruler-worship and enforced
by a military organization which maintained fortresses and stores at
strategic points (Age of Reconnaissance 170-171). The Incas government was
more organized then the Aztecs. One of their strengths soon became a great
weakness. The system that was set up to chose a emperor. The system tried
to keep the purity of the royal families bloodline by incestuous marriage.

The emperor would have to marry one of his full sisters and have a child
who would then become the emperor upon his fathers death. It was also set
up to prevent civil war in the kingdom (Inca Decline 134). Huascar became
emperor just as the Inca empire’s problems became critical. The government
need reforms, and Huascar believed that the royal mummies were the center
of all the problems. Huascar decided that the royal mummies had to be
removed, because they stood in the way of his reforms and wealth. This
decision became a political disaster. His assault against the royal mummies
caused the high nobility of the empire to turn against him. In 1529 a civil
war broke out between the crowned emperor Huascar and his half brother
Atauhualpa. This civil war lasted for about 3 years ending in 1532 with
Atauhualpa emerging as the victor. Unfortunately his reign as emperor was
cut short by Francisco Pizarro and his men who fought and kill Atauhualpa
and his men when they were heading back to Cuzco (Inca Decline 134-139).

The Spanish invaders of the America’s came for wealth, settlement, and to
spread their faith. The story’s of the wealth that could be found in the
America’s lured many men looking to get rich quick. The governments of the
European countries saw the Americas as two things a place to make money and
a way to extend their boarders. The Catholic church came to the America’s,
because they wanted to convert these “savages and give them salvation”.

These are some of the reason to why Europeans ventured in this great
unknown called the Americas. When the Spaniards first arrived in Latin
America they were not well Budhu 3 organized armies. Most of the men were
groups of adventures, arming them self, or hooking up with a leader who
would provide them with weapons. While they may not have had the most well
trained men they did have unity and leadership to guide them. The Spaniards
had the upper hand over the Incas and Aztecs in both technology and unity.

The Spanish had gunpowder, but couldn’t use it frequently because most of
it was heavy artillery. They did have a few muskets, and steal weapons. The
Incas and the Aztecs were still using “Stone age” technology. They depended
on weapons made of stone and wood and leather armor. The invaders had steal
swords and armor (Age of Reconnaissance). These advantages along with the
internal problems of the Aztecs and the Incas made it very easy for the
Spaniards to conquer them. Two of the greatest civilization to ever live in
the Americas were destroyed in a few years. The Spanish are credited for
the destruction of these two civilization, but did they really destroy
them. By looking back on all the problems that these two civilization had
on the eve of the arrival of the Spanish one would say that they destroyed
them self and the Spanish was just there to do a little work and claim the
credit for the destruction of the Aztecs and Incas.


Aztec Empire History
The Aztec civilization revolved around an ideological, social and political
system in which expansion was the cornerstone.

By Angela Salatino
The Aztec Empire History The center of the Aztec civilization was the
Valley of Mexico, a huge,oval basin about 7,500 feet above sea level. The
Aztecs were formed afterthe Toltec civilization occurred when hundreds of
civilians came towards Lake Texcoco. In the swamplands there was only one
piece of land to farm on and it was totally surrounded by more marshes. The
Aztec families somehow converted these disadvantages to a mighty empire
known as the Aztec Empire. People say the empire was partially formed by a
deeply believed legend. As the legend went, it said that Aztec people would
create an empire in a swampy place where they would see an eagle eating a
snake, while perched on a cactus, which was growing out of a rock in the
swamplands. This is what priests claimed they saw when entering the new
land. In addition, The mother of the Aztec creation story was called
“Coatlique”, the Lady of the Skirt of Snakes. She was created in the image
of the unknown, decorated with skulls, snakes, and lacerated hands. There
are no cracks in her body and she is a perfect monolith (a totality of
intensity and self-containment, yet her features were sqaure and
decapitated). Coatlique was first impregnated by an obsidian knife and gave
birth to Coyolxanuhqui, goddess of the moon, and to a group of male
offspring, who became the stars. Then one day Coatlique found a ball of
feathers, which she tucked into her bosom. Whe she looked for it later, it
was gone, at which time she realized that she was again pregnant. Her
children, the moon and stars did not believe her story. Ashamed of their
mother, they resolved to kill her. A goddess could only give birth once, to
the original litter of divinity and no more. During the time that they were
plotting her demise, Coatlicue gave birth to the fiery god of war,
Huitzilopochtli. With the help of a fire serpent, he destroyed his brothers
and sister, murdering them in a rage. He beheaded Coyolxauhqui and threw
her body into a deep gorge in a mountain, where it lies dismembered
forever. By the year 1325 their capital city was finished. They called it
Tenochtitlan. – At its height, the Aztec Empire included millions of
people. Even though no one knows exactly how many people there were, it
seems clear that the Aztec Empire had a population equal to the large
European countries at the time! Tenochtitlfin alone, which may have had as
many as 200,000 people, was larger than any European city. Along the shores
of Lake Texcoco were other cities. These cities were connected to
Tenochtitlfin by a system of causeways, or raised earthen roads, built
across the lake. Bridges on the causeways allowed canoes to go from one
part of the lake to another. In the capital city, aqueducts were
constructed, bridges were built, and chinapas were made. Chinapas were
little islands formed by pilled up mud. On these chinapas Aztecs grew their
food. The Aztec Empire included many cities and towns, especially in the
Valley of Mexico. The early settlers built log rafts, then covered them
with mud and planted seeds to create roots and develop more solid land for
building homes in this marshy land. Canals were also cut out through the
marsh so that a typical Aztec home had its back to a canal with a canoe
tied at the door. In the early 1400s, Tenochtitlan joined with Texcoco and
Tlacopan, two other major cities in the Valley of Mexico. Good farming
practices helped to support the large population of Tenochtitln. For
example, the Aztecs built irrigation systems, constructed terraces on
nearby hillsides, and enriched the soil with fertilizer. They developed a
completely new agricultural technique for making more farmland out of the
swampy land around the city by creating artificial islands, called
chinampas, or “floating gardens”. The chinampas were made by piling rich
earth from the bottom of Lake Texcoco onto rafts made of weeds. After
awhile, the roots of plants and trees grew down to the lake bottom,
anchoring the rafts. These island gardens covered most of the southern part
of the lake and were planted with crops that produced large amounts of
food. Their crops included corn, which was their principal crop, various
kinds of vegetables (such as beans, squash, tomatoes, and peppers), and
flowers. The Aztecs also planted corn and other crops in the irrigated
fields around Lake Texcoco. They raised ducks, geese and turkeys, which
were eaten by the rich nobles and merchants. They had dogs, but did not use
work animals or plows. Instead, they used pointed sticks to poke holes for
planting seeds in the soft soil Tenochtitlan became the most powerful
member of the alliance. The Aztec Conquerors – The Aztecs carried on
constant wars with neighboring peoples. They fought with wooden swords that
had sharp stone blades. They also used bows and arrows as well as spears.

Their armor was padded cotton made into suits fitted to the body. This
armor worked well against the weapons of other Indians. However, it was
little protection against the steel swords, arrows, muskets, and cannons of
the Spaniards. The main purpose of the Aztec wars was to capture enemy
soldiers so that thousands could be sacrificed, or offered, to the gods.

Captives were brought to. There they were led up the steps of a great
pyramid on the top of which stood a temple. In front of the temple stood
the sacrificial altar. While drums boomed, each unlucky captive was held
down on the altar. The sharp knife of an Aztec priest flashed in the sun,
and in an instant the victim’s chest was opened. The priest then reached
in, grabbed the heart, and held it aloft for all to see. In this manner,
the Aztecs sacrificed thousands of people each year. Montezuma I ruled from
1440 to 1469 and conquered large areas to the east and to the south.

Montezuma’s successors expanded the empire until it extended between what
is now Guatemala and the Mexican State of San Luis Potosi. Montezuma II
became emperor in 1502 when the Aztec Empire was at the height of its
power. In 1519, the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes landed on the East
Coast of Mexico and marched inland to Tenochtitlan. The Spaniards were
joined by many of the Indians who were conquered and forced to pay high
taxes to the emperor. Montezuma did not oppose Cortes because he thought
that he was the God Quetzalcoatl. An Aztec legend said that Quetzalcoatlwas
driven away by another rival god and had sailed across the sea and would
return some day. His return was predicted to come in the year Ce Acatl on
the Aztec Calendar. This corresponded to the year 1519. Due to this
prediction, Montezuma II thought Quetzalcoatl had returned when Cortez and
his troops invaded. He did not resist and was taken prisoner by Cortez and
his troops. In 1520, the Aztecs rebelled and drove the Spaniards from
Tenochtitlan, but Montezuma II was killed in the battle. Cortes reorganized
his troops and resurged into the city. Montezuma’s successor, Cuauhtemoc,
surrendered in August of 1520. The Spaniards, being strong Christians, felt
it was their duty to wipe out the temples and all other traces of the Aztec
religion. They destroyed Tenochtitlan and built Mexico City on the ruins.

However, archaeologists have excavated a few sites and have uncovered many
remnants of this society. Language: The Aztec spoke a language called
Nahuatl (pronounced NAH waht l). It belongs to a large group of Indian
languages, which also include the languages spoken by the Comanche, Pima,
Shoshone and other tribes of western North America. The Aztec used
pictographs to communicate through writing. Some of the pictures symbolized
ideas and others represented the sounds of the syllables. Food: The
principal food of the Aztec was a thin cornmeal pancake called a tlaxcalli.

(In Spanish, it is called a tortilla.) They used the tlaxcallis to scoop up
foods while they ate or they wrapped the foods in the tlaxcalli to form
what is now known as a taco. They hunted for most of the meat in their diet
and the chief game animals were deer, rabbits, ducks and geese. The only
animals they raised for meat were turkeys, rabbits, and dogs. Arts and
Crafts: The Aztec sculptures, which adorned their temples and other
buildings, were among the most elaborate in all of the Americas. Their
purpose was to please the gods and they attempted to do that in everything
they did. Many of the sculptures reflected their perception of their gods
and how they interacted in their lives. The most famous surviving Aztec
sculptureis the large circular Calendar Stone, which represents the Aztec
universe Aztec priests are an example of specialization. The priests were
supported by the efforts of other people. They did not grow their own food
or make their own clothes. Priests enjoyed power and privilege. The priests
formed part of the upper class. Aztec society, like all complex societies,
had different social classes. People at the top – nobles, high priests, and
people important in the military and government – had lives of luxury, with
fine houses, clothing, and jewelry. The largest class was made up of
commoners, such as farmers, servants, and craftspeople. In Aztec society,
commoners were organized into clans, or groups, made up of many different
families. Each clan joined people together throughout their lives. Members
of a clan all lived in the same district. Merchants formed yet another
class in Aztec society, separate from the commoners. The Aztecs carried on
a great deal of trade with other Indian nations. Traders, or pochtecas
(pohch TAY kahs), also acted as spies when they went to other Indian
cities. They brought back not only goods but also valuable information,
such as any signs of unrest in the Empire or possible danger to the Aztec
traders. Like the commoners, traders lived in their own district. However,
traders were prosperous. Religion was extremely important in Aztec life.

They worshipped hundreds of gods and goddesses, each of whom ruled one or
more human activities or aspects of nature. The people had many
agricultural gods because theirculture was based heavily on farming. The
Aztecs made many sacrifices to their gods. When victims reached the altar
they were stretched across asacrificial stone. A priest with an obsidian
knife cut open the victim’s chest and tore out his heart. The heart was
placed in a bowl called a chacmool. This heart was used as an offer to the
gods. If they were in dire need,a warrior would be sacrificed, but for any
other sacrifice a normal person would be deemed sufficient. It was a great
honor to be chosen for a sacrifice to the gods. Furthermore, Religion was
ever present Each place and each trade had its patron deity: each day, and
each division of the day, was watched over by its own god. Priests were
expected to live in chastity, to mortify their flesh, and to understand
astronomy, astrology, the complex rituals and ceremonies, and the art of
picture writing. Games also formed part of the religious ritual. A popular
ball game was lachtli, in which a small rubber ball had to be struck by the
hips or thighs and knocked across a special court In another ritual game,
men attired as birds and attached to ropes were slung in a wide circle
around a pole. The official state religion of the soldiers and noblemen was
concerned primarily with the great and powerful gods: the creators, the
solar deities, the patrons of the warrior orders. By contrast, the common
people seem to have preferred the lesser, more accessible gods: the patrons
of the craft guilds, the protectors of local shrines, and the deities who
looked after the things of everyday life. For everyone, however, rich or
poor, each month of the Aztec calendar had its festival, with music,
dancing, processions, and sacrifices. All this came to an end with the
Spanish conquest and the introduction of the Christian religion. Aztecs
believed that the world had been created and destroyed several times.

Ultimately, they believed their world would again end in disaster. The
Aztecs thought that their special purpose in life was to delay that
destruction. They sacrificed to the god of war and the sun to keep the sun
in the sky and avoid destruction for as long as possible. Many other Aztec
gods controlled natural forces. For example, there was a god of rain and a
god of wind. These gods also required attention, although they might not
have demanded human sacrifice. Life was very insecure, since the gods could
cause all sorts of problems if they became unhappy. It was important,
therefore, to know what the gods wanted. The priests supposedly had the
ability to interpret signs of the gods’ pleasure or unhappiness. Priests
had enormous power in the Aztec society.The priests also understood the
great ceremonial calendar. It told of holy days that called for happy
celebrations with song and dance. It also told of other days that were
solemn and required fasting. The Aztecs believed that the calendar, if
properly understood, could foretell the future. Like all the Mexican
peoples, the Aztecs worshipped a multitude of gods, each of whom demanded
offerings and sacrifices. Above all, the Aztecs considered themselves the
chosen people of HUITZILOPOCHTLI, the sun and war god, in whose name they
were destined to conquer all rival nations. Huitzilopochtli shared the main
temple at Tenochtitlan with TIaloc, the rain god, important to the farmers
in a land where drought was a constant threat Another important god was
QUETZALCOATL, the feathered serpent, patron of arts and crafts and the god
of self-sacrifice. The Aztec held many religious ceremonies to ensure good
crops by winning the favor of the gods and then to thank them for the
harvest. Every 52 years, the Aztec held a great celebration called the
Binding up of the Years. Prior to the celebration, the people would let
their hearth fires go out and then re-light them from the new fire of the
celebration and feast. A partial list of the Aztec gods: CENTEOTL, The corn
god. COATLICUE,She of the Serpent Skirt. EHECATL, The god of wind.

HUEHUETEOTL, The fire god. HUITZILOPOCHTLI, The war/sun god and special
guardian of Tenochtitlan. MICTLANTECUHTLE, The god of the dead. OMETECUHLTI
and his wife OMECIHUATL, They created all life in the world. QUETZALCOATL,
The god of civilization and learning. TEZCATLIPOCA, The god of Night and
Sorcery. TLALOC, The rain god. TONATIUH, The sun god. TONANTZIN, The
honored grand mother. XILONEN, “Young maize ear,” Maize represents a chief
staple of the Aztecs.XIPE TOTEC, The god of springtime and re-growth. Aztec
dances: The Aztec Dance is known for its special way of expressing
reverence and prayer to the supernatural gods of the sun, earth, sky, and
water. Originally, the resources accessible to the native Indians were
limited, yet they were able to create lively music with the howling of the
sea conch, and with rhythms produced by drums and by dried seeds which were
usually tied to the feet of the dancers. Archeologists have learned about
the Aztec gods and religious ceremonies from the artwork found in the ruins
of their cities. The images of the gods are represented in stone sculptures
and carved wall scuptures on the walls of the temples. The inside walls of
the buildings have remains of brilliantly colored paintings showing
ceremonial events, such as the human sacrifices. An especially famous Aztec
sculpture is the enormous calendar stone, a carved stone circle 12 ft. in
diameter. The calendar represents the Aztec universe with the face of the
sun god in the center. He is surrounded by designs that symbolize the days
and months and the locations of heavenly bodies at different times of the
year. The Aztec developed a writing and counting system based on
pictographs in which each picture represented an object or the sound of a
syllable. Their counting system was based on the number 20, in which one
picture represented 20 items, another 20 x 20 ( = 400) items and so on.

Archaelogists have learned to decode some of their writings, which talk
about historical events and provide records of supplies and items for
trade. The Aztecs produced a variety of goods, some for the ruler and his
noblemen, and some that were sold in markets. Gold ornaments, brightly
colored woven cloth and salt harvested from the lake bed were luxury items
that were traded with distant peoples to the south. They were traded for
other luxury items, such as tropical bird feathers and jaguar skins (used
for ceremonial garments), cotton, rubber, and cacao beans (for making
chocolate). Trading goods were carried by canoe and by long caravans of
porters, since the Aztecs had no wheeled vehicles or pack animals. Aztec
warriors traveled with the caravans and the merchants who led them to
protect them in dangerous areas. Aztec culter had a very complex structure
in which there were lower class, middle class and upper class peoples. They
had a good system of transportation and irrigation through the use of
canals. They had a strong warfare system, which was seen by their
conquering of many lands. They also had their own language, and their own
mathematical system. Their scholars were also very intelligent, they had
developed their own system of time measurement and a calendar system that
was very accurate.

The Spanish invaders of the America’s came for wealth, settlement, and
to spread their faith. The story’s of the wealth that could be found in the
America’s lured many men looking to get rich quick. The governments of the
European countries saw the Americas as two things a place to make money and
a way to extend their boarders. The Catholic church came to the America’s,
because they wanted to convert these “savages and give them salvation”.

These are some of the reason to why Europeans ventured in this great
unknown called the Americas. When the Spaniards first arrived in Latin
America they were not well Budhu 3 organized armies. Most of the men were
groups of adventures, arming them self, or hooking up with a leader who
would provide them with weapons. While they may not have had the most well
trained men they did have unity and leadership to guide them. The Spaniards
had the upper hand over the Incas and Aztecs in both technology and unity.

The Spanish had gunpowder, but couldn’t use it frequently because most of
it was heavy artillery. They did have a few muskets, and steal weapons. The
Incas and the Aztecs were still using “Stone age” technology. They depended
on weapons made of stone and wood and leather armor. The invaders had steal
swords and armor (Age of Reconnaissance). These advantages along with the
internal problems of the Aztecs and the Incas made it very easy for the
Spaniards to conquer them. Two of the greatest civilization to ever live in
the Americas were destroyed in a few years. The Spanish are credited for
the destruction of these two civilization, but did they really destroy
them. By looking back on all the problems that these two civilization had
on the eve of the arrival of the Spanish one would say that they destroyed
them self and the Spanish was just there to do a little work and claim the
credit for the destruction of the Aztecs and Incas.

Work Cited 1) Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia Version 7.0.5 CD-ROM Grolier
Inc.1995 2) Microsoft Encarta 96 CD-ROM Microsoft, 1996 3) Internet
Addresses: I)http://www.mexicana.com/english/community/29nf-aztec.shtml
II)http://udgftp.cencar.udg.mx/ingles/Precolombina/Azteca/mexintro.html
III)http://www.rmplc.co.uk/eduweb/sites/wickham/topics/aztecs/aztecs.html