Aztec Pyramid

Aztec Pyramid
Aztec warrior

The Aztecs were an ethnic group with a rich mythological and cultural heritage, who lived in the Mexican valley between the 12th and 16th century AD. An extremely religious race, they believed extensively in the practice of human sacrifice. Their architectural grandeur reflected the values and beliefs that existed in those times.

Aztec architecture is best described as colossal, intending chiefly to manifest their power, while simultaneously adhering to strong religious beliefs. Chiefly influenced by the Toltecs of Cohuacan, the Tepanecs of Atzcapotzalco, and the Acolhuas of Tetzcoco, the Aztecs relied on their architecture to endorse their military strength. The most amazing aspects of it were the magnificent Aztec pyramids, which were built in order to worship their various deities and most importantly, to offer human sacrifices. According to their beliefs, human sacrifices were necessary to repay God’s blessings, and it was conducted periodically. Essentially sun and moon worshippers, the pyramids were positioned incredibly like a giant celestial calendar, and when the planets line up, it was possible to see the respective celestial body, when atop the corresponding pyramid. These pyramids also represented mountains, a source of life-sustaining water and fertility, and they were also considered as abodes of ancestral spirits, since most important people were buried within them.

The Great Pyramid In Tenochtitlan

The capital of the Aztec empire was Tenochtitlan, an overwhelming city, where the most impressive and monumental Aztec architecture, The Great Pyramid rose majestically, 60m above the city. The pyramid was a colossal structure, possessing a natural sense of order and geometrical symmetry. It consisted of four step-like platforms built on top of each other, and they related to the four cardinal directions. Atop it was the main temple of Tenochtitlan, which was dedicated to Huitzilopochtli, the god of war and sun, and Tlaloc, the god of rain and fertility.

The Appearance Of Aztec Pyramids

A Serpent Head On Aztec Pyramid
A Serpent Head On Aztec Pyramid

The appearance of most temples was similar due to its symmetrical terraces and steep steps with ornamental balustrades, rising from the centre and pointing towards the heavens. Serpent heads made of stone were significantly placed at the end of the stairs, chiefly to ward away evil spirits. The wide platform itself was decorated with sculpted stone blocks and human skulls. The temples and the staircase always faced the western direction. Flat plateaus or sacrificial blocks were built on the top of the pyramids, with an adjacent chamber for the idol and an antechamber for the priest. The Aztecs used bas-reliefs, walls, plazas and platforms effectively to represent their gods. Other smaller structures associated with the temple formed a closely placed complex formation around its base.

Another striking feature of the Aztec pyramid temple is the stone-representation of an eagle that is considered to be the form of Huitzilopochtli-Tonatiuh, as can be seen on temples at Tepoztlan, the Temple of the Feathered Serpent in Xochicalco, the round temple of Cempoala, and the temple of Ehecatl in Calixtlahuaca.

Archaeology and historical records reveal how these temples were the main centers of the Aztecs, as it was here that most of their myths came to life through the process of elaborate rituals. The Great Pyramid, one of the finest testaments of Aztec architecture, was destroyed in 1521, along with the whole Aztec empire, by the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés.© Aztec History. All rights reserved.

The Aztecs were rather religious in nature. This term is used in reference to the ethnic groups of people that lived in the central parts of Mexico. These groups of people were particularly dominant during the 14th, 15th and the 16th century. Perhaps, it is their extremely religious behavior, which is why we see the presence of Aztec pyramids, which are dominant structure that reflect the kind of beliefs this group had back then. These pyramids thus had many other significant roles to play in the lives of the Aztecs. Here is a look at some details associated with Aztec pyramids.

Aztec Pyramids:
The one noticeable feature about the Aztec pyramids was the step pattern incorporated in the design. These Aztec pyramids were mainly built for religious purposes. As mentioned before, the Aztecs were a religious group of people. These pyramids were therefore used to worship their Gods as well as to offer a sacrifice. The temple area on the top of the pyramid often had flat spaces, which played the role of a sacrificial block.

These pyramids were often symmetrical in their appearance. The structure rose from the center and pointed towards the sky, which holds true for all pyramids. The sides had steep steps and there was always the presence of a temple on the top. Such step pyramids were also built by other cultures although their styles may have varied. Archaeologists have unearthed that these temples were also a place where elaborate rituals were performed based on certain myths. Their superstitious beliefs can be seen in many features associated in the design of the Aztec pyramids. Discoveries have revealed, the Aztec pyramids also have specifically designed serpent heads that were placed towards the bottom of the stairs. This symbolized the Snake Mountain- Coatepec (the birth place of the main God of the Aztecs). The reason for this was only to keep evil spirits away. These carved serpent heads were always made of stone. The Aztecs also used bas-relief as a way to represent their Gods.

These Aztec pyramid temples also symbolized mountains. Mountains, for the Aztecs represented the heart of the city – a major source of water and fertility. For the Aztecs, symbolism was incorporated into every form used to decorate these pyramids. One can see the presence of sculpted stone blocs and even skulls that were used on the edges of the balustrades. The stones used for the pyramid were often carved in geometrical shapes.

Symbolism was the main characteristic of their architecture. They used various patterns and even colors to signify different meanings. For example, the color black would represent north where as the color blue, symbolized the direction of south. This was also in relation to the particular God that ruled the direction as well. White represented the direction of west and east was symbolized with the color red. Each God that represented these 4 directions was worshipped because they held a great amount of significance to the Aztecs.

The Templo Mayor is a fine example that best represents Aztec pyramids. This temple was the main temple of the Tenochtitlan. Also known as the Great Pyramid, it rose to a majestic height of about 60m. Unfortunately, Hernán Cortés destroyed it in 1521. Findings by archeologists have revealed that the temple atop this pyramid was in honor of Huitzilopochtli (God of war and sun). This temple was unearthed during the years, 1978 – 1987.

These were some of the many interesting details associated with the Aztec pyramids. These magnificent structures stand testimony to the architectural wonders of that era!

The life of Aztec warriors was one of constant battle. The primary purpose for this continual Aztec warfare was to take prisoners to be sacrificed to their gods. As the Aztec empire expanded, however, another major purpose of Aztec wars was to expand the size and power of the empire.

Becoming an Aztec Warrior

Young Aztec men became warriors at the young age of 17. Aztec warriors were expected to be brave and noble. Yet, both free commoners and nobility underwent military training. Those who were of noble lineage, however, also received training in religion, politics, or history by the priests. The priests, too, engaged in warfare, as the overall purpose of the Aztec warriors was to serve and pay respect to the gods. The pride the Aztecs felt in warfare was even made evident by their system of government, which required new rulers to prove themselves first on the battlefield.

The Jaguar and Eagle Aztec Warriors

Those Aztec warriors who demonstrated the most bravery and who fought well became either jaguar or eagle warriors. Of all of the Aztec warriors, they were the most feared. Both the jaguar and eagle Aztec warriors wore distinguishing helmets and uniforms. The jaguars were identifiable by the jaguar skins they wore over their entire body, with only their faces showing from within the jaguar head. The eagle Aztec warriors, on the other hand, wore feathered helmets including an open beak.

Aztec Weapons and Dress

The Aztec warriors carried a variety of weapons, including stabbing javelins, wooden spears, ob sidian knives, and clubs. In addition, they flung firestones at their enemies using slings made of wool. Most of the Aztec weapons were actually designed to stun and capture opponents rather than to kill them. In this way, opponents could be easily brought back to the temple for sacrifice. To protect themselves, Aztec warriors used round shields, which they fringed with feathers. The remainder of the costumes worn was dependent upon military ranking of the Aztec warrior.

Military Ranking of Aztec Warriors

Aztec warriors could move up in ranking by capturing enemies. After capturing four enemies, they were eligible to become either a jaguar or eagle Aztec warrior knight. These military orders were primarily comprised of nobility. Warriors who were of a commoner background, however, could enter into the ranks of nobility by capturing enemy warriors. But, this form of promotion was uncommon. In addition, there were two orders of Aztec warriors,otontin and cuahchicqueh. These Aztec warriors were considered to be elite and vowed to never retreat from battle.