The Aztecs A Case Study Essays, Book Reports, Term Papers

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The Aztecs A case study The Aztecs are an ancient culture that had many customs and rituals that by modern standards are considered barbaric. Their culture was made up of different social classes, and was primitive yet very advanced. They were located in the mainland of Mexico, and their empire was quite vast over that area. Their culture began around 1100, and ended around 1520. The exact numbers of the Aztecs is not known due to the age of their culture, but judging by the size of their empire it was quite large. The only figure I could find was that in 1519 there were more than 1,000,000 people living in the civilizations boundaries. The reason that I was drawn to this culture was some of the practices that they had. The most interesting being the human sacrifices to the gods, and the large ball game that they played that sometimes went on for days without a stop. The Aztecs lived primarily in a fertile volcanic valley of Mexico where they built their capital city named Tenochtitlan. The land in which they lived was a plateau seeing that most of the surrounding was mountainous. The soil in the settled areas was very rich and good for growing crops, due to the volcanic eruptions that occurred. The valley of Mexico was the heartland of Aztec civilization. It is a large internally drained basin surrounded by volcanic mountains that are as high as 9,000 ft in elevation. Thousands of years of soil erosion had produced deep, rich soils in the valley and a system of shallow, swampy, salt lakes in its center. This gave the Aztecs a diverse variety of foods that could be available. The salty lakes made available fish, turtles, insect larvae, blue-green algae, and salt. The food that was eaten by the Aztecs varied by social classes. The peasants lived mainly on corn and beans, except for a duck or a crow that they may have trapped in their garden. Their only domesticated animals were rabbits, dogs, and turkeys which were fattened and eaten on special occasions. Corn was the main food of The Aztecs and many foods were made fresh daily from it. Every morning the woman of the family would grind up fresh corn, and make bread for the day. The higher classed people, however, enjoyed eating turtles and crabs imported from the coast. It was odd to the Spaniards to find that one of the delicacies of the Aztecs was dog. Aztec homes also differed by social class, peasants built their huts around the edge of the city. While handymen lived nearer to the center in mud-brick houses. In each of these homes there was normally a mudbrick tub, and they all consisted of a single room. Nobles that were higher in society lived in palaces built of whitewashed stone, and with over a hundred rooms, and were built around the main plaza. Inside of all houses the rooms were almost bare, light came in from wooden torches and round the room were stored the family’s possessions and objects of daily use. Even palaces had no doors but instead had cloth hung over openings, this allowed for cool air to circulate throughout the house. For the Aztecs clothing was way of showing social status, so there were very strict laws about who could wear what. An ordinary citizen wore a loincloth and cloak, which had to be made of plain undyed maguey-fiber cloth. And if they were caught wearing sandals in the palace they were put to death. Nobles wore cotton cloaks with borders of precious stones. Craftsmen were able to dye the cotton green, and other colors; they also wove geometric designs into their cloak to symbolize their status in the culture. The Aztecs loved to wear jewelry, but there were also strict laws about this. Most people pierced their ears to hold plugs of shell or polished stones. Nobles were allowed to wear gold and carved precious stones in their lower lips to show their high rank. Farmers were among the lowest in the dress, they slept in their loincloth, and in the morning he got his blanket and tied it around his shoulder and he was dressed. Women wore a woven blouse with an embroidered skirt that held it in place. Every class also had their own haircuts varying from highest to lowest for the most festive style. Through my studies of the Aztecs I was shocked to find out how much dress, and appearance had to do with social status. The economy of the Aztecs was largely one of bartering (trade). The trading was of many goods; this is how the large open air markets operated. In the central market there were 4 hierarchal levels or marketplaces. These marketplaces were an area of bustling activity while they were open. The reason that these were so busy was that they were only open for and Aztec week (which is 5 days). While the market was open there were many stands set up where merchants paid a small fee to operate a stand to sell their goods. At the market products were monitored for quality, and if a product was found of bad quality they were shut down. At the same time anyone caught shoplifting was taken to the court at the market, and found guilty. The punishment was being beaten to death on the spot. The currency that was used was cacao beans for small purchases, for larger purchases the Aztecs used quachtli (cotton capes of standard sizes). The economic level of the Aztecs was quite high, and was considered as more sophisticated markets that several other civilizations. Even though there was no official currency they did use objects as money ranging from beans to capes. The only unique feature that I could pick out is how well the market was monitored by the people looking for quality products. This shows an amount of sophistication on their behalf, by regulating trade in a way. The economy was very complex, in the way that all aspects of it were tied together, which made the Aztec empire unified. The economy was highly commercialized and dynamic, but it was not a capitalist economy. There was no paid labor, land was not a commodity to be bought and sold, and there were no chances for investment. The markets and the economy were embedded in a rigid system of social classes, and no amount of economic success would enable one to cross class barriers. The Aztecs at the personal level were taught to act sophisticated, with self-control, while still acting well behaved in public. The Aztec people loved to give speeches and help others with problems. In the social sense of personal acting they were a very confident people, who were proud of their family. In public they were expected to live and act appropriately to the class that they held in society. The family that the Aztecs lived in is a nuclear family consisting of the mother, father, and children all in one house.

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