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The Sun Calender
The Aztec sun calender is a circular stone with pictures representing how
the Aztecs measured days, months, and cosmic cycles. The Sun Stone or Calendar
(Information taken from a book entitled
Multicultural Mathematics Materials by Marina C. Krause and published by
National Council of Teachers of
The calendar is evidence of the
Aztec's knowledge of astronomy and mathematics. The calendar contained
the pictographs for
their days, months and suns (cosmic
cycles). The stone is 3.6 meters (12 feet) in diameter and weighs about
24 metric tons. It
took 52 years to complete, from
1427-1479, it is believed due to the use of only stone tools. This calendar
is 103 years older
than the Gregorian calendar which
is used worldwide today.
Originally the Calendar Stone was
placed atop the main temple in Tenochtitlan (pronounced tay-nohch-TEE-tlahn),
of the Aztec empire. Today, Mexico
City's cathedral stands on the site. The Aztec calendar faced south in
a vertical position
and was painted a vibrant red,
blue, yellow and white. The stone was buried by the Spaniards when they
Tenochtitlan. The stone was lost
for over 250 years until December of 1790 when it was found by accident
during repair work
on the cathedral. Today it is located
the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.
The face of Tonatiuh is in the center
circle of the stone. Around the face are four squares called Nahui- Ollin,
Movement. According to Aztec legend,
these squares represented the different ways that the four previous suns
had come to an end: first by wild
animals, then by wind, by fire, and by floods. The Aztecs believed they
were living in the fifth
and last world.
Continuing outward, the next concentric
circle shows twenty squares, each naming one of the twenty different days
of the Aztec
month. Clockwise these days are
Twenty Days of the Aztec Month
Dog - Itzquintli
The Aztec year consisted of eighteen
months, each having 20 days. Each month was given a specific name. This
took care of 360 days (18x20),
to which five dots were added inside the circle. These dots, known as Nemontemi,
The next concentric circle is composed
of square sections with five dots in each section, probably representing
weeks of five
days. Next are eight angles dividing
the stone in eight parts. These represent the suns rays placed according
to the cardinal
On the lower portion of the stone,
two enormous snakes encircle the stone and face each other. Their bodies
are divided into
sections containing the symbols
for flames, elephant-like trunks, and jaguar-like forelegs. It is believed
that these sections are
also records of fifty-two year
cycles. A square is carved at the top of the calendar between the tails
fo the snakes. Inside the
square the date 13 Acatl is carved.
This corresponds to 1479, the year the calendar was finished.
Eight equally spaced holes appear
on the very edge of the calendar. The Aztec placed horizontal sticks here
and the shadows
of the sticke would fall on the
figures of the calendar; thus the stone also served as a sundial.
(information recievced from http://riceinfo.rice.edu/armadillo/Schools/HSHP/aztec.html)
religion was very different that that of modern religions. The Aztecs
believed in many gods, whom they paid tribute to every day of their lives.
The myth of creation was that Coatlique gave birth to the moon(Coylxauhqui),
the stars, and the sun(Vitzilopochtl).
sacrifices, as well as animal were a big part of Aztec religion.
They used sacrifice as a means of satisfying their gods when they believed
that they were angry for some reason. When an individual was sacrificed
they would climb to the top of the pyramid(wearing a mask), stretch out
over a convex stone, and then the priest would cut out the heart using
a knife. The number of sacrifices that were performed often depended
on whether or not they were in a drought or not. If the harvesting
was good they did not sacrifice many people, however if there was a draught
hundreds of people could be sacrificed.
the most honorable way to die was to be slain in battle or to volunteer
to be sacrificed at an important ceremony. At the less important
sacrifices, prisoners were offered to the gods. Before each of these
ceremonies the participant was required to abstain from sex, and to eat
only one unseasoned meal a day for four days leading up to the event.
These sacrifices played a continual role in the Aztec civilization, and
were carried out until their demise.
estimated that over a quarter of a million people were sacrificed each
year by the Aztecs. This figure is roughly 1 percent of the population.
Anthropologist achieved this figure through a direct correlation with the
number of temples that that have been found.
Farming and Agriculture
activity in Aztec daily life was farming. The people spent continuous
hours cultivating the land, and because it was quite infertile to begin
with they were always creating new methods to increase their yields.
The main methods that they used included irrigation, fertilization, and
the building of terraces.
crop of the Aztecs was corn, but they also grew such things as beans, peppers,
avocados, and tomatoes. Anthropologists have also determined
that the farmers sometimes grew flowers, probably for the purpose of decoration.
The Aztecs did not have animals or plows to help them on the land, so farming
was a laborious activity throughout their existence.
their crops the Aztecs did a variety of different things to it. Sometimes
they would grind the corn using a stone and a flat plat to make corn meal.
The corn meal was then used to make tortillas, which was the principle
food of the lower and upper class.
exhibited many different styles of art, but the expression they favored
most were sculptures. Most of the sculptures were made out of limestone,
which was and still is readily available in Mexico. Most of the art
they created was related to their religion.
clothes, mainly in the upper class was another form of art in the Aztec
culture. Women usually made the clothing, and they decorated them
with beads, flowers and precious metals. Gold was often used for
decoration, and was abundant in the Aztec empire. Gold, in fact was
the main reason for Cortez to travel to Mexico in the first place.
the Aztec advances in science were in the area of astronomy. Their
most famous accomplishment was the building of a stone calendar, which
took them 52 years to build. The calendar itself was 3 feet thick,
12 feet in diameter, and weighed about 24 tons.
made scientific advances in the area of medicine as well. Surprisingly
the herbal medicines of the Aztecs were much greater than those of the
Europeans during the same period. The medicine was based on two areas,
spiritual and herbal healing. Many of the illnesses were blamed on
the gods, thus spiritual healing consisted of prayer, and often animal
knew the power of the herbs, therefore they spent a great deal of time
finding out what each one did, and what diseases they could be used to
treat. Over many generations they built up a wealth of knowledge,
and in fact many of the remedies they first discovered are still being
1519, Hernan Cortez was sent by the governor of Cuba, Diego Valesquez to
explore the area occupied by the Aztecs. For some reason at the last
minute, Valesquez ordered Cortez not to go. Disobeying his orders,
Cortez set out with 400 soldiers, 100 sailors, and about 15 horses.
landed near Villa Rica de Vera Cruz, and upon his arrival he declared himself
to be in supreme command. Soon, Cortez and his men traveled inland,
were they encountered the Tlaxcalan people who then surrendered.
After surrendering they joined forces with the Spaniards increasing the
force to several thousand.
arrived, the Aztec emperor Moctezuma the second greeted him with
open arms, believing that he was the Aztec god Quetzacoatl, the god of
civilization. Cortez also received a woman translator, named Malinche,
who is the mother of the first mestizo.
Aztecs realized that he was not who they thought, the gave Cortez gold
and jewelry in hope that this would get him to leave. Instead the
Spaniards became more greedy. Cortez actually took Moctezuma the
second as a hostage in order to receive a large ransom from the Aztecs.
soon caught up with him, and when Velasquez found out he sent forces to
arrest Cortez. Needing desperate help, Cortez asked for the help
of Moctezuma. However when he went out to speak to his people, the
stoned him, until a few days later he died. On June 30,
1520 Cortez fled the city, chased by Aztec warriors. About 1 year
later, a battle took place, leaving behind 40, 000 dead Indians,
marking the end of the Aztec empire.
read more about Aztec conquests click here
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