A few people may mistake the Mayas for Aztecs. They have
many similarities. For example, the type of house they lived in, the foods they
ate, and the way they built their buildings. However, there were actually some
differences architecturally. In this section, we will explain how the Aztecs
built their holy temples, houses, the Emperor's palace, as well as, a very
The Aztecs were a very religious race and strongly believed in the practice of sacrificing people to please the gods. They sacrificed over 20,000 people a year. The emperor thought that a special temple should be built for the deadly ritual, so, the Aztecs built the Sacrificial Temple. One example of such a temple would be the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan.
The cities of the Aztec empire were always wanting to make their sacrificial temple better than any other cities. They decided not to destroy the old temple, but to build over it! They made temples larger, more extravagant, and more pleasing to the eye with each new layer. In addition, the temples had more steps, more decorations, and a larger sacrificial area. (These temples look a lot like the great Egyptian pyramids except they do not have a pointed top. Instead, they have a flat top with two small compartments where the sacrifices were held) In a rare find, archaeologists found a temple which was built over six times! Each new temple was more magnificent than the others.
Other additions are little figures at the ends of the staircases
which look like dragons. They are called stone serpents heads and there is no
clear reason as to why they were placed there. They could have been built for
decoration, or, as a greeting for the gods, or, to ward off evil spirits.
Another explanation could be that the Aztecs believed very strongly about the
Obviously, the emperors palace would be very large, extravagant, and complex home. This was very true when it came to the Aztec's royal palace. The palace was a two-story house with a very large courtyard. The walls were covered with paintings, carvings, and gold panels.
On the ground floor, the rooms were very large and each room had its own purpose. There were columns on this floor to support the second floor. There were also columns on the second level to support the roof. There were steps, most likely made up of marble, which led up from the first to second level and were located directly in the center of the palace.
There were 4 main rooms in the emperor's
home. The first is the reception chamber where the king would come and meet with
travelers, nobles, ect. Next, there is the emperor's personal apartments. This
room was larger than most others considering the fact that the king got many
gifts and tributes. There was also the main meeting chamber. This was like the
reception chamber but about three times larger. There was an elevated platform
with stairs and a chair for the king. People from all around his nation would
come to report news and to give goods. Finally, there was the Emperor's tribute
store. In this room all of his gifts were stored tightly and there was often not
enough room for all of the goods.
This design that I am about to discuss is much the same from the peasants to the nobles. The only difference is size and more elaborate decorations. For the normal Aztec family, there was one home. It was composed of two separate buildings. One of which is the main home and the other is the steam bath.
The main home had walls which were made up of adobe (dirt and water), and they were supporting the thatched roof. There were no separate rooms; just one big room. It was divided into 4 separate areas. The first was the bed area where the whole family slept. They had a little family shrine which contained dolls of gods and were usually placed on top of a table. The kitchen area was, of course, the place where the meal was prepared. In the kitchen there was a metal for grinding corn and a comal to bake the meal into tortillas. There was also a designated eating area. The whole family would sit there and discuss what happened that day.
The second building was a steam bath area.
The doctors thought that steam baths were very therapeutic so each house had
one. The steam bath used a fire and chimney place right next to the steam bath
area. The heated walls of the stove would heat the walls of the bathroom. The
natives would then pour water on the heated walls to create steam. The furnace
had to be constantly burning in order to get the desired effect.
There were many shrines built all over the Aztec kingdom. Each had their own special purpose and were located in a special place. For example, one was built to worship the knights and the sun god. Others were built to place offerings, as well as, burn them. One particular shrine was made to honor the god of the sun as well as the Eagle and Jaguar knights. I will discuss this shrine and how each room and compartment had its own purpose. The shrine was placed on the top of a cliff and there were two main buildings.
The building that was built to worship the Jaguar and Eagle knights was a very strange building. The entrance looked like the mouth of a strange green creature with many spots and jewels. But once inside, their temple was a circle cut in from rock. There was a circular table which was used as a platform for offerings. The problem with this part of the temple is that it is rather small so not many offerings can be placed in the building.
That is why the second building was built. This part of the shine is larger than the shrine for honoring their knights and sun god. The building had a large rectangular room which then leads into a circular room. In these two rooms is a fire in the center which is used to burn offerings. Inside of the rectangular room, there are tables where more offerings can be placed. The roof for this part of the shrine was made of packed earth. The circular parts of the shrine had thatched roofs. There could be more rooms for different uses but that is all that has been found.
1. Odijk, Pamela, The Ancient World: The Aztec, Dnglewood Cliffs, Silver Burdett, 1989
2. Wood, Tim, See Through History: The Aztecs, New York, Viking, 1992