The Aztecs, who probably originated as a nomadic tribe in northern Mexico, arrived in Mesoamerica around the beginning of the 13th century. From their magnificent capital city, Tenochtitlan, the Aztecs emerged as the dominant force in central Mexico, developing an intricate social, political, religious and commercial organization that brought many of the region’s city-states under their control by the 15th century. Invaders led by the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes overthrew the Aztecs by force and captured Tenochtitlan in 1521, bringing an end to Mesoamerica’s last great native civilization.
The Aztecs remain the most extensively documented of all Amerindian civilizations at the time of European contact in the 16th century. Spanish friars, soldiers, and historians and scholars of Indian or mixed descent left invaluable records of all aspects of life. These ethnohistoric sources, linked to modern archaeological inquiries and studies of ethnologists, linguists, historians, and art historians, portray the formation and flourishing of a complex imperial state.
The Way of Life for Aztec Indians
Leon-Portilla, Miguel, ed. The Broken Spears: An Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico. Beacon, 1962. Translations of a selection of indigenous accounts of the conquest.
Fall of the Aztecs - Watertown High School
Karen, Ruth. Feathered Serpent: The Rise and Fall of the Aztecs. Four Winds, 1979. The origins of the civilization, brutal cultural organization, and military conquest by Spaniards.
The Awesome Aztecs for Kids and Teachers - Aztecs for Kids
Other goods, however, were carried to the lowlands of the Gulf Coast, which is now Guatemala, and traded. These prized goods included items such as gold ornaments, salt, and garments made of fine clothe. Items valued within the Aztec culture, such as jaguar skins, tropical-bird feathers, rubber, cotton, , and cacao beans were received in return. These items were valuable to the Aztec Indians as they were used within many of the ceremonies, rituals, and other traditions of the Aztec people.
Other tribes were living in the area.
The exact origins of the Aztec people are uncertain, but they are believed to have begun as a northern tribe of hunter-gatherers whose name came from that of their homeland, Aztlan (or “White Land”). The Aztecs were also known as the Tenochca (from which the name for their capital city, Tenochtitlan, was derived) or the Mexica (the origin of the name of the city that would replace Tenochtitlan, as well as the name for the entire country). The Aztecs appeared in Mesoamerica–as the south-central region of pre-Columbian is known–in the early 13th century. Their arrival came just after, or perhaps helped bring about, the fall of the previously dominant Mesoamerican civilization, the Toltecs.
The Aztec culture was filled with creativity and beauty
Getting their goods to the lowlands was a particularly extraordinary ordeal for the Aztec Indians. Since the Aztecs did not have draft animals or wheeled vehicles, goods had to be carried by canoe. When this wasn’t possible, goods were carried on the backs of porters in long caravans. also went along on trades, as they were needed to protect the caravans in dangerous areas. The merchants also played another important role in the Aztec civilization, as they would act as spies for the Aztec empire when they visited lands still unconquered by their people.