Copyright © 2007 Dorling Kindersley
The Aztec, or Mexica, people founded the last of the great civilizations that existed in Mexico before the Spanish invasion. Their powerful empire lasted from around 1325 to 1521. The Aztecs were farmers, warriors, and builders of great cities.
In 1325, a band of migrating Aztecs came to a large island in Lake Texcoco. When their priests saw an eagle land on a cactus there, they declared that this was the place to build a splendid new city, Tenochtitlán. This is now the site of Mexico City.
After the Spanish invaded Tenochtitlán, they described many aspects of Aztec life, such as law, schooling, farming, and HUMAN SACRIFICE. Many artifacts from the Aztec Empire have also survived, including feather cloaks, jewelry, pottery, and knives.
Human sacrifice is the killing of people for religious reasons. The Aztecs believed that the gods had sacrificed themselves for their people. They wished to repay that debt.
Being sacrificed was believed to be a great honor for the victims. Even so, the victims were often captured enemy troops who were taken to the capital to be killed on the pyramid of the Great Temple. At a four-day ceremony in 1487, tens of thousands of captives were sacrificed.