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5-08-2015, 20:52

Aztec Technology

Aztecs used math to measure distances, lengths, and land area. Their technological advances focused on practical use, such as farming and building. Aztecs used obsidian and copper tools to build, carve, and sculpt using stone and wood.

Canoes and Boats




A dugout canoe was very useful for navigating the canals and lake surrounding Tenochtitlan. These canoes were made from hollowed-out logs burned by fire. Aztec carpenters also made a flat-bottomed boat similar to a raft, consisting of planks of wood tied together with tight fibers.

From this knowledge, the Aztecs built an impressive array of tools, structures, and systems to help their society thrive.

TRANSPORTATION



While the wheel was used only for toys and there were no beasts of burden, the Aztecs developed several ways to transport goods long distances.

The most common form of transporting goods was in a woven cane container strapped to a person’s back on a carrying frame. Porters, called tlamemes, specialized in this type of transport. Each tlameme could carry a little more than 50 pounds (23 kg) for approximately 13 miles (21 km).1

Travelers navigated between cities along a system of roads. The most developed roads were located near cities. A main highway linked the major cities in the empire. Local peoples or authorities maintained the sections of road located near their towns.

In Tenochtitlan, five great causeways connected the city to the mainland. People could walk along the causeways over the lake to travel outside of the city. These 12-foot- (3.7 m) wide causeways consisted of wooden stakes driven into the lake bed and filled in with sand, dirt, and rocks.2 To allow the current to flow throughout the lake, parts of the causeways were cut away, creating canals. Over those gaps sat wooden bridges.

HERBAL MEDICINE



With tropical forests as their backyard, the Aztecs had a cornucopia of plants with which to experiment for their medicinal and healing properties.

As a result, the Aztecs became expert herbalists, with remedies for many ailments—from a simple headache to a head wound.

Aztec physicians were educated and very experienced. They made hundreds of prescriptions for different types of wounds, diseases, and other health issues. These physicians knew of the many herbs, stones, trees, and roots with healing properties that could be used to treat specific ailments.

The Badianus Manuscript



By the time the Spanish arrived, the Aztecs had been practicing medicine for centuries. These expert herbalists had extensive knowledge about the medicinal uses of plants. In 1552, two Aztec scholars recorded a list of herbs used by their people in the Badianus Manuscript, which was written in Nahuatl and later translated into Latin.

The Aztecs had specific medicinal mixtures to treat many kinds of ailments. To stop a nosebleed,


Aztecs mixed juice from a nettle plant that was ground in salt with urine and milk and poured this mixture into the nostrils. For a lightning strike, an injured person drank a liquid made from the leaves of different trees and rubbed a plaster made from different herbs on his or her body.


head wounds by cleansing the injury, applying different salves, and then wrapping the wound with a bandage. The Spanish noted how effective Aztec physicians and medicine were and sent doctors from Spain to learn about their techniques. Many of these herbal treatments are still used in Mexico.

AGRICULTURE AND WATER

Fertilizer for the Chinampas




The Aztecs were model organic farmers who did not let anything go to waste-even human excrement. They filled canoes with excrement from the dwellers of Tenochtitlan and sent the canoes to the chinampa fields. This human waste was then used as a rich fertilizer for the soil.


Swampy land is not ideal for farming, but the Aztecs succeeded in making the area around the island city of Tenochtitlan agriculturally productive. They built raised farming beds called chinampas on the shallow lake bed. To construct a chinampa, first a rectangular area was chosen and its four corners marked with wooden stakes extending into the lake bed. The size of the chinampas ranged from approximately 10 to 16 feet (3 to 5 m) wide and 20 to 98 feet (6 to 30 m) long.3 The rectangular area was then filled with layers of mud and vegetation. The finished chinampa extended approximately 3 feet (1 m) above the water. Willow trees were planted at each corner to help stabilize the chinampa. Sometimes farmers also built their homes on these plots.

Even though they lived on a lake, the residents of Tenochtitlan needed clean drinking water and water to irrigate farms. Some of the water in the lake was saline, and therefore undrinkable. Aztec engineers devised an ingenious type of aqueduct to bring freshwater into the city. The Chapultepec aqueduct originated at the Chapultepec springs and ended in the city’s center. It was built on a raised platform, running atop a causeway near the city. At its base were wood pilings, topped with a sand, lime, and rock foundation. This base supported two masonry water channels. While one channel was in use, the other could be cleaned and maintained. This ensured the water flow never stopped. The Chapultepec aqueduct was the most advanced aqueduct the Aztecs built, but they built many other aqueducts during their rule.

Construction

Methods




From houses to palaces, the Aztecs used a similar template for their construction. A standard design consisted of rectangular rooms built around a central courtyard. Outer walls were made from wood or stone, and roofs were straw thatch or flat stone. Inside, the walls were covered with wooden planks, latticework with adobe plaster, adobe bricks, or stone. The marshy conditions in Tenochtitlan also caused buildings to sink, so builders raised many homes on stone platforms.

CITY PLANNING



Building on the urban styles of the earlier cities of Teotihuacan and Tula, Aztec city planners carefully thought out the design for the Aztec capital. Its design was so awe-inspiring that Spanish explorers called it the “Venice of the New World.”4

The city was divided into four quarters, each representing north, south, east, and west. The ceremonial center was considered the fifth direction, a religious symbol of what the Aztecs believed held the sky and earth together. Each quarter was further divided into four quadrants. These smaller neighborhoods belonged to different calpulli, and each had its own central plaza. Canals crisscrossed the city as well, following a geometrical pattern using right angles. These many technological advancements made the Aztec capital an impressive sight. admired and inspired heart of the empire.

A CLOSER LOOK

TEMPLO MAYOR



At the center of Tenochtitlan was the immense pyramid-shaped Templo Mayor, reaching a height of 150 feet (46 m).5 Atop its summit were twin temples, one dedicated to the god Tlaloc and the other to the god Huitzilopochtli. This temple was built and rebuilt over several centuries, increasing in size as the city grew.

The first simple temple was built in 1325 and then rebuilt to a height of 49 feet (15 m) in 1390.6 In approximately 1431, the temple was rebuilt again The new pyramid enclosed the old pyramid. In 1454, under Montezuma I, the pyramid was improved again and many decorative elements were added. New stairs and a greenstone sculpture adorned the temple and its grounds. It was further rebuilt in 1482, 1486, and 1502. Today the temple is sinking into the marshy soil that makes up the foundation of Mexico City.

 

 

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