Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - FRONT PAGE - with CHRIS

THE Aztecs were a mighty civ­i­liza­tion that flour­ished in Cen­tral Amer­ica be­tween 1325 and 1521, when they were forced to sur­ren­der to an in­vad­ing Span­ish army. From their mag­nif­i­cent cap­i­tal, Tenochti­t­lan, they gov­erned a vast em­pire that stretched from present-day Mex­ico to Gu­atemala, and from the At­lantic to the Pa­cific oceans. They are of­ten thought of as a fierce peo­ple, ag­gres­sive in bat­tle and en­gag­ing in hu­man sac­ri­fice to ap­pease their var­i­ous gods. How­ever, the Aztecs were also ex­tremely civilised and so­phis­ti­cated, de­vel­op­ing ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies for their time, in­de­pen­dent of out­side in­flu­ence. Some of the im­por­tant ac­com­plish­ments of Aztec tech­nol­ogy in­clude in­de­pen­dent de­vel­op­ment of math­e­mat­ics, de­vel­op­ment of a spe­cialised cal­en­dar, in­ven­tion of the ca­noe, and var­i­ous help­ful forms of medicine.

Aztec weapons

Aztec tech­nol­ogy used for mak­ing weapons mainly re­lied on the use of stone and cop­per due to the fact that they did not have ac­cess to iron and bronze. Be­fore the use of cop­per for mak­ing weapons, they mainly re­lied on ob­sid­ian and chert. In cer­tain other ar­eas, Aztec tech­nol­ogy for tools was quite so­phis­ti­cated - for in­stance, they made drills which were made of reed or bone. One of the in­no­va­tive weapons used by the Aztecs was called macuahuitl which was a wooden club hav­ing sharp pieces of vol­canic glass. It was used to dis­able an en­emy soldier with­out killing him.


Aztecs faced two cru­cial dis­ad­van­tages in terms of tech­nol­ogy for trans­porta­tion: the ab­sence of wheels and horses. On the land, trav­el­ling by foot was the most com­mon way of trans­porta­tion which nat­u­rally was very slow. Due to this rea­son, the Aztecs did not con­struct any roads. How­ever, Aztecs did de­velop ca­noes which made trans­porta­tion through streams and rivers eas­ier. This mode of trans­porta­tion was thus ex­ten­sively used through­out the Aztec Em­pire. They dug many small canals for the trans­porta­tion of ca­noes. This fo­cus on aquatic trans­port over land-based trans­port is largely at­trib­uted to the en­vi­ron­ment sur­round­ing the Aztec Em­pire, which con­tained many swamps and trib­u­taries.

Sci­ence and ed­u­ca­tion

Aztecs made sev­eral im­por­tant ad­vance­ments in the do­mains of ed­u­ca­tion and sci­ence. They were among the first so­ci­eties in the world to make ed­u­ca­tion com­pul­sory for all chil­dren. This ed­u­ca­tion also in­cluded ba­sic mil­i­tary train­ing for all male stu­dents. In the field of sci­ence, they made ad­vance­ments in math­e­mat­ics, medicine, and as­tron­omy. Steam baths and a va­ri­ety of herbs were used as medicine. In math­e­mat­ics, they had their own num­ber sys­tem which used 20 as its base. Among var­i­ous other pur­poses, this num­ber­ing sys­tem was used for cal­cu­lat­ing taxes.

Build­ings and struc­tures

One of the most re­mark­able and well-known achieve­ments of Aztec tech­nol­ogy was in the do­main of ar­chi­tec­ture and build­ing of var­i­ous struc­tures. Some of their en­dur­ing feats in­clude the chi­nampa sys­tem of farm­ing (man-made is­lands on which crops were planted - around which wa­ter flowed, ir­ri­gat­ing the soil), stone carv­ing, and the re­mark­able step pyra­mids. Proper care was taken about pro­por­tions and struc­ture of these pyra­mids which served as the tem­ples. An­other ex­am­ple of Aztec tech­nol­ogy in the do­main of ar­chi­tec­ture was the city of Tenochti­t­lan which was di­vided into four parts, each hav­ing its own ar­chi­tec­tural value. The Aztecs also built two large aqueducts which ful­filled the need of fresh wa­ter for bathing in the city of Tenochti­t­lan.

◆ MOUTH­FUL: The Aztec Sun Stone, called Teoil­huicat­la­palu­aztli-Ollin Tonal­ma­chiotl, was one of a va­ri­ety of cal­en­dars the Aztecs used to mea­sure the course of the year for var­i­ous pur­poses - chiefly, re­li­gious cer­e­monies and agri­cul­tural dates.

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