Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Book Review: The Aztecs

This is a children's book.  The Aztecs: History Opens Windows, Jane Shuter, Heinemann Library, Chicago, 2009, 
This book gives a generalized look at the Aztec history, and their lifestyle.  However it would not be considered an archeological book.  It is mostly based on pictures, and short bits of information.  The Aztec had early periods as early as 1200, but did not come to prominence until the 1400s.  They would join alliances to gain power, and if unable to do this would go to war with other peoples.  When the Spaniards invaded in 1519 Montezuma ruled a kingdom of over one million people which extended through much of Southern Mexico.
The book gives a very idea of the social hierarchy with workers and slaves at the bottom of the structure.  The Aztec made many prominent pyramids for worship.  These were high mounds, with a building on top of the mound.  IN this way they could get closer to the gods.  They believed in giving the gods blood to appease them.  This included human sacrifice.  Quetzalcoatl did not believe in sacrifice.  They had calculated he would return to visit them in 1519. 
The Aztec cities were centered around the temples.  Their people were good farmers.  Their main city was built over the top of a lake, with reeds and soil being placed over the top of the shallow lake, making areas for planting crowds, which were surrounded by water.  The people worked hard and played games.  Some games were for everyone, and others only for the upper class and played at festivals.  They had constructed large arenas for hoops for a game similar to basketball.  They also danced and enjoyed music.  Many of their instruments were destroyed by the Spaniards in an effort to thwart their religion.  They also had sophisticated crafts, using jewelry and gold.  Craftsmen were highly regarded.  They had a written language of hieroglyphics.  They had a calendar based on 18 months of 20 days.  Each month had a god and a festival.  However the 5 days not included on the calendar were unlucky days.
Their demise came with the coming of the Spaniards, who came searching for gold they had heard of.  Montezuma was confused, but greeted Cortez as a god.  By the time the realized he was no god, it was too late and the Aztec succumbed to more sophisticated weaponry and men on horses.

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