How Did the Aztecs Adapt to Their Environment?

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The Aztecs adapted to their surrounding environment in several ways, including making floating gardens to enable agricultural production on water surfaces, building canoes and creating dikes. The Aztecs lived in a swampy and moist environment in the vicinity of Lake Texcoco, which lies in the Valley of Mexico. The Aztecs encountered hurdles specific to their environment, such as frequent floods, which necessitated certain adaptations to allow the Aztecs to survive and even thrive.

Instead of moving elsewhere to build on more favorable lands, the Aztecs established a capital city right over a large swampland. They did so at the perceived instruction of the gods, who directed Aztec leaders to settle peacefully on the lands where an eagle, holding a snake its mouth, rested. As the envisioned eagle appeared to a leader over the swampy area, the Aztecs had no choice but to build in that spot. To traverse the lakes and lagoons surrounding the new homeland, the Aztecs constructed canoes and water vessels for transportation. An abundance of vegetation grew in the moist climate, and the Aztecs learned which plants held value as food sources. They identified edible plants, and also harvested plants for use in medicines. The Aztecs created rudimentary but stable forms of infrastructure, such as dikes and retaining walls, to control the flow of surrounding waters for the purposes of agriculture and safe construction.

Among the most unique of all Aztec adaptations,were chinampas, or floating gardens. These gardens covered specific parcels of land, like their terrestrial counterparts. However, chinampas functioned as floating islands, and allowed Aztecs to grow crops on makeshift farming lands on water.