The Aztec civilization introduced many of its achievements to the modern world, such as universal education, the sport of soccer, hot chocolate, chewing gum and red dye. The Aztecs were a nomadic tribe that built a powerful empire in what is now present-day Mexico City starting in the 13th century, until its conquest by Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes in 1521.Continue Reading
Many experts believe that the Aztec civilization was the first state to establish a system of universal compulsory education for both boys and girls. In contrast, compulsory education in the modern world did not begin until 1592 in the German Duchy of Pfalz-Zweibrücken. The Aztecs also played a game called ollama, which is the precursor of modern day soccer. In this game, teams vied to knock a small rubber ball through wall-mounted rings using only their hips, knees or elbows. Only the nobility played the game.
Although the Olmec tribe invented chocolate from cocoa beans, the Aztecs drank it hot, thereby inventing hot chocolate. The Spanish colonizers brought the drink to Europe, where it spread to the rest of the world. The Aztec women chewed a gum-like substance called "chicle" as a mouth freshener, making it the world's first chewing gum. The Aztecs also gave the modern world its first true red dye, which is extracted from the cochineal beetle. Prior to this, Europe only had the plant-based madder dye, which gave a lackluster red color.Learn more about Ancient America