Q:

How did the Aztecs build their pyramids?

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Quick Answer

The Aztecs, as most Mesoamerican peoples, built their pyramids with a core of earth or rubble and an exterior of layered stone. In some cases, new pyramids were built over older ones. They were built steeply, with steps leading from the base to the summit.

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Full Answer

The Great Pyramid in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, which is now part of Mexico City, was built over six other pyramids. The original pyramid was constructed of earth and wood sometime in the early 14th century. Subsequent pyramids employed stone and stucco in their construction, and the temples at their peaks became more and more elaborate at each stage. Finally, the seventh and last pyramid was topped with a large and intricately sculpted ceremonial temple, the Templo Mayor, which Hernando Cortez destroyed during his conquest of the Aztecs in 1521.

The pyramids were constructed to honor the Aztec deities. The Great Pyramid had shrines to Huitzilopochtli, the god of the sun and war, as well as Tlaloc, the god of fertility and rain. At the peaks of the pyramids, the Aztecs conducted their famous human sacrifices during which still-beating hearts would be removed from the victims. Estimates of the number of victims vary greatly, but most historians agree that there were at least several thousand a year.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    Why did the Aztecs sacrifice humans?

    A:

    The Aztecs sacrificed humans because they believed that without the sustenance of human life-blood, the sun would fail and the world would end. Their gods had sacrificed themselves to bring the world into existence, so humanity must continue the sacrifices to ensure the world remained sustained.

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  • Q:

    What are some important accomplishments of the ancient Aztecs?

    A:

    The Aztecs developed a number of innovations that helped them survive and allowed their culture to thrive, including floating gardens to grow food, mandatory education for children, a game similar to soccer, herbal medicines and bright red fabric dye. The Aztec culture also produced a highly-organized system of government and a language, Nahuatl, that is still spoken today.

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  • Q:

    Who conquered the Aztecs?

    A:

    The Spanish army, led by Hernán Cortés, conquered the Aztecs. The battle for parts of what is now Mexico lasted for just over two years between the Aztecs and the Spanish.

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  • Q:

    What did the Aztecs do?

    A:

    Some of the Aztecs' major accomplishments include advances in herbalism, the discovery of an extremely vivid shade of red and the development of ollama, a precursor to modern soccer. Though the Aztecs were known as powerful warriors, they were also responsible for many peaceful innovations.

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