What Did the Aztecs Do?

did-aztecs Credit: Kay Maeritz/LOOK/Getty Images

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.

The Aztecs performed significant research on the properties of various herbs. The wealthiest members of the nobility had substantial gardens in which herbalists were allowed to experiment with different plants. One Aztec text, the Badianus Manuscript, contains information on over 180 plants and their use in the treatment of illnesses. While some of their treatments were ineffective, the Aztecs made use of many herbs that hold up within modern science including chicalote, a painkiller with properties similar to the opium poppy.

The Aztecs also developed a method of dyeing clothing that produced a shade of red more vivid than any previously seen. They created the dye using carminic acid found in the body of the cochineal beetle. The Spaniards were so impressed by the dye that they exported it for sale in Europe, where it was used to color the robes of Catholic cardinals.

Ollama, a game with many similarities to modern soccer, was another Aztec innovation. Played on a long field, the game featured elevated stone rings through which players attempted to knock a small rubber ball using only their hips, knees and elbows. The game was a special privilege only enjoyed by the nobility.