What Did the Aztecs Look Like?

The native people of the Aztec Empire looked much like the ethnically indigenous people of Central and South America today. The Aztecs lived in what is now Central Mexico and arrived in Mesoamerica in the early 13th century. However, it is important to note that as the Aztec empire grew in size, it also grew more ethnically diverse, and to associate one ethnic appearance with the Aztec people is inaccurate.

The Aztecs had a large trade network and imported a variety of jewels, dyes and fabrics. They generally wore loose clothing that was made of either imported cotton or domestic ayate fiber made from the maguey cactus. Men often wore a tilmatli, which was a piece of fabric used as either an apron or a cape. Clothes were dyed bright colors and accessorized with precious stones. Jewelry and elaborate hairstyles were worn by the elite of both sexes. Ear spools made of turquoise were commonly worn by the Aztec elite; these pieces were similar to the modern ear gauge, expanding the earlobe to large sizes. Piercings were also a common way to accessorize among Aztecs. However, slaves were allowed to wear little more than a loincloth. Unlike the European fashions of the same period, the Aztecs' clothing often included exposed arms, legs or torsos.