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.
To satisfy their food requirements, the Aztecs developed a way to compensate for their swampy land that was poorly suited for agriculture. They created floating enclosures of mud and decaying plant matter to grow their corn, beans and squash and to raise chickens and turkeys. Human manure from the city fertilized the crops.
The Aztecs developed compulsory education for all their children. Beginning at home, the boys learned the father’s trade, while the girls learned domestic chores. Boys underwent rigorous warrior training, and all children attended a school to learn ceremonial songs and Aztec history.
The Aztec nobles played a game called ollama, which could be a precursor of soccer. The game could get very violent with rituals involving human sacrifice. When one team scored, players could rob the spectators.
Aztec herbal practices were collected in the “Badianus Manuscript,” an illustrated text from 1552 that describes the use of over 180 plants and trees to treat ailments. The Aztecs were also the first to develop a bright red fabric dye from the cochineal beetle.