The Beginner’s Guide to Aztecs and Mayans

gray pyramid on grass field during day
Photo by Alex Azabache on

When the Aztecs and the early Mayans roamed the earth, there was no social standing for a tribe they were nothing more than nomadic tribes, following the land wherever they went. So how did they show meaning to their fellow people? What symbols did they use to signify their culture, beliefs and customs?

Archaeologists have found that Aztec symbols did indeed hold meaning in both the old and the new worlds. Not only were they used to show the meaning, but the symbols were also used to create stories and tales. This is all the more interesting when you consider that the Aztecs never created writing. Instead they relied on pictographs, the images of which could be burned onto small pieces of metal and then used as a means of recording events and remembering great deeds.

If you think about it now, does it not make more sense that Aztec skulls and tools would be found all over the world? Furthermore, did the Aztecs ever think to ship their tools back home? Surely if they were so great and powerful why would they want to share their glory with just anybody. After all, they had created such a unique culture that no other culture would want or even want to copy them. Theirs was a story that was timeless, telling of the trials and triumphs of a race that came before them, yet somehow ended up beneath the waves.

The Aztecs took what they learned from the world around them and molded it into a religion that still exists to this day. They would pray to the Sun, to the Gods of their choosing. Each one of them held a symbol of power, and they each represented a task that must be finished or certain tasks would never be finished. When a temple was built, it was for the Aztec God or Goddess and nothing else. Aztec homes were made out of blocks and not bricks.

Aztec women were warriors and skilled cooks. They were the ones to go into battle with their bare chests, throwing stones and sharp objects at their enemy from far away. The Aztec gods were very protective of their homes and family, shielding them from all evil. Aztec children were trained to kill and behead their enemies. Once the Aztec tribe became organized, they would go on to take over lands and rule over their people.

The Aztecs worshiped the Sun and the element Earth. They were always building temples and making sure there was plenty of fresh water. The Aztecs were always into fishing and harvesting because these were two essential elements in the creation of metal and gold.

The Mayans were known for their beautiful paintings and their sophisticated architecture. They built their cities very well, but they were often attacked by the Aztecs. They were a very advanced culture and they were definitely ahead of the Aztecs when it comes to technology.

In all Aztec and Mayan cultures, there are stark differences in clothing. Aztec women were always seen wearing tight-fitting dresses. Mayans wore loose-fitting looser clothing. I hope you have learned enough about these two cultures to start making comparisons between each one now and remember which one has the most similarities to other civilizations.

As you examine the clothes and jewelry of both Aztec and Mayan cultures, you can see some real similarities. Both used stylized feathers as decorations on their weapons and clothes. Mayans wore teardrops as tattoos. Aztecs also decorated their hair with flowers.

The final difference is the language. Aztec was the first language to be spoken on the surface of the planet. Mayan’s only language was a series of guttural phonics. They developed their language later, after writing appeared.

The point is that these two cultures spoke different languages. Each one has left their mark on the world. Which one you choose to study is entirely up to you. I encourage you to look at Aztec and Mayan history and try to learn their histories. Maybe you will have an affinity for one of them.

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