Unit 6 Chapter 24: The Aztecs Standards Used

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UNIT 6 Chapter 24: The Aztecs

  • Standards Used

7.7 Students compare and contrast the geographic, political, economic, religious, and social structures of the Meso-American and Andean civilizations.

  1. Study the locations, landforms, and climates of Mexico, Central America, and South America and their effects on Mayan, Aztec, and Incan economies, trade, and development of urban societies.

  2. Study the roles of people in each society, including class structures, family life, war-fare, religious beliefs and practices, and slavery.

  3. Explain how and where each empire arose and how the Aztec and Incan empires were defeated by the Spanish.

  4. Describe the artistic and oral traditions and architecture in the three civilizations.

  5. Describe the Meso-American achievements in astronomy and mathematics, including the development of the calendar and the Meso-American knowledge of seasonal changes to the civilizations' agricultural systems.


The image on page 270 has clues about the beginnings of the Aztec Empire.

  1. What hypotheses can you make about this topic based on details in this image?

  • (Students might note the eagle and cactus; according to legend, the Aztecs were to build their capital where they saw these symbols.)

  1. The next image includes clues about the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan.

  • (Students might note the blue border and blue X around where the Aztecs are seated, indicating that their capital was surrounded by water and had canals running through it.)

  1. The image at the bottom includes clues about the nature of the Aztecs’ relations with their neighbors.

    • (The warriors fighting and temples falling over, this might indicate that the Aztecs fought with their neighbors.)


In this lesson, students complete a Visual Discovery activity to learn about the rise of the Aztecs, with a series of images that represent key stages in the development of the Aztec Empire


Students will
  • Describe the humble beginnings of the Aztecs, how they arrived and survived in the Valley of Mexico, and the legend of their empire’s beginnings.

  • Explain how the Aztecs built their capital of Tenochtitlan and what the city was like.

  • Describe Aztec warfare and other methods the Aztecs used to create and maintain their empire.

  1. Role Card 1: Aztec Priest

    • You have been waiting for a sign from the gods for where your people should build a great city. You are relieved because you have finally found the sign—an eagle perched on a cactus and holding a Serpent—on this island in Lake Texcoco, in the Valley of Mexico.

  1. Role Card 2: Aztec Leader

    • You have led your people as they have been forced to move from one part of the Valley of Mexico to another. You are hopeful that you have finally found a place where your people can build a home for themselves.

  1. Role Card 3: Aztec Warrior

    • You have fought as a mercenary (paid soldier) for other groups who live in the Valley of Mexico. You have noticed that many groups in the valley look down on the Aztecs. You are tired of fighting for others and want to start building a city of your own that you can defend.

  1. Role Card 4: Chief of the Colhua (pron ko-LOO-a)

    • Your people have lived in the Valley of Mexico since before the Aztecs arrived. You have used the Aztec warriors as mercenaries (paid soldiers), but later you fought against them and drove them to this island in Lake Texcoco.

  1. Role Card 1: New Aztec Warrior

    • You are participating in an attack against a local city-state that is not part of the Aztec Empire. You are a new warrior. You know you have received excellent training, but secretly you are nervous because this is your first battle.

  1. • Role Card 2: Aztec Jaguar Warrior

    • You are participating in an attack against a local city-state that is not part of the Aztec Empire. You are a veteran of many battles like this and feel confident because of your skills and experience.

  1. Role Card 3: Aztec Eagle Warrior

    • You are leading an attack against a local city-state that is not part of the Aztec Empire. You are confident that your warriors will be victorious because of their experience in battles like this.

  1. Role Card 4: Tlaxcalan Warrior

    • You are trying to defend your home against the invading Aztecs. You are desperate because the Aztecs seem too powerful to stop. You also know what happens to warriors who are taken captive.


Read Sections 24.2 to 24.4.

Complete these steps for each section:

    1. Record your answers to the questions in the corresponding section of the flag.

    2. Lightly shade that section of the flag the appropriate color.

    3. Complete the matching sentence below.

Possible answers:

  • The color green could help you remember this part of Aztec history because… the Aztecs were looking for a place to settle and found the fertile Valley of Mexico.

  • The color white could help you remember this part of Aztec history because… the Aztec capital, considering the number of people who were living there, was very clean.

  • The color red could help you remember this part of Aztec history because… the relations between the Aztecs and their neighbors were often marked by warfare and human sacrifice.

24.2 The Aztecs in the Valley of Mexico

  1. Name 2 important groups that lived in the Valley of Mexico before the Aztecs. Give an example of how they influenced the Aztecs.

      1. The Teotihuacáns and the Toltecs lived in the Valley of Mexico before the Aztecs.

      2. The Aztecs adopted the feathered serpent god, Quetzalcoatl, from the Teotihuacáns, and married into the Toltec royal line.

  1. How did other groups already living in the Valley of Mexico treat the Aztecs? Why might the Aztecs have eliminated this part of their story for their “official” histories later on?

      1. Other groups generally either forced the Aztecs to move away or hired them as mercenaries (paid soldiers).

      2. The Aztecs were not very powerful during this period and thus may have decided to eliminate it from their later “official” histories.

  1. According to Aztec history, how did the Aztecs know where to build their new city of Tenochtitlan? Why was this a good location?

      1. According to Aztec history, their priests were told to look for an eagle perched on a cactus and holding a snake in its beak. This was where the Aztecs were to build their new city.

      2. This location, on an island in the middle of Lake Texcoco, was a good site because there were plenty of fish and water birds to eat and the island was easy to defend.

Lightly shade this section of the flag green.

24.3 Tenochtitlan: A City of Wonders

  1. How did the Aztecs build their capital in the middle of a lake?

They filled in areas of the lake and built small islands called chinampas.

  1. Name at least one important building in Tenochtitlan, and describe what happened there.

The Great Temple was one of the most important buildings in Tenochtitlan. It was 150 feet tall. This is where important religious ceremonies took place, including human sacrifices.

  1. Describe at least two aspects of Tenochtitlan that allowed so many people to live there comfortably.

Tenochtitlan had four wide avenues, which were swept and washed every day and allowed people to move around easily. The city also had an aqueduct that carried fresh water into the city from miles away.

Lightly shade this section of the flag white

24.4 The Aztec Empire

  1. What kinds of goods did the Aztecs receive in tribute from conquered peoples? Why was tribute so important to the Aztecs?

    1. Aztec tribute included food, cacao, gems, cotton, animals, animal skins, building materials, + soldiers.

    2. This tribute was important because it was used to help feed the huge population of Tenochtitlan and to pay warriors, priests, officials, and servants.

  1. Typically, what happened before, during, and after an Aztec declaration of war?

    1. Before a declaration of war, the Aztecs would request that the city to join their empire as an ally.

    2. If they refused, the Aztecs would declare war and attack the city.

    3. After the battle, captives were brought to Tenochtitlan. Some became slaves, and others were sacrificed.

  1. What did the Aztecs demand of cities they defeated? Name one advantage and one disadvantage of this Aztec policy.

      1. The Aztecs demanded that the city pay tribute to the Aztecs, promise to obey the ruler, and honor the Aztec god.

      2. a These lenient conditions made it easy for the Aztecs to rule.

2.b However, most conquered people never felt any allegiance to the Aztecs, and this led to a lack of unity in the empire.
Lightly shade this section of the flag red.

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