This mosaic is believed to represent the god Tezcatlipoca, or ‘Smoking Mirror.’ One of four powerful creator deities, who were amongst the most important gods in the Mexica (Aztec) pantheon, Smoking Mirror images can be recognized by the distinctive black stripes across his face. The base for the mosaic is a human skull. Long deerskin straps would have allowed the skull to be worn as part of priestly regalia, and deerskin strips connected the jaw while allowing it to open and close. The turquoise, lignite, pyrite and shell were all procured from the farthest reaches of the Mexica empire or through trade with far-flung peoples. The effort made in assembling this diverse selection of exotic materials emphasizes the divine ‘other-worldly’ nature both of the mosaic and whoever possessed it.
THE MEXICA/AZTEC MYTHOLOGY. The Aztecs were Nahuatl speaking groups living in central Mexico and much of their mythology is similar to that of other Mesoamerican cultures. According to legend, the various groups who were to become the Aztecs arrived from the north into the Anahuac valley around Lake Texcoco. The location of this valley and lake of destination is clear – it is the heart of modern Mexico City – but little can be known with certainty about the origin of the Aztec. There are different accounts of their origin. In the myth the ancestors of the Mexica/Aztec came from a place in the north called Aztlan, the last of seven nahuatlacas (Nahuatl-speaking tribes, from tlaca, "man") to make the journey southward, hence their name "Azteca." Other accounts cite their origin in Chicomoztoc, "the place of the seven caves," or at Tamoanchan (the legendary origin of all civilizations).
Look at that magnificent bastard: You’d call bullshit on that armor set in Skyrim. No way that’s practical for battle. That does nothing but look awesome on the cover of a Dungeons and Dragons compendium. But that’s not just a painting: That is the very real armor of the Polish winged hussars, who held the title for the most brutal cavalry force in the world for most of the 16th and 17th century. They wreaked absolute havoc on battlefields throughout Europe, all while sporting huge angel wings on their backs.
The Aztec Empire used two calendars, a 260-day calendar for calculating religious holidays, and a 365-day calendar for the civil year. The Aztec sun stone,12 feet wide, illustrating both systems, is perhaps the most famous Aztec art piece today.
The Aztecs actually didn’t called themselves “Aztec”. Rather it was a name later adopted to define the “Aztec” people by the Spanish. Instead the Aztecs called themselves, “The Mexica”, which is where the name “Mexico” is derived from.
Warriors in Aztec society progressed through the ranks based on the number of captives they took in battle. Once a warrior had taken four captives and attained the rank of tequihuanqueh, not only would their upkeep be provided by the state, but they would have met one of the requirements for joining the elite religious-warrior socities known as the Eagle Warriors - Quaquauhtin - and Jaguar Warriors - Ocelomeh. The Eagle Warriors, such as the warrior represented here, were a rank higher than the Jaguars, but the exact extra requirement is unknown. Membership was almost exclusive to the nobility.
Archaeologists have discovered a unique “dog cemetary” underneath Mexico City. Twelve dogs were carefully interred. They date around the Late Post Classic period of Aztec history (1350 to 1520 CE). While dog burials were not uncommon at the time, they were invariably buried with humans, presumably their masters, or near important sites as animal sacrifices. This is the only place where dogs are the site.
While the Aztecs put strong emphasis on parents teaching their children properly, they also had mandatory public schooling for all children. Those of a noble class had different schools to attend and schools were also separated by gender. Boys of nobility would be sent to the Calmecac School where they learned from the priests about history, astronomy, art, and how to govern and lead. Boys of lower caste were sent to the Cuicacalli School, which was much more focused on preparing them for possible service in the military as warriors. Girls were sent to separate schools and much more of their education was focused at home where they were taught domestic duties such as cooking and weaving.