Science and Technology
The Aztecs were a fairly advanced and powerful that could be compared to ancient Rome in terms of its level of technological sophistication. The Aztecs were not as sophisticated as their contemporaries in all areas of science and technology but they were very advanced in areas that they needed to be and did very well with what little they had and what the obstacles that they had to face. The Aztecs used many different technologies and their sophisticated knowledge of many sciences to try to regulate and better their daily lives.
The Aztecs used a combination of astronomy, canal building and highly developed agricultural science to plant the right plants at the right time in order to feed their empire. Astronomy was used to make calendars which would have determined the best time to begin to plant and harvest each food. Canal building and irrigation allowed the Aztecs to feed their plants rich riverbed soil by building island farms in the middle of rivers and canals, a farm of this variety was a Chinampa. Building farms in the middle of rivers allowed the Aztecs to quickly deliver goods to the nearest market. The Aztecs also built farms on slopes by building terraces from the soil, this also served to limit soil erosion. Due to the high demand for food that existed in the Aztec empire, slash and burn were also common methods of farming, this also lead to an ever increasing demand for land.
The societal progress of the Aztecs relied heavily on math to determine the best date to do certain things, the construction of buildings, canals, roads, taxes and even religious events. The Aztecs created 3 calendars each having significance in a different area of life; a ritual calendar, an annual and a long count calendar. Even though the ritual calendar was dedicated to religion, all of the calendars had some degree of religious value as Aztec society tied everything to religion.
As sophisticated as the Aztecs were they lacked some technologies that were available elsewhere and therefore had their own unique response to problems. The most shocking thing about Aztec technology is that there is a lack of the use the wheel and pack animals, to compensate the Aztecs had good roads, professional runners, many rest stops situated every 6-10 miles, river highways, many causeways and secure toll roads. Another unusual technological trait of this civilization was that metallurgy did not go very far beyond copper, tin, lead and jewellery gold and silver. To compensate for the limited knowledge in metallurgy they used obsidian in place of metal in many tools which required sharpness.
Medical innovations were extensive in the Aztec empire as it fought many battles very often. Medical innovations in the Aztec empire ranged from talk therapy and medicinal herbs to bone realignment surgery. Talk therapy was widely used to try to resolve psychological problems and is a fairly simple concept that is still used today. Due to the abundance of plants and herbs in the area of their control, the Aztecs had the opportunity to experiment on their medicinal purposes this lead to them having many treatments to many illnesses and problems that they knew of. In order to avoid any need for any such treatment the Aztecs practiced good sanitary practices such as brushing their teeth with fibrous roots and using washing their mouth with mild abrasives such as ash, this was supplemented by cleansing rituals. Surgery in the Aztec empire was rudimentary but it still performed some of its purpose such as setting bones via wooden nails.
All in all without the science and technology that the Aztecs had, they would not have been anywhere nearly as successful as they were as many different technologies and their sophisticated knowledge of many sciences were a key necessity in their attempt to try to regulate and better their daily lives. They beat every obstacle that they faced with the exception of a fatal misinterpretation coupled with a threat possessing both advanced weapons and unheard of illnesses.
Music, Art and Literature
Music played a large part of the Aztec life because it provided the Aztec people with enjoyment, passing on history and culture, as well as creating a spiritual connection with life. Music was a subject taught in Aztec schools and students would pick up instruments as early as when they 12 years old. Music was also seen by the tecuhtli as a way to demonstrate their wealth so they often had their own private band or musicians to play for them at home.
Most of the music was sacred hymns, which were to honor the dead rulers and gods. Sacred hymns were instructional because they transferred historical knowledge of the past rulers and cultural knowledge of the gods to the next generations. Sacred hymns were usually only sung at special occasions to honor the dead rulers or gods. Cantares was another genre of music and they were similar to the sacred hymns because they honored the dead and their noble actions. Cantares were also called ghost songs and sung in rituals or during battle. The Aztec also played happier songs that were not about the dead in their everyday life, such as songs of energy, love, and excitement.
The Aztec used a variety of instruments in their music. To the Aztec, percussion was the major section of their music. Drums made out of turtle shells, logs, or skin were played with hands or mallets. More often than not, drums were the only instrument in Aztec music especially in cantares, to lead the warriors into battle. Other forms of percussion used by the Aztec include rattles, filled with pebbles and shaken. For melody, there were very few instruments that the Aztec had. Most of Aztec melody comes from the flute or huilacapitztli and these are still popular in Central Mexico today. Horns and trumpets were rare but still present in Aztec music.