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Two Main Aspects of Life for the Aztecs – Agriculture and Human Sacrifice

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    There are many aspects of life that one can focus on for a certain population or in a country. Two main aspects of everyday life for the Aztecs were agriculture and human sacrifice. Of course both are highly important and part of the Aztecs society, but with an astonishing 10,000,000 people in the Aztec population, could one really put more emphasize one or the other? This is defiantly a tough question for historians to answer… or is it? To decide on great agriculture or brutal sacrifices, it would have made this decision much easier to choose from if we saw a first person document written by someone that was going to be sacrificed. For three important reasons, greater emphasis should be placed on agriculture: the enormous chinampas were out of this world, the amazing construction of the chinampas, and that it leads to be part of everyday life for the Aztec people.

    The chinampas should be the center of attention due to their tremendous size and scale of the farms. As seen in the magnificent Diego Rivera mural, Document C, one can see chinampas “as far as the can see”. Diego Rivera is simply showing what everyday life was like for the Aztecs. According to Peter Stearns and other historians, there were approximately twenty thousand acres of chinampas that were constructed to grow four corn crops per year, document B. This helps suffice the great population of the Aztec people. Document B gives us the impression that the chinampas were thought out and designed very carefully by the Aztecs Similar to the great pyramids of Egypt, this was not an easy task for people who were only using wooden tools, their bare hands, and whatever useful they might have thought of to make the job easier, as seen in document C. Document C shows us the view point of a worker and how the people farmed.

    One can infer from that image that the Aztecs were well governed people with powerful rulers, which led to the great triumph of conquering others as seen in Document A. The chinampas were clearly not built by non-educated people. The plots of land were like long, thin, floating islands, about 17 feet wide and 300 feet long, depicted in Document B. These large islands were rested in reed frames that were anchored to the bottom of the lake (Document B). The effort of building these floating farmlands must have been tremendous. To use their natural resources such as lake water, reed frames, soil, and seeds to feed a large population of people, truly show the efficiency and uniqueness of the Aztecs.

    The chinampas lead into the final reason of why historians should emphasis agriculture. Agriculture was simply everyday life for the Aztecs. Human sacrifice just doesn’t fit into that description of everyday life for the Aztecs. Most Aztecs were farmers and workers as shown in Document C. The immense population of the Aztecs led to the great engineering and building of the chinampas, which led to great population growth, which resulted in a stronger population of Aztecs that conquered the lands of present-day Mexico.

    Of course human sacrifice cannot be overlooked. The shocking and disturbing human sacrifices, shown in Document D, defiantly depict a dark side of the Aztecs. This social and open scene of sacrifice wasn’t a bad thing, but rather a great honor as explained in Document E. In Document D, Friar Diego Duran gives explanation of how a usual sacrifice would happen. Friar Bernardino de Sahagun, Document E, shows the point of view of what it was like to watch a sacrifice happen starting from the beginning of the year. The warrior being killed is treated as a “god” and the Aztecs are “mesmerized” by him. The downside is that this great “god” is sacrificed to the actual gods. In some cases a sacrifice can be as large as 2,300 men, as explained in Document D. This Aztec tradition was gruesome and does not provide an accurate picture of how most Aztecs went about their everyday routine.

    To know about the sacrifice is one way to understand the Aztecs, just not fully. Because of that, one must look to the daily life of most Aztecs: farming, harvesting, and working in the grand chinampas. Although human sacrifice is definitely important, you can’t have the Aztecs without their great irrigation systems and agriculture. So to answer the question, should historians emphasize agriculture or human sacrifice? Historians must not emphasize human sacrifice, but rather the successful farming of the once powerful Aztec civilization.

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