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Unit 1 A New World Rising

Grade 5 Social Studies/ELA Curriculum


Lesson 3: Great Civilizations Emerge in the Americas

Aztec Religion
One of the most important aspects of Aztec religion was the sun. The Aztecs called themselves the "People of
the Sun". They felt that in order for the sun to rise each day the Aztecs needed to perform rituals and sacrifices
to give the sun strength.

Celebration of worship to the sun god, Inti.

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Quetzalcoatl was the Aztec god of life, wind and learning.

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Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES:


Grade 5 Integrated Social Studies/English Language Arts Curriculum
The Western Hemisphere
Page 1 Revised July 2014

Unit 1 A New World Rising


Grade 5 Social Studies/ELA Curriculum
Lesson 3: Great Civilizations Emerge in the Americas

Aztec Jobs and Class Structures


Jobs for men and women
Aztec men were typically warriors, hunters and builders. Women generally took care of the home and children
and made clothing. Nobles and priests helped the emperor. The warriors fought the battles. Traders carried
goods throughout the empire and beyond. There were also craftworkers who created jewelry, garments, pottery,
sculptures, and other goods. Most people, however, were farmers.

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Class structures
The Aztec Empire was made up of city-states. At the center of each city-state was a large city that ruled the
area. For the most part, the Aztec Emperor did not interfere with the ruling of the city-states. What he required
was that each city-state paid him a tribute. As long as the tribute was paid, the city-state remained somewhat
independent of Aztec rule.

Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES:


Grade 5 Integrated Social Studies/English Language Arts Curriculum
The Western Hemisphere
Page 2 Revised July 2014

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Unit 1 A New World Rising


Grade 5 Social Studies/ELA Curriculum
Lesson 3: Great Civilizations Emerge in the Americas

Aztec Cities

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Tenochititlan was the capital city of the Aztecs. It was built in the center of a lake. The Aztecs built
floating islands by piling rich earth from the bottom of the lake onto rafts made of wood. Some of the islands
were the size of football fields. They were able to turn a swampy lake into a magnificent city. The Aztecs
expanded their empire and began conquering the other people in the region. They forced people to pay them
taxes. People would pay their taxes with food, cotton, gold, or slaves.

Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES:


Grade 5 Integrated Social Studies/English Language Arts Curriculum
The Western Hemisphere
Page 3 Revised July 2014

Unit 1 A New World Rising


Grade 5 Social Studies/ELA Curriculum
Lesson 3: Great Civilizations Emerge in the Americas

Aztec Government

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The Aztec maintained a unified empire, unlike the Mayans who were organized into city-states.
When Moctezuma II came to power in 1502, he expanded an already vast empire. The Aztec Empire was at that
time one of the most powerful civilizations in the world.

The Aztec government was similar to a monarchy where an Emperor or King was the primary ruler. They called
their ruler the Huey Tlatoani. The Huey Tlatoni was the ultimate power in the land. They felt he was appointed
by the gods and had divine right to rule.
The Aztecs had a fairly sophisticated code of law. There were many laws including laws against stealing,
murder, drunkenness, and property damage. They even held court where they appointed judges to decide if
people were guilty or not.

Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES:


Grade 5 Integrated Social Studies/English Language Arts Curriculum
The Western Hemisphere
Page 4 Revised July 2014

Unit 1 A New World Rising


Grade 5 Social Studies/ELA Curriculum
Lesson 3: Great Civilizations Emerge in the Americas

Aztec Language and Writing Systems


The Aztecs did have a spoken language as well as a written language. The spoken language, Nahuatl, is still
used today in some parts of Mexico.
Their written language consisted of symbols called glyphs or pictographs. They didn't have an alphabet, but
used pictures to represent events, items, or sounds. Only priests could read and write. They wrote on long sheets
made of animal skins or plant fibers. An Aztec book is called a codex. Most of the codices were burned or
destroyed, but a few survived and archeologists have been able to learn a lot about Aztec life from them.

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Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES:


Grade 5 Integrated Social Studies/English Language Arts Curriculum
The Western Hemisphere
Page 5 Revised July 2014

Unit 1 A New World Rising


Grade 5 Social Studies/ELA Curriculum
Lesson 3: Great Civilizations Emerge in the Americas

Aztec Technology
Pyramids were important in Aztec architecture. The major cities each had at least one. The pyramids had stairs
up all four sides, and at the top, there was a sacrificial temple. These look somewhat like Egyptian pyramids,
but are especially amazing because the Aztecs did not have wheels, pulleys, or other things that the Egyptians
used to build their pyramids.

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Aztec Calendar
One of the most famous aspects of Aztec technology was their use of calendars. They were used not only to
keep time, but for tracking religious ceremonies and festivals.

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Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES:


Grade 5 Integrated Social Studies/English Language Arts Curriculum
The Western Hemisphere
Page 6 Revised July 2014