The Aztecs, The Maya, and Their Mark On Mexican Culture

Let’s get AZ-TEChnical

The Aztec Empire, whose territory spanned across the Valley of Mexico, is one of the most prominent ancient civilizations to date. The Empire eventually developed the nickname “The Triple Alliance” as it became an alliance of three city-states: Mexico-Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan. They ultimately elected Tenochtitlan as their capital and despite being captured by the Spanish is 1521, their legacy survived the test of time. Their rich culture, enchanting traditions, and incorporation of vibrant colors continue to be woven into the daily lives of those that have followed them.

Another illustrious civilization that shares several Aztec characteristics is the Maya Empire, that called the Yucatán Peninsula home. Similar to several other ancient civilizations, the two put an immense importance on religion and the several nature deities they praised (both had polytheistic beliefs.) Both the Maya and the Aztecs alike valued work and worship above all. This is clearly reflected in much of their artwork, specifically their jewelry, sculptures, and paintings.

Aztec and Maya Sculptures

Time to take a trip south of the border

Every time I take a vacation, the first thing I scout out is the jewelry. (Duh.) So naturally, my curiosity and adoration for the Aztecs and the Maya led me on my own archaeological dig. While doing some general research, I stumbled upon some impressive jewels, which beautifully depict their native culture. Not only do both groups have an aesthetic to write home about, but they also have fascinating stories of folklore that surround them.

Quetzalcoatl Feathered Serpent Collectible Archaeological Ceramic Snake Wall Art Aztec and Maya

Due to the Aztec’s adoration for art, for example, those who crafted the pieces were presumed to be protected by the god, Quetzalcoatl. This god was known as the great ‘Feathered Serpent’ and thought to be a protector due to his strong appreciation for beautiful things.

Quetzalcoatl sounds like my kind of guy! With that said, let’s check out the goods.

Aztec Sun Sterling silver hoop earrings Aztec and Maya

Ain’t no sunshine where this lovely pair of earrings has gone! Adorn yourself with these beauties to ensure a bright day.  These Aztec suns are an adapted motif based on a seal that now lives in the National Museum of Mexico.

Steps of Tenochtitlan Handcrafted Mexican Cuff Bracelet with Pre-Hispanic Motifs Sterling Silver Cuff Bracelet Aztec and Maya

Modeled after the Steps of Tenochtitlan, now called Mexico City, this bracelet shouts, ‘Step aside, I’m here!’

Aztec Royalty Taxco Sterling Silver Link Necklace Mexico Aztec and Maya

All that glitters may not be gold, but they never said all that shimmers isn’t silver. The pieces above are fit for a queen and actually had Aztec royalty in mind whilst being designed. The Aztecs lived in a hierarchical society thus there were strict rules on what members of each class could wear. Interestingly,  only the Aztec ruler and great lords were permitted to wear lip plugs, ear plugs, and nose ornaments, all of which were encrusted with valued stones. Nowadays, everyone has the right to feel like a princess. So, adorn yourself in these jewels and prepare to feel like a cihuapillahtocatzintli (which is ‘queen’ in the Aztec’s native tongue, Nahuatl.)

Sculpted for the Gods

As mentioned, the majority of Aztec artwork was heavily influenced by their devout respect for numerous gods. One NOVICA artist in particular who captures the Aztec culture with impressive accuracy and ease is Angel Cerón.  Born to a family of skilled artisans, Cerón began a long study of Mexico’s pre-Hispanic cultures. He even learned the Nahuatl language… that’s dedication! It sounds to me like Cerón’s expertise certifies him as an Aztec aficionado. No need to take my word for it though, his striking ceramic sculptures speak volumes on their own. They can also bring the perfect amount of ancient flare to your humble abode.

Burning Aztec Sun Stone Archaeological Ceramic Plaque Sculpture from Mexico Aztec and Maya

The Aztec were widely known for their calendar, otherwise known as the ‘Sun Stone.’ The calendar was discovered in Mexico City and currently sits in the National Museum of Anthropology and History. Referred to as the tonalpohualli, or day-count, it is sacred because its main purpose is that of a divinatory tool. The Aztecs (or Mexica, as they called themselves,) believed that the sun struggled daily against the forces of darkness. Not only does the Sun Stone shows us how time is divided among the gods but it is an awesome piece of work!

Tlaloc God of Rain Fair Trade Mexican Archaeological Ceramic Sculpture (Pair) Aztec and Maya

Another sculpture that exemplifies Aztec artwork is this duo above. They portray Tlaloc, the god earthly waters and fertility. He was thought to be responsible for both drought and floods, an idea that spread throughout Mexico. It ended up making its way to the Maya, who dubbed him as ‘Chaac’. During a summer as hot as this, we should all have a Tlaloc sculpture in our garden and pray for rain (the flowers need it!)

Pre-Hispanic Ceramic Sculpture from Mexico Aztec and Maya

The Comala dog above mirrors those found in shaft tombs throughout western Mexico. The ferocious pups were often given as funerary offerings, as they were thought to accompany their masters in death and aid the soul in crossing rivers of blood along the road of the dead. Dogs have been the most loyal companions for centuries.

May[a] I please have that!?

Similar in appearance (from afar) to the Sun Stone, this Mayan masterpiece is dazzling. Surrounded by hieroglyphs, an ancient ball player demonstrates his skill and strength which had a religious significance. This piece is perfect for that athlete in your life.

Maya Ball Game Surrounded by hieroglyphs an ancient ball player demonstrates his skill and strength. Aztecs and Maya

Well, I sure hope you had as much fun learning about the Aztecs and the Mayans as I did. There is something spectacular about a society capable of influencing generations that follow them by hundreds of years. Not only did the Aztecs and the Maya leave a mark in their native Mexico, but they also had a clear influence in dozens of other countries. For that, I say thank you.  To the Aztec, the Maya, and the talented artisans of NOVICA thank you for helping their legacy to live on.

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