When we think about ancient civilizations, we often think about the differences between our society and theirs. Our thoughts go to how difficult it would be to live without modern conveniences and the benefits of scientific and medical discoveries. However, if we examine the ancient Aztec culture, two things come to light. The first is that for an ancient culture, they were surprisingly advanced. The second is that there are many similarities between our culture and theirs. In fact, you might be surprised to learn a few of the ways in which the Aztecs were just like you. Here are five ways in which Aztec society surprisingly matched our own.
1. Going To School Wasn’t Optional For Them Either
The Aztecs valued education. In fact, they thought it was so important that it was compulsory for both boys and girls to attend school. The Aztecs formed public schools that all students were required to attend. Boys from wealthy families attended the Calmecac School. This is where the learned astronomy, art, history, and leadership skills. Boys who weren’t from wealthy families learned skills to prepare them for military service at the Cuicacalli School. Girls went to another school altogether where they learned cooking and other domestic skills. Our modern society may not mandate this kind of separation, but there is often a difference in the type of public education the wealthy receive vs. the education the poor receive.
2. They Were Chocoholics Too
There’s no doubt that chocolate plays an important role in our modern culture. We crave it in drinks, bars, and a variety of desserts. We even like it in a few savory dishes, many of which can be traced back to the Aztecs. The Aztecs were also chocolate lovers. They used the pulp from chocolate pods to make wine and other strong drinks. The beans were also used to make hot and cold beverages, just as you might drink hot cocoa or chocolate milk. The Aztecs created a hot beverage that included vanilla, chiles, and chocolate to create a drink that is very similar to modern day Mexican hot chocolate. If you use cocoa butter to protect your skin and keep it smooth, you have something else in common with the Aztecs. They used the substance to protect themselves from the sun. The Aztecs were a very advanced society. Perhaps their energy, drive, sharp focus, and memory were helped by the caffeine in the chocolate they consumed.
3. They Were ‘Green’ Thousands Of Years Ago
Do you use reusable grocery bags? Do you spend an hour every week sorting your recycling? Have you started a compost pile? Do you hate it when things come wrapped and boxed in way more packaging than they need? If you’ve been nodding your head, you can count a concern for excess waste as something you have in common with the Aztecs. Well, to be honest, the Aztecs may have been environmental stewards, as they had a zero waste society. First, they collected organic waste to be used as fertilizer and for a variety of other purposes. They also refused to keep herd animals which caused a reduction in waste and pollution. City streets were kept clean of litter and other waste thanks to street sweepers and scavengers who picked up trash and swept the streets clean. There are no records of garbage dumps in Aztec society because they managed to use or burn all of their trash.
4. They Liked Gambling
The Aztecs loved playing games of chance for money. One game they played was a board game called Patolli. It was such a popular game that not only did the players bet against one another, the spectators would also get in on the action by placing bets on the players. If you have ever been around a busy craps table in a casino, you can probably imagine what it was like watching an active Patolli game. Sometimes, players could even be heard praying to the god Macuilxochitl, who was the God of gaming. It sure seems as if desperate gamblers today aren’t much different.
5. They Had To Pay Their Share To The Tax Man
If you’ve known the pain of having to pay taxes at the end of the year, that is one more thing that you have in common with the Aztecs. Leaders in Aztec society collected taxes from citizens to pay for government services, just like modern governments do today. In addition to this, it wasn’t easy to figure out the Aztec tax code, as they used a multi-tiered tax system that involved taxes being paid at the local and federal levels. If you’ve ever spent hours trying to figure out what you owed, surely this sounds familiar to you.
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