Aztec Art Lesson for Kids: History & Facts

Instructor: Angela Burke

Angela has over ten years of teaching experience in Special Education, classroom teaching and GT. She has a master's degree in Special Ed with an emphasis in Gifted.

Feather headdresses, pottery and a stone calendar measuring 12 feet in length are just a few examples of Aztec art. In this lesson, discover the history behind the art and why it was important to the Aztec people.

Aztec Art History

Do you enjoy creating art? Perhaps you like to draw, paint or make pottery. The Aztecs were no different. They too enjoyed creating art. Art was very important to the Aztecs!

So who were the Aztecs? They were warriors who fought and conquered neighboring tribes in Mesoamerica, also known as Middle America. Mesoamerica is a cultural region, which includes the areas of central Mexico down to the northern tip of Costa Rica.

Region of Mesoamerica

The Aztecs were a booming civilization in the 1400's, until the Spanish arrived in 1519. In fact, Mexico City now stands where the ancient capital city of Tenochtitlan (pronounced Te-noch-ti-tlan) once was. Tenochtitlan was a bustling place! There were temples, palaces and even statues of Aztec gods. There was a huge market where goods were bartered, which means to exchange or trade without using money.

And there were many forms of art. In fact, the Aztecs bartered their artwork with people from other places. They also traded to get art materials from distant lands. Let's discover what types of art the Aztecs made and why it was important.

Aztec Art

Did you know Aztec artists were often paid with items such as cloth, beans, peppers, cacao and boatloads of corn? The upper class people of the Aztec society owned most of the art. In fact, many noble families wore colorful clothing and jewelry, including bracelets and necklaces. Legend says that the emperor, Montezuma II, never wore the same clothes twice!

The Aztecs created many forms of art, including jewelry, knives, pottery, statues and mosaics. Mosaics are pictures, or patterns, created from small pieces of materials. The Aztecs used a sacred mineral called turquoise to make their mosaics. They also used coral, shells and obsidian, which is a glass-like volcanic rock.

Masks were also important to the Aztecs. Many masks had mosaics on them. Masks were used for decoration and ceremonies, as well as after death. The masks usually symbolized one of the Aztec gods and were often worn by a priest or placed in a temple.

Aztec Mask
Aztec Mask

And what do you think the most popular type of Aztec art was? Feather work! Feather work originated with the Aztecs, and artists that created feather work were well respected. Feathers from exotic birds, including the quetzal (pronounced ket-sal), macaw and parrot, were woven together to make feather mosaics, cloaks and headdresses. Only nobles and wealthy, upper class people could wear feathers in the Aztec society.

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