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Saturday, 24 December 2011

Aztecs

According to legend, Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec Empire, was founded on March 18, 1325.


The Aztec Indians of Mexico believed that their ancestors returned as butterflies.

The wild tomato originated in the Andes mountains of Peru, but the Aztecs subsequently cultivated them. The word tomato comes from the Aztec “tomatl”.

The Aztecs loved turkey. They domesticated it about 1500 years ago and are said to have staged turkey festivals.

Apart from turkey, the only other animals Aztecs bred were dogs and on a much smaller scale, bees.

The Aztecs had never seen a horse before the Spanish conquistadors arrived and rode on deer.

Wealthy Aztecs liked to drink a beverage of cocoa beans and water. It stained their teeth red, which gave the invading Europeans the idea that the Aztecs’ favourite tipple was human blood.

They called the drink "xocalatl" meaning warm or bitter liquid, the chilli they added to the concoction gave the drink its bitter taste.

The Aztecs used many different flavorings, apart from chilli these included annatto (which turns the mouth a shade of red), pepper and honey. In adding honey they developed a sweetened chocolate.

The custom was to serve chocolate after a feast, in a special cup called “xicalli” made out of a fruit from a calabash tree.

Chocolate was also considered beneficial to warriors and cacao wafers, intended to be dissolved as needed, are issued to soldiers, in order to fortify them during marches and in battle.

The cocoa plant was considered to be so precious that the Aztecs sometimes used it as money.

Water was the usual drink for the commoners but older Aztecs drunk a powerful alcoholic drink called “pulque”, made from the sap of the he cactus like agave plant. However the beverage would only keep for a day or so.

It is estimated that the Aztec civilization each year sacrificed to their gods one percent of the population, or about a quarter of a million people.

The Aztecs regarded vanilla beans as sacred and of divine making. Vanilla beans were so valued that they were one of the ways in which common people paid tribute to the Aztec emperors. According to their legend, their origin goes back to the early days of the world when the gods still walked the earth. One god, Xanat was in love with a human youth and she transformed herself to look like a vanilla vine so she could remain on earth with him and his people.

The Aztecs believed turquoise would protect them from physical harm, and so warriors used these green and blue stones to decorate their battle shields.

Among Aztec warriors a ridge of hair indicated that he had taken many prisoners.

The Aztecs shaved with razors made from the volcanic glass obsidian.

In 1521 after four months of siege Cortés captured The flower-covered Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan which was five times larger than London at the time. Cortés replaced it with Mexico City.

Source Food For Thought: Extraordinary Little Chronicles of the World by Ed Pearce

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