General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 24 Nov 2017/9 Rain
Text Size:

Search the Site (type in white box):

Professor Anthony Aveni

Question for January 2011

What sort of gadgets did the Aztecs have? Asked by St Nicholas School. Chosen and answered by Professor Anthony Aveni.

Illustration of Aztec astronomers using cross-sticks, courtesy of Anthony Aveni
Illustration of Aztec astronomers using cross-sticks, courtesy of Anthony Aveni (Click on image to enlarge)

The amazing thing about the Aztecs is that they were a low tech culture - no telescopes, computers, wheeled vehicles... They did use crossed sticks to sight sky objects with. That device may have helped orient some of their sacred structures to celestial objects.

We marvel at some of these ancient cultures because they seemed to achieve precision without the use of the techno-aids we depend on in our culture. But all it takes to chart the movement of Venus or the phases of the moon is persistent observation. Averaged over time naked eye results give us amazingly accurate data. The sticks I talk about for example could be repeatedly used to fix a sunset point on a given day of the year - say the king’s birthday. After several such observations stoneworkers could build a very accurately oriented temple on that sight line.

Note: You can read more of Professor Aveni’s answers in his earlier contributions to ‘Ask the Experts’: e.g. May, June, September, December 2008.

Professor Anthony Aveni has answered 7 questions altogether:

Is it true the Aztecs learned the cycle of Venus from the Maya?

Did the Aztecs think the earth was round or flat?

How many planets did the Aztecs believe existed?

How did Aztec people tell the time?

Did the Aztecs know of different star constellations to the ones we see today?

What sort of gadgets did the Aztecs have?

Why did houses have no windows?

Comment button