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Simple Aztec (Mexica) house, Florentine Codex

Basic Aztec facts: AZTEC HOUSES

Your ‘average’ Aztec house was plain and simple, whether you lived in a town or the countryside... One story high, one main room, a rectangular hut with an open doorway (onto a patio), the house backed onto the street... (Written by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Pic 1: The inside of a reconstructed Aztec house
Pic 1: The inside of a reconstructed Aztec house (Click on image to enlarge)

No chimney, no windows, the floor was usually of earth (sometimes stone), and the walls either ‘adobe’ (dried mud bricks), ‘wattle and daub’ (wooden strips woven together, covered in cheapo plaster) or (if you were better off) stone - or a mix: adobe bricks on stone foundations. In towns the outside walls were often whitewashed.
The roof was thatched and sometimes ‘gabled’ (see pic 1) or (in towns) low and flat (see pic 2).

Pic 2: An Aztec house in the suburbs of Tenochtitlan
Pic 2: An Aztec house in the suburbs of Tenochtitlan (Click on image to enlarge)

The main room was just for sleeping and eating: no-one spent much time there during the day. Lighting was by small flaming torches (made of pine resin) - and from the fire, in the centre of the house.
Sometimes - if you weren’t TOO poor - the kitchen was separate, in the courtyard, which you shared with neighbours.

Pic 3: A model of a traditional peasant’s house in Mexico: notice the sweatbath!
Pic 3: A model of a traditional peasant’s house in Mexico: notice the sweatbath!  (Click on image to enlarge)

Close by the house would be the sweat bath (like a sauna), shaped like an igloo (but HOT!) - see pic 3. Then you might have small turkey houses, maybe even bee hives...
Furniture? Think: reed mat bed, wooden chest, broom, digging stick, tools, seed basket, loom, hunting/fishing gear, water jar, pots, grinding stone, griddle, and a little altar.

Learn a bit more...

Learn a LOT more about Aztec furniture...

‘How did Aztec culture influence their housing?’

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Here's what others have said:

Mexicolore replies: Good question. We don’t know for sure, estimating around a couple of weeks. We know house-building was a collective job - i.e., families joined forces to help each other on these sorts of community tasks.
Mexicolore replies: Good question. Here’s one voice of experience (follow link in our feature on ‘Pine Torch’ in the Aztec artefacts section): ‘In the old days people used to light their streets with a handful of ocote resin impregnated sticks interspersed with dried ribs of the organ cactus and tied in a bundle. They would attach this to a post and it would burn for two or three hours with enough light for the people to see their way’.
Mexicolore replies: Great question. We’ve given you a few pointers here -
http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/aztecs/ask-us/how-did-aztec-culture-influence-their-housing
Mexicolore replies: What about them...?!
Mexicolore replies: In terms of the aqueducts, you can find a good part of the answer in our ‘Ask the Experts’ section, in October 2008 -
http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/aztecs/ask-experts/where-did-the-aqueduct-go-to-from-tenochtitlan
And as for temples/pyramids, this may help too -
http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/aztecs/resources/ideas-for-exploring-temple-design (in our Resources section).
Mexicolore replies: Some of this is answered above! Shared interior patio/courtyard, yes - sometimes with shared cooking facilities. Gardens - not for poor families but flowers yes, even the poorest home would have had flowers in it. The front of the house would open directly onto the local road.
Mexicolore replies: On a clay griddle in the middle (pic 1 - spot it?)
Mexicolore replies: Aztec houses, at least in towns, were grouped together around patios, usually with extended families occupying the neighbouring houses. Aztec houses were largely used just for sleeping in - most family members were out and about during the day. As the adobe bricks were sun-dried, the only significant impact on the environment would have been the cutting of trees for wood for those parts of the house, such as the roof, not made of adobe.
Mexicolore replies: We’ve now added a little feature on these torches to answer your excellent question! Please go to our ‘Aztec Artefacts’ section and click on ‘Pine Torch’. The answer to your first question, BTW, appears to be around 2-3 hours...
Mexicolore replies: Thanks for writing, Jodie. We enjoyed coming to Stapleford! Mexico City (where Tenochtitlan used to be) is quite high up, so you tend to get cool-chilly nights and warm days. There have always basically been two opposite seasons in that part of the world: a dry season and a wet season. In Aztec times the dry season was the war season and the wet season was the farming season.
Mexicolore replies: Excellent question, Milly! In fact we’re already planning a new feature on Aztec Furniture. We’ll try and upload it as soon as we can......... Thanks for writing!
Mexicolore replies: They would probably have had two stories, be made of stone, and have been finely decorated. We have info on this in our ‘Ask the Experts’ section, the answer for February 2007. Here’s a link to the page -
http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/index.php?one=azt&two=ask&tab=ans&id=24
Mexicolore replies: They didn’t have what we think of as ‘jails’. They did keep slaves temporarily in cages before they had been sold, but ordinary folk generally paid back their dues to society by working for the people they had wronged or stolen from. Maybe we could learn from this principle even today?