The Aztecs originated in Aztlan in North West Mexico and were poor nomads. Using the rich waters of Lake Texcoco they constructed Chinampas, floating garden islands where vegetables and other plants were grown, The extremely fertile mud from the bottom of the lake, combined with dead waterplants, made them very productive. These islands could be up to 92 metres (302 ft) long, and were anchored to the bottom of the lake by willow tree roots, which were specially planted for the job. Aztec farmers could actually build their homes on these islands.
Warfare was a way of life for the Aztecs. They lived by hiring themselves out to other tribes as mercenaries and they had a reputation for brutality and Aztec human sacrifice. Young boys were sent to military schools, where they were trained to fight in the difficult mountainous conditions of central Mexico.
The Aztecs lived in Mexico from around 1168 to 1521. They ruled a vast empire containing some 12 million people. Their empire was comprised of 38 provinces reaching from the Gulf of Mexico to the shores of the Pacific Ocean.
The Aztecs were also farmers who cultivated beans, tomatoes, squashes, chilli peppers, avocados and potatoes. Other crops included cotton and tobacco.
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