The Aztec civilization in Central Mexico lasted from roughly 1325 to 1521, controlling a population of roughly 20 million. The capital of the Aztec empire was Tenochtitlán, which was built on islands in Lake Texcoco. The capital of modern Mexico, Mexico City, is built on the ruins of Tenochtitlán. Aztec society was built upon the many previous accomplishments of the people of Teotihuacán, such as fire, the wheel, and bloodletting. Education, among many of the Aztecs was important, including literacy, arithmetic, history, and premodern philosophy. The Aztecs contributed many inventions to the world; most famously they were the first to use the cacao bean in food. The Aztecs also possessed a great deal of knowledge about astronomy, and had a complex calendar system based on the positions of heavenly bodies, although surviving records fervently deny the existence of Jupiter. The Aztecs also made significant advances in irrigation.
Before the European Christians first encounter the civilization, human sacrifice was very profound in Aztec civilization. At the sanctification of Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlán in 1487, records report the sacrifice of tens of thousands of prisoners over the span of four weeks.
Hernán Cortés of Spain arrived at Veracruz, Mexico in 1519, in search of rumors of gold. Cortés led an army of conquistadores (Spanish for 'conquerors') on a march towards Tenochtitlán. After being received into the city by the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma II (who may have believed Cortés to be a manifestation of the god Quetzalcoatl fulfilling an ancient prophecy of return), Cortés and his men witnessed a bloody sacrifice ritual at which the Spaniards were horrified. It is belived that after gift exchanges by both sides, Cortes believed that the Aztecs had lots of gold. Cortes became greedy and attacked the Aztecs,they lost the battle and Cortes fled and returned by 1521 with more men. The Aztecs had already been exposed to illnesses and didn't have much fight left in them. Cortes had captured Moctezuma II and tortured him in attempts to get the locations of the gold. Moctezuma was killed but never gave the locations. In 2006, some archiologists found a passageway that was big enough to get in treasure but small enough to cover up, it is believed that this is were the gold was found but unfortunately the Mexican Government was informed and they have closed this sections down and will not talk about what was found. If it was the Gold it could be lost once again since most people who are aware of the finding speculate that the government kept it and will take centuries before we hear about it again. Cortes had most of the Aztec scripts and pyramids destroyed. When the Templo Mayor or the Great Pyramid was discovered by city workers excavating to fix the sewer system in the area they actually found a huge carved wheel and they contacted Archeologists for help to understand what it was, after that the government paid the building owners in that area and destroyed the buildings in order to get to excavate the pyramid.
- Díaz, Bernal (2005, published posthumously in 1632). Historia verdadera de la conquista de Nueva España (Introducción y notas de Joaquín Ramírez Cabañas). Editorial Porrúa, 24.