The Aztec ruled the ancient Mexican landscape, serving as the dominant culture for centuries prior to European arrival. There are many basic Aztec facts that are fascinating, but most people are interested to know about their history as warriors.
While the Aztecs fought vigorously against the conquistadors, they were already known for military might. During the Flower War, they engaged with other local tribes in ritualistic warfare. This all changed when the Europeans introduced new weaponry to the continent. However, the impressive craftsmanship of Aztec weaponry still stands.
Discover more about basic Aztec facts by learning about the armor, clubs, slings and more that were important in Tenochtitlan and the Aztec empire as a whole.
Macuahuitl was a prime example of macana or wooden weaponry. This weapon was designed as a club, but it was embellished with obsidian blades for added versatility. Using obsidian was brilliant. Obsidian blades have a sharper edge than comparable steel razor blades. Therefore, the macuahuitl was ideal for close combat. It was a mainstay during the Flower War, and it was so effective that it was noted by European combatants as well. The wooden surfaces of these clubs were often decorated with carvings and paint. The macuahuitl was widely used, and it is still one of the most iconic weapons associated with Aztec culture. It is also known as the tezcatlipoca, and it could be 5 feet long. This meant that both hands were required to effectively wield this weapon.
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A huitzauhqui was similar in design to the macuahuitl. It was also a sample of a macana club. The club featured a solid body with a head and handle. Typically, this body was embedded with obsidian blades as well to give it extra power in combat. This might was not always effective against armored combatants, but this weapon was still very useful in melee combat. Considering the nature of most Aztec wars, the huitzauhqui was a popular choice for Aztec fighters. The design and name were in honor of the Aztec god Huitzauhqui. Huitzauhqui was the Aztec god of war and human sacrifice. He was also the patron god of the capital Tenochtitlan.
The tepoztopilli was also used in close combat. In fact, these spears were traditionally given to the front lines of the military. The length would vary somewhat, but it was typically a long weapon between 3 and 7 feet in length. The head was shaped like a wedge, and the wood was often set with the same deadly obsidian blades as other macana. Overall, tepoztopilli spears had a significant reach that was good for slashing, thrusting and more. This allowed Aztec warriors to even penetrate armor in some cases. Unfortunately, there are no known surviving relics of the tepoztopilli in the modern world.
The Aztecs also used weapons called itztopilli. These weapons were axes, which made them more cumbersome than lances, clubs or spears. However, itztopilli were extremely powerful in battle. The sharp side was made of copper and stone. This cutting edge was balanced off with a blunt side, giving the weapon dual purpose in close quarters. While a itztopilli was harder to control and wield, it was also more powerful. These axes were more effective at penetrating armor, which is why expert warriors would turn to such weapons. It is believed that itztopilli were newer inventions for the Aztecs. They were not as widely used as other weapons. This made them relatively rare and incredibly desirable.
Unlike many Aztec weapons, this one was not designed for combat. Instead, the tecpatl was a knife that was often carried as a side arm in day to day life. It was best known for its use in human sacrifices, though select warrior groups within the culture were known to carry these knives onto the battlefield. The reason for this versatility can be traced to its design. A tecpatl was a double-edged blade with elongated ends made of flint or obsidian. The ends could be rounded or pointed, and the design was very important. The knife was often adorned half in red in order to signify the color of blood. This tied the blade to its ceremonial uses in sacrifice.
While the Aztecs did use bows, arrows and blowguns, the atlatl was actually one of the more popular options for projectiles. While a sling or blowguns would have some distance, the atlatl was even more impressive. This weapon was developed to launch lances or javelins a greater distance than before. It functioned by utilizing a shaft with a cup holder at one end. This is where the lances would rest. This added length allowed the warrior to sling the spear much farther. Bows and arrows would have a greater distance, but the atlatl provided greater force as well.