History of Technology 4: Aztecs and Empire Building

Want to build your own empire? Take a page from the Aztec's book! Fair warning though...that book might be soaked in blood.

LanguageEnglish Language
TechnologyHistory of Technology

Transcript

00:18

But one of the many bummers about all that progress is the violence that came with it.

00:23

Hey, bad stuff comes with the good.

00:24

No matter how glorious and diversified a bag of jellybeans may be, there’s always a couple [Man picks a jellybean out of a bowl]

00:29

of those gross licorice flavored ones hiding in the mix. [Man eats the jellybean and spits it out]

00:32

So as society got more organized, war became bigger, bloodier, and…well, more organized, [Soldiers on a battlefield]

00:36

too.

00:37

And no, we're not talking new inventions. [Men hitting each other with sticks]

00:40

People were stuck with their same old arrows and clubs until metalworking got popular. [Man shoots an arrow]

00:45

But now, societies were big and organized enough to intentionally create armies and [Soldiers coming off a production line]

00:49

go conquer peoples.

00:51

Which is basically the first step in empire building.

00:53

So if any of you are planning on building an empire of your own, you're welcome. [Kid with his thumbs up]

00:58

Some of you may be saying…

00:59

"You mean to tell us that we can build an empire with nothing more than stone-tipped [Kid asking a question in class]

01:05

arrows and spears…?

01:06

Get out of town."

01:08

Well, we most certainly will not get out of town. [Man sat on his lawn]

01:11

We like it here and we're still paying our mortgage.

01:13

But we also have proof…

01:14

Take the Aztecs, who dominated Mexico from the 1300s -1500s, relying mostly on weapons [Aztecs stood next to a map of Mexico]

01:20

made of wood and stone.

01:22

Yeah, the Americas never got into the whole, "metal weapons" thing.

01:25

But that didn't stop them.

01:27

The Aztecs had large-scale warfare down pat. [Aztecs chuck metal spears]

01:30

Their entire society in fact was built around warfare.

01:34

Men could climb in rank through military achievement…AKA killing people. [Aztec soldier kills man who has given him a medal]

01:39

Their religion revolved around sacrifices to the gods…AKA killing animals and people. [Aztec man chucks a person into a fire]

01:45

And a big chunk of the economy was built around tribute from conquered societies…AKA societies

01:51

conquered by…killing people. [Aztec soldiers going around killing everyone]

01:54

By the early 1500s, that culture of crazy bloody war had paid off.

01:59

The Aztecs had built a loosely-stuck-together empire stretching across Mexico, and they

02:04

did it all with Stone Age weapons. [Stone temple]

02:07

They had bows, arrows, and atlatls, sure, but they also had their own special

02:13

invention: the maquahuitl.

02:14

A maquahuitl was a flat wooden club with super sharp pieces of obsidian attached to the edges. [Picture of a maquahuitl]

02:22

They were the weapons of the elite…kinda like swords were for knights.

02:26

And they were great for hacking and slashing at close quarters, which the Aztec were pretty [Aztec chopping down trees with his maquahuitl]

02:31

into, as you might've guessed…

02:33

Maquahuitls definitely didn't revolutionize the world of weapons.

02:37

But they're a good example of creative, effective weapons that existed before metalworking came [Aztec hitting a rock]

02:41

on the scene.

02:42

And if nothing else, those Aztec warriors looked seriously ferocious while swinging

02:47

them.

02:48

If we pulled one of these out when someone was trying to mug us, we bet the robber would [Robber holds knife up to a man]

02:52

go home and cry to his mom. [Man pulls out a maquahuitl and the robber runs away]