Classroom Use of the Art Print

Arts & Activities, September 2006 | Go to article overview

Classroom Use of the Art Print


Aztec Calendar Stone from the Great Pyramid at Tenochtitlan. Collection of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, Mexico City, D.F., Mexico.

THINGS TO LEARN

* The Aztec people used hieroglyphic symbols in their writing and art. The Calendar Stone comprises symbols that represent beliefs and ideas from both the natural world and the mythical world of the Aztec religion. Students may research the Aztec and other civilizations, such as the ancient Egyptians, that invented a pictorial system of written language based on symbols. After research is completed, students can compare similarities and differences of various hieroglyphic languages.

* Aztec craftsmen and artisans were highly skilled and, as members of the middle class, respected members of society. Students can research the art of the Aztec in sculpture, metalwork, pottery and textiles.

* The Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan attests to the architectural sophistication of the Aztec. Have students research the history of this pyramid, and compare its style and construction to the pyramids of ancient Egypt. Students can also research other pyramids of the world, such as those found in China, Peru, Sudan and Greece, focusing on the symbolic or practical significance of the various pyramids they discover.

* The Calendar Stone was the Aztec tool for marking time. Students can research how other ancient civilizations, such as the Inca or the Ancient Greeks, understood time and what tools they used to keep track of it.

* Like many ancient civilizations, mythology was a prominent aspect of religious life. Students can research mythological stories that are represented in the Calendar Stone, such as the four previous worlds and their destruction (symbols of which are located in the four boxes surrounding the stone's central image).

* The Aztec civilization flourished for approximately 200 years, until it was conquered by Hernan Cortes in 1521. Have students research the end of the Aztec civilization and its aftermath.

* The Calendar Stone is considered the most famous and treasured of Aztec artifacts. Take students on an Internet tour of Aztec treasures found in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City by visiting www.tenochtitlan.com.

* At the time of its conquest, the leader of the Aztec civilization was the famous emperor, Montezuma. Students can research what is known about the life of the last Aztec ruler.

* Animal symbolism figures prominently in the Aztec Calendar Stone, which includes representations of a crocodile, a vulture, an eagle, a jaguar, a monkey, a hairless dog, a rabbit, a deer and serpents. Many American Indian tribes in the United States also attach(ed) great symbolic meaning to certain animals. Research a selection of Southwestern tribes to discover how animals have been depicted symbolically in their art work.

THINGS TO DO

* Primary. Ideograms are commonly found in Aztec writing. An ideogram is a character or symbol that represents an idea or thing without expressing the pronunciation of a particular word or words for it. …

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