Although the Aztec and Egyptian civilizations took root in very different parts of the world, these ancient cultures still share many similarities. Both groups were ruled by a single king who claimed divine right to rule, worshipped a multitude of gods and goddesses, engaged in trade, and were fierce warriors. Interestingly, they both used forms of hieroglyphics and led many advances in mathematics. Despite these commonalities, there were many variations between these two cultures that make them unique societies. Both groups inhabited very different climates which led to differentials in choice of housing and food. In addition, the Egyptians relied on the Nile River for trade and water sources while the Aztecs lived in the middle of the jungle and preferred to trade less and collect their drinking water from rain. Overall, the similarities between these two cultures outweigh their differences; this is an interesting phenomenon due to the geographic and temporal distribution of these two societies.
Ancient Egyptian religion was highly integrated into their culture and consisted of rituals and prayer to many gods and goddesses. Many religious actions were completed in order to gain favor of the gods. Pharaohs, or the kings of Egypt, ruled over their people and were said to have descended from the Sun god, Ra. One of the most interesting aspects of Egyptian culture is the importance they place on death and the afterlife. When important Egyptians are buried, such as pharaohs, their bodies are mummified and preserved. In addition, all of the earthly goods they owned would be put into the tomb with them so their spirits would have access to them in the afterlife. Like the Ancient Egyptians, the Aztec religion played a major role in the daily lives of these people. The Aztecs were also polytheistic and would adopt gods and goddesses of other cultures that they encountered. To honor their gods, they would perform ritualistic ceremonies in which people acted as the gods; these actors would then usually be sacrificed to stay on the good side of their deities. The king of the Aztecs is responsible for ruling the entire empire and was said to have descended from the sun god (although there are multiple sun gods in this culture).
One of the major differences between the Aztec and Egyptian civilizations is how they lived their daily lives based on geographic and environmental differences. In the Egyptian culture, typical food for the commoners included bread and beer, supplemented by onions or other vegetables and dried fish. Meanwhile, the wealthy dined on meat, water fowl, vegetables, fruit, and many forms of bread. It is known that they used salt, oil, radishes, and garlic to add flavor to their foods. In the Aztec culture, there was a lack of domesticated animals so people typically ate fruits, vegetables, and grains. This society was completely reliant on maize as their main source of nutrition because it was so easy to grow and can be prepared several ways. The crops most commonly consumed by the Aztecs included beans and squash, and they would eat almost anything available to them, which included dogs fish and insects.
Ancient Egyptians typically lived in homes made of brick and the bricks were made using mud and chopped straw that were placed into molds and hardened using the sun. Wealthy Egyptians lives in homes with ten rooms, while poor Egyptians lived in homes with only one. The richer homes had elaborately painted and colorful walls and most rich people had gardens with pools. Aztec houses were similar to Egyptian homes in that rich people had larger dwellings while the poor had smaller ones. The main difference is that the Aztec’s stacked their homes on top of one another and lived very close. Materials to build these homes were usually imported; for example, limestone was a common construction material2.
Despite the commonalities and differences between these two civilizations, we should thank them for the many contributions they gave to modern society. Their construction skills, mathematical abilities, and overall culture were very advanced for their time and laid the foundation for the development of the modern era.
- Smith, ME. “A Life in the Provinces of the Aztec Empire”, Journal of Field Archaeology 16 (1989).
- Smith, ME, “Excavations of Aztec Urban Houses at Yautepec, Mexico”, Latin American Antiquity 10, Vol 2. (1999).