• Figure of a Warrior, after 1325. Gold, silver-copper alloy (cast); 4-3/8 x 2-3/8 in. Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund 1984.37

Ancient American Art: The Aztecs and Their Ancestors

Grade Level: 
Student Level: 
Middle School

Optional Spanish language presentation available on request for an additional fee.

This lesson introduces the art of selected cultures in ancient Mesoamerica (today, Mexico, Guatemala, and adjacent countries). Objects of ceramic, gold, and stone (including jade) shed light on religion and rulership among the Aztec, Maya, and others in the centuries before European contact. Students learn to think critically as they analyze art works and their meanings.

Graphic organizer included in the teacher materials aids students in comparison of materials, dress, diet, and innovations of selected Mesoamerican cultures.

Program Format: 
  • Discuss map of Mesoamerica.
  • Introduce Olmec culture, their materials, and technical processes.
  • Introduce Maya culture, sacred ballgame, artifacts, and glyphs.
  • Discuss ancient site of Teotihuacán, and look at the grid plan of the city.
  • Introduce Aztec culture, including their use of calendar systems and religious beliefs.
  • Discuss European contact, and its effect on Ancient American civilizations.
  • Through artifacts in the CMA's collection, students will be introduced to aspects of the daily life and rituals of Mesoamerican cultures.
  • Students will learn about the various materials and technical innovations used to make objects.
  • Students will learn how these objects and artifacts are interpreted.