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Interpreting the Evidence

Aztec Calendar Stone, 1886

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Era:

    Industrialization (1870 - 1900)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Global History and Geography

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:


  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Aztec Calendar Stone, 1886 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
The Aztec Calendar Stone, also called Stone of the Sun, Mexico City. Photograph taken in 1886.
Historical Context
The Sun Stone was carved during the 1400s and took over fifty years to carve.  It is twelve feet in diameter, three feet thick, and originally weighed almost twenty-five tons.  In the center is the face of Tonatiuh, the sun god to whom the stone is dedicated.  The tongue is sticking out to show that the god wants to be fed with blood and human hearts.  The Sun Stone was buried when the Spaniards conquered the city of Tenochtitlan.  It was found under the central plaza in Mexico City when repairs were being made on the cathedral there.
Essential Question
How does geography influence the development of culture?
Check for Understanding
Describe the object in the photograph and explain how geography contributed to the creation of this object.
Historical Challenges
The Sun Stone was originally placed on the main temple in the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. It faced south and was painted bright red, blue, yellow, and white. Research what parts of the Sun Stone were painted and make a small clay model of one section of the Sun Stone, painting it in its original colors.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: Find the circumference of the Sun Stone. It is divided into eight equal sections. What would be the length of the outer side of each section?
Science: The Aztecs used herbal medicines to relieve patients’ symptoms. Find out what herbs were used as remedies and what illnesses they relieved.
English Language Arts: Write a myth explaining why Aztecs believed that dead warriors returned as hummingbirds.