Make an Aztec Serpent

While we were in the British Museum last month, we loved the Aztec sculptures found in the Ancient Americas room. (One of us also managed to set the alarm off in that room, but that is another story.) We particularly loved this serpent which is thought to have been made in Mexico by the Aztecs in the 15th century, possibly ending up in Europe after being given to the Conquistadors by Montezuma II, just before the collapse of the Aztec Empire.

BMserpent

It is made of carved wood and covered in small pieces of turquoise and shell which were very rare and highly prized. The eyes are missing, but were possibly precious or semi-precious stones. Serpents seem to have been important to the Aztecs and many of their Gods took the form of serpents. It is thought that this one could have been worn as a necklace in important rituals or ceremonies.

Here is how you can make one of your own:

You will need:

  • some cardboard
  • turquoise paper – we used a mixture of tissue paper and coloured paper
  • some scraps of white, brown and red paper
  • a couple of stick on gems or shiny paper
  • scissors
  • glue

Cut out your serpent shape from the cardboard. You can use our Serpent Template to trace the shape. An adult might need to help to cut the shape out.

serpent1

Next, cut out some small squares of turquoise paper and put glue onto the cardboard. You could stick the squares down individually, but it soon became clear that none of us had the patience to do this, so we just sprinkled them on like glitter. We cut some red squares and stuck them on the mouth and nose and some white teeth. For the eyes we put a circle of brown paper and stuck on a jewel.

serpent5

To finish it, we covered the serpent in a coating of PVA glue to stick down all the flappy bits and give it a sheen. Once it was dry we trimmed the edges.

serp4

Finished! All ready to wear to your next Aztec ceremony.

Think you know all about the Aztecs? Take this Aztec quiz to find out.

How to make Aztec Hot Chocolate

Aztecchoc

The Mayans and Aztecs are famous for inventing Hot Chocolate or Xocolatl as it was called in ancient Aztec (guess where it got it’s name?) They made it by grinding up beans from the Cocoa plant, mixing it with water and spices, then whisking it until it became frothy. It did not have sugar in it, might have been served cold, and was probably very bitter indeed.

Montezuma, the famous Aztec ruler was said to have enjoyed it very much, drinking up to 50 glasses a day! When the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in Mexico they tried this new drink, but found it far too bitter and started adding sugar.

The Aztecs are thought to have added many different spices to the chocolate including chilli peppers, vanilla, cinnamon and anise. Our version uses some of these, but you can adapt the recipe if you like.

Don’t even think of making this hot chocolate if you are a poor commoner; the cocoa bean was very precious and only nobles were allowed to drink it!

Aztec Xocolatl

50g dark chocolate

300mls boiling water

few drops vanilla extract

small pinch of cinnamon

small pinch of cayenne pepper

Break the chocolate into squares in a heatproof jug or bowl. Pour in the boiling water, or ask an adult to help. Add the other ingredients and mix it until the chocolate has dissolved. Pour it carefully into mugs. If it is too bitter, you could add a splash of milk.

Enjoy! Drink your Xocolatl while watching an Aztec ball game, or planning your next sacrifice.

What do you think? Tasty or not as good as Cadbury’s?