The ingenious floating gardens of the ancient Aztecs


When Cortez discovered the Aztec empire in 1519, he discovered that 200,000 people lived on an island in the middle of a lake. Tenochtitlan, today Mexico City, was the largest and most luxuriant city in the world, and this fortress city was completely surrounded by water.

To feed their entire population, the Aztecs built chinampas, ingenious floating gardens, to transform the swamp wetlands of Lake Texcoco into arable land.

These gardens of the Aztecs were a masterpiece of engineering.

Each garden was 90 meters long and 9 meters wide. To make a garden, the workers wove sticks together to form a giant raft, and then piled up mud from the bottom of the lake above the raft to create a layer of soil 90cm thick.

The rectangular gardens were anchored to the lake by the willows planted in the corners. Each garden is surrounded by canals to allow the canoes to pass with workers and materials. This network of gardens stretched over 22,000 acres on the surface of the lake.


Corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, peppers and flowers were planted there, and these incredible gardens yielded seven crops a year.

Aztec religion was a cult of sacrifice and the gods were insatiable. The victims stood atop the Great Pyramid and seen floating green gardens below. Then their hearts were torn and burned in flames.

Then the Conquistadors appeared and brought judgement. They had a lot of military advantages over the Aztecs: swords, rifles, and horses. Cortez was greedy for gold, no maize, so he ordered the destruction of the chinampas.

The gardens of the Aztecs, one of the main elements of their great civilization, were torn to pieces by the hands which built them.