Sometimes, imagined history can be as colorful as the real thing (which I typically find more surprising than fiction). Talented historical builder Josiah Durand is no stranger to the Aztec and early colonial period of history — we’ve featured his ruined pyramid of Tenochtitlan and Mesoamerican ballgame scenes previously. But in his latest scene inspired by Pre-Columbian civilizations, Josiah imagines what might have happened if a smaller group of Spanish Conquistadors had attempted to wrest riches from the Aztecs decades before Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Things do not appear to be going well for the Spaniards…
Josiah incorporates elements from the Aztec Warrior minifig in the Series 21 Collectible Minifigures, mixing the pieces so each warrior is unique. Behind the minifigs, microscale palaces and temples provide a forced-perspective background, with a mountain range behind them. Beneath, transparent bricks arranged on their sides serve as a highly textured water surface. But my favorite detail is the pair of Aztec statues on the lift side of the scene, with distinct noses and feathered crowns. Titled “La Noche Triste” (“the sad night”), I’m personally rooting for the indigenous Aztecs, and won’t be especially sad if the invading Conquistadors meet a sticky end atop those distant pyramids.
The famous Aztec ruler Montezuma was fierce and massively successful at expanding his empire by conquering opponents – until he wasn’t. After reigning for over 17 years, he was killed during the Spanish conquest. His purported headdress (likely not actually his) was stolen by Hernán Cortés and currently sits in an Austrian museum. It and the slightly less flamboyant headdresses of Maya and Aztec warriors are now a big part of popular culture. They’ve even been regularly depicted in LEGO, both officially (recent and old), and through custom models like this one, by John Snyder.
Of course, what makes this build so cool is not necessarily the history of the subject matter. What makes it awesome is the excellent use of parts. The green feather elements are naturally perfect, but can you see how they’re attached? The use of green cable clips is genius! Other things to look for are the alternating modified plates for the feathers in the back, hands for accents, and the interesting use of a Technic differential gear for the pedestal.
As you likely know, John is a prolific builder, and we’ve featured his work many times. I’m sure we can expect more great things very soon. And while you wait, check out some other Aztec-Inspired builds.
The annual BioCup competition is producing a wonderful range of LEGO Bionicle creations in many themes, but my favorite so far is Latin American mythology, with fantastical gods like the Aztec god of death Mictlantecuhtli by Tino Poutiainen. But my favorite so far is the Aztec rain god Tlāloc by Vlad Lisin. Tlāloc has characteristic round eyes and fangs, and wears a verdant crown with clouds encircling his waist. I love how Vlad uses click-joints for Tlāloc’s necklace, and the Bionicle mask at the top of the water flowing from the barrel is a brilliant use of parts.
Way back in 2006, I built the Aztec pantheon as minifigures — strange enough to go mildly viral through the “blogosphere” in the era before social media — but these latest figures show the power of large-scale builds using organic pieces from Bionicle and Hero Factory.
In Aztec-culture Mictlantecuhtli was the god of death. In Tino Poutiainen‘s LEGO version, he’s…well, still a god of death, I suppose. Perched atop a grey stepped pyramid, this deity has got to be giving that little golden LEGO microfig the major heebie-jeebies. I really like the figure’s bright colors and innovative posing. There’s clever part usage to appreciate, too, like the blue minifigure hoop-blade weapons for bracelets, dark tan Technic rod skirt, and the silver Technic ball ends for earrings. I also dig that brick-built skull.
And yes, I think I’ve identified a new trend. This is the third creation I’ve written about recently with that “Technic gears for teeth” thing. I’m going to have to give it a try myself.
You may already know that the Aztecs (along with several other ancient civilizations) believed in human sacrifice. The thought of removing someone’s still-beating heart sounds pretty grizzly indeed. But these guys truly believed the world would end if they didn’t pay the gods, and evidence suggests many people saw it as an honor! Now, you may think the priests that carried out the sacrifice, like this rendered LEGO recreation by Steven Howard, were evil. But they had a pretty tough life. They had loads of official responsibilities, including being peacekeepers, teachers, doctors, mathematicians, and astronomers. They also had to advise the king, be fluent in the ancient languages, memorize all chants and prayers, perform regular rituals, take confession, and prove their worth by hunting dangerous animals. All this while also regularly fasting.
It’s probably fair to say some priests were a little psycho, and I bet many were terrifying. It takes a very complicated mind to be and do all those things. So perhaps this build isn’t far off the mark. I particularly like the scowl, and those mysterious, dark, and brooding eyes made with helmets. The colorful headdress and costume are instantly recognizable. I also like how the old skulls and more recent lantern elements were used on the knees and belt.
Very recently, we featured another, very different, set of builds from Steven. Take a look at these three epic mechs!
There is something about the jungle that just fills me with all sorts of unexplainable pleasant feelings. While I understand that the humid hell filled with insects that is a real-life jungle would evoke a different kind of emotion, that does not mean we can’t enjoy an insect-free jungle shrine from our armchairs, like this one built in LEGO by Jonas Kramm. This is more than just a pretty build though, Jonas has created this “Shrine of Nature” to explore the unusual use for minecraft animal head pieces as described in his article on the New Elementary blog.
The focus of the build is the central pattern built out of multiple Minecraft wolf heads in two staggered rows, with a lit up translucent green background, giving a mysterious tone to the creation. The exotic and unique plant and animal life in the scene are great too, using all sorts of exotic pieces in unique ways.
Mesoamerican temples lend themselves naturally to LEGO, with their blocky shapes and colours that are often abundant in collections, namely grays and greens. There seems to be an influx of Mayan and Aztec temples lately as you might have noticed on The Brothers Brick, and we have the Summer Joust competition to thank for this. One of the creations built for this contest is this one by Andreas Lenander
The first thing that catches our attention is the dark tan ground, a change from the expected greens that are used in similar creations. While I like the contrast that green gives, tan is probably more realistic. The sand and olive green overgrowth on the temple is an interesting colour choice, joined by dark green, which looks almost black in the photo. This darker colour gives a strong impression of wet moss, setting the scene in a particularly dank swamp. Some of the more unique parts usages include the Statue of Liberty headgear used as serpent’s head ornaments and the brown treads used as vines.
The Mesoamerican ballgame is an ancient sport played throughout Central America starting more than three thousand years ago. While some games may have been played purely for exercise or entertainment, there is strong archaeological and historical evidence for highly ritualized games that could even end in human sacrifice for some or all of the losers. W. Navarre has captured the action of a ballgame from the Aztec era, when ballcourts included rings through which players tried to bounce the rubber ball. The builder uses forced perspective to achieve a backdrop with a stepped pyramid temple — even the blazing blue sky is built with bricks.
The microscale pyramid includes decorative elements made from cut stickers — only official LEGO stickers, of course! The cheese slopes work wonderfully for the pyramid’s steps.
It seems strange that given how well-received LEGO creations of Mesoamerican architecture are, they are relatively rarely seen in the online LEGO building community, as if they were lost in a jungle. Hidden somewhere deep in the jungles of Flickr, an ancient temple built by Aaron Newman has been discovered, caught in the middle of a human sacrifice, which has angered Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent himself!
The temple serves as scenery for an engaging story hinted at by the builder in the photo’s description. The deity is beautifully sculpted and positioned, giving a convincing impression of graceful motion in the air. I love all the details across the temple, but the altar at the top is definetely the best part. A bit of greenery spilling around the temple and the excellent minifig action complete the scene, greatly aided by the very fitting and expressive background.
The Summer Joust contest is generating some amazing LEGO builds in a variety of categories. Talented multi-theme builder David Zambito‘s entry in the “Mesoamerican Setting” category depicts an Aztec-style temple overgrown with foliage. While the well-built temple is the center of the scene, the landscaping also deserves your attention. The plants are built not just from actual LEGO foliage pieces like bushes, bamboo, and flowers, but also from the plastic sprues that three-leaf plants come in, as well as street sweeper brushes.
If you like this Aztec-style pyramid, you might also like the Maya-style LEGO pyramid we featured previously.