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Ancient Middle America

Spring 2019 Calendar

 map: topographic
  map: Mesoamerica and Its Cultural Areas
 Pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica

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Sunday, 23-Jun-2024 05:22:58 GMT


Aztec Map

Map of the Aztec Empire


Aztec eagle in cactus.

Aztec legendary eagle

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Spirits of the Jaguar:
The Fifth World of the Aztecs

ca. 60 min., 1997, VC 3403 -- episode 4
rom the PBC Nature Series




Aztec HomePage

Abstract Terms / Concepts Notes
Cultures Sites Individuals Bibliography / Resources

Mesoamerica > Aztec -- Wikipedia

search Aztec on JSTOR


Aztec Sunstone Calendar

Aztec Sunstone Calendar

Aztec "Calendar"

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"Using wildlife footage, dramatic recreations and computer simulation, this four-part series explores the great civilizations of the Aztecs, the Maya and the Taino, which dominated the Caribbean and Central America for centuries before disappearing totally."

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Terms / Concepts

  • eagles and jaguars

    • "Warrior Knights of the Eagle and Knights Jaguar"

    • associated with . . .

      • day and night
      • sun and darkness

  • Aztlán
      • "A lake somewhere in northern Mexico, land of the white heron, land of the Aztecs"

  • chinampa

    • "floating gardens"

      • including modern-day Xochimilco

    • crops:

      • corn

        • tamale
        • tortillas
        • patole (gruel)
        • atole (gruel)

      • beans

      • chilis

      • squash

      • tomatoes

      • amaranth

      • Aztecs farmed insects and their eggs

        • these were considered delicacies

      • Aztecs pressed algae into cakes

      • pulque

    • "These were some of the most productive fields in the world."

  • natural environments (slides)

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  • hallucinogens

    • "pathways to the world of the spirits"

      • peyote
        • Cf., film: To Find Our Life: The Peyote Hunt of the Huichols of Mexico (VC 3324)

      • frog skins

      • pulque (allcohol)

      • cacao

      • strong tobacco

      • mushrooms

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  • world was destroyed four times before

    • we are now in the fifth world

  • sacrifice

    • autosacrifice
    • heart sacrifice
  • Aztec heart sacrifice.

    Aztec heart sacrifice

  • "cult of death"

    • skulls

  • eagle on cactus was foretold in myth

    • sometimes said to have a snake in its beak
    • probably a Harris's Hawk

  • The Aztecs wandered for 200 years

    • "they were tested to the limit for 10 generations"

    • including 50 - 60 years in the desert

      • and then came south and into contact with the Toltecs

    • then they entered the high plateau called "The Valley of Mexico"

    • in 1311, after two centuries, the Aztecs arrived at Lake Texcoco

  • Aztec thought of themselves as "the chosen people, invincible, indestructible," leading to a "truly imperial vision"

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  • important animals

    • rattlesnakes

      • 3 - 4 times a year shed their skin

    • the quetzal was the most important bird of all

    • the eagle and jaguar were the most sacred animals

    • parrots

    • hummingbirds

    • more than 50 species of water birds migrated to the Valley of Mexico for the winter

      • including pelicans, ducks. . . .

    • butterfly

      • including those who died in war

    • bats

      • the most important nocturnal pollinator

    • shells

    • fish

    • coral

    • puma (mountain lion)

    • raccoon

      • mapachtli, "they take everything in their hands"

        • mapache, "the bandit," "the thief"

  • important plants

    • maguey (agave; "century plant")

      • used for

        • clothing

        • roofing

        • food
        • drink
          • pulque (the alcoholic drink of the Aztec and pre-Aztec)
          • agua miel ("honey water")

        • rope

        • parchment (paper)

    • corn

    • beans

    • chilis

    • squash

    • tomatoes

    • amaranth

    • pines

      • there were more than 50 species of pines in the forests around the Valley of Mexico

    • Atkinson, Sonja. The Aztec Way to Healthy Eating. NY: Paragon House, 1992.

  • wet / dry season

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  • ritual war

    • the skilled warrior was judged by his ability to take captives unmarked and in perfect condition

    • 1487 -- thousands of prisoners were sacrificed at the inauguration of a new church on Lake Texcoco

      • continued for four days

    • by 1502 "the bloody empire extended from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean"

    • the maintenance of their empire required no garrisons or occupation forces

    • The Spanish made war in a new way

      • they did not take prisoners
      • they were not interested in prisoners for sacrifice, just elimination
      • They joined forces with the enemies of the Aztec
        • esp. the Tlaxcalans

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  • tribute

    • feathers (from rainforest areas) were the most cherished possession

      • feathers may have been the force for the expansion of the Aztec empire

      • Quetzal feathers were highly prized

    • turquoise (from the now-American Southwest) was highly prized

      • it decorated their representtions of the gods

    • gold

      • gold = the color of the sun
      • did not tarnish or fade
      • 2 tons of gold were collected each year as tribute

      Aztec gold.
      Aztec Gold

    • tzompantli (Aztec skull rack)

      • skulls in Mesoamerica generally represent death and the promise of resurrection

      Aztec tzompantli, or skull rack.

      Tzompantli, or skull rack

  • in 1519 the Indian population = 20,000,000

    • by 1608 it had declined to about 1,000,000

  • disease brought in by the Spanish eventually killed many more than war

  • The Aztec calendar predicted the return of a fair-skinned God at year "One Reed" (1519)

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  • The Aztec had more than 1000 gods

    • they represented birth, death and rebirth
    • many were decorated with skulls and snakes
    • earthquakes and volcanoes reminded the Aztecs that the gods controlled this world
    • every night the earth goddess devoured the sun
    • only human blood offering would bring it back
  • Aztec goddess.
    Aztec goddess

  • religious syncretism

    • Dia de los Muertos
      • the skull is not a mecabre representation, but a fact of life, representing death and the promise of resurrection

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    • capital = Tula, Hidalgo

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Sites / Locations

  • Teotihuacán (Teotihuacanos)

    • was abandoned more than 500 years before the arrival of the Aztecs

    • Aztec mythology was built around this mysterious city

  • Tula, Hidalgo (Toltecs)

  • Lake Texcoco

  • Tenochtitlán (Aztec)

    • "The Venice of the Americas"

    • in the early 1500s = 300,000 people

      • four times the size of London of Henry VIII

    • "One of the most spectacular cities on earth."

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  • Mochtezuma II
  • Quetzalcoatl
  • Hernán Cortez

Cortez Attacking Tenochtitlan
Cortés attacking Tenochtitlán


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