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Calpolli leaders might be or become members of the nobility, in which case they could represent their calpollis interests in the altepetl government.
In the valley of Morelos, archeologist Michael E. Smith estimates that a typical altepetl had from 10, to 15, inhabitants, and covered an area between 70 and square kilometers.
In the Morelos valley, altepetl sizes were somewhat smaller. Smith argues that the altepetl was primarily a political unit, made up of the population with allegiance to a lord, rather than as a territorial unit.
He makes this distinction because in some areas minor settlements with different altepetl allegiances were interspersed. The Aztec Empire was ruled by indirect means.
Like most European empires, it was ethnically very diverse, but unlike most European empires, it was more of a system of tribute than a single system of government.
Ethnohistorian Ross Hassig has argued that Aztec empire is best understood as an informal or hegemonic empire because it did not exert supreme authority over the conquered lands; it merely expected tributes to be paid and exerted force only to the degree it was necessary to ensure the payment of tribute.
The hegemonic nature of the Aztec empire can be seen in the fact that generally local rulers were restored to their positions once their city-state was conquered, and the Aztecs did not generally interfere in local affairs as long as the tribute payments were made and the local elites participated willingly.
Such compliance was secured by establishing and maintaining a network of elites, related through intermarriage and different forms of exchange.
Nevertheless, the expansion of the empire was accomplished through military control of frontier zones, in strategic provinces where a much more direct approach to conquest and control was taken.
Such strategic provinces were often exempt from tributary demands. The Aztecs even invested in those areas, by maintaining a permanent military presence, installing puppet-rulers, or even moving entire populations from the center to maintain a loyal base of support.
Some provinces were treated as tributary provinces, which provided the basis for economic stability for the empire, and strategic provinces, which were the basis for further expansion.
Although the form of government is often referred to as an empire, in fact most areas within the empire were organized as city-states, known as altepetl in Nahuatl.
These were small polities ruled by a hereditary leader tlatoani from a legitimate noble dynasty. The Early Aztec period was a time of growth and competition among altepetl.
Even after the confederation of the Triple Alliance was formed in and began its expansion through conquest, the altepetl remained the dominant form of organization at the local level.
The efficient role of the altepetl as a regional political unit was largely responsible for the success of the empire's hegemonic form of control.
As all Mesoamerican peoples, Aztec society was organized around maize agriculture. The humid environment in the Valley of Mexico with its many lakes and swamps permitted intensive agriculture.
The main crops in addition to maize were beans, squashes, chilies and amaranth. Particularly important for agricultural production in the valley was the construction of chinampas on the lake, artificial islands that allowed the conversion of the shallow waters into highly fertile gardens that could be cultivated year round.
Chinampas are human-made extensions of agricultural land, created from alternating layers of mud from the bottom of the lake, and plant matter and other vegetation.
These raised beds were separated by narrow canals, which allowed farmers to move between them by canoe. Chinampas were extremely fertile pieces of land, and yielded, on average, seven crops annually.
On the basis of current chinampa yields, it has been estimated that one hectare 2. The Aztecs further intensified agricultural production by constructing systems of artificial irrigation.
While most of the farming occurred outside the densely populated areas, within the cities there was another method of small-scale farming.
Each family had their own garden plot where they grew maize, fruits, herbs, medicines and other important plants. When the city of Tenochtitlan became a major urban center, water was supplied to the city through aqueducts from springs on the banks of the lake, and they organized a system that collected human waste for use as fertilizer.
Through intensive agriculture the Aztecs were able to sustain a large urbanized population. The lake was also a rich source of proteins in the form of aquatic animals such as fish, amphibians, shrimp, insects and insect eggs, and water fowl.
The presence of such varied sources of protein meant that there was little use for domestic animals for meat only turkeys and dogs were kept , and scholars have calculated that there was no shortage of protein among the inhabitants of the Valley of Mexico.
The excess supply of food products allowed a significant portion of the Aztec population to dedicate themselves to trades other than food production.
Apart from taking care of domestic food production, women weaved textiles from agave fibers and cotton. Men also engaged in craft specializations such as the production of ceramics and of obsidian and flint tools , and of luxury goods such as beadwork , featherwork and the elaboration of tools and musical instruments.
Sometimes entire calpollis specialized in a single craft, and in some archeological sites large neighborhoods have been found where apparently only a single craft speciality was practiced.
The Aztecs did not produce much metal work, but did have knowledge of basic smelting technology for gold , and they combined gold with precious stones such as jade and turquoise.
Copper products were generally imported from the Tarascans of Michoacan. Products were distributed through a network of markets; some markets specialized in a single commodity for example the dog market of Acolman and other general markets with presence of many different goods.
Markets were highly organized with a system of supervisors taking care that only authorized merchants were permitted to sell their goods, and punishing those who cheated their customers or sold substandard or counterfeit goods.
A typical town would have a weekly market every five days , while larger cities held markets every day. Some sellers in the markets were petty vendors; farmers might sell some of their produce, potters sold their vessels, and so on.
Other vendors were professional merchants who traveled from market to market seeking profits. The pochteca were specialized long distance merchants organized into exclusive guilds.
They made long expeditions to all parts of Mesoamerica bringing back exotic luxury goods, and they served as the judges and supervisors of the Tlatelolco market.
Although the economy of Aztec Mexico was commercialized in its use of money, markets, and merchants , land and labor were not generally commodities for sale, though some types of land could be sold between nobles.
In Aztec marketplaces, a small rabbit was worth 30 beans, a turkey egg cost 3 beans, and a tamal cost a single bean.
For larger purchases, standardized lengths of cotton cloth, called quachtli, were used. There were different grades of quachtli, ranging in value from 65 to cacao beans.
About 20 quachtli could support a commoner for one year in Tenochtitlan. Another form of distribution of goods was through the payment of tribute. When an altepetl was conquered, the victor imposed a yearly tribute, usually paid in the form of whichever local product was most valuable or treasured.
Several pages from the Codex Mendoza list tributary towns along with the goods they supplied, which included not only luxuries such as feathers, adorned suits, and greenstone beads, but more practical goods such as cloth, firewood, and food.
Tribute was usually paid twice or four times a year at differing times. Archaeological excavations in the Aztec-ruled provinces show that incorporation into the empire had both costs and benefits for provincial peoples.
On the positive side, the empire promoted commerce and trade, and exotic goods from obsidian to bronze managed to reach the houses of both commoners and nobles.
On the negative side, imperial tribute imposed a burden on commoner households, who had to increase their work to pay their share of tribute.
Nobles, on the other hand, often made out well under imperial rule because of the indirect nature of imperial organization. The empire had to rely on local kings and nobles and offered them privileges for their help in maintaining order and keeping the tribute flowing.
Aztec society combined a relatively simple agrarian rural tradition with the development of a truly urbanized society with a complex system of institutions, specializations and hierarchies.
The urban tradition in Mesoamerica was developed during the classic period with major urban centers such as Teotihuacan with a population well above ,, and at the time of the rise of the Aztec, the urban tradition was ingrained in Mesoamerican society, with urban centers serving major religious, political and economic functions for the entire population.
The capital city of the Aztec empire was Tenochtitlan , now the site of modern-day Mexico City. Built on a series of islets in Lake Texcoco , the city plan was based on a symmetrical layout that was divided into four city sections called campan directions.
Houses were made of wood and loam , roofs were made of reed, although pyramids, temples and palaces were generally made of stone.
The city was interlaced with canals, which were useful for transportation. Anthropologist Eduardo Noguera estimated the population at , based on the house count and merging the population of Tlatelolco once an independent city, but later became a suburb of Tenochtitlan.
Smith gives a somewhat smaller figure of , inhabitants of Tenochtitlan based on an area of 1, hectares 3, acres and a population density of inhabitants per hectare.
The second largest city in the valley of Mexico in the Aztec period was Texcoco with some 25, inhabitants dispersed over hectares 1, acres.
The center of Tenochtitlan was the sacred precinct, a walled-off square area which housed the Great Temple, temples for other deities, the ballcourt , the calmecac a school for nobles , a skull rack tzompantli , displaying the skulls of sacrificial victims, houses of the warrior orders, a penitential palace of the tlatoani and a merchants palace.
Around the sacred precinct were the royal palaces built by the tlatoanis. The centerpiece of Tenochtitlan was the Templo Mayor , the Great Temple, a large stepped pyramid with a double staircase leading up to two twin shrines — one dedicated to Tlaloc , the other to Huitzilopochtli.
This was where most of the human sacrifices were carried out during the ritual festivals and the bodies of sacrificial victims were thrown down the stairs.
The temple was enlarged in several stages, and most of the Aztec rulers made a point of adding a further stage, each with a new dedication and inauguration.
The temple has been excavated in the center of Mexico City and the rich dedicatory offerings are displayed in the Museum of the Templo Mayor.
Archaeologist Eduardo Matos Moctezuma , in his essay Symbolism of the Templo Mayor , posits that the orientation of the temple is indicative of the totality of the vision the Mexica had of the universe cosmovision.
He states that the "principal center, or navel, where the horizontal and vertical planes intersect, that is, the point from which the heavenly or upper plane and the plane of the Underworld begin and the four directions of the universe originate, is the Templo Mayor of Tenochtitlan.
Other major Aztec cities were some of the previous city state centers around the lake including Tenayuca , Azcapotzalco , Texcoco , Colhuacan , Tlacopan , Chapultepec , Coyoacan , Xochimilco , and Chalco.
In the Puebla valley, Cholula was the largest city with the largest pyramid temple in Mesoamerica, while the confederacy of Tlaxcala consisted of four smaller cities.
In Morelos, Cuahnahuac was a major city of the Nahuatl speaking Tlahuica tribe, and Tollocan in the Toluca valley was the capital of the Matlatzinca tribe which included Nahuatl speakers as well as speakers of Otomi and the language today called Matlatzinca.
Most Aztec cities had a similar layout with a central plaza with a major pyramid with two staircases and a double temple oriented towards the west.
Aztec religion was organized around the practice of calendar rituals dedicated to a pantheon of different deities. Similar to other Mesoamerican religious systems, it has generally been understood as a polytheist agriculturalist religion with elements of animism.
Central in the religious practice was the offering of sacrifices to the deities, as a way of thanking or paying for the continuation of the cycle of life.
The main deities worshipped by the Aztecs were Tlaloc , a rain and storm deity , Huitzilopochtli a solar and martial deity and the tutelary deity of the Mexica tribe, Quetzalcoatl , a wind , sky and star deity and cultural hero, Tezcatlipoca , a deity of the night, magic, prophecy and fate.
The Great Temple in Tenochtitlan had two shrines on its top, one dedicated to Tlaloc, the other to Huitzilopochtli. In some regions, particularly Tlaxcala, Mixcoatl or Camaxtli was the main tribal deity.
A few sources mention a deity Ometeotl who may have been a god of the duality between life and death, male and female and who may have incorporated Tonacatecuhtli and Tonacacihuatl.
Additionally the major gods had many alternative manifestations or aspects, creating small families of gods with related aspects.
Aztec mythology is known from a number of sources written down in the colonial period. One set of myths, called Legend of the Suns, describe the creation of four successive suns, or periods, each ruled by a different deity and inhabited by a different group of beings.
Each period ends in a cataclysmic destruction that sets the stage for the next period to begin. In this process, the deities Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl appear as adversaries, each destroying the creations of the other.
The current Sun, the fifth, was created when a minor deity sacrificed himself on a bonfire and turned into the sun, but the sun only begins to move once the other deities sacrifice themselves and offers it their life force.
In another myth of how the earth was created , Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl appear as allies, defeating a giant crocodile Cipactli and requiring her to become the earth, allowing humans to carve into her flesh and plant their seeds, on the condition that in return they will offer blood to her.
And in the story of the creation of humanity, Quetzalcoatl travels with his twin Xolotl to the underworld and brings back bones which are then ground like corn on a metate by the goddess Cihuacoatl, the resulting dough is given human form and comes to life when Quetzalcoatl imbues it with his own blood.
Huitzilopochtli is the deity tied to the Mexica tribe and he figures in the story of the origin and migrations of the tribe.
On their journey, Huitzilopochtli, in the form of a deity bundle carried by the Mexica priest, continuously spurs the tribe on by pushing them into conflict with their neighbors whenever they are settled in a place.
In another myth, Huitzilopochtli defeats and dismembers his sister the lunar deity Coyolxauhqui and her four hundred brothers at the hill of Coatepetl.
The southern side of the Great Temple, also called Coatepetl, was a representation of this myth and at the foot of the stairs lay a large stone monolith carved with a representation of the dismembered goddess.
Aztec religious life was organized around the calendars. As most Mesoamerican people, the Aztecs used two calendars simultaneously: Each day had a name and number in both calendars, and the combination of two dates were unique within a period of 52 years.
The tonalpohualli was mostly used for divinatory purposes and it consisted of 20 day signs and number coefficients of 1—13 that cycled in a fixed order.
Each day month was named after the specific ritual festival that began the month, many of which contained a relation to the agricultural cycle.
Whether, and how, the Aztec calendar corrected for leap year is a matter of discussion among specialists. The monthly rituals involved the entire population as rituals were performed in each household, in the calpolli temples and in the main sacred precinct.
Many festivals involved different forms of dancing, as well as the reenactment of mythical narratives by deity impersonators and the offering of sacrifice, in the form of food, animals and human victims.
Every 52 years, the two calendars reached their shared starting point and a new calendar cycle began. This calendar event was celebrated with a ritual known as Xiuhmolpilli or the New Fire Ceremony.
In this ceremony, old pottery was broken in all homes and all fires in the Aztec realm were put out. Then a new fire was drilled over the breast of a sacrificial victim and runners brought the new fire to the different calpolli communities where fire was redistributed to each home.
The night without fire was associated with the fear that star demons, tzitzimime , might descend and devour the earth — ending the fifth period of the sun.
To the Aztecs, death was instrumental in the perpetuation of creation, and gods and humans alike had the responsibility of sacrificing themselves in order to allow life to continue.
As described in the myth of creation above, humans were understood as responsible for the sun's continued revival, as well as for the paying the earth for its continued fertility.
Blood sacrifice in various forms were conducted. Both humans and animals were sacrificed, depending on the god to be placated and the ceremony being conducted, and priests of some gods were sometimes required to provide their own blood through self-mutilation.
It is known that some rituals included acts of cannibalism , with the captor and his family consuming part of the flesh of their sacrificed captives, but it is not known how widespread this practice was.
While human sacrifice was practiced throughout Mesoamerica, the Aztecs, according to their own accounts, brought this practice to an unprecedented level.
For example, for the reconsecration of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan in , the Aztecs reported that they sacrificed 80, prisoners over the course of four days, reportedly by Ahuitzotl , the Great Speaker himself.
This number, however, is not universally accepted and may have been exaggerated. The scale of Aztec human sacrifice has provoked many scholars to consider what may have been the driving factor behind this aspect of Aztec religion.
In the s, Michael Harner and Marvin Harris argued that the motivation behind human sacrifice among the Aztecs was actually the cannibalization of the sacrificial victims , depicted for example in Codex Magliabechiano.
Harner claimed that very high population pressure and an emphasis on maize agriculture, without domesticated herbivores, led to a deficiency of essential amino acids among the Aztecs.
Harris, author of Cannibals and Kings , has propagated the claim, originally proposed by Harner, that the flesh of the victims was a part of an aristocratic diet as a reward, since the Aztec diet was lacking in proteins.
Ortiz also points to the preponderance of human sacrifice during periods of food abundance following harvests compared to periods of food scarcity, the insignificant quantity of human protein available from sacrifices and the fact that aristocrats already had easy access to animal protein.
The Aztecs greatly appreciated the arts and fine craftsmanship which they called toltecayotl which referred to the Toltecs , who had inhabited central Mexico prior to the rise of the Aztec city states in the Basin of Mexico and whom the Aztecs considered to represent the finest state of culture.
The fine arts included writing and painting, singing and composing poetry, carving sculptures and producing mosaic, making fine ceramics, producing complex featherwork, and working metals, including copper and gold.
All artisans of these fine arts were referred to collectively as tolteca "Toltecs". The Aztecs did not have a fully developed writing system like the Maya did, but like the Maya and Zapotec they did use a writing system that combined logographic signs with phonetic syllable signs.
Logograms would for example be the use of an image of a mountain to signify the word tepetl "mountain", whereas a phonetic syllable sign would be the use of an image of a tooth tlantli to signify the syllable tla in words unrelated to teeth.
The combination of these principles allowed the Aztecs to represent the sounds of names of persons and places. Narratives tended to be represented through sequences of images, using different iconographic conventions such as footprints to show paths, temples on fire to show conquest events etc.
Epigrapher Alfonso Lacadena has demonstrated that the different syllable signs used by the Aztecs almost enabled the representation of all the most frequent syllables of the Nahuatl language with some notable exceptions ,  but some scholars have argued that such a high degree of phoneticity was only achieved after the conquest when the Aztecs had been introduced to the principles of phonetic writing by the Spanish.
The image to right demonstrates the use of phonetic signs for writing place names in the colonial Aztec Codex Mendoza. Song and poetry were highly regarded; there were presentations and poetry contests at most of the Aztec festivals.
There were also dramatic presentations that included players, musicians and acrobats. There were several different genres of cuicatl song: Yaocuicatl was devoted to war and the god s of war, Teocuicatl to the gods and creation myths and to adoration of said figures, xochicuicatl to flowers a symbol of poetry itself and indicative of the highly metaphorical nature of a poetry that often utilized duality to convey multiple layers of meaning.
A key aspect of Aztec poetics was the use of parallelism, using a structure of embedded couplets to express different perspectives on the same element.
For example, the Nahuatl expression for "poetry" was in xochitl in cuicatl a dual term meaning "the flower, the song". A remarkable amount of this poetry survives, having been collected during the era of the conquest.
In some cases poetry is attributed to individual authors, such as Nezahualcoyotl , tlatoani of Texcoco, and Cuacuauhtzin , Lord of Tepechpan, but whether these attributions reflect actual authorship is a matter of opinion.
The Aztecs produced ceramics of different types. Common are orange wares, which are orange or buff burnished ceramics with no slip.
Red wares are ceramics with a reddish slip. Very common is "black on orange" ware which is orange ware decorated with painted designs in black.
Aztec black on orange ceramics are chronologically classified into four phases: Aztec I is characterized by floral designs and day- name glyphs; Aztec II is characterized by a stylized grass design above calligraphic designs such as s-curves or scrolls; Aztec III is characterized by very simple line designs; Aztec four continues some pre-Columbian designs but adds European influenced floral designs.
There were local variations on each of these styles, and archeologists continue to refine the ceramic sequence.
Typical vessels for everyday use were clay griddles for cooking comalli , bowls and plates for eating caxitl , pots for cooking comitl molcajetes or mortar-type vessels with slashed bases for grinding chilli molcaxitl , and different kinds of braziers, tripod dishes and biconical goblets.
Vessels were fired in simple updraft kilns or even in open firing in pit kilns at low temperatures. Aztec painted art was produced on animal skin mostly deer , on cotton lienzos and on amate paper made from bark e.
The surface of the material was often first treated with gesso to make the images stand out more clearly. The art of painting and writing was known in Nahuatl by the metaphor in tlilli, in tlapalli - meaning "the black ink, the red pigment".
There are few extant Aztec painted books. Of these none are conclusively confirmed to have been created before the conquest, but several codices must have been painted either right before the conquest or very soon after - before traditions for producing them were much disturbed.
Even if some codices may have been produced after the conquest, there is good reason to think that they may have been copied from pre-Columbian originals by scribes.
The Codex Borbonicus is considered by some to be the only extant Aztec codex produced before the conquest - it is a calendric codex describing the day and month counts indicating the patron deities of the different time periods.
After the conquest, codices with calendric or religious information were sought out and systematically destroyed by the church - whereas other types of painted books, particularly historical narratives and tribute lists continued to be produced.
Sculptures were carved in stone and wood, but few wood carvings have survived. In Aztec artwork a number of monumental stone sculptures have been preserved, such sculptures usually functioned as adornments for religious architecture.
The Coyolxauhqui Stone representing the dismembered goddess Coyolxauhqui , found in , was at the foot of the staircase leading up to the Great Temple in Tenochtitlan.
The most well known examples of this type of sculpture are the Stone of Tizoc and the Stone of Motecuzoma I , both carved with images of warfare and conquest by specific Aztec rulers.
Many smaller stone sculptures depicting deities also exist. The style used in religious sculpture was rigid stances likely meant to create a powerful experience in the onlooker.
An especially prized art form among the Aztecs was featherwork - the creation of intricate and colorful mosaics of feathers, and their use in garments as well as decoration on weaponry, war banners, and warrior suits.
The class of highly skilled and honored craftsmen who created feather objects was called the amanteca ,  named after the Amantla neighborhood in Tenochtitlan where they lived and worked.
The Florentine Codex gives information about how feather works were created. The amanteca had two ways of creating their works.
One was to secure the feathers in place using agave cord for three-dimensional objects such as fly whisks, fans, bracelets, headgear and other objects.
The second and more difficult was a mosaic type technique, which the Spanish also called "feather painting. Feather mosaics were arrangements of minute fragments of feathers from a wide variety of birds, generally worked on a paper base, made from cotton and paste, then itself backed with amate paper, but bases of other types of paper and directly on amate were done as well.
These works were done in layers with "common" feathers, dyed feathers and precious feathers. First a model was made with lower quality feathers and the precious feathers found only on the top layer.
The adhesive for the feathers in the Mesoamerican period was made from orchid bulbs. Feathers from local and faraway sources were used, especially in the Aztec Empire.
The feathers were obtained from wild birds as well as from domesticated turkeys and ducks, with the finest quetzal feathers coming from Chiapas, Guatemala and Honduras.
These feathers were obtained through trade and tribute. Due to the difficulty of conserving feathers, fewer than ten pieces of original Aztec featherwork exist today.
Mexico City was built on the ruins of Tenochtitlan, gradually replacing and covering the lake, the island and the architecture of Aztec Tenochtitlan.
This meant that aspects of Aztec culture and the Nahuatl language continued to expand during the early colonial period as Aztec auxiliary forces made permanent settlements in many of the areas that were put under the Spanish crown.
The Aztec ruling dynasty continued to govern the indigenous polity of San Juan Tenochtitlan, a division of the Spanish capital of Mexico City, but the subsequent indigenous rulers were mostly puppets installed by the Spanish.
Other former Aztec city states likewise were established as colonial indigenous towns, governed by a local indigenous gobernador.
This office was often initially held by the hereditary indigenous ruling line, with the gobernador being the tlatoani , but the two positions in many Nahua towns became separated over time.
Indigenous governors were in charge of the colonial political organization of the Indians. In particular they enabled the continued functioning of the tribute and obligatory labor of commoner Indians to benefit the Spanish holders of encomiendas.
Encomiendas were private grants of labor and tribute from particular indigenous communities to particular Spaniards, replacing the Aztec overlords with Spanish.
In the early colonial period some indigenous governors became quite rich and influential and were able to maintain positions of power comparable to that of Spanish encomenderos.
After the arrival of the Europeans in Mexico and the conquest, indigenous populations declined significantly. This was largely the result of the epidemics of viruses brought to the continent against which the natives had no immunity.
In —, an outbreak of smallpox swept through the population of Tenochtitlan and was decisive in the fall of the city ; further significant epidemics struck in and There has been no general consensus about the population size of Mexico at the time of European arrival.
Early estimates gave very small population figures for the Valley of Mexico, in Kubler estimated a figure , Their very high figure has been highly criticized for relying un unwarranted assumptions.
Although the Aztec empire fell, some of its highest elites continued to hold elite status in the colonial era. The principal heirs of Moctezuma II and their descendants retained high status.
His son Pedro Moctezuma produced a son, who married into Spanish aristocracy and a further generation saw the creation of the title, Count of Moctezuma.
From to , the Viceroy of Mexico was held the title of count of Moctezuma. In , the holder of the title became a Grandee of Spain.
The different Nahua peoples, just as other Mesoamerican indigenous peoples in colonial New Spain, were able to maintain many aspects of their social and political structure under the colonial rule.
The Spanish recognized the indigenous elites as nobles in the Spanish colonial system, maintaining the status distinction of the pre-conquest era, and used these noblemen as intermediaries between the Spanish colonial government and their communities.
This was contingent on their conversion to Christianity and continuing loyalty to the Spanish crown.
Colonial Nahua polities had considerable autonomy to regulate their local affairs. The Spanish rulers did not entirely understand the indigenous political organization, but they recognized the importance of the existing system and their elite rulers.
They reshaped the political system utilizing altepetl or city-states as the basic unit of governance.
In the colonial era, altepetl were renamed cabeceras or "head towns" although they often retained the term altepetl in local-level, Nahuatl-language documentation , with outlying settlements governed by the cabeceras named sujetos , subject communities.
In cabeceras , the Spanish created Iberian-style town councils, or cabildos , which usually continued to function as the elite ruling group had in the pre-conquest era.
Indigenous populations living in sparsely populated areas were resettled to form new communities, making it easier for them to brought within range of evangelization efforts, and easier for the colonial state to exploit their labor.
Today the legacy of the Aztecs lives on in Mexico in many forms. Archeological sites are excavated and opened to the public and their artifacts are prominently displayed in museums.
Place names and loanwords from the Aztec language Nahuatl permeate the Mexican landscape and vocabulary, and Aztec symbols and mythology have been promoted by the Mexican government and integrated into contemporary Mexican nationalism as emblems of the country.
During the 19th century, the image of the Aztecs as uncivilized barbarians was replaced with romanticized visions of the Aztecs as original sons of the soil, with a highly developed culture rivaling the ancient European civilizations.
When Mexico became independent from Spain, a romanticized version of the Aztecs became a source of images that could be used to ground the new nation as a unique blend of European and American.
Aztec culture and history has been central to the formation of a Mexican national identity after Mexican independence in In 17th and 18th century Europe, the Aztecs were generally described as barbaric, gruesome and culturally inferior.
This search became the basis for what historian D. Brading calls "creole patriotism. Unearthed were unearthed the famous calendar stone, as well as a stature of Coatlicue.
A decade later, German scientist Alexander von Humboldt spent a year in Mexico, during his epic four-year expedition to Spanish America. One of his early publications from that period was Views of the Cordilleras and Monuments of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas.
In the realm of religion, late colonial paintings of the Virgin of Guadalupe have examples of her depicted floating above the iconic nopal cactus of the Aztecs.
When New Spain achieved independence in and became a monarchy, the First Mexican Empire , its flag had the traditional Aztec eagle on a nopal cactus.
The eagle had a crown, symbolizing the new Mexican monarchy. When Mexico became a republic after the overthrow of the first monarchy in , the flag was revised showing the eagle with no crown.
In the s, when the French established the Second Mexican Empire under Maximilian Hapsburg , the Mexican flag retained the emblematic eagle and cactus, with elaborate symbols of monarchy.
After the defeat of the French and their Mexican collaborators, the Mexican Republic was re-established, and the flag returned to its republican simplicity.
Tensions within post-independence Mexico pitted those rejecting the ancient civilizations of Mexico as source of national pride, the Hispanistas , mostly politically conservative Mexican elites, and those who saw them as a source of pride, the Indigenistas , who were mostly liberal Mexican elites.
Although the flag of the Mexican Republic had the symbol of the Aztecs as its central element, conservative elites were generally hostile to the current indigenous populations of Mexico or crediting them with a glorious prehispanic history.
Liberals were more favorably inclined to the indigenous populations and their history, but considered a pressing matter being the "Indian Problem.
The late nineteenth century in Mexico was a period in which Aztec civilization became a point of national pride. Mexican scholars such as Alfredo Chavero helped shape the cultural image of Mexico at these exhibitions.
In their works, Mexican authors such as Octavio Paz and Agustin Fuentes have analyzed the use Aztec symbols by the modern Mexican state, critiquing the way it adopts and adapts indigenous culture to political ends, yet they have also in their works made use of the symbolic idiom themselves.
Paz for example critiqued the architectural layout of the National Museum of Anthropology , which constructs a view of Mexican history as culminating with the Aztecs, as an expression of a nationalist appropriation of Aztec culture.
Scholars in Europe and the United States increasingly pursued investigations into Mexico's ancient civilizations, starting in the nineteenth century.
Humboldt had been extremely important bringing ancient Mexico into broader scholarly discussions of ancient civilizations.
It was Humboldt…who woke us from our sleep. Although not directly connected with the Aztecs, it contributed to the increased interest in ancient Mexican studies in Europe.
English aristocrat Lord Kingsborough spent considerable energy in their pursuit of understanding of ancient Mexico. He was not directly interested in the Aztecs, but rather in proving that Mexico had been colonized by Jews.
However, his publication of these valuable primary sources gave others access to them. In the United States in the early nineteenth century, interest in ancient Mexico propelled John Lloyd Stephens to travel to Mexico and then publish well-illustrated accounts in the early s.
But the research of a half-blind Bostonian, William Hickling Prescott , into the Spanish conquest of Mexico resulted in his highly popular and deeply researched The Conquest of Mexico His resulting work was a mixture of pro- and anti-Aztec attitudes.
One entire work was devoted to ancient Mexico, half of which concerned the Aztecs. It was a work of synthesis drawing on Ixtlilxochitl and Brasseur de Bourbourg, among others.
When the International Congress of Americanists was formed in Nancy, France in , Mexican scholars became active participants, and Mexico City has hosted the biennial multidisciplinary meeting six times, starting in Mexico's ancient civilizations have continued to be the focus of major scholarly investigations by Mexican and international scholars.
The Nahuatl language is today spoken by 1. Mexican Spanish today incorporates hundreds of loans from Nahuatl, and many of these words have passed into general Spanish use, and further into other world languages.
In Mexico, Aztec place names are ubiquitous, particularly in central Mexico where the Aztec empire was centered, but also in other regions where many towns, cities and regions were established under their Nahuatl names, as Aztec auxiliary troops accompanied the Spanish colonizers on the early expeditions that mapped New Spain.
In this way even towns, that were not originally Nahuatl speaking came to be known by their Nahuatl names. Mexican cuisine continues to be based on staple elements of Mesoamerican cooking and, particularly, of Aztec cuisine: Many of these staple products continue to be known by their Nahuatl names, carrying in this way ties to the Aztec people who introduced these foods to the Spaniards and to the world.
Through spread of ancient Mesoamerican food elements, particularly plants, Nahuatl loan words chocolate , tomato , chili , avocado , tamale , taco , pupusa , chipotle , pozole , atole have been borrowed through Spanish into other languages around the world.
Today Aztec images and Nahuatl words are often used to lend an air of authenticity or exoticism in the marketing of Mexican cuisine. The idea of the Aztecs has captivated the imaginations of Europeans since the first encounters, and has provided many iconic symbols to Western popular culture.
The Aztecs and figures from Aztec mythology feature in Western culture. Knopf , insisted on a change of title. Aztec society has also been depicted in cinema.
La Otra Conquista from was directed by Salvador Carrasco , and illustrated the colonial aftermath of the s Spanish Conquest of Mexico. It adopted the perspective of an Aztec scribe, Topiltzin, who survived the attack on the temple of Tenochtitlan.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Aztec disambiguation. History of the Aztecs. Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire. Class in Aztec society , Aztec society , and Aztec slavery.
Women in Aztec civilization. List of Aztec gods and supernatural beings. Human sacrifice in Aztec culture and Cannibalism in pre-Columbian America.
An Aztec bowl for everyday use. Black on orange ware, a simple Aztec IV style flower design. An Aztec polychrome vessel typical of the Cholula region.
A life-size ceramic sculpture of an Aztec eagle warrior. Population history of American indigenous peoples. Aztecs in Mexican culture. Aztec cuisine and List of Mexican dishes.
Mesoamerica portal Indigenous peoples of the Americas portal. I believe it makes more sense to expand the definition of "Aztec" to include the peoples of nearby highland valleys in addition to the inhabitants of the Valley of Mexico.
The latter term has several decisive disadvantages: Readers will find some variation in the terms authors employ in this handbook, but, in general, different authors use Aztecs to refer to people incorporated into the empire of the Triple Alliance in the Late Postclassic period.
An empire of such broad geographic extent [ Scholars often use more specific identifiers, such as Mexica or Tenochca, when appropriate, and they generally employ the term Nahuas to refer to indigenous people in central Mexico [ All of these terms introduce their own problems, whether because they are vague, subsume too much variation, are imposed labels, or are problematic for some other reason.
We have not found a solution that all can agree on and thus accept the varied viewpoints of authors. We use the term Aztec because today it is widely recognized by both scholars and the international public.
In English the variant "Montezuma" was originally the most common, but has now largely been replaced with "motecuhzoma" and "moteuczoma", in Spanish the term "moctezuma" which inverts the order of t and k has been predominant and is a common surname in Mexico, but is now also largely replaced with a form that respects the original Nahuatl structure, such as "motecuzoma".
Indeed no conquests are recorded for Motecuzoma in the last years of his reign, suggesting that he may have been incapable of ruling, or even dead Diel Archived from the original on The New York Times.
Retrieved 5 January Retrieved 12 April The Early History of Greater Mexico. The Oxford Handbook of the Aztecs. University of California Press.
A new look at the Mesoamerican Nahua migrations". Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory. The Aztecs of Central Mexico: Case Studies in Cultural Anthropology.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. Imperial Strategies and Core-Periphery Relations". The Essential Codex Mendoza.
Aztec Archaeology and Ethnohistory. Boone, Elizabeth Hill Stories in Red and Black: The combinations with this symbol multiply the payouts by 2.
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