Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 380

rr

UM

ir

Pub

'

e occasion of the exhibition

The Aztec Empire

red by

Felipe Solis

Solomon

R.

October

15,

Guggenheim Museum, New York


2004-February

13,

Guggenheim Museum

The Solomon

R.

ass stance of

CONACULTA-INAH

4ACONACULTA
This exhibition

2005

in

INAH^

organized by the Solomon

is

acknowledges the

gratefully

organizing the loans from Mexico.

Guggenheim Museum

R.

collaboration with the Consejo Nacional para

la

in

Cultura y las Artes (CONACULTA)

Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (INAH).

itituto

Major sponsors of this exhibition are

Banamex_

S^

~^~~~

Citigroup,

Televisa
Additional support provided by

ucvirn

j^
PEMEX

This exhibition has also been

Federal Council

made

possible

in

part by an indemnity

from the

on the Arts and the Humanities, together with the generous

support of the Leadership Committee for The Aztec Empire,

GRUMA,

ALFA,

and Con Edison.

Transportation assistance provided by

aeromexico

Media support provided by Thirteen/WNET.

Special thanks to the

United States

in

Embassy of Mexico

in

the

U.S.,

the Embassy of the

Mexico, and the Consulate General of Mexico

in

The Aztec Empire

e 2004
14

Instituto Nacional

The Solomon

All rights

R.

reserved.

321-7 (hardcover)

ISBN

ftcover)

ISBf.

."-nheim
107'

de Antropologia e Historia/CONACULTA.

Guggenheim Foundation, New

Museum

Publications

ue
)128

Art Publishers
fid

floor

r
i

jOO (detail of

York.

New

York.

*
V

h*

-4

>

<*M

hmt

K> '^?

*> ^

Contents

Introduction
26
Felipe Solis

Art

in

the Aztec Empire

18

Traces of an Identity
Beatriz de la Fuente

The Aztecs and the Natural World


56
The Basin of Mexico as
William

T.

Habitat for Pre-Hispanic Farmers

Sanders

70

The Harmony between People and Animals

Mercedes de

la

in

Garza

The Aztecs and Their Ancestors


81
Precolumbian

Man and

His

Cosmos

Felipe Solis

100
Origins and Forms of Art

in

the Aztec Empire

Felipe Solis

lin

The Olmec

Ann Cyphers

Hi
Teotihuacan
Linda Manzanillu

121
Tula

and the Tolteca


\ Diehl

Thejemplo Mayor
/

Excavations at the Templo Mayor

Eduardo Matos Moctezuma

the Aztec World

280

16

The Templo Mayor

at Tenochtitlan

Juan Alberto Roman Berrelleza

The Puebla and Tlaxcala Valleys


Veronica Velasquez

284

Aztec Religion

The Domain of Coatlalpan

168

Jose Luis Rojas Martinez

Aztec Religion: Creation, Sacrifice, and Renewal


Karl Taube

288
The Mixteca

178
Axis

Nelly M. Robles Garcia

Mundi

Roberto Velasco Alonso

300
The Huaxteca and the Totonaca

194

Felipe Solis

Gods and Rituals


Guilhem Olivier

The Tarasean Empire


212
Painted Books and Calendars
Elizabeth Hill

Boone

310
The Tarasean Empire
Phil C.

Weigand

Aztec Society

Tarasean Art

222

Roberto Velasco Alonso

Nobles and

Michael

E.

Commoners

Smith

The
230
Everyday

Michael

Fall

of the Empires

33
The Conquest as Seen by the Mexica -Aztecs
Miguel Leon-Portilla
i

Life in

E.

Tenochtitlan

Smith

The Aztec Empire

3 12
The Spanish Conquest of Tenochtitlan

250

Pablo Escalante Gonzolbo

The Aztec Empire


Richard

FJownsend
Catalogue Checklist

264

351

The Provinces of the Aztec Empire


Frances

F.

Berdan

Bibliography

270
The Population of the Mexico and Toluca Valleys
Perla Valle Perez

Preface

THE VISUAL NARRATIVE UNFOLDING BEFORE VISITORS TO THE EXHIBITION THE AZTEC EMPIRE EXPOSES SOME OF THE

hidden recesses of an essentially religious and military culture that

appeared

tragically. In less

empire from a vastly

economy. They formed strategic military

and

a harsh tributary system,

imposed

in

stone, feather, and metalwork,

utterances-to mention only some of the


their

life,

as the

critic

Paul

Westheim has

alliances,

and established an

commerce. Perhaps even more noteworthy was the


achieved

splendor and dis-

stratified society, as well as to create a strict educational

solid agricultural
far,

lived in

than one hundred years, the Aztecs managed to erect a unique

in

level

system and

conquered domains near

intricate

network of trade and

of aesthetic excellence the Aztecs

ceramics, architecture, chronicles, and poetic

skills

that formed the "vital energy" impregnating

written.

Nourished by the cultural legacy of their predecessors, such as the Olmec, Teotihuacan,

and Toltec peoples; imbued with the wisdom culled from subjugated provinces; and
enced by the craftsmanship of the few peoples

who

defied

them and maintained

independence, such as the Purepecha (Tarascans), the Aztecs excelled


ciplines. Reflecting a close relationship with

in

influ-

their

wide range of

dis-

nature and the gods of a vast pantheon, these

disciplines included observation of the celestial bodies;

botany and herbal medicine; mathe-

matics and pictographic writing; monumental architecture and

art.

The comprehensiveness

of the exhibition enriches our understanding of this extraordinary Mesoamerican civilization,

whose veneration of the sun flooded


contrast, those

who

sacrificial

stones with the blood of

carved these very stones would

refer to friends as

has been a great honor for the Consejo Nacional para

It

la

its

victims. In stark

"perfumed flowers."

Cultura y las Artes and the

Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia to collaborate with the

Guggenheim. The pres-

entation of extraordinary archeological objects and masterpieces of the pre-Hispanic world


at the

Solomon

R.

Guggenheim Museum

in

New

a greater appreciation of the cultural legacy that

When

considering the works on view,

British sculptor of universal resonance,

material,

its

tremendous power without

it is

York provides an invaluable tool for gaining


is

a source of pride for

all

Mexicans.

easy to concur with Henry Moore, the renowned

who spoke

of Mexican stone sculpture's "truth to

loss of sensitiveness ... its

approach to

a full three-

dimensional conception of form." The dawning of the sixteenth century brought with
of the Aztecs, but their brilliant and powerful creations remain and

fall

will,

it

the

to paraphrase

Westheim, prove impervious to time and the notions of space and subject matter. Their songs
resonate-the remains of the Templo Mayor, the fragments, many colossal

still

an

art

whose

disquieting beauty

filled

Central Mexico.

Sari

Bermudez

President, Consejo Nacional para

la

in scale,

of

the teeming horizon of an empire that dominated

Cultura y las Artes (CONACULTA)

Preface

MYTH, AS TERRITORY OF THE

HUMAN

CONDITION,

UNDOUBTEDLY THE MOST EFFECTIVE MEANS FOR EXPRESSING

IS

the unique nature of a culture. Although

may seem

it

where

historic

and

social identities are constructed,

and

to repeat certain universal types

forms, myth establishes the distinctions and boundaries between self and other.

the place

It is

where the imagination recasts

life

in

symbolic dimensions.

Mythic narrative explains geographies and times; points to


timeless preoccupations; provides a
bols for the creative works of a
beings,

and

intersect.

frontiers

Myth

a specialized

and even

origins, impulses,

source for literature and innumerable signs and sym-

community; as

well as indicating-through deities, other

vocabulary of representations-the realm where sacred and profane

Imagined personal and collective destinies imbue history with meaning. Immediate

between myth and


is

reality evaporate.

the most salient indicator of the

ancient Mexican history.

ter in

life

It

life

and death of the Aztec world, the

final

chap-

provided the substance for the primordial covenant between

the war and sun god Huitzilopochtli and his people, which was established at the outset of a
long pilgrimage to the land that would

ning

in

become the

navel of the world and bring forth, begin-

the fourteenth century, the unforgettable grandeur of Tenochtitlan.

the impulse that led the Aztecs,

in

toward empire,

their precipitous path

to

ous peoples over the span of mere decades. This same mythology, which had
attitudes and

cal

military campaigns,

inevitably

And

it

explains

conquer numerjustified politi-

underlay the terror the Aztecs had of

the return of Quetzalcoatl, the deity they fatally supposed was incarnated

in

the form of the

conquistadors.

As

a sign of veneration, the

sun was to be provided with the sacred food of blood, thus

ensuring the celestial being's dominance over the nocturnal elements and continuity
daily course.

Not without drama, the Aztecs' fulfillment of

hegemony

dealing with other

in

humans and

their destiny took the

in

its

form of

gratitude toward the divinities. Aztec religiosity,

originally a principle for social cohesion, also provided the outlines for an extraordinarily
original aesthetic.
final

Most compellingly evidenced

in

the architecture and urban planning of the

pre-Hispanic century, this aesthetic also led to a flourishing

devoted to working with stone, ceramics, cotton, animal

Conceived within a framework that


is

is

quality of the pieces

New

York's

museum-going
marks

national exhibitions of pre-Hispanic art presented over the years.

themes, following

and feathers.

public. In

terms of the

included-most of which are from the collections of the

Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia-this exhibition

cific

the arts and professions

both aesthetic and- archeological, The Aztec Empire

specifically directed to the sensibilities of

number and

in

skins, paper,

chronology from the origins of Aztec

a milestone in the inter-

It is

organized around spe-

civilization to the

time of

first

contact with the European world.

The mysterious interplay between the objects and modern perceptions imbues them with
'

an unsettling beauty. The awe aroused by this imperial art


power.

In this

sense, the Aztecs are our

own

is

a sign of

contemporaries.

Sergio Raul Arroyo


Director General, Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (INAH)

its

timeless and primal

Banamex

Citigroup*

BANAMEX

IS

VERY PROUD TO PARTICIPATE AS A MAJOR SPONSOR OF THE AZTEC EMPIRE EXHIBITION, THE MOST

comprehensive survey of the

art

and culture of the Aztecs ever assembled outside Mexico.

Banamex was founded in 1884, its history has been closely related to the history of
Mexico. But it has always been much more than a bank. With the conviction that businesses
have a social responsibility, Banamex has participated in many activities that go far beyond
Since

financial matters.

Through the programs carried out by

foundations, the bank supports culture and

art, social

its

cultural, social,

and ecological

development, and the conservation and

protection of the environment.


This year

Banamex

celebrates

its

120th anniversary-an important achievement and also

an excellent opportunity to emphasize the bank's commitment to supporting and promoting

Mexican art and culture. At the same time, sponsoring this superb exhibition at the
Guggenheim Museum in New York is part of an effort to build bridges of mutual understanding between two countries whose historical relationship has become increasingly close
in

economic and

social terms, especially during the last decade.

Banamex's integration into Citigroup brings the best of the world

to

taking the best of Mexico to the rest of the world. Consequently, the bank
port the

Solomon

leled exhibition

collections

in

R.

Guggenheim Foundation

that brings together

Manuel Medina-Mora

presentation

in

New

delighted to sup-

York of an unparal-

more than four hundred works drawn from major

the United States and Mexico.

Chief Executive Officer

in its

Mexico and allows


is

Televisa

TELEVISA PROUDLY

SPONSORS THE EXHIBITION THE AZTEC EMPIRE AS PART OF

and sharing

Mexican heritage.

Grupo

its

Televisa

is

one of the world's

Televisa's productions are broadcast

on

its

largest

in

countries

ments. Televisa

in
is

movies, radio, and

Latin America, Asia, Europe,

also involved
live

in

satellite

COMMITMENT TO PROMOTING

Spanish-language television producers.

four networks

ming content reaches Spanish-speaking communities


and

ITS

in

in

Mexico.

Much

of this program-

the United States through Univision,

and Africa through other licensing agree-

and cable

television, the Internet, publishing,

entertainment.

Fundacion Televisa focuses on enhancing the nutrition, health, and education of children,

and promoting values such as honesty, generosity,

responsibility,

impact social-awareness campaigns. Televisa's foundation

and promoting Mexico's

artistic heritage, as well as to

is

and respect through high-

also

committed to preserving

generating more interchanges between

our culture and other cultures around the globe.


It

is in

this vein that

bition at the

we

are pleased to support The Aztec Empire, a groundbreaking exhi-

Guggenheim Museum

civilization.

Emilio Azcarraga Jean

Chief Executive Officer

in

New

York that

will

shed new

light

on

a magnificent

I
\

^
i

7^

f.W.f*

Team

Project

Guggenheim Museum

Richard Avery, Chief Cabinetmaker

Executive Staff

Sam

Edward Cunningham, Cabinetmaker

Dennison, Deputy Director anc

Lisa

Zainek,

Deputy

Director.

Christopher Powell, Cabinetmaker

.'ator

Communications and Publishing

Director,

Robert Ebeltoft, Metal Fabricator


Christopher George, Metal Fabricator

Cox, Deputy Director, Special Projects

Dane Solomon, Deputy

Green, Cabinetmaker

Douglas Hollingsworth, Cabinetmaker

as Krens, Director

Corporate Development and Global

Joseph Taylor, Metal Fabricator

Marketing

Marc

Deputy

Steglitz,

Director. Finance

and Operations

Facilities

Anand, Director of

Brij

sneral Counsel

Ian A. Felmine,

House

Facilities

Electrician

Art Services and Preparations


Scott Wixon,

Manager of Art Services and Preparations

Finance

Barry Hylton, Senior Exhibition Technician

Amy

Derek DeLuco, Technical Specialist

Christina Kallergis, Budget

Mary Ann Hoag,

West, Director of Finance

and Planning Analyst

Lighting Designer

Graphic Design
Marcia Fardella, Chief Graphic Designer

Conservation
Ransick Gat, Project Conservator

Leslie

Amy

Cassey Chou, Senior Graphic Designer

Concetta Pereira, Production Supervisor

Jones, Assistant Project Conservator

Christine Sullivan, Graphic Designer

Eleonora Nagy, Sculpture Conservator

Janice Lee, Graphic Designer

Construction
Michael Sarff, Construction Manager

Legal

William Ragette, Lead Carpenter

Brendan Connell, Associate General Counsel

Development
Anne Bergeron,

Marketing
Director of Institutional and Capital

Development

Kendall Hubert, Director of Corporate Development

Laura

Miller, Director

of Marketing

Ashley Prymas, Marketing Manager

Gina Rogak, Director of Special Events


Helen Warwick, Director of Individual Development

Photography

Pepi Marchetti Franchi, Executive Associate, Director's Office

David M. Heald, Director of Photographic Services and Chief

Photographer

Debbie Ahn, Manager of Membership

Penelope Betts, Manager of Corporate Membership

Kim Bush, Manager of Photography and Permissions

Stephen Diefenderfer, Special Events Manager

Manager of Corporate Sponsorship

Hillary Strong,
Cecilia

Wolfson, Manager of Individual Giving

Beth Allen, Corporate Development Associate

Peggy
Julia

Allen, Special Events

Public Affairs

Ann Edgars Associates


Jennifer Russo, Public Affairs Coordinator

Coordinator
Publications

Brown, Membership Coordinator

Pallavi Yalamanchili, Individual Giving

Coordinator

Elizabeth Levy, Director of Publications

Managing

Annie Donohue, Membership and Individual Giving Assistant

Elizabeth Franzen,

Graham Green,

Melissa Secondino, Production

Intern, Director's Office

Editor

Manager

Lara Fieldbinder, Production Assistant

Edward Weisberger,

Education
Gail Engelberg Director of Education

Program Manager, Public Programs

Pabk)

am

Manager, School Programs

Meghan

Editor

Dailey, Associate Editor

Stephen Hoban, Assistant Editor


Kate Norment, Project Editor
Laura Morris, Ed
Jennifer Knox White, Editor

Exhibition Design
Registrar

Meryl Cohen, Director of Registration and Art Services


Lardner, A

Coordina'

Paula Armelin,

Proji

Exhibition

Management
Retail

Ed

Development and Purchasing

Ma-

Leonca.

i
i

Security
i

abrii

(it

Security

ation
Visitor Services
i

opment Manager

Mexican Cultural Institutions


Consejo Nacional para

la

Cultura y

Enrique Norten (TEN Arquiteetos) +


las

Artes (CONACULTA)

J.

Enrique Norten

Sari Bermiidez, President


J.

Meejin Yoon

Clara Sola-Morales Serra

Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (INAH)

Tim Morshead

Sergio Raul Arroyo, Director General

B.Alex Miller

Moises Rosas, Technical Secretary

Shuji

Luis A. Haza, Administrative Secretary

Suzumori

Carl Solander

Museums and

Jose Enrique Ortiz Lanz, National Coordinator of

Fernanda Chandler

Exhibitions

Mariana de

Maria del Perpetuo Socorro Villarreal Escarrega, National Coordinator

la

Fuente

Angela Co

for Legal Matters

Gerardo Jaramillo, National Coordinator for Communications and


Publishing
Elvira

Catalogue

Baez Garcia, Director of International Exhibitions

Miguel Angel Fernandez,

Management Consultant

LANDUCCI

Jacqueline Correa, Project Coordinator


Editorial Coordination
Felipe Solis,

Sandro Landucci Lerdo deTejada

Museo Nacional de Antropologia

Lucinda Gutierrez

Juan Alberto

Roman

Berrelleza,

Museo

del Templo

Mariel Rodriguez Sanchez, Assistant

Mayor

Luis Garcia, Assistant

Aldo Plazola, Assistant

Jacinto Chacha-Antele, Centro INAH Hidalgo

Museo Regional de Hidalgo "Ex Convento de


Museo deSitio de Tepeapulco; Museo Arqueologico

Sergio Rasgado Flores,

San

Francisco";

de Tula "Jorge

Eduardo Lopez Calzada, Centro INAH Oaxaca


Jesus Martinez Arvizu,
Frisel

Design
Arturo Chapa

Acosta"

R.

Museo de

Photography

las Culturas

de Oaxaca; Museo

Michel Zabe
Enrique Macias Martinez, Photography Assistant

Mitla

Yolanda Ramos, Museo Regional de Puebla

Prepress

Arturo Chapa/Landucci
Maribel Miro, Centro INAH Estado de Mexico

Museo de

Laura Elena Mata,

las Culturas

Mexicas "Eusebio Davalos"

INAH
Eugenio Mercado, Museo Regional Michoacano

"Dr.

Nicolas Calderon"

Editorial Coordination
Felipe Solis

Daniel Goeritz, Centro INAH Veracruz

Vicente Hernandez,

Roberto Velasco Alonso

Museo Baluarte de Santiago


Editorial Supervision

Museo Regional de Guadalajara

Martelva Gomez,

Museo Nacional del

Miguel Fernandez

Felix,

MNena

Museo Regional deTlaxcala

Koprivitza,

Gerardo Jaramillo

Virreinato

Contributing Institutions
Claudio

X.

Gonzalez, Mauricio Maille, Diana Mogollon, Fundacion

Cultural Televisa

Carolina

Monroy

del

Mazo, Instituto Mexiquense de Cultura, Gobierno del

Estado de Mexico
Martin Antonio Mondragon,

Museo Arqueologico

del Estado

"Dr.

Roman

Pina Chan"

Ramiro Acevedo, Centro, Regional Cultural Apaxco


Baltazar Lopez Martinez,

Museo Municipal Arqueologico de Tuxpon

Candida Fernandez, Maria del Refugio Cardenas, Fomento Cultural

Banamex,

A.C.

Roxana Velasquez Martinez


Maria Ascension Morales,

del

Campo, Museo Nacional de Arte

Museo

Universitario de Gencios yArte

Meejin Yoon

Lenders to the Exhibition

American Museum of Natural

New

Brooklyn Museum,

New

History,

York

York

Centro INAH del Estado de Mexico, Toluca


Centro Regional Cultural Apaxco

The Cleveland

Museum

of Art

Dumbarton Oaks Research

Library

and

Collection, Harvard University,

Washington, D.C

The

Museum

Field

Fomento

of Natural History, Chicago

Banamex

Cultural

Fundacion Cultural

A.C.,

Televisa,

Mexico City

Mexico City

The John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, Providence

Museum

The Metropolitan

Museo
Museo
Museo
Museo
Museo
Museo
Museo
Museo
Museo
Museo
Museo
Museo
Museo

of Art,

New

Arqueologico de Tula "Jorge


Arqueologico del Estado

"Dr.

R.

York
Acosta," INAH

Roman

Pina Chan," Teotenango

Baluarte de Santiago, INAH, Veracruz

de

las

Culturas de Oaxaca, INAH

de

las

Culturas Mexicas "Eusebio Davalos," INAH, Acatlan

de

Sitio

del

de Tepeapulco, INAH

Templo Mayor, INAH, Mexico

City

Municipal Arqueologico de Tuxpan

Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico City


Nacional de Arte, Mexico City
Nacional del Virreinato, INAH, Tepotzotlan
Regional de Guadalajara, INAH
Regional de Hidalgo "Ex Convento de San Francisco," INAH,

Pachuca

Museo Regional de Puebla, INAH


Museo Regional de Tlaxcala, INAH
Museo Regional Michoacano "Dr. Nicolas Calderbn," INAH, Morelia
Museo Universitario de Ciencias y Arte, UNAM, Mexico City
Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

Museum

of Fine Arts, Boston

National

Museum

Washington,

Peabody

of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution,

D.C.

Museum

of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University,

Cambridge

Museum of Natural History, Yale


Museum of Art
Princeton University Art Museum
Saint Louis Art Museum
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven
Peabody

Philadelphia

16

University,

New Haven

The Solomon
Foundation
Honorary Trustees

Solomon
Justin

in

Guggenheim

Perpetuity

Guggenheim

R.

R.

The Leadership Committee


The Aztec Empire
Honorary Chair
His Excellency Carlos de Icaza,

Thannhauser

K.

for

Ambassador of Mexico

to the

United States of America

Peggy Guggenheim

Honorary Co-Chairs
Honorary Chairrnan
Lawson-Johnston

Peter

Bermudez, President, Consejo Nacional para

Sari

la

Cultura y las Artes

Sergio Raul Arroyo, Director General, Instituto Nacional de

Antropologia e Historia

Chairman
Peter

Arturo Sarukhan, Consul General of Mexico

Lewis

B.

Felipe Solis, Director,

in

New

York

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, Mexico

Enrique Norten, TEN Arquitectos

Vice-Presidents

Wendy
John

Members

McNeil

L-J.

Stephen

Swid

C.

Emilio Azcarraga Jean

Wadsworth,

S.

Placido and Marta

Jr.

Domingo

Posy Feick

Abraham

Director

Dr.

Thomas Krens

Carlos Hank

Secretary

Jaime Lucero

Franklin

and Gina Diez Barroso de Franklin

Rhon

Fernando and Marinela Lerdo de Tejada

Edward

Manuel Medina-Mora

Rover

F.

Raul

Muhoz

Leos

Federico Sada G.

Trustees

Jon Imanol Azua

Yolanda Santos Garza

Peter M. Brant

Jesus and Hildegard Silva-Herzog

Mary Sharp Cronson

Julio C. Villarreal-Guajardo

Gail

May

Martin

Henry

B.

List in

Koch

H.

Thomas Krens
Peter

Lawson-Johnston

Peter Lawson-Johnston
Peter

Lewis

B.

Howard W. Lutnick
Mack

William L

Wendy

L-J.

Edward

H.

Vladimir

McNeil

Meyer

0.

Potanin

Frederick W. Reid

Stephen M. Ross

Mortimer

D. A.

Sackler

Denise Saul
Terry Semel

James

B.

Sherwood

Raja W. Sidawi

Seymour

Slive

Jennifer Blei

Stephen

John

S.

Mark

R.

H.

Zambrano

Gruss

D.

Frederick

David

Lorenzo

Engelberg

C.

Stockman

Swid

Wadsworth,
Walter

John Wilmerding

Honorary Trustee
Claude Pompidou

Trustees Ex Officio
Dakis Joannou

David Gallagher

Director Emeritus

Thomas M. Messer

Jr.

II

formation as of August

1,

2004

City

Foreword

AND

THE AZTEC EMPIRE REPRESENTS THE MOST EXTENSIVE

HISTORICALLY ACCURATE SURVEY OF THE ART

AND

culture of the Aztecs and their contemporaries ever assembled outside Mexico. The Aztecs,

the nomadic culture that dominated Central Mexico at the time of the Spanish Conquest,

founded Tenochtitlan, modern-day Mexico

mented culture

in

City,

1325. Fearless warriors and pragmatic

in

empire during the fifteenth century and were the most docu-

builders, they created a vast

the Americas at the time of European contact

the sixteenth century. This

in

exhibition presents the extraordinary works of art created by the Aztecs as well as by the peoples they conquered,

and the cultures that preceded them

Though perhaps unexpected,

this project

the Guggenheim's global program. Our institution

is

Mesoamerica.

in

nonetheless

is

a natural fit within

the scope of

modern and con-

primarily devoted to

temporary visual culture, but from time to time we have presented major exhibitions
focused on

and even ancient,

classical,

Exhibitions

art.

like

Africa: The Art of a Continent

(1996), China: 5,000 Years (1998), and Brazil: Body and Soul (2001-02) have given us the

opportunity to explore
vision of the

broad array of

Guggenheim, providing

artistic traditions.

They have greatly expanded the

intriguing contrasts with our

contemporary program-

ming, while also reflecting the context from which today's art has emerged. The Aztec
Empire,

like Brazil,

develop closer
in fact,

ties

Guggenheim

exemplifies a profound desire by the

have emerged from

tural narratives that

Latin America.

to explore the rich cul-

As the United States and Mexico

economically, the opportunity for cultural communication increases and,

becomes increasingly important.

Academy

The Aztec Empire was inspired by a major exhibition at the Royal


called simply Aztecs.

on view, and

When

instantly

visited the

show,

thought that they would

Guggenheim's Frank Lloyd Wright building

in

New

stunning

be

York.

Bermudez, Mexico's culture minister, we discussed the


devoted to the Aztecs.

It

quickly

became

clear that there

as curator for such an important project, Felipe

Antropologia

in

Mexico

City.

tious-to provide not only

Dr.

Soli's,

in

When, soon

met

Sari

show

was only one person who could serve


Director of the Museo Nacional de

Solis's project for the

its

the context of the


thereafter,

possibility of another, larger

Guggenheim presentation

thorough representation of Aztec society

empire, but also to suggest the context for

of Arts, London,

was captivated by the extraordinary objects

is

ambi-

at the zenith of the

development, expansion, and influence. This

exhibition transcends the stereotypical portrayal of the Aztecs as fierce conquerors to pres-

ent their

many

positive achievements.

The largest and most important section of the exhibition

is

devoted to the Templo Mayor,

the heart of the Aztec culture and an active archaeological site

in

the center of Mexico

City.

Excavations of the Templo Mayor throughout the twentieth century, but especially since
1978, have yielded a rich and significant trove of sculptures,

ceremonial objects-some of which have never been shown

by the general public for the

works of

art

first

in

reliefs, religious artifacts,

Mexico and

will

time. TJne final section of the exhibition includes objects

from the time of the European conquest, and

society as well as the appropriation and utilization of

its

and

be seen here

and

reflects the destruction of Aztec

artifacts,

both religious and secular.

The exceptional quality of this exhibition reflects personal support and cooperation at
the

highest levels of the Mexican government. From

my

first

conversations with Sari

Bermudez, she has proven an invaluable champion of the project. The Aztec Empire is organized with the support of the Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes (CONACULTA) and the
Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (INAH) of Mexico. In her position as President of

CONACULTA,

Sari effectively mobilized the ministry

on the

project's behalf,

and we are deeply

grateful to her

and her

Jaime Nualart, Technical Secretary

staff for their unfailing support.

and former Director General

for International Affairs,

was instrumental

coordinating pre-

in

liminary discussions, and his successor, Alberto Fierro. Director General for International

CONACULTA, continued to provide encouragement. At INAH, Sergio Raul Arroyo,

Affairs,

Director General, Moises Rosas, Technical Secretary, and Jose Enrique Ortiz Lanz, National

Coordinator of

Museums and

Exhibitions,

have provided valuable assistance and support. The

was the

administrative organization of the project at INAH


Garcia, Director of International Exhibitions,

we

direct responsibility of Elvira Baez

and Jacqueline Correa, Project Coordinator, and

are appreciative of their constant guidance and cooperation. The Foreign Ministry also

supported this exhibition through the good offices of the Ambassador of Mexico to the
United States, the Honorable Carlos de Icaza, together with Cultural Attache Alejandro
Negrin;
to the

we would

to extend our gratitude for their support.

like

Honorable Arturo Sarukhan, Consul General of Mexico

advice and consultation at important stages of the project.

my

extend

New

in

We

personal thanks

who

York,

provided

are grateful to Rodolfo

Elizondo Torres, Secretary of Tourism, for his steadfast support of this project. Our gratitude
also goes to the Honorable

Anthony Garza

U.S.

Jr.,

Ambassador

to Mexico, together with

Jefferson Brown, Minister Counselor for Press and Cultural Affairs, Marjorie Coffin, Cultural

Attache, and Bertha Cea Echenique, Senior Cultural Affairs Specialist, of the U.S. Embassy

Mexico

City, for their

To design the exhibition


Norten, founder and

in

enthusiasm and constant support.


in

New

principal of

York, the

Guggenheim has

TEN Arquitectos

(Taller

enlisted the talents of Enrique

de Enrique Norten Arquitectos), a

firm that has altered the face of Mexico City, as well as the international perception of

Mexican architecture, since

its

founding

in

was joined

1985. Norten

in this

effort by

J.

Meejin

Yoon, architect, designer, and educator. For The Aztec Empire, the designers introduce
gle bold design

element into the

building: an undulating ribbon wall covered with gray


ing light
to

and sound, renders the space

accommodate the various

scales of

a sin-

white wall interior of Frank Lloyd Wright's landmark

classic

wool

felt.

The serpentine

deep and mute environment. As

work on view, the

new

wall creates

it

wall,

absorb-

bends and peels

spatial experiences

along the ramps. By focusing on the experience of perimeter and periphery, as opposed to
the center, the project

accommodates the

same time providing

smooth and nonuniform system

selected by

The staff of TEN Arquitectos has been

ticular

Dr. Soli's.

curatorial

thanks are due Clara Sola-Morales Serra

in

themes of the

New

exhibition, while at the

for displaying the array of artifacts


tireless in their efforts,

and par-

York.

The exceptional collaborative experience of the project extends beyond the efforts of the
curator to include the scholarship within this publication.

approach and

Dr. Solis's editorial

academic standing enabled the inclusion of scholarly essays by eminent Mexican and
authorities,

and the book promises to become

original texts by Dr. Solis,

major reference on the subject.

and Roberto Velasco Alonso, curatorial

the distinguished authors

who have

contributed to this volume.

assistant,

We

we

In

U.S.

addition to

are indebted to

are also pleased to col-

laborate with Landucci Editores on the publication of this catalogue.

Although a large part of the work on view


loans from Mexican institutions
includes

more than

sixty

made

in

The Aztec Empire

is

the result of generous

possible through CONACULTA-INAH, the exhibition also

major Precolumbian works from

museums

in

the United States.

These complement and complete the curator's portrayal of the Aztec people and provide a
greater awareness of the riches

we

are indebted to

them

in

for their

domestic collections. The lenders are

listed

elsewhere, and

cooperation and enthusiastic support of the project.

The complexity of
ization
in

this exhibition presented

the result of the work of

is

all

unusual challenges, and

the departments of the

its

particular the personnel listed in the Project Team. Special thanks also

Deputy Director and Chief Curator; Marc

Steglitz,

spectacular real-

Guggenheim Museum. We thank

Deputy Director

go

to Lisa Dennison,

for Finance

and Operations;

Karen Meyerhoff, Managing Director for Exhibitions, Collections and Design; Kendall Hubert,
Director of Corporate Development; Marion Kocot, Project Manager; and Mariluz Hoyos,
Project Assistant, for their steadfast professionalism on

An

sponsors.

In particular,

to the support

we thank major sponsors Banamex and

and preservation of Mexican

Manuel Medina-Mora, Chief Executive


izing

project.

this

In

art

Officer,

and culture

must be thanked

In

for his

Banamex

We

to this project.

commitment

in real-

Cultural Foundation;

and

also extend our sincerest gratitude to Televisa,

under the leadership of Emilio Azcarraga Jean, Chief Executive


able support that

longstanding. At Banamex,

Exhibitions and International Projects Coordinator, brought great

Gil,

and dedication

creativity

whose commitment

Televisa,
is

Jorge Hierro Molina, Executive Director of Institutional

addition,

Relations; Candida Fernandez de Calderon, Director of the

Hermelinda Caceres

stages of the project.

all

magnitude could not take place without the generous support of our

exhibition of this

makes

Officer, for providing invalu-

possible to share this remarkable culture with diverse audiences.

it

addition, Claudio X. Gonzalez, President, together with Mauricio Maille, Visual Arts Director,

and Diana Mogollon,

all

of the Televisa Foundation, demonstrated an inspiring

commitment

we

are indebted

to this exhibition.

was provided by PEMEX;

Significant additional support

Muhoz

to Raul

Leos,

in

particular,

Chief Executive Officer, and Octavio Aguilar Valencuela, Corporate

Director of Administration, for their dedication to this project. The Mexico Tourism Board also

deserves special recognition;


Officer,

together with

Guillermo

Ohem

Northeast Region,

Ochoa,

New

we

most thankful

are

team, Alejandro

his

Director

for

Muhoz

to Francisco

Ledo,

the Americas, and

York office, for their support.

We

Ortiz,

J.

Marisa

would also

Isabel

for

assistance,

with

special

thanks to Augusto

Lopez,

Director,

much-needed

Fernandez Kegel, Vice

trans-

President

Marketing and E-Business, and Maricela Moreno Cardentti, Advertising and Corporate

Image

Director.

This exhibition has also been

made

possible in part by an indemnity from the Federal

Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

We would

also

like

to thank the individuals of the

Leadership Committee for The Aztec Empire as well as participating sponsors

and Con Edison

we

Division,

to express our grat-

like

itude to Fernandez Flores, Chief Executive Officer of Aeromexico, for

portation

Chief Executive

Head of Promotional

for additional critical

GRUMA,

support helping make this exhibition possible.

ALFA,

Finally,

are grateful to Thirteen/WNET for media support allowing audiences to learn about the

importance of the Aztecs.


Indeed,

it

is

zations that the

ments of
in

due to the

tireless efforts

Guggenheim

this great culture.

is

and generosity of so many individuals and organi-

able to present The Aztec Empire,

The objects gathered together for

and to present the achieve-

this exhibition are extraordinary

aesthetic terms as well as for the sophisticated and hierarchical society they represent.

Thomas Krens
Director, The Solomon

R.

Guggenheim Foundation

<^~

J
ft

Introduction

ntroduction
/(///'

Solis

THE PUBLIC HAS GREETED THE ART OF PRE-HISPANIC MEXICO WITH ENTHUSIASM AND A SENSE OF

wonder and awe, as has been demonstrated by the tremendous success of exhibitions presented in the world's most cosmopolitan capitals since the first half
of the twentieth century.

In this

respect, the opportunity to bring together an

exquisite selection of objects for The Aztec Empire, which re-creates the splen-

chapter of the indigenous world of Mexico, represents

dor of the

final

momentous

occasion.

Among

monumental

the works united here are

chrome ceramics, musical instruments,


well as

historical processes

sculptures, reliefs, poly-

objects carved from jade and wood, as

ornaments and jewelry wrought from

them evoke the

and

shell,

turquoise, and gold.

lifestyles of the

All

of

Aztecs and the various

peoples and societies that existed alongside them during a glorious period of
wealth, power, and majesty.
This exhibition

comes out

of the research and publications by specialists

in

the art and culture of this final chapter of Mesoamerican history, the basis for

which are indigenous codices and the chronicles written by Europeans


early sixteenth century. The Aztec Empire has been conceived
a holistic vision, allowing viewers, as they

in

in

the

order to provide

proceed through the exhibition, to

simultaneously contemplate and examine artworks created by the inhabitants


of Mexico-Tenochtitlan alongside those of other contemporaneous cultures.
Visitors will be able to

expressed

in

various societies

Solomon

the

compare tremendously innovative indigenous

styles, as

the diverse forms and unique ornamental devices particular to the

R.

in

which they originated. The monumental space afforded by

Guggenheim Museum

will

also allow commonalities to be

traced through the so-called international style of the Late Postclassic period-

evidenced

in

some

of the extraordinary masterpieces on display-which

became

consolidated around the time the Aztec empire was established. This style

is

characterized by a complex universe of symbols executed with similar artistic

means, through which the different indigenous peoples could recognize one
another and participate
they

may

We

in a

common

artistic

language, despite the fact that

not have been able to communicate via spoken language.

trust

that visitors encountering

extraordinary experience

in

the art of the Aztecs will have an

witnessing firsthand the principal features of the

culture's astounding, multifaceted universe.


this vision of the

cosmos unique and

When one

different

emerge with an indescribable power. Indeed, creating


civilizations

there are

The

contempo?

many precedents

first

occurred

and

in

for

ic

considers what makes

from oui

its

forms

between past

has not been an easy process, althc

such an undertake

modern attempts by Westerners

to understand

the nineteenth century, as travelers, including

>urneyed to Me-

re's,

a dialogue

indigenous art

some well-known

he period of revolution ,md indep<

I.

Xi

If/'

^m

Rear view of

cat. no.

and

its first

decades as

ancient cities

a republic.

ruins,

in

These travelers illustrated their tales with images of

monuments, and

rare

and mysterious

sparked the interest of Europeans and Americans to follow


collect similar treasures.

Among

the most

in

famous accounts

objects,

all

of which

their footsteps

and to

are the books of John

Stephens, illustrated by Frederick Catherwood, which are devoted to the mysterious

world of the Maya; and the works of Guillaume Dupaix, which were unfortunately
published very late and thus had less of an impact than Stephens's works. Dupaix's
writings provided detailed evidence of Mexico's
ticularly in the central region

phy of

travel literature

which primarily

detail

enormous archaeological wealth,

would

be enriched by William Bullock's contributions,

later

Aztec archaeology, while Eduard Muhlenpfordt and Carl Nebel

dedicated their efforts to Oaxaca, the Gulf Coast, and Mexico

Humboldt-a pioneer
himself had obtained

we

Finally,

located

in his

in

in

Baron Alexander von

some

pieces,

in

European

of which he

Mexico.
first Mexican museum,
Autonoma de Mexico, where the

are indebted to Pietro Gualdi for conceiving the

the courtyard of the Universidad Nacional

monoliths to be discovered, beginning

first

City.

field-collected codices that had been stored

and exhibited them together with archaeological

libraries

par-

and the valleys of Oaxaca and Palenque. The bibliogra-

1790

in

Mexico

in

City's

Great Plaza and

in

the atrium of the cathedral, were displayed. These include the enormous sculpture

Great Coatlicue, the

first

monument

to

emerge during that period of improvements

to

the urban infrastructure of Mexico City; and the Stone of Tizoc, originally called the

Stone of

Sacrifices.

was during the nineteenth century that the pre-Hispanic world gained exposure
through the publication of superb etchings, while the phenomenon of archaeological
It

collecting appeared. This

was

practiced institutionally within Mexico and privately by

individuals from the United States and nations

Germans, Swiss, and French. Although

in

Europe, particularly by the English,

their activities

were undertaken without any

governmental oversight, the objects they unearthed eventually enriched the museums
of their respective countries of origin, where they were considered the creations of a
distant, exotic,

and primitive world.

The Museo Nacional de Mexico was moved

museum's new home had been devoted


metals and

the

exhibiting

for

now

minting

archaeological

displayed

in

and

its

quarters at the uni-

colonial times to the smelting of precious

pieces.

to

obtain

more space

The great monuments were

the central courtyard, while smaller sculptures, ceramics, tools,


in

the rooms on the palace's upper floor.

It

was

Mexican archaeological research began and the


has since brought the country great prestige,

school of museology, which


established.

The Gallery of Monoliths opened


This

1866 from

move was made

historical

at this venerable institution that

was

in

of coins. This

and ornamental objects were housed

first

in

baroque palace located along the southern side of the Palacio Nacional. The

versity to a

was the most

significant event

in
in

1888

in

the museum's largest exhibition space.

the revalorization of Mexico's pre-Hispanic past.

The construction of the gallery had been motivated by the desire to create a protective

environment for the Sun Stone, which

outdoors,

embedded

in

for nearly a century

one of the towers of the

The most important works of sculpture that the

were exhibited around the stone,


of stone figures, ballcourt rings,

among them
reliefs,

altars,

city's

had been displayed

Metropolitan Cathedral.

museum had

collected to date

the Great Coatlicue and hundreds

and

vessels,

most from the Aztec

period, that had been discovered underneath the modern capital and at other major settlements in the Valley of Mexico. Aztec artworks and archaeology thus regained their
visual

power through the display of compelling images of ancient gods and

related cult

K M

S&
/

'
/,

'*

i
t

*
2.

Coatlicue, front

Aztec, ca.

1500

and

rear views

*v%.

%J

^H
f<

objects,

which had been

during the centuries following the Spanish Conquest of

lost

Mexico-Tenochtitlan.
International validation of indigenous

twentieth century. This occurred only

Mexican Art

of

Modern

however, would have to wait

art,

until the

1940 with the opening of Twenty Centuries of


Art,

New

which was presented

York,

government of President Lazaro Cardenas.

oration with the

was the

Museum

at the

in

collab-

in

This remarkable exhibition

outside Mexican territory to bring together artworks from the three major

first

periods of the country's history: Precolumbian, colonial, and modern. The exhibition

met with overwhelming

success, as did the catalogue, which included writings by

Alfonso Caso and served as a guidebook for appreciating the most important treasures
of ancient Mexico.

It

was the

museum

time that this

first

major works of international modern

art,

New

York.

It

was

felt

not only by

also of particular importance for the shift

lectuals in their attitude

about works from the

considered to be expressions of high aesthetic value. This change was evident


publication of the book Arte prehispanico de Mexico
tion led to a

new

to

triumphant invasion.

museum visitors
among Mexican intelPrecolumbian period, which were now

The impact caused by Mexican archaeology was


in

was devoted

space, which

had experienced such

of appreciation

level

Considering such changes, Caso,

in

Mexico

who had

for

1946,

in

in

the

whose broad dissemina-

indigenous creations.

Museo Nacional

joined the staff of the

de Mexico around 1950, transformed the Gallery of Monoliths into the

first

exhibition

space devoted specifically to the art and culture of the Aztecs. The gallery was intentionally

named

the Mexica Hall to link the

name Mexica-which, along

with Tenochca

and Aztec, has been used to identify the people who founded Mexico-Tenochtitlanwith the actual
of

tity

all

name

of the country, serving by extension as a reference to the iden-

Mexicans. The Mexica Hall thus established our most distant origins of

national identity.

Many were

introduced

Fernando Gamboa.

In

to

Mexico's

Precolumbian

tested the waters

beyond the Americas, daring

tingent of works,

in this

to bring to

formula that had proved so popular

tion,

which traveled to

through the efforts of


York exhibition,

Gamboa

Europe an even larger con-

case a polished selection of archaeological objects that gave

the public a chance to appreciate the richness and

shown with works from

art

New

the two decades following the

in

New

drama

of pre-Conquest

art.

The

York was repeated: Pre-Hispanic art was

the colonial period and postrevolutionary Mexico. This exhibiParis,

London, and Stockholm, was another huge success, rep-

resenting a triumph for Mexican

For the

art.

most varied

to experience Mexico's

first

time European audiences were able

artistic expressions, in

an amazing collection of

pre-Hispanic works that offered both specialists and the uninitiated an opportunity to
explore their elegant forms and profound symbolism. The event triggered
interest in the indigenous peoples

ancient Mesoamerican art

who had

enormous

created these works. This reassessment of

was followed by two

highly significant cultural events that

demonstrate the process of reevaluating the most important collections of Mexican


art in the

The
a

section

of Robert
1947.

United States.

first

was the inauguration


devoted

Woods

Dumbarton Oaks
art,

which had been on view

Bliss,

commemorating

in

1970

the institu

moving the objects comi

Washington,
the

D.C., in

extraordinary

1962, of

collection

at the National Gallery of Art since

Before Cortes: Sculpture of Middle

at the Metropolitan
rst

in

exhibiting

The second was an exhibition entitled

America, which opened

for

at

Precolumbian

to

Museum

centennial. The exhibition

of Art

was

in

New

York,

used as a pretext

the Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection, formerly

in

the

The

first circuit

City,

period

17,

own

1964. The inauguration of this

was based on

and museological concept, accorded each

its

Chapultepec Park

at its present site in

which took place on September

extraordinary structure, the design for which

artistic

specif-

of traveling exhibitions of Mexican art concluded with the open-

new Museo Nacional de Antropologia

Mexico

tectural

new wing designed

of Primitive Art, into a

the art of the Americas, Africa, and Oceania.

ing of the
in

now defunct Museum

city's

ically for

a highly

cultural region

advanced archi-

and archaeological

space, thus showing visitors the specific technological advances and

features of the diverse peoples

who

center of the structure, the Mexica Hall

inhabited ancient Mexico. Located

was considered the

in

the

principal attraction for

those visiting the museum. The gallery's location, at the end of a long reflecting pool,

was meant
this

to evoke the original site of the glorious Mexico-Tenochtitlan,

on the

built

islets in

magnum

which was

Lake Tetzcoco. Architect Pedro Ramirez Vazquez, the creator of

opus, conceived the Mexica Hall

monumental dimensions

in

to

imbue

the space with the character of a temple. The height and volume of the exhibition

space allowed visitors to suitably appreciate the grandeur of Aztec monumental


sculpture,

nave,

most notably the Sun Stone, which was placed

at the

end of the central

front of a white marble wall and set on a marble platform, thus transform-

in

ing the piece into an altar devoted to

After

its

Mexican indigenous national

identity.

opening the Museo Nacional de Antropologia quickly became a tourist

attraction for those seeking to learn about the richness of Mexican archaeology,
especially

its

expressions. The

artistic

museum's design had

influencing the transformation of exhibition spaces


collections of Precolumbian Mexican art.
itive art,

which had held

In

many

fast until this time,

was without

goddess Coyolxauhqui, which


Project. For twenty-five years

led

museums

with

were dropped.

doubt the discovery

later

now

other

cases disparaging allusions to prim-

The event that brought the world's attention to Aztec


"People of the Sun,"

international impact,

many

in

to the

art,

to the creations of the

1978 of the sculpture of the

in

development of the Templo Mayor

this project has

made

extraordinary archaeological

discoveries that have astonished people across the globe.

Its

researchers continue to

contribute to the knowledge and dissemination of information about the founders of

Mexico's

first capital.

1980

In

unearthed

a public

at the

eager to learn about and enjoy the discoveries that had been

Templo Mayor had the opportunity

sented at the Palacio de

las Bellas

Artes

in

Mexico

to visit a related exhibition preCity.

objects of delicate beauty and powerful symbolism, this


exhibitions to display the advances

made

in

ple.

first

of

number of
numerous

archaeological research. Since then the

interest in Aztec art has led to other exhibitions,

from the Templo Mayor explored themes

Including any

was the

which besides presenting objects

relating to the culture of Tenochtitlan's peo-

These exhibitions were noteworthy for the sheer volume of artifacts displayed,

some

being

In

shown

for the first time outside their original locations.

1982 we sent the exhibition The Aztec

Civilization to Japan,

Sendai and Nagoya. During the curatorial process

we

sented

in

artistic

and archaeological objects that had previously remained

from the eyes of the

public.

These works were

redesign of the Mexica Hall at the

The exhibition

now

where

it

was

pre-

selected important
in

storage, hidden

considered key pieces

in

the

Museo Nacional de Antropologia.

Glanz und Untergang des alten Mexiko: Die Azteken und ihre
in 1986, brought the art of ancient Mexico to Europe and

Vorlaufer, which opened

Canada, highlighting works of the Aztec world. Art of Aztec Mexico: Treasures of

Tenochtitlan, presented

Aztec: The World of

in

1983 at the National Gallery of

Moctezumo, which opened

Natural History, were particularly significant because

was not immersed within


sented on
In

share

in

them the

Museum

in

Mexico

of

art of the Aztecs

context of other Mesoamerican objects. At

indigenous development

final

Washington, D.C, and

Art,

1992 at the Denver

in

prior to the arrival of the Spaniards

last,

the

was

pre-

own.

its

Museo Nacional de Antropologia once again saw the need to


new touring exhibitions. Beginning its successful

the 1990s the

collections in the form of

its

Museum

tour at the Metropolitan

of Art

in

October 1990, Mexico: Splendors of Thirty

Centuries- later continuing on to San Antonio and Los Angeles-was organized once
again around the holistic concept of Mexican art broken

As

ods.

its

sites in

Chichen
In

Mesoamerica:

into three

La Venta, Izapa, Teotihuacan,

Monte

Alban, Palenque,

same year the Museo Nacional de Antropologia organized the

Precolumbian Art of Mexico, which traveled to

Paris,

peri-

Tajin,

El

works of the highest


cultural areas

a selection of

Mesoamerica-with examples from

quality from

artistic

exhibition

Madrid, Berlin, London, and Tokyo

between 1990 and 1992, providing the public with the chance to view

exhibition

main

and Mexico-Tenochtitlan.

Itza,

the

down

point of reference, the exhibition used the most significant archaeological

all

and archaeological periods-as well as from the north of Mexico. The

was

by international

hailed

critics

museum

as a microcosm of the

in

Chapultepec Park traveling the world.


In

1999, during the

phase of renovation and redesign of the Museo Nacional

first

we made profound changes

de Antropologia,

to the Mexica Hall,

which would allow

nearly eight hundred objects to be displayed. Subsequently, with the experience

many

acquired over

years of research and

museum

undertakings,

we

developed,

together with Professor Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, the exhibition Aztecs, which was

presented

in

2002

at the Royal

from numerous museums

assemblage of

a large

its

The most demanding


of

Academy

of Arts, London. This exhibition united objects

Europe, Mexico, and the United States;

number of pre-Hispanic and

and gave the exhibition

exhibition

in

unique

critics

Tutankhamun-lo be presented
its

it

event

identity.

Treasures of

in Europe, for its relevance, the high quality of the

popularity

was presented

continent, the loans from Mexico


Italian collections,

a rare

considered Aztecs to be the second-most important

among

specialists

Aztecs continued to garner very favorable reviews

Germany, where

the

in particular,

was

non-Western art-ranking behind only the legendary

works selected, and

from

colonial codices

in Berlin
in

and the general public

when

and Bonn.

the next year

it

alike.

traveled to

Prior to leaving the

European

the original exhibition were joined with objects

thus forming Treasures of the Aztecs, a

delighted visitors to the Palazzo Ruspoli, Rome,

in

the

first

new

presentation that

half of 2004.

These are the signal events that have preceded the extraordinary showing of
The Aztec Empire,

now on view

at the

Guggenheim Museum. The

exhibition focuses

on the expansion and culmination of two powerful empires: the Aztec and the
Purepecha (Tarascan),

who dominated much

of the fifteenth century and the


of

first

of

Mesoamerica during the second

these two indigenous cultures are indeed

made

palpable by the very works

presented to viewers. The most complex political entity considered


Alliance,

better

known

half

two decades of the sixteenth. The splendors

as the Aztec empire,

is

the Triple

whose works make up the core

this exhibition. Originally a confederation of three

emerging

city-states,

of

headed by

Mexico-Tenochtitlan, this coalition dominated the central, southern, and ea

regions of Mesoamerica.

It

achieved and maintained this power through military con-

quests, the imposition of a strict tribute system, and the dissemination of

Nahuatl. Moreover,

it

reinforced

its

preeminence through

common

language,

its

artistic

language

that transcended linguistic barriers.

During the Postclassic period the most highly prized of metals, gold, was considered
to be a material originating

and

in

the sun, and

its

use was thus restricted to the ruling class

nobility exclusively. Visitors to this exhibition will

nity to

come

have the extraordinary opportu-

face to face with the most important collection of gold jewelry from

Precolumbian Mexico ever displayed

in

the United States.

Empire allows us to bear witness to a time when

artists

More

significantly,

The Aztec

expressed through physical

objects the essence of the world around them, their culture's creation myths, and their
people's close relationship to the sacred universe, with

night and day, creation and destruction.

all its

dualities of

life

and death,

r\

:/,

'

**"V.

..

'^

V4
.

&

$
I

tftfgfr

m
1
"ta

^H
v

>*

Aztec Empire

^H

Traces of an Identity
///

/ uenle

Mexican

art

is

Through

manifestations

its

it

who we

understand Mexico without including

to eliminate the

source for understanding what

UNDERSTANDING HUMANKIND THROUGH


history since

it

came

ITS

its

art

we

is

in

summarizes and

synthesizes the entire history of our becoming

fertile

are.

To

try to

most

are.-Justino Fernandez'

CREATIVE OUTPUT HAS BEEN THE TASK OF ART

into being as a discipline.

Through

artistic manifestations,

human

being as the creator of

branch of history seeks to understand the

this

and even

a novelty in the field of universal culture

Mexican culture.

images. Such images narrate stories of times and places both near and distant.

Not

all

we today

the creations that

consider artistic ones were the subject

of art-historical inquiry from the inception of the discipline; only two centuries

now

separate us from

its

began within the Western

beginnings as a

field

When

of knowledge.

tradition, its self-defined task

was

standing of certain works, the majority of which originated

art history

building an underin

the West. Under

such conditions were terms, methodologies, and strategies developed


ing deeply into the
is

It

meanings of such

sufficient to recall

for delv-

objects.

books with such

titles

which the artworks of the "world" were limited

as The History of World Art,

in

to surveys starting with the cave

paintings at Lascaux and Altamira and ending with the European and United
States avant-garde. The art of Asia, Africa, and Latin America
best included as an appendix

when

was omitted

or at

comparatively small number of pages. However,

in a

the communications media flourished

in

the late nineteenth century, that

narrow Western world became aware of the vastness of human expression. Thus
horizons were broadened, and

it

began

of other previously ignored work.

In

the eyes of the nascent discipline of art his-

its

tory,

many non-Western

to investigate the artistic possibilities

objects suggested a complex and fertile discourse.

The "new" forms were different from the familiar and accepted canon. For
this reason,

those terms, methodologies, and strategies developed to solve art-

related questions

had to be extended, adapted, and reinvented to take into

account the problems presented by the recently accepted artworks. Because of


art's potential to

provide information, there was

now

access to knowledge pre-

viously unimagined about the people who created these works and about
historical

and

cultural circumstances. In that way, arl history, eager to

information, changed

in

keeping with the

'imes and latitudes

in

demands

among them

incorporated into V

objects produced
'se of this

in

of the works and their roots

iman development.

the eon

Consistent with the original purposes ot


works,"

theii

decode

g art history, these "other

ancient Mexico, have slowly been

humanistic inquiry. Before they were

considered within this sphere, their history had been long and eventful, yet
iok centuries

before their expressive qualities and

01

acquired a

preeminent place

in

Mexican

and

art,

by the peoples of Mesoamerica before the Spanish Conquest


clearly illustrates the alternation of scorn

accorded by Western culture.

is

It

and comprehension

common knowledge

that

in

the sixteenth century the gates of the old continent were


a new, enigmatic,

who

arrived.

As

a result of the

Conquest, Meso-

america was revealed to the eyes of the West through the

and abundance of

diversity
ture,

face considerable challenges. Other

still

new

its

creations.

Through architec-

mural painting, ceramics, and other forms,

sculpture,

the artistic project of ancient societies

became

a fertile field-

the multidisciplinary approach, advances

The spaces, volumes, times, textures,

lines, colors,

rhythms,

the intellectual and

in

emotional comprehension of art of the Mexican past have


a broader

acceptance of non-Western

opening up of the world,

worldwide

and

art

to gather

steam

among

However, as George Kubler pointed out

new

Precolumbian

art.

In

ings wherever possible, and to disentangle

senses of those accustomed to perceiving

cosmological messages.

expected to open up a dialogue with those looking at

it.

desire to understand this

art,

to grasp

The process of understanding the


ples has radically

vacillate

still

we have

recent years

suggested a language of their own, which appealed to the

properties revealed the difference and otherness of an art that

we

1991,

and dissemination, between unity and diver-

isolation

sity within

indige-

other contributions.

its

in

another way. These

how

and established our cultural history

art enriched our past

centuries-long continuum,

in a

the

in

the late nineteenth

in

century. Those intensive processes have revealed

nous

led to

vision, a true

inclusion

its

and movements of the "new" objects unfolded and thereby

in

new

This

consciousness are relatively new

historical-critical

developments that began

art.

one of the signs of moderr

is

The evaluation of pre-Hispanic

between

unexplored, ambiguous, confusing, and seductive.

perspectives and

encouraging them to formulate better questions. Coming from

mysterious world.- This parallel

world awakened the curiosity, wonder, uneasiness, and interest


of everyone

art historians

disciplines can help scholars by providing

The history of rejection and acceptance of the works created

opened onto

Today

their universal quality

was recognized.

witnessed

original

its

mean-

religious

its

and

non-Western peo-

art of

changed our knowledge of world

art.

How

this

Deciphering the meaning of those forms has been the task

occurred would be an excellent example for a dialectical study.

of diverse eras, people, and lines of thinking, from the Conquest

The development of

to the present day. In transition to the legitimation of pre-

of non-Western

terms such as pagan and exotic have been used to

Hispanic

art,

describe

its

forms and qualify

its

A good

thread to follow

in

Precolumbian

art

is

mexicano (1972).
the past by

means of

art,

genous Mexican

the author went back to the sixteenth

saw

He found that
falling

this

artwork

between wonder

and scorn. Out of the polyphony he was able

two main camps among the

ileged the craftsmanship


their diabolical

critics:

those

and mastery of the works

meanings, and those

who were

who

in

in

Longevity

compar-

Fernandez's peregrinations are confusing and complicated,

The voice

of

Manuel Gamio

to reconcile
in

(conter

among

the greatest virtues of

all

ancient

overcome

form and con-

necessary for arriving at

the broadest understanding of indigenous

in

art,

but

under-

standing the past: the problem of temporal distance; Navigating

among

the difficulties

possible

is

if

we pay

attention to the

to the philosopher,

we have from the past lies in the trace;


knowledge we have about the past can only come

the only reference point


therefore, the

from

a reconstruction of the information the trace provides.

Insofar as art's trace acquires an

allows

it

to belong to

the original time

all

which

in

intratemporal nature that

times, to be understood in
it

was made can be

all

epochs,

re-created. This

capacity to transcend the constant barrier of time's passage

lack of written data to

back

its

creation, as

is

if

there

the case

is

for

majority of Precolumbian objects

H" presence of

Forjando patria (1916),

however, suggested the conjunction of both the signifier (form)

and the

is

also presents the first obstacle to be

turns art into a link between past and present, even

and Etruscan.

and the author was not always able

it

what has disappeared. According

isons with non-American civilizations such as the Egyptian,


Assyrian,

Coatlicue an illustration of the "convulsive beauty" fore-

in

shadowing Surrealism.

tation of

wholly focused

cases, the critics resorted to

interest in indi-

of both past and present, and believed he

spite of

which they were studied, described, and argued

some

art,

term used by Paul Ricoeur to designate the represen-

whether they adhere to Western notions of

over. Therefore, in

of the

froce, the

naturalism. Mesoamerican artworks took on the meanings of

the times

rise

Post-Impressionism

in

priv-

on the symbolic and religious ideology of the works, overlooking the matter of

remember here the

and Surrealism. Andre Breton had an engaged

eagerness to cross the threshold into

was highly disputed, with judgments


to discern

well to

is

revaluation

and branching out through Expressionism, Fauvism, Cubism,

art of ancient Mexico.

fright, praise

It

led to a

turn steered the development

search of viewpoints about

cover their particular contributions to the construction of ideas

and

art.

modern age

in

twentieth-century avant-garde, rooted

century. There he confronted the critics of various times to dis-

about the

modern

which

meanings.

Justino Fernandez's book Estetica del arte

In his

of

art in the

art,

a novelty
art

is

in

either

diverse, multifaceted expression

Mexican

or universal culture.

is

one of the foundations shoring up national

The enormous value

ol

no longer

Precolumbian
identities.

the legitimation of Aztec art and of

its

existence

time

in

presence both as art objects and as

lies in its

an expression of humanity.
"I

am

Images are created through

other!" said Arthur Rimbaud,

pronouncement that

in a

was already an expression of modernity and general knowledge.

we

Indeed,

are those others. Art functions as a channel of

munication;

it

serves to integrate.

selves individually

prisms; cones and their various combinations; spheres; ovoids.

we can

In art

and together, as

recognize our-

dialogue between our

if in

com-

heads and our hearts.

nuances of

desire to express the

may wound

objects

advance

in

it,

because they are frozen

space but only so

movement

is

lives held in check.

stopped

far;

produced

art

in

Mesoamerica, Mexica-

forms, as

if

time. They

tracks or forced to retreat, con-

in its

risks.

The

limits of

wood, or any other material constrain the

stone, fired clay,

From the vast body of

in

except for the rare exception,

tained without expansion, without taking any

Aztec art stands out as uniquely confident.'

Although

space, with elements projecting outward,

they cannot change

their

Mexico-Aztec Art

forms and an

a wise handling of

absolute control over materials, as well as an inexhaustible

they had been taken prisoner and were struggling to

it-

escape. Thus Mexica artworks are imbued with an accumulation

together with Olmec art-is primarily a volumetric sculptural

of contained emotions that seek integration into the universal;

the

In

first place,

form. That the viewer can contemplate sculpture

from different angles allows for


than

reliefs require.

forms of Mexica

the round

a different kind of perception

we can observe

Second,

in

As

within the diverse

profound maturity and self-awareness

art the

perhaps

human time and space

aspire to sacred realms outside

time and space.

basic

in

the rest of Mesoamerican

groups defined

by

Mexica objects

art,

of

type

their

zoomorphic, vegetal, and hybrids. Yet another group

of a creative people.

As we know from varied studies based on early colonial

is

into

fall

human,

figuration:

made up

texts,

of barely insinuated scenes. Because both formal and thematic

the defining traits of Mexica art were achieved because of the

variations abound, and countless artworks were produced, here

and metaphoric

culture's belief in a conceptual

pairing, the "dia-

logue between head and heart" and the fashioning of a "deified


heart."

The objective was to reach

a perfect equilibrium

came together through the ideal of knowledge to


which the Mexica aspired, which was called toltecayotl. The person who had a dialogue with his or her own heart was known
universe. This

Once

"artist."

his or her creative

goals were reached, the artist transcended the sphere of the

gods
artist

order to

in

went

the tasks revealed by these gods. The

fulfill

from them and

to the essence of things to learn

teach others about that intimate dialogue. The goal was to preserve the status quo, that
verse, by giving thanks to

is,

the present existence of the uni-

and

propitiating the spiritual powers.

The tangible results of these divine apprenticeships can


admired

in

countless works

ceramics, sculpture,
scripts, silverwork,

With

and

its

in

lapidary

and

different
art,

Mexica

art acquired

through the remarkable power of

force

was grounded
line

between

manu-

distinctive note

Mesoamerican

ically

its

its

an unquestionably

art,

specif-

represen-tations. This

In

was

itself in

eternal gratitude

human

essential.

mon

art.

geometric figures:

we

start

from the proposal that

ators perceived their place

quickly
It

is

come

in

art

speaks of the

to mind. Perhaps the best

well-known that the

entire cosmos. The

known

outermost

ring) to its limits (the

its

the Sun Stone.

ring).

we can

rings,

nucleus (the innermost

The deity's face occupies

see his hands or claws that

imprison hearts. The god appears within the

means "movement"), four rectangular panels

ollin sign

(which

that converge

in a

the blades of a fan. These panels include signs for the

various "suns" or preceding eras. This set

that

is

predominant forms are concentric

the center, and to his sides

cre-

its

represents the fifth sun and the

relief

which contain the very universe from

circle, like

way

the world, several Mexica examples

includes

the
is

glyphs
another

ring,

encircled by a ring

is

representing

the

twenty days.

with solar symbols and rays

that cross the borders of the circles. The outermost ring consists

of two enormous xiuhcoatl, or

one another

in

fire

the lower part of the

whose heads face


monument; from their open

serpents,

ultimately contained by the xiuhcoatl, which also reflect the

Formal qualities and communicative energy, united, underlie


the vitality of Mexica

The Eloquence of the Cosmology


If

and the anxiety of

to the gods. In the Mexica vision of the cosmos, the

being

stone.

in

other words, Nahua

that lay on

works spoke of the people's connection to the future of the cosmos, and the deified heart submitted

key examples of the aforementioned

Most of these are sculptures executed

mouths emerge the faces of other gods. Thus the universe is


quadripartite and dynamic, even if bounded by circular contours-

vital spirit

a longing for pleasure

people confronted by the end of time.

some

discuss only

Surrounding that

originality within the realm of

the thin

be

architecture,

painting,

literature,

still

textiles.

this foundation,

in

mediums:

will

between

the dual, opposed elements that could be found throughout the

as a toltecatl, today called an

types.

Most of these works make use of comrectangular, polyhedral, and pyramidal

universe's dual aspect.

Among

additional examples of outstanding Mexica sculpture

are representations of the hungry goddess, Tlaltecuhtli,

who was

believed to live in the lower part of the cosmos. She can be seen
carved on the bottom of many sculptures, hidden from human
sight but omnipresent to the

them. She

is

like

gods and

contained energy that

Folio*

Musco

N..

in direct
is

contact

invisible to

humans

but

lies

within the power of the carved stone. Tlaltecuhtli

noteworthy

arms and

for her sprawling posture: her

her head thrown back. Her hair

and disheveled,

curly

is

spiders and scorpions that crawl through the

The

divinity's face

sometimes
teeth.

hybrid, since she

is

down on

sometimes human,

is

This divine

common

it.

It

fire).

The sign

is

Coyolxauhqui.

among them

who murdered

the brother

these two most famous images of Coyolxauhqui, the god-

In

dess represents a death that


life.

is in

opposition to

yet also leads

life

Thus the grandiosity of the two works discussed here

is

not limited to their formal treatment but encompasses the

accentuates feelings contained, but on the

deeply rooted religious symbols of the Mexica people. They

most sculptures suggests an

speak of the outcome of an imbalanced struggle between the

in

which confines and compresses


no coincidence that

who

creator and destroyer,

is

unique to Mexica

as

her,

this

is

if

art,

rock,

were keeping her

it

the deity of the earth, both

accepts no restrictions, not even

her images. Indeed, she attempts to emit a war

by the knife-through that

terrible,

in

whoop-shown

beginning and end of

life,

rendered

terms: the battle between

in

cosmic rather than human

and death, day and

life

night, light

and darkness, masculine and feminine. Coyolxauhqui

woman-goddess, the divine daughter who


conquered, and the one

Coyolxauhqui

open snout.

women-goddess

who

the

is

is

victorious

is

the

is

mutilated but not

defeat.

in

paradigm of the Cihuateteo, the

who were

One of the most magnificent forms in Mexica statuary is the


embodiment in stone of cosmology itself, the Great Coatlicue.

entourage. Yet she does not prefigure these warriors; for her

human and animal

mother, Coatlicue, had already done so. Representations of such

serpents face-to-face instead of a head;

major goddesses always show them kneeling, with skeletal faces

Her pyramidal, cruciform body combines


elements, including two

female breasts, soft but not spent; a necklace of hands and


hearts;

and

feline

claws instead of hands and

and serpents make up part of her

ers, snails,

erect, defiant before

who

attire.

Her figure

creation, bespeaking the great

all

feeds and destroys.

It

feath-

feet. Skulls,

is

mother

also represents a challenge to the

time and space the goddess creates, disrupting and containing

them within

herself.

Thus her image gives physical form

to

abstract concepts.
in

communicating

the metaphysical and supernatural power of the gods,


tion to the Mexica vision of the

sensation of terribleness cast

cosmos

in

stone.

concrete and brings the past back to

and

life.

image of Coatlicue can conquer


Another fundamental figure
Coatlicue's
lated,

vital
its

It

conforms

challenge set

own

through the

ollin

stone, the

Mayor

us harsh
the

cosmos

in

We

is,

from

Mexica

Huitzilopochtli,

xiuhcoatl.

can also recognize elements

her as a chthonic divinity, that

is

muti-

a relief

at Tenochtitlan. In the

As

treatment, her extremities are splayed


relief.

curly, as

is

it

with

all

the

gods of death and the underworld, and they are dressed only
skirts.

With

cats'

claws instead of hands, they crouch

in

like feline

predators ready to pounce on a victim or eagerly tear at the

air.

Although expectant, they are restrained, intent upon taking


action at just the precise

moment, not

before.

It

was

believed

that at the end of the fifth sun, they would descend from the

transformed into hungry jaguars, and devour humankind.

With the Cihuateteo, the

life

cycle

comes

full

circle,

from the

creation to the end of the universe. These deities also delimit the

space and time within which other gods

may

act.

Other Deities
The gods seem to comprise a single system, to which elements

may

be added or subtracted to define them or expand the pan-

theon. Most are

death a dynamic posi-

myth her body was cut up by her brother


wielded a terrible weapon, in the form of a
in

in

of the

symbol, as can be seen

the foot of the Templo

blades

to space

them anew,

dismembered daughter, Coyolxauhqui. As


in

the

universe.

in this vision

quartered goddess, she attains

is

is

part of Huitzilopochtli's

makes the intangible

time, yet simultaneously destroys both to create

challenging their eternal flow.

tion

Her image

overall.
It

addi-

in

warriors

but inquiring eyes. Their long hair

sky,

This great sculpture of Coatlicue succeeds

a result
like

fan

identil

a progenitor. Her belly

young women, kneeling

or seated on

their

claws. Those depicted seated usually rest their hands on their


knees. Only a few dare to be

That timid nudity

is

shown nude,

at least in the torso.

associated with Xochiquetzal,

her breasts to the open

air

who

exposes

and adorns her head with garlands of

flowers.

who

from having given birth numerous times and her breasts have

depicted without a body. Instead she

blood, the sign for Atl Tlachinolli (water and

the four Tezcatlipocas,

unequal struggle to free herself from the surrounding

It is

is

yet

Tlaltecuhtli

point of exploding. Her pose

small.

she

the war cry of Cihuacoatl Quilaztli Coatlicue's advocate-and

to

image of

within

relief,

has only a head, from whose severed neck spews, instead of

ges-

of her clothing.

ical

Templo Mayor

with

threatening, feline claws.

another sculpture

In

of Coyolxauhqui, a freestanding work quite different from the

many examples her hands and feet have


A skull-and-crossbones design is typ-

In

through nursing countless children.

fallen

a knife,

out her tongue,

sticks

ture that transforms her into the personification of

eyes and teeth.

of

full

her head.

open snout and huge eye-

a fantastic animal with

The deity opens her jaws and

is

legs open,

Chalchiuhtlicue can be identified by her simple garments, a

quechquemitl

(a

short, triangular cape)

and

a skirt. Her

head-

dress consists of two tassels that hang on either side of her face;

she wears a paper fan at the nape of her neck, typical of the
deities of water

are

and

fertility

shown by changes

Ihe goddess's various identities

of posture and different attributes

in

Coyolxauhqui Stone from the Templo Mayor,

Mexico

City.

particular sculptures.

corncobs, she
If

is

the paper fan

If

she

Xilonen; she
is

walking, carrying

is

may have nude

two

pairs of

or covered breasts.

replaced by a rectangular headdress with four

Although the schematic bodies and different postures of

manage

both sexes barely

to offset the lack of explicit

flowers or small rings of folded paper, then she represents

nevertheless reveal a very special

Chicomecoatl.

metaphysical attachment to

Those are the three basic types of young goddesses.

Mexica sculptures of

women

are

humans. The female condition

is

sacred capacity as the great mother

Males
or

in

In fact,

always goddesses,

of no interest except
in all its

all

to

mouths

style.

just barely controlled.

variety of attire

musculature, although they indicate the clavicles and the bones

old.

of the wrists, ankles, and knees. The bodies primarily serve to

and marked

support the heads, which are conventionalized although closely


linked to the structure of the

human

face.

These faces are

always oval-shaped, with almond eyes, straight noses with wide


nostrils,

narrow

lips,

and mouths

the teeth. Both eyes and teeth

slightly open, usually

may

showing

be inlaid with conch or

obsidian. Emotions or definite expressions are usually

from these depictions; the faces seem distant from


is

reality

able to the bare stone, from which pair

along with the attire


headdresses.

made

of perishable materials,

appeared
hair,

and

the

faces;

moving expression; tension

is

and

finely

tune the elements iden-

These patterns equally perme-

women and men-divine and human-young and


their facial wrinkles

The old can always be recognized by


ribs.

A pleasant deity, Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl was frequently


He is immediately identifiable from the treatment

repre-

ho

takes

of the

sented.

mouth, which resembles

human form and

bird's

it

side.

If

composed

is still

dancing. For this reason, he


happiness,

monkeys
steps.

art,

Otherwise,

enough

may have

may

either a foot or the

the god takes the form of a spider


in a
is

human

posture, almost jlways

often related to Xochipilli, god of

and the renewal

are bold

Without

beak.

nude and sometimes bearded. He

be standing or seated; his figure

monkey,

Ci

worth remembering that such an impression may be attribut-

fully in the

addition, particular postures

In

and adornments

head turned to one

at'

is

features of

specific

in a

tifying particular types or deities.

ate images of

of expressiveness, a

every sculpture that

in

are held open, fixed

essential features, these sculptures usually lack indications of

kind

The principle of duality and

These have great power and dramatic tension,

which are accented by the

its

body's

the

concentrated

in

young, lacking individuality and

any particular expression. Generally reduced

is

Mexica

Mexica sculpture, on the other hand, may be gods

humans. They are almost

opposites

life.

never

countless variations.

emotions

and the resulting sense of absence or distance, the forms

ot

life.

The representations of

show movement and even dance


monkey manifestation endows the

to

doubt, the

Mulir

ul

ll.-MI

sculptures with a greater freedom of articulation

We

and the extremities.


from the

static,

in

anthropomorphic images of the same god.

the static works, even though the god's arms

may

But none of these sculptures-whether bodies, heads, or

the torso

can thus differentiate these renditions


In

be apart from

masks-shouts,
Instead,

is

the space around them.

as the toltecayotl

his figure

is

representations of Xipe Totec exist;

straight and proud, and

costume of human

skin.

Another

who, seated and submerged


lives at

in

is

in

easily recognized

common

subject

is

by

his

profound, cosmological thought,

the center of the universe. He can be distinguished by

the headdress decorated with a band of disks and a scroll on


his forehead, a

Xiuhtecuhtli

is

kind of schematic bird's head. The


also

adorned with

a pair of small cubes,

ears,

from which fabric appears to

worn

at the

nape of the neck.

In

image of

fall,

and with

on

a pape,

some examples he

is

bearded.

Also unmistakable are depictions of Huehueteotl, the only old


god,

who

has been carrying a brazier on his head and shoulders

There are other variations of anthropomorphic figures that

emphasize the human face or head. These are masks that follow
the canonical features discussed above and are identified only

by their associated signs, which appear on the works them-

Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl

smoke and

Totec

in

Xiuhcoatl.

ogy.

Some

mirror; the date 9

Wind

for

and the double masks representing Xipe

the skin of a sacrificed person are examples.

type of sculpture hails

from

calm-

reflect the

con-

link

in

human

the

a mythological zool-

of these figures rank as gods. There

empty about these works;

or

emotions.

recommends.

speak of the profound

is

nothing silent

individually or as a group, they

between the sacred and human

spheres, and recall the deep relationship between

humankind

and nature.

Among

serpentine forms, the xiuhcoatl, the

encountered above,

known
tip

of

is

as "star glyphs," projects

its

snout.

Its

body

and tongues of

trapezoids

in

fire

depicted with clawed front paws.

serpent
Its

head

because an attachment, studded with what are

distinctive,

is

terflies

since time immemorial.

selves. Tezcatlipoca's

form, another

his

fan

life

its

stillness,

While the images discussed above are based

them,

Xiuhtecuhtli,

through the

that seeks the dialogue between head and heart,

the body, the sculptures remain immobile, failing to penetrate

many

life

and depth of space and time. Perhaps they

ness,

templative

Likewise,

prone to outbursts, or changes

offer the certainty of

all

is

upward and backward from the

usually covered with designs of but-

fire. Its tail is

represented as a scrie

groups of two or three, finishing

in

a triangle

weapon with which Huitzilopochtli killed his r


mies, the complement to the Atl Tlachinolli.
The ahuitzotl (water dog) is a mammal whose back and
is

the burning

tail

are

human
relief

made

of water; on the end of

its

tail

there

is

hand. This figure typically appears as sculpture, bo"'

and

in

the round, but

is

shown

in

codices as well. These

creatures are dangerous,

water-with that

war

cries.

little

they can

as

people into the

pull

hand-and drown them. They

The ahuitzotl

is

also

out

let

representative of the animated, imag-

cosmos. Taken together,


pride

their having

in

these sculptures attest to Mexica

all

been chosen by the gods to feed and con-

serve the universe.

inary zoology of Mexica sculpture.

A magnificent

sculpture of fired clay that represents an

anthropomorphic bat must also be mentioned

came from
tive

It

the excavation of the Templo Mayor. With a distinc-

nose and large

solidly

section.

in this

wingless bat stands with

ears, the

on the ground and the claws facing frontward.

ments that

link

to the

it

gods of death by

necklace and the snails hanging from

it.

flaying,

This

It

feet

its

has ele-

such as

its

another threat-

is

Plants
In

and Animals

spite of this

cial

care

flora

emphasis on humans, the Mexica

and fauna are rendered

the identity of their subjects.

same proximity

to visual

stone, shell, bone, or

Mexica people's

However, we do not witness

duce
Living Mortals
In

great

wood

doubt about

for

sculptures

show the

whether they are carved of

molded

or are
in

many

them

or

modeled

in clay.

a desire to precisely repro-

Examples represent, with singular sureness,

model.

reality

ening image that was an integral part of the dualities of the


lives.

an abbreviated manner, the

in

forms of such works leave no room

essential

took spe-

still

creating sculptures of plants and animals. Although

in

stretched-out cats, sitting dogs, leaning rabbits, and coiled ser-

human

Mexica sculpture,

beings are given special attention,

pents. While their creators were completely confident

their

in

but are robbed of individuality; they can be recognized by their

figural representation, they never followed the path of direct

symbols or emblems. Many of these portrayals are of young

mimesis.

who

men, commoners known as macehualtin,


dressed only

short loincloths knotted

in

unadorned short

hair

reinforces their

maintain an upright posture, even


both hands

is

are barefoot

in

and

parts of

They

mastery,

plebeian

status.

they are squatting. One or

if

usually extended partially closed;

What

the front. Their

if

the figures are

distinguishes Mexica sculptors from those

Mesoamerica was

what

is

their will to extract, with

fundamental

in

the natural forms that sur-

rounded them. The exceptional quality of

from

their production

Sculptures of fleas and

desire.

this

standard bearers, the hands are hollowed out to hold flagpoles.

remain wonderful objects both for the small

Another type of macehual

creatures and for the

identifiable by the

is

the hands on the knees and,

placement of

some examples, crossed arms

in

The famous naturalistic head of an eagle warrior


stood as the Mexica ideal of a

human

work of

art,

the

warrior

were overlooking

thinking of his

is

eloquent

upcoming

in its

models. Overall,

real

containment of

battlefield

is

if

qualities,

another eagle

whole figure assembled from

not a particular individual but rather a

framed by

wings can be seen atop the

common
a bird's

figure's arms,

the height of the knees. (This sculpture

size of the original

which they capture the


(Even

their

color

locust.) In

is

flea,

insects'

suggested
red for the

other examples, such as portrayals of butterflies and

spiders, the abstraction of

resemblance to the

forms leads to beings that bear

originals.

little

They may have altered features or

ones added that do not belong to that particular animal.

Among

the body of works depicting fauna, representations

in

type.

like

the real creatures. Their heads, scales


in detail.

is

The forked tongues project out of their mouths, which also

body

is

play eyeteeth. All these elements, along with the body positions,

head helmet. The

and the talons are

now

most

(whether carved or painted), and rattles are rendered

it

that

Its

jects portrayed

at

lacks the original

whether coiled or

alert,

dis-

make the ophidians one of the most

extraordinary groups within Mexica sculpture.


Similar qualities can

be found

and

in

the marvelous vegetal

made

with

vital

sculptures, especially gourds

that

stones that accentuate the liveliness of their forms. These sculp-

be part of the cosmic order once the dialogue has borne

tures demonstrate a savvy mixture of edges and curves, concave

paint covering

impulse of that
will

force, as

and confidently

ceramic parts-shares the expression of community

he

stone.

stems

therefore

of reptiles are paradigmatic. Serpents are undoubtedly the sub-

With similar formal and conceptual

fruit,

under-

victory.

warrior-this one, however,

inclined forward, the face

is

being. Simplified and gen-

were not drawn from

as a

it

in

in

locusts

through the choice of stone: black for the

supporting the elbows.

eralized, its features

amplified

essence,

way

other

in

unequaled

the figure

None of these elements masks the


dialogue between head and heart. Knowing
it.)

is

suspended

in

and convex

divine revelation.

The few depictions of elderly figures known can be distinguished by the wrinkles lining their faces. The torsos of some of
these sculptures

show

clear vertebrae

and pronounced

ribs.

Indeed, their backs are bent, either because age or physical disability

has overtaken them or because they have lived through

many

experiences.

bespeak

Figures

of

both the old and the young

conquering people sure of

Figure of a bat god from the

Templo Mayor.

itself

and of

its

role in the

their

lines

areas,

shows

cacti,

which gives form to the


a

plants.

fine,

colored

The purity of

determination to express the animated

nature of plants. Once again, Mexica sculptures here display

both the extraordinary sensitivity and complete confidence of


their creators. Vegetal

captured
formal

in

and animal sculptures represer

stone, the intimate

demands and symbolic

and indissoluble union


aspirations. These wort

the determination and confidence implicit

in

M<

betv.

2l

Teocalli of the Sacred War.

Tlatecuhtli.

<,

Human and

Union of the
There are

many

the Divine

sion. Reliefs with varied subject

humans. Relevant works are the


The

desire for expres-

matter interweave mythical and

matters and show divinities

historical

Stone of

is

same

other examples of the

Teocalli of the Sacred War, replete with

On

images of gods and people

complex iconog-

and symthere are

its sides,

the garb of gods as well as ritual

in

instruments including arrows, shields, xiuhcoatl, cuauhxicalli

and zacatapayolli

(eagle vessels),

gather

sacrificial

On

blood).

of dried grass used to

(balls

the back side

is

emblem of

the

Tenochtitlan, an image of Cihuacoatl as an eagle, emitting a war

on top of

cry,

nopal, as

Scholars believe the


of

Motecuhzoma

Carved

New

Fire

was Motecuhzoma
in relief,

ll's

ceremony.

It

the government

is

also said that

the Stones of Tizoc and

Motecuhzoma

is

are

on conven-

governments' con-

tional formal language, both celebrate their

indicated by the signs associated

with various victories. The image of the sun appears on the

we can
Motecuhzoma

upper, horizontal surfaces of both works, and

ventional figures of the rulers Tizoc or

numerous

is

I,

shown on

the head or replacing a foot, identifies

Mexica visual arts

will

them with

was not important

glorified

it

deities they

were representing; individuals and

'd

was

lim-

them. For

to artists to personalize the

this reason,

their

gods only

were redeemed within the society

to the extent they

toltecayotl,

nounced abstraction, the

is

Quetzalcoatl;
it

is

it

a
is

victory

cry.

the

is

It

the defiant Coatlicue.


is

It

is

the assured voice of a conquer-

what makes

it

so different from other

expressions of ancient Mexico.

There

is

no room

for

absolute This can be seen

doubt
in

in

Mexica

art;

confidence

the precision of the locust,

coiled serpent, in the impassive, distant standard bearer,

mages of
s

will

be

Tizoc

and Motecuhzoma

I.

Overall,

ire

in

is

the

and

in

Mexica sculp-

an expression of power, of the certain!


di

community

force of

life itself.

Undoubtedly, beyond
is

most impressive

is

its

forms, materials, and subjects,

and deep feeling permeating


To receive

its

for such

which

is

message,

Mexica

all

we must

art,

put aside

especially sculpture.

all

Western prejudices

must be the indispensable parameter

communication. Mexica

art speaks in its

simultaneously specific and universal.

self-referential,

what

the profound capacity for communication

own

language,

Its

forms are

bounded, and compact, awaiting the detonator

that will expose their

most profound meanings. They

strive to

contain the emotions that are fully integrated within them.

both form and content, this art manifests an enjoyment

In

of

for eternity.

life

that required sacrifices to achieve fullness. The works

express a fatal anxiety that could be controlled through the revelatory dialogue

between god and human. They are works that


and

reveal constrained feelings

beliefs,

to the world's greater cultural

which are neither comheritage nor foreign to

humanity's evolution. They comprise a collective cry

that,

emitted, dominates living beings and offers certainty to


existence. This dialogue
a formal

into refined

works that

later,

the dialogue

the product of deep reflection trans-

and symbolic language and concentrated

formed into

um

is

vital

and

once

human

still

still

speak to us today. Half a millenni-

bears

fruit,

making us participants

in

art to

universal.

dominant Ehecatl-

Coyolxauhqui dismembered but not defeated;

ing people. This quality


artistic

visual arts created by this

emphasize the culture's vigorous and expressive nucleus: the

remain
art

and through deepening themselves from within.

an ancient vision of the cosmos and allowing Mexica

that elevated them.

Mexica

knowledge the Mexica

profound

Ranging from the most sincere verisimilitude to the most pro-

mon

cities.

of the gods

who

by the vicissitudes of the people

and

sensitivity

rounds them; rather they freeze space and time

confidence of their cre-

reflect the lively

ators and of a conquering people. The

great

achieved through the dialogue between head and heart, the

repeated

Based on the accompanying glyphs, the captives

hair.

can be recognized as symbolic images of vanquished

ited

the

Moreover, the works do not interrupt the space or time that sur-

incarnations of Tezcatlipoca. The leaders hold various captives

by their

lively col-

see con-

the smoking mirror that

attire, particularly

purposes of domi-

existence.

ored and inlaid surfaces. The sculptural techniques demonstrate

times, in the side reliefs. They are dressed as warriors

and gods. The warlike

its

the Mexica turned to the fine modeling of stone,

that suggest that "beauty"

throne.

large cylinders conveying historical subjects. Based

quests; their historical nature

the truths of

tell

established itself as

it

for

To reach these objectives and strengthen an extraordinary


artistic will,

literature.

dedication at Mexico's Templo Mayor, or a

Binding of the Years or


this object

Mexica

in

monument commemorates
a

II,

described

is

community united

achieving textures of great eloquence, reinforced by

raphy, simulates the plinth of a pyramid with steps

metrical framing, and, at the top, an altar.

nation and to

by side with

living side

Teocalli of the Sacred War, the

and the Stone of Motecuhzoma.

Tizoc,

neither personalized nor individualized,

the single voice of a

now. Give

people
e art

To Felipe Solis

Notes
1.

Justino Fernandez, Estetica del arte mexicano (Mexico City: Universidad

Nacional
2.

Autonoma de Mexico,

1972),

p. 9.

See Fernandez, Estetica del arte mexicano.

3. Ibid.
4.

Cited in

5.

See Beatriz de

Memorias de
George

la

Fuente,

"El

arte prehispanico:

Academia Mexicana de

la

Madrid /Mexico
6.

45.

ibid., p.

City:

Kubler,

la Historia

Academia Mexicana de

la

Un

siglo de historia," in

correspondiente a

Historia, 1999), pp.

la

Real de

79-100.

Aesthetic Recognition of Ancient Amerindian Art (New

Haven: Yale University

Press, 1991).

de

7.

See

in

Las humanidades en Mexico, 1950- 1975 (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional

ibid.,

pp. 95, 96; Beatriz

la

Fuente, "La critica y

el

Autonoma de Mexico, Consejo Tecnico de Humanidades,


and Beatriz de
XIX," Revista
8.

de

la

"El

arte prehispanico visto por los

Mexica

is

p.

europeos

del siglo

vol. 3, El

tiempo narrado (Mexico

City:

840.

the proper

popular usage.

1978), pp. 93-101;

Universidad de Mexico (Mexico City) 29 (Dec. 1983), pp. 2-7.

See Paul Ricoeur, Tiempoynarracion,

Siglo XXI, 1996),


9.

Fuente,

la

arte prehispanico,"

name

for this people; the

name

Aztec, however,

is in

"S

lsjv*

*&

H
.

5V

'*

H
HVA1.

T
V

The Aztecs and


the Natural World

The Basin of Mexico as a Habitat


for Pre-Hispanic Farmers
II illa

mi

Sanders

THE BASIN OF MEXICO

IS

A GREAT ELEVATED PLAIN SURROUNDED ON THREE SIDES BY A HIGH MOUNTAIN

wall-on the east by the

Sierra Nevada,

on the west by the Sierra de

las Cruces,

the south by the Sierra Ajusco-and by a series of low, discontinuous ranges of


the north. The mountain wall reaches a

maximum

meters at Ixtaccihuatl and Popocatepetl, two snowcapped volcanoes

meter band, and the basin


level.

hills

to

elevation of slightly below 6,000

The three mountain ranges have numerous peaks with elevations

sea

and on

the southeast.

in

the 3,000 to 4,000

in

the center, has an elevation of 2,236 meters above

floor, in

The basin extends approximately 120 kilometers from north to south and 70

kilometers from east to west.

Before the construction of the Gran Canal, the basin was a closed hydrographic

Melt water from snowfields, springs, and runoff from the

unit.

into

summer

rains

hundreds of permanent and seasonal streams before draining into

at the center of the basin.

Colonial

documents

such as

artificial divisions

to the south

many

to three lakes, at times as

as six (based on

but during part of the year they formed a single sheet

dikes),

was Lake Xaltocan

of water, located at varying elevations. To the north

Xaltocan-Zumpango);

flowed

The lakes nearly traverse the basin from north to south.

sometimes

refer

all

a chain of lakes

at the center

was Lake Xochimilco

was Lake Tetzcoco

(or

(or

(or

Lakes

Lakes Mexico-Tetzcoco); and

Lakes Chalco-Xochimilco).

Lake Xochimilco was located 3 meters higher than Lake Tetzcoco and drained into
it.

Because of

which apparently functioned

this outlet,

numerous springs along the southern


ing vegetation ("so thick

shore, the water

one could walk on

it"').

extremely saline and the ultimate destination of


into

it

only seasonally and

was therefore more

small areas near local springs.

In

all

was

and the presence of

year,

fresh

and covered by

float-

Lake Tetzcoco, the lowest lake,


all

was

drainage. Lake Xaltocan drained

saline than Lake Xochimilco, except for

the nineteenth century, the lakes covered an average

area of approximately 1,000 square kilometers, or one-eighth of the surface of the


basin.
level,

low,

The average contour of the shore of Lake Tetzcoco was 2,240 meters above sea

although

between

this varied

from season

to

season and year to

was

surface area so that canoe traffic from lake to lake


Rainfall

is

year.

The lakes were shal-

to 3 meters in depth. During the dry season, they frequently shrank

sharply seasonal

in

the basin and

June through September. Rains usually begin

in

is

concentrated

May and

in

the

months from

decrease sharply

in

October,

with approximately five-sixths of the total annual rainfall occurring between

and October

1.

common

but a snowfall would be an extraordinary event. Drainage from

and

May

The inception and closure of the rainy season vary considerably from

area to area and year to year, however. Hailstorms are

/e,

in

interrupted for short periods.

the

seav"

streams

havi

during the rainy season,


rainfall

is

canyonlike

cul

vigorous and
beds,

called

roughout the basin.

Mean annual
slopes. Rainfall

rainfall varies
in

from south to north

from bas

the northern part of the basin floor

millimeters per year, and at the centei trom

650

to

n Flooi

to adjai enl

m 500

750 millimeters;

in

to

600

the south,

Details

from Fray Bernardino de Sahagun, Florentine

known as Historia general de


Nueva Espana, 1 575-77.

Codex, also
la

las

cosas de

averages as high as 1,100 millimeters are recorded. Rainfall for

conservation. Soil depth, which varies considerably throughout

the adjacent slopes, particularly on the middle flanks of the

the basin, has a striking effect on agricultural production, par-

major ranges,
there

little

is

markedly heavier than that on the

is

common

droughts are

in

the southeast.

in

the north and central parts of

com-

the basin during the rainy season, but no recent cases of

whole are known.

plete failure of the rainy season as a

Considering only
the basin

out

is

mean annual

rainfall,

the southern part of

and northern parts of the

deep and loamy

soils are

tion without irrigation

is

in

possible but crop security

production varies considerably from year to


generally significantly improved

(in

many

gation. All over the basin, irrigation


effective maize agriculture

where

is

basin,

maize cultiva-

texture,

is

low and

year. Yields are

areas doubled) by

irri-

absolutely necessary for

soils are

meter or

since the high elevation corresponds with a

less deep,

higher rate of

transvaporation.

contour

level.

strip

There

is

ranging from 2,240 to 2,800 meters above sea

no permanent population of subsistence farmers

above 2,800 meters, and those communities that


2,600 and 2,800 meters have an
ing

economy based

and lumbering. The primary factor that

lie

Maize, the staple crop,

is

partly

its

last until

upward

is

true

October

much

rains do. In occasional years, frosts begin as early as

or as late as
April.

damage,

the beginning of March. The inception and cessa-

tion dates of the frost season, however, vary as

December and may

Below 2,600 meters,

last

as the

seem

more

to offer

favorable conditions for agriculture than the plains proper,


since frosts tend to settle in the lower areas.

meters, the normal frost-free season

is

is

combination of a

Above 2,800

too short for dependable

maize cropping. Particularly disastrous


only on rainfall

With respect to

the center or the south. Maize cultiva-

in

soil texture,

in this area.

loamy, friable, loose-textured soils

most common throughout the basin and are

for agriculture

based

late inception of the rainy

ideal for

primitive agriculture. They are, however, extremely susceptible to


erosion.

Sandy and clay-textured

the former

soils

do occur

eroded slopes where the finer

in

been washed out, the

latter especially

in localized areas,

have

soil particles

near the lakeshore and

alongside streams. Above 2,600 to 2,800 meters, podzol soils

which form under

more moist climates with

colder,

conifer forest

vegetation and tend to be more acid and heavily leached of

nutrients-predominate. These are notoriously poor soils for agriculture and are a further factor limiting the
of agriculture
is

in

upward expansion

the region.

difficult to reconstruct the natural

vegetation of the

have

basin, since at least 4,000 years of agricultural exploitation

completely removed

from the

it

peasant occupation.

belt of

Small areas of relatively unaltered vegetation suggest that there


a

gradual shift from broadleaf forest

4,500 meters, conifer forest

is

in

the south

Between 2,600 and

the dominant vegetation; above

meadow

that are strips of alpine

or tundra

and

the

finally, in

southeast, snowfields.

brief survey of the

number of

reveals a

geography of the Basin of Mexico

significant factors with respect to

lization during the pre-Hispanic period

its

uti-

by a farming population

equipped with neolithic tools and simple transportation meth-

ods and having

September

through March or even

local elevations

lower than

to xerophytic or scrub forest in the north.

growth. (The same

in

is

exceedingly precarious

was probably

of the secondary pre-Hispanic cultivates as well.) At

elevations below 2,800 meters, frosts normally begin

and

is

least productive part

on graz-

limits the

especially susceptible to frost

notably during the early phase of


all

rainfall

tion

and north. The

undoubtedly the north, where the mean annual

is

between

expansion of agriculture seems to be the temperature regime.

of nearly

of the basin

It

The modern peasant population of the basin resides within


a

ticularly in the drier center

are the

the most favorable part for maize cultivation with-

irrigation. In the central

even where

but

data for these areas. Averages of around 1,400

millimeters have been recorded for the slopes


Internal

plain,

1.

a cereal (maize) as a staple food:

Between 2,240 and 2,600 meters, the permanent removal


presented no serious obstacle to the

of natural vegetation

Mesoamerican farmer, even with

his primitive

technology

(in

contrast to the tropical lowlands of Mesoamerica). Furthermore,


the soils were easily cultivated using neolithic tools and were
generally fertile and capable of sustained cultivation with

mod-

est application of simple soil-restoration techniques (such as

animal and vegetable

fertilizers,

crop rotation, short-phase

fal-

season and an early frost season, since crop planting must be

lowing, intercropping, floodwater and permanent irrigation, and

delayed, causing plant growth to be retarded so that the early

terracing). There was, however, a high percentage of sloping ter-

frosts

cause heavy damage. Of course, too early a planting

is

Most
soil

soil

maps

grouping called

classify the soils of the basin into a


"soils of calcification." Generally,

The overall impression

major

they have

great natural

fertility.

ences

types between 2,240 and 2,800 meters bear

in soil

jltural productivity.

rela'

vario'

soil

ire

where

rain,

soils

stant effort

risky as well.

is

that local differ-

Much more

important

depth and texture, because these

soil

charac-

those most closely related to the problem of water

2.

were markedly susceptible

was required

Without

to erosion,

and con-

to control this destructive process.

irrigation, the rainfall-temperature

regime was

favorable to maize cultivation only

in

and northern parts of the

combination of early frosts

and

retar

difficult

ns,

and crop
a

plus internal

In

the central

made maize cropping

loss frequent

number

irrigation,

basin, the

the south.

of areas, springs

and the

were available

for

perma-

numerous barrancas could be used

for

floodwater irrigation. Such

heavy expenditure of

use,

systems required

labor,

intensive

land

and suprafamily, often supra-

community, cooperation to maintain, construct, and operate.

summer

Since the
in

areas with moderately deep to deep

was
a

rains generally provided

amounts of
donment of

agricultural lands

the primary need

tion decline

from disease) and

soils,

head start on the rainy season, giving the plant more time

for

arrival of the fall frosts.

The lakes were an enormously significant resource for

4.

between

Furthermore,

adequate moisture

for a preplanting irrigation that enabled the farmer to get

growth before the

both within the Valley of Teotihuacan and


Tetzcoco.

land eroded

grazing lands.

What

in

in

and

1521

the valley as a result of the aban-

on the piedmont (due

on spring flow

effect this erosion had

unknown, but there may have been even more water


tem in 1519 than in 1920.

What was

the agricultural significance of the

1519? On the basis of patterns of land use

Most of the major population centers were located near the

Teotihuacan today (where land

highway system

ural

1519, and the lakes provided a nat-

in

linking

parts of the basin. The lakes

all

were also an important source of protein foods and of other


products,

especially

Furthermore,

salt.

Xochimilco was nearly covered by

freshwater

the

islandlike

artificial

Lake

gardens

chinampas, which were the most intensively cultivated

called

and productive lands

Mesoamerica and provided much of the

in

surplus foods for the support of urban communities.

Above 2,600

to popula-

subsequent conversion

their

population with few domestic animals and no beasts of burden.

shores or within the lakes

the bed of Lake

1820 enormous

is

two systems

in

is

the sys-

in

the Valley of

devoted either to maize or to

humidity-demanding commercial crop

argue that 100 percent of the

in

to

like alfalfa),

one could

was devoted

irrigable land

to

maize production. One could also assume that 80 percent of


caloric intake
size

was derived from maize, and

that,

based on the

and weight of the pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican, the average

was 2,000

per capita daily need


yields

from permanently

kilocalories. Taking the

average

land for the Aztec period

irrigated

(1,400 kilograms per hectare for the alluvial plain and 1,000

to 2,800 meters, the pre-Hispanic population

kilograms per hectare for the piedmont areas) and assuming

had an easily available source of forest products for construc-

that the permanent water resources were maximized and that

5.

household technology, transportation, and medicine.

tion,

The considerable

6.

amount and

within the basin-in the


vegetation, topography,

and

spatial

soil

with

position

all

variability in geographical characteristics

distribution of rainfall,

As

a habitat for the

but

it

Mexico offered enormous potential,

after-year production, particularly of annual grain crops, due to


in rainfall

problem was

and temperature. The major solution to

irrigation

from

this

permanent water source.

With respect to permanent spring-based

we have
is

and

detailed data on two: the San Juan Teotihuacan

apparently dying, according to data showing that the

output of water has steadily declined over the past


In

the 1920s, the flow of water at the springs

be 1,000

liters

were used to
flow of 580

per second/

irrigate
liters

fifty years.

was estimated

to

1956, at which time the springs

In

3,652 hectares of land, the springs had a

per second.

the successful

based irrigation over

much

the early 1960s, the flow of

In

6,193

per second. Zones

liters

the

implementation of spring-

of the surface area. According to the

previously, the total flow of water

Zones

in

X and

XI

lie

to XI in

cited

1962 was

outside the natural

drainage region of the Basin of Mexico and are not discussed


here.

Zone

is

the southwest and south-central shore areas of

Lake Xochimilco. Approximately one-third of the total basin


spring flow, or 2,684

irrigation systems,

Tetzcoco Piedmont (Amanalco) systems. The Teotihuacan springs

system

limiting

tribution,

in

in dis-

1968 publication by the Secretaria de Recursos Hidraulicos


a highly productive agri-

also presented serious problems for dependable year-

variations

would have

However, even though springs are very abundant

development of

cultural system, the Basin of

hectares)

population of 116,000 people.

Basin of Mexico, they are highly localized and restricted

and trade.

local specialization

basic grains, then the permanently

mountain passes and

to

lumber, limestone, and so on) stimulated

clay, obsidian,

maximum

sustained a

in

two systems (9,700

depth, water resources, elevation,


respect

lakeshores-along with the distribution of specialized resources


(salt,

was planted

the land

irrigated land of the

liters

per second, occurred

in this area,

because of this extensive flow, as well as the higher

and

rainfall in

the southern area of the basin and the higher elevation of the
lake floor,

was

almost 100 percent of the water of Lake Xochimilco

fresh.

Furthermore, an additional 837

flowed into the southeast lakeshore,


total

flow of water

50 percent of the

in this

in

liters

Zone

per second

bringing the

VIII,

part of the Basin of Mexico to almost

total spring flow of the basin.

With respect to

the potential of these water resources for permanent irrigation,

unfortunately the Sierra Ajusco almost reaches the lakeshc

per second/ Finally, a

the southwest and south-central portions, leaving only small

1968 publication by the Secretaria de Recursos Hidraulicos

areas of alluvial plain for irrigation. Furthermore, the majority of

water was estimated at only 540

liters

showed that the output had dropped


second. 5 (Current data also
ability

show

to below

greater

400

liters

month-to-month

per

vari-

spring

flow,

including

the

major

spring

sourer

much

of the

flow occurs at the base of the Sierra Ajusco, well below

than previously.)

The major cause of the declining output of the Teotihuacan


springs over this period

the

Tulyahualco, runs directly into the lake (because

was the

perforation of artesian wells,

piedmont).

In contrast,

an extensive

alluvial plain occi--

the southeast shore of Lake Xochimilco, and the sprinc

Following page

Adda Brf

1*1

MfoJita

aa

&

that area would have been available for large-scale irrigation of

343,000,000 cubic meters flowed through the barranca-river

the plain and nearby piedmont.

systems. However, these figures refer to the present-day drainage

Zones

and

II

west and north of Lake Tetzeoco)

(the areas

III

are unusually well

endowed with

flow of 1,142

per second

liters

in

spring sources, with a total

1962.

In this

area are six major

perennial streams that collect water from these springs.

lakeshore. Approximately

In

addi-

adjacent to the

tion, there are extensive areas of alluvial plain

25 percent of the surface of the

region could have been irrigated from spring sources-that


virtually

of the lakeshore and riverine alluvium, plus large

all

areas of terraced fields

Zone

is,

IV,

on

basin, a

combination of

artificial

the Cuauhtitlan region,

endowed with

also well

is

899

springs, with a flow of approximately

per second

liters

1962, and with extensive irrigable alluvial plains. Zone V,

in

in

the

We

have roughly

calculated the surface drainage of our smaller region at 70 per-

cent of the latter figure, or 240,100,000 cubic meters.

would be

institute's

little

higher, since the areas that

(In fact,

were included

it

the

in

study but are excluded from ours, such as the Apan

Basin, have an average annual precipitation that

comparable

is

to the drier regions of the basin.) Since irrigation water

break this total figure

used

is

dependent on the season, we must

for very different purposes,

hillsides.

and natural drainage systems

that drain an area of 9,600 square kilometers.

down

by season. The ratio of

rainfall in

the Basin of Mexico according to season, beginning with winter

and ending with

approximately

fall, is

:4:10:5. This

means

that

northeastern portion of the basin, had virtually no spring flow

approximately 12,000,000 cubic meters flows during the winter,

an area with

48,000,000 cubic meters during the spring, 120,000,000 cubic

in

1962 (19

shallow

per second); furthermore,

liters

soils,

even

is

it

the alluvial plain. Zones VI and

in

VII,

the

Valley of Teotihuacan and the adjacent Tetzeoco region, had a


total

flow of 572

development of

liters

per second

in

system

in this

was

area

the discussion of the Teotihuacan and

in

spring flow could theoretically be used for the

permanent irrigation-that
ence that the

Tetzeoco springs.

we assume

fall.

The winter flow would have limited use for agriculture. The

1962. The capacity for the

a large-scale irrigation

evaluated above,

meters during the summer, and 60,000,000 cubic meters during


the

is,

same purpose as

for preplanting (with the differ-

local variability, year to year,

would be very

high).

the

Taking the average measure of 1,200 cubic meters of water per

Teotihuacan and Tetzeoco springs during the twentieth century

irrigation per hectare of land, theoretically the spring flow in the

occurred throughout the Basin of Mexico, these 1962 totals

basin could be used to irrigate 40,000 hectares of land.

could be at least doubled, or more

likely

irrigation

two and

water flow during the Aztec

If

that the decline in water flow observed

a half, to estimate total

in

increased by a factor of

period. This gives us a figure of 12,000 to 15,000 liters per sec-

ond. Of
per

this,

approximately 60 percent-or 7,200 to 9,000

second-flowed

into areas of high agricultural potential.

second to

Utilizing the ratio of liters per


in

liters

irrigable land

we can

the Valley of Teotihuacan,

observed

calculate the irrigable

area-for permanent, spring-based irrigation-for

the zones

all

is

function could

this

hectares. During the

not so

much

storage

for

be used
fall,

spring

the

What

the data suggest, then,

irrigation in the spring,

duction existed during the Aztec period: floodwater irrigation.


In this

system, the water supply derived directly from rainfall

is

supplement the
water storage

than

would

growing season,

fields are

flooded to store water


is

technique of planting called

coy'efe,

down

in

which shallow

pits are

to the subsoil during the planting season, and

the seeds are planted


tially filled

the subsoil

often combined with a special

for the spring planting. This

excavated

in

with dry

in this

humid

soil to seal off

With respect to floodwater

soil.

The

pits are

then par-

irrigation,

the maximal capacity of this resource.

it

In a

is

rains

this,

at

some

difficult to assess

1963 publication by

behind dams to allow simple gravity

much
or

of the rain

falls in

meters flowed to the surface

in

this,

4,704,000,000

which 133,000,000 cubic

the form of springs) and

and

in

irrigation.

areas where irrigation

such

is

small

Furthermore,

unnecessary

where topographic situations would have made

irrigation

unfeasible with pre-Hispanic technology.

most

for the Basin of

of the entire Central Plateau,

Mexico pertain

unique region within

the

lakes.

to

where approximately three

million people resided in 1519. Ecologically, the Basin of

because of the presence of

7,000,000 cubic meters.' Of

intervals,

amounts, that there would not be enough buildup of water

was

filtrated into the soil (of

the

of the rainfall during the spring season

widely spaced

the Instituto Mexicano de Recursos Naturales Renovables, the

6,71

In fact,

would be somewhat lower

irrigation

average total annual precipitation for the Basin of Mexico

meters

to

irrigation in the fall for

the subsoil for the following year.

in

since

fall

summer growing season

and an additional

The conditions described

the moisture.

50,000

that

and that the same land could be given

figures for preplanting

by the numerous barrancas

the basin. At the end of the

estimate

that approximately 40,000

is

to three irrigations during the

supplemented during the rainy season by water from canals fed


in

We

planting.

technique of water

hectares of land could be provided with water for a preplanting

two
maize pro-

100,000

hectares of land could theoretically be irrigated for this purpose.

52,000 hectares.
for

provide water for

to

contemporary farmers use floodwater

for the standing crop, but as a

of the basin during the Aztec period as approximately 42,000 to

Another technique of moisture maintenance

Summer

used primarily as a supplement, and the flow for

Central

Plateau,

Mexico

however,

The lake system enormously

enhanced the potential of supplying major urban concentrations with basic goods. The Spaniards
scale

of

canoe transportation

in

were astonished

and around

Map

the

at the
city

of

of the Valley of Mexico.

Use

OTHHB

miLILIEY

M'&XW

if

From recent Surveys


THE LAKES ABC RtSTORtO TO THEIR LEVEL AT
THE TIME OF THE CONQUEST AND THE AMClENT
APPROACHES TO THE CITY ARE REPLACED.
Seal*

1 2&3.-MO

linch.- * Statul* Mil

Off

Reference
Rirrrr and Stnrtana frtrrnniai pmrniR*
tttnu'tiSTUSt ''/~
m
m
Bn./him m ttrt abnrr Jta Lr-et
.

nuuuiw

""

tn f*<tlt

BTotg
7*** rruv1

" drawn

rt-u

A*

'Oirt*

fr**gmA*1

Art I>\*1r\W

AAruTiaSV. .teak ISOOfiO. and * Jfcmm G**-*m~a Utr^,


16991307 icmU lWOl**> ** f*r ** rvmpUtfd lurpt**"'Ihr 'Carta BldrofrMU* Jsl Vail* d* JWiun* iXK> Jv*I J 20)400

y^Z.

Tenochtitlan

of traction,

in
all

1519.

an economy without domestic animals

In

goods had to be

carried

Canoe transportation magnified

burden

single

paddle they find the limits of this cimiento, marking

on the human back.

its

perimeter with carrizos [long stakes].

Above

bearer's

this cimiento, they place stratas of earth

capacity to haul goods by a factor of twenty. The lakes also pro-

and cesped [aquatic vegetation]

vided an abundance of natural protein-rich foods to supple-

above water

ment the maize

diet.

These included algae,

fish,

ducks, and insect eggs and larvae, and these were

by the native population.

In

consumed

development of

a drained-

especially the

grows

In its

technique by which

plants,

[lily /-//fc/cor/o coerules],

which

such compact masses that one can easily

in

The earth used

two hundred years of pre-

principle of drained-field agriculture to the chain of lakes of

the practice of adding

the Basin of Mexico. The Aztecs referred to the cultivation plots

periodically to fertilize

into the lake bottom,

around each

plot.

height of

stakes,

that

to help consolidate the soil edge, again adding to the impres-

much shade

sion of an enclosure.

around the edges,

great deal of misunderstanding and inaccurate description

is,

as rafts of

soil

grows

mud and

is

due

to

aquatic vegetation

it].

Some

[a

to considerable height but

as

level,

type of willow

does not cast

branches grow almost

its

vertically]

order to consolidate the

in

they

soil

prevent erosion]. The cuttings are planted at

[i.e.,

4-5 meters.

intervals of

Once the sauces are planted, the chinampa

of the Spanish accounts describe chinampas as floating gar-

densthat

difficult to cultivate

plant cuttings of sauce or huejote

Furthermore,

has characterized the literature on chinampa agriculture.

taken

is

have grown so high

20-25 centimeters above water

the borders of the chinampas were planted with huejote trees

Once the chinampa being made has reached

within the lakes as chinampas (enclosures), because the edges

embedded

growth of the chinampa

[i.e.,

were protected by placing closely spaced wooden

above the water that they are

Hispanic history witnessed the extraordinary application of the

to irrigate; the

with shovels or cogs.

it

making the chinampa

in

from ancient chinampas that

farmland by the large-scale construction of a grid of ditches to


final

lirio

which occupy

lake],

mass of aquatic

To use this cesped, they cut

low-lying, poorly drained areas are converted to productive

lower the water table. The

it

walk on them without sinking.

broadest and simplest sense,

the term "drained-field system" refers to

they raise

the so-called eienagas [shal-

in

sections of the

and consists of

large areas,

system, supported both the dense farming population and

the large urban population.

swampy

low

addition, the colonization of the

lakes for agriculture, through the


field

The cesped grows

amphibians,
all

until

level.

is

ready for cultivation. 8

that could be paddled around the

lakeshore and into the city so that produce could be sold

from the

directly

agrees upon

row

is

to the marketplace.

field

chinampa was

that a

What everybody
and nar-

a relatively small

located within a lake and surrounded by

plot of land,

water, and that the soil

was exceptionally

fertile.

This

Santamaria's description suggests a major difference between

chinampas and drained


were

artificial

On

combina-

fields in general, in

lands entirely created by

human

that

chinampas

effort.

the basis of eye-witness accounts dating from the time

and nearby water resources permitted an

of the Conquest, and most particularly from the abundant data

unusual productivity. Large areas of the lake bed were converted

gathered during the early colonial era (including that contained

tion of soil fertility

the Relaciones geogrdficas, the response by local officials to

to grids of abundant, densely concentrated plots of lands sep-

in

arated by narrow canals.

a questionnaire sent to the

How
esting

the

chinampas were made has always been an

question.

1912,

In

Spanish

agronomer,

inter-

Miguel

in

580),

it is

Spanish colonies by Philip

clear that virtually

all

II

of Spain

of Lake Xochimilco had been

converted to chinampa agriculture by 1519. The cultivators

Santamaria, was contracted by the Mexican government to

lived primarily in

study the chinampas south of Mexico

natural and artificial islands within the lake, as well as on the

tive of this

City.

The primary objec-

study was to analyze the productivity and future of

chinampa

these lands as a major resource for the production of food for


the expanding
(there

is

city.

Based on

local

informants' recollections

no evidence that he actually witnessed the

process),

Santamaria described the conversion of the lake bed to agri-

the

In

plots themselves.

were
Dt

startling

in aerial

ticularly north

ook
This operation

for a
is

cimicnto

chinampa, the

(literally,

fii

basemen!

very easy and consists of sounding

the bottom of the canal with an oar [paddle] until a


point of lesser depth

is

located.

Then with the same

and

exciting. Over

chinampas occurred
ile

manufacture of

Pedro Armillas conducted

mid-1960s,

extensive

surveys over the desiccated beds of Lake Xochimilco. The results

cultural land as follows:

start the

communities on the lakeshore, but also on

in

most of the

area, indications

the form of patterns of linear features

photographs.

In a

number

and east of Xochimilco,

of areas, however, par-

in

an area that had not

suffered destruction from plowing, he found surviving remains


of actual

chinampa

fields

tern. Armillas published a

estimated
1

tin

total area

5,000 hectares.

In his

and intervening canals

map

in a grid

pat-

detailing his findings in 1971.

occupied by Lake Xochimilco

in

surface survey, Armillas noted a

1519

He
at

number

"*

[rro

a-.

CahudLinOJ

fecal

a-

*i

xjectdf

Camlet
i

JruLs:

ei
,

f
i.

^.^
j.

.fcw-.

..

'

Cw6.fUU.
ana

<-'""
r

<

'

"* "YeAanAa.

tculai

-Wax.

e/:*

itg
Hi
V'

*'-

***;:

v
I??

Map

Following pages Jose Maria Velasco. The Vollty of Mexico. 1875.


of Mexico City, 1768.

*>

of small areas within the lake bed as well as a relatively large

garden lands from periodic floods and salinization was the con-

area north of the island of Xico where he found no evidence of

struction of a vast system of dikes, particularly

chinampa

where

from

agriculture;

he estimated the actual area

this,

occupied by chinampas as 12,000 hectares, of which 9,000

was

hectares

cultivable land

and the

rest intervening canals

and large navigation canals.

and apparently occurring

ture during the pre-Hispanic period,

type

was

the fifteenth century,

in

of agriculture

into

western

the

agricul-

the expansion of this

of saline

third

Lake

Tetzcoco (that part of the lake referred to as Lake Mexico).

A major

question

is

how much

know from documentary data

in

We

1519.

that the towns of Coyoacan,

Huitzilopochco, Mexicaltzingo, and Ixtapalapan

chinampas dedicated

sive areas of

where the gardens were vulnerable

all

had exten-

to garden cropping. With

to flooding.

remark-

ably complex system of water control-an impressive example

mated that the

in

total length of the

place

1519. Palerm esti-

in

system was approximately

80 kilometers. The causeways projected approximately


meters above the lake

plot

to 1.5

so the total height of the chinampas

level,

was somewhere between

of the surface of the western

bay of Lake Tetzcoco was occupied by chinampas

Lake Tetzcoco,

in

a serious threat, but also in the southern

of public-work construction-was

One of the most spectacular aspects of chinampa


primarily

lakes,

was

salinization

and 4.5 meters. The width of each

ranged from 8 to 20 meters.

In

summary, the management of the

of the Basin of Mexico

environment

lacustrine

was one of the most impressive achieve-

ments of ecological adaptation

human

in

history.

Because of the

temperature, precipitation, and water

great variety

in

the Central

Plateau

area

availability,

was an extremely complex

natural

respect to the balance of the area, Luis Gonzalo Aparicio's 1973

environment, and this complexity had dramatic effects on land

map

use and cultural evolution. There

locates twenty island

communities whose economy was

apparently dependent on chinampa and/or salt production.


Half of these were found south of Tenochtitlan, and considering

presence of the four lakeshore communities

the additional

noted above,

it is

virtually certain that this entire area

had been

which had

plexity,

northeastern Puebla and the northeastern

in

by chinampas

in

and adjacent areas

hood of 3,000

hectares, or 2,250 hectares of cultivable surface.

The

chinampa

total cultivable surface for

basin, then,

was approximately 11,000

is,

all

of the

the chinampas

in

chinampas

in

the neighbor-

agriculture

in

the

hectares. Of this,

we

would calculate that approximately 3,000


(that

in

to 4,000 hectares

Lake Tetzcoco plus

some

of

Lake Xochimilco) were dedicated to garden

was found along the shores of

parts of the Basin of Mexico. Salt

the saline lakes, limestone

was probably

com-

also a geological

resources other than agricultural land. Obsidian, for example,

was found only

converted to chinampa farming by 1519. The total area occupied


Lake Tetzcoco

was

major impact on the availability of natural

in

in

the northwestern part of the basin

wood

the state of Hidalgo, and

only at the

when

highest elevations (particularly during the Aztec period,


the population
a great

number

was very

dense). Clay for ceramics

of areas but

distribution. Finally,

at

crops-including tropical

and bark from the

was

highly localized

fruits

fig tree for

and even cacao, cotton

for cloth,

paper-were found. These

complex development of

tions led to a

approximately 7,500 to 8,500 hectares of remaining garden

exchange networks, and these elements

surface would have produced 22,500 to 25,500 tons of maize

effect

political

in

in its specific

lower elevations, frost-intolerant

the

cropping and the balance to the production of staple crops. The

on

was found

varia-

and

local specialization

turn had a profound

in

evolution and urbanization.

and/or grain amaranth, based on yields for the twentieth century (3,000 to 4,000 kilograms per hectare).
resided

in

the southern lake area

65,000

in

1519.

in

Some 32,000

people

1568, and this calculates to


Notes

If all

of the residents

in this

area obtained their

Miguel Santamaria,

1.

maize only from the chinampas

them had other lands on the


sumed 10,400 tons of maize,
This surplus

(this

is

unlikely, since

lakeshore), they

many

of

would have con-

leaving a surplus of 15,500 tons.

would have fed an additional 100,000 people-pre-

sumably many of the residents of the urban communities with-

2.

and around the shore of Lake Tetzcoco.

lake
tural

were converted into perhaps the most productive agriculland

in

human

Mesoamerica-remain

history certainly

in

the

history

3.

William

much

T.

to this subject. His findings suggest the extraordinary

Rene

skill

and

to mobilize labor. The solution to the

problem of protei

City:

for

New

and M.

Dia*.

"<

Comparative Studies

the

in

Wiley,

115-27,

Anthropological Research, 1956), pp

Millon, C. Hall,

in G. R.

World (New York Wcnner-Gren

Society

and

Modern leotihuacan

History

A,

no. 4 (1962),

pp.394-'..
5.

Boletin hidrologico
Sei retarla

resumen (Conn

de Recursos Hidrdulii

Mesas redondas sobre problcmas

life

ne pre-Hispanic population of the Basin of Mexico

(Mexico

3 vols.

Sanders, "The Central Mexican Symbiotu Region,"

Irrigation System,"

6.

of his professional

de Teotihuaean,

Valle

Prehistoric Settlement Patterns in the

major avenue for research. The ethno-

historian Angel Palerm dedicated

cap;i

of

City:

25.

Manuel Gamio, La poblacion del

ed.,

4.

The processes and mechanisms by which 20,000 hectares of

p.

Secretaria de Agricultura y Fomento, 1922).

Foundation
in

Las chinampas del distrito federal (Mexico

Secretaria de Fomento, 1912),

a
os),

no

de

la

Cueni

a del Vjlle

de

11968).

del Valle de Mexico

(Mono

City

Institute

no de Recursos Naturales Renovables, 1963).


7.

C,

West and Pedro Armillas, "Las

imumpas

de Mexico," Cuadernos

americanos 50 (1950), pp. 165-92.


8.

Santamaria, lw~<htnumpasdeldistiitn federal (tram

author).

Valley of Mexico, 1920.

The Harmony between People


and Animals in the Aztec World
Mercedes

FOR INDIGENOUS MESOAMERICANS, THE EXPERIENCE

</<

/</

Garza

AND CONSCIOUSNESS OF THE ANIMAL

world were very different from that of the modern Western city dweller. The city
dweller has lost the one link with the surrounding world that could be most
enriching: the capacity for wonder, admiration, and reverence for the natural

world. The indigenous person, by contrast, thought about him- or herself as

being closely linked to animals, plants, rocks, and even objects created by peo-

which were attributed

ple, to

a spirit

and

that of humans.

will similar to

For the indigenous person, the natural world

was not something

to be

humans

at their pleasure, as

it

manipulated, exploited, and destroyed by

been for Western culture. Rather

it

was

powers and forces with which people had to forge


vival of

humankind and

has

sphere populated by supernatural


ties,

necessary for the sur-

for the conservation of nature,

and as the context

in

which sacred beings manifested themselves.


Thus the consciousness of that sphere

vital

alien to

humans was

a religious

expe-

animals embodied divine energy because they possessed

rience. For the Aztecs,

forces and physical powers beyond that of humans, such as flying, having

claws, and surviving underwater.

In particular,

some animals were considered

to

be extraordinary beings that revealed the sacrosanct. They therefore became

symbols of natural bodies and elements (such as stars and


els of

To

the universe

name

female

several examples, the rabbit represented the

as

fertility,

logical aquatic

fish,

and

snail,

drown

level.

and of the

lev-

moon

and, therefore,

the animals linked with

which also symbolized fecundity. A mytho-

animal known as the ahuitzotl had characteristics of the

monkey, and possum, as well as


to

Among

various other cultures.

in

water were the frog,

rain)

which divine forces materialized.

in

people. Lizards

hand on the

which

otter,

it

could use

and crocodiles were symbols of the cosmos's

terrestrial

tip

of

its tail,

Associated with the underworld were nocturnal animals such as the owl,

believed to be the messenger of the god of death, Mictlantecuhtli. Insects such

as the cricket, centipede, and spider were allied with the earth god, Tlaltecuhtli,
evil shamans who sent disease and death. The indigenous writer
Hernando Alvarado Tezozomoc wrote that the shaman Malinalxochitl "makes
people eat snakes
and owls, then calls out all the centipedes and spiders and

and with

turns into a witch.

[She

is]

a terrible rogue."

Animals were associated with temporality, as guardians of the lapses of


time.

An animal

alter

ego was assigned

sacred influences that acted upon him or

to every person, together with the


her,

based on the day of birth accord-

ego shared that person's fate and harbored


death. Some people who had several of the most

ing to the ritual calendar. This alter


a

pci'

pint until

powerful animal companions, such as the jaguar, puma, and the coyote, were
able to transform themselves into those animals at will

when

in a

state of sleep

or ecstatic trance. These people were the sorcerers or shamans.

3.

Eagle
.

ca.

1500

&)&*>

3b

fc

:*-<

f*^

*.

*\

"*?

4.

Coyote

Aztec, ca. 1500

Among
women.

indigenous groups there were also domestic animals, cared for by the

were cooked from the meat of some of these creatures, such as

Ritual foods

the turkey, dog, and deer. Others were raised to be sold or eaten, and

some were

kept

as pets, for example, songbirds. Macaws, parrots, and monkeys, which were brought

from jungles

in

the southeast of Mesoamerica, also served as pets. The birds' feathers,

however, could be used for making clothing.

addition,

In

monkeys had symbolic

sig-

nificance and were associated with happiness, games, and dance. They were repre-

sented

in

sculpture playing or dancing, and were

shown with symbols

of Xochipilli, god

of happiness, or of Quetzalcoatl, the plumed serpent.

Dogs were animals used


food but as
spirit to

ritual food.

of the

in sacrifices

fire:

and were eaten not as ordinary

to the gods,

of the dog had the task of transporting

spirit

the underworld after death. The dog

and the sun's

sky,

The

was

The feast of the god of

master's

its

also linked to the ritual calendar, the

fire,

Xiuhtecuhtli,

was

held on day 3

dog was substituted

ritual calendar. In certain sacrificial rites, a

Dog

human

for a

being as a victim.

Of the various kinds of dogs

was

dog was not considered

same

the

in

litter

living

and with

special. Missing teeth

among

the indigenous people, the xoloitzcuintli

a higher

than normal temperature, this hairless

a breed at the time, but rather

an abnormality.

It

as regular dogs. (The xoloitzcuintli belonged to the

africanus, but resulted from a mutation

in

a heterozygotic gene.

genus Canis

now

is

It

could be born

recognized

as an official breed.) Because of the xoloitzcuintli's association with the underworld,

he was the god Xolotl, the twin brother of Quetzalcoatl. While Xolotl symbolized the
planet Venus as the evening

Quetzalcoatl

star,

was Venus as the morning

they exemplified the harmony of opposites, which

is

star.

Together,

central to Aztec thinking.

Other important animals were the jaguar, the serpent, and the solar

mingbird and eagle; the hummingbird represented the

fertilizing

the

birds,

hum-

power of the sun, and

the eagle was the main symbol of the Aztecs. The jaguar was one of the most important symbols of the dark side of
destructive forces of
stars;

it

was

evil

the kingdom of mystery, and the irrational and

life,

and death.

Its

skin represented the night sky splotched with

also seen as a manifestation of the sun on

world. According to Aztec myths, the jaguar

mordial and chaotic time,

in

which

ego of powerful men and

alter

it

its

voyage through the under-

was an animal from

destroyed

human

a prior world, a pri-

beings. In addition,

was the

it

shamans.

evil

The serpent was the incarnation of water, earth, the underworld, blood, female and

male

was

fertility, life,

death, and immortality due to

symbol of the

life

its

unique change of

and death energies that ruled the cosmos.

who were sometimes

ated with the most important gods,

skin. In short,

was thus

It

it

associ-

manifest as fantastic beings

formed by the combination of features of several animals, like the feathered serpent.
Expressing the conjunction of heaven and earth and thus the harmony of opposites,

was the main religious symbol of Mesoamerica. For the Aztecs,


was the manifestation of the god Quetzalcoatl (Quetzal Serpent), the creator god,

the feathered serpent


it

who was

associated with wind and water.

The hummingbird was thought to possess supernatural powers.

who had

ously a sexual symbol and the incarnation of warriors

those

who had been

sacrificed.

It

died

was simultanein battle

Huitzilopochtli, as well as his father. In an Aztec myth, Coatlicue, the

Huitzilopochtli, puts a ball of

When

the god

The eagle,
for

its

is

for

born, his
its

hummingbird feathers

left leg is

capacity to

and of

The hummingbird was the symbolic animal of the god

fly

in

her lap and

feathered.

above the clouds and approach the sun, as well as

golden plumage, was considered an incarnation of

descent at great speed-diving on

mother of

becomes pregnant.

its

prey-represented

fire

and of the sun

light falling

on the

itself. Its

earth, the

arrival of vital energy,

thought to have

and the
and

lack of moderation, pride,


cal father

power of the sun. Yet the eagle was also

life-giving

malevolent

a nocturnal,

cruelty.

which was rooted

side,

Thus

excess of valor,

and the rapacious conqueror.

The all-encompassing meanings of the eagle explain

why

it

was the supreme sym-

most powerful of the Nahua groups

bol of the Mexica-Aztecs, the

lands.

in its

symbolized both the dominant, tyranni-

it

the central high-

in

The species that especially embodied the essential values of that people seems

to have been the royal or golden eagle [Aquila chrysaetos), an extraordinary, majestic
bird with a

wingspan of more than two meters.

The eagle primarily represented the warrior character of the Aztecs, conceived as

sacred mission and as force, aggressiveness, power over others through war, and a

occupy the center of the cosmos,

desire to

death, which generated the

order to sustain the gods with one's


In

the sun. The eagle also represented

own

human made

in

blood.

the myth of the founding of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, the eagle played a

central role because

indicate the site


nopal, with
ing

like

of the universe: the autosacrifice a

life

it

was the

where

sign that the

their city should be

god Huitzilopochtli gave the people to

founded. They saw an eagle atop

wings stretched out toward the sun, taking the fresh

its

and devouring

air

a great

of the morn-

a serpent.

The data from written sources are confirmed by remarkable sculptures, which,

in

addition to their aesthetic value, demonstrate the main symbols of Aztec thinking and

Among

culture.
is

these works, the

prickly pear; in

its

beak

monument known

On the back of

particularly important.

this

as the Teocalli of the Sacred

monument, the eagle

is

shown on

bears the Atl Tlachi nolli, the symbol for water and

it

fire;

War
the

and

growing from the chest of the god of death, Mictlantecuhtli. The mean-

the nopal

is

ing of the

work

is

cosmological, since the god of death represents the underworld; the

nopal, earth; and the eagle, the sky.

The earth-sky duality appears elsewhere

in

Mexica symbology through the jaguar

and the eagle, representing the nocturnal sun and diurnal sun, respectively.
nocturnal sun

when

traveling through the underworld,

versing the sky. They were

warriors

who

two aspects of the same

is

a diurnal

was

It

sun when tra-

thus both were symbols of the

served the sun.

Another exceptional artwork,


sented,

star;

and

wood Huehuetl

the

in

which the Mexica concept of

of Malinalco. (Huehuetl

war

a sacred

means drum.) Carved

is

pre-

in relief in

the top and bottom registers are representations of an eagle and a jaguar bearing sacrificial

flags

and dressed

in

warrior attire.

In

the top register there

is

also an Eagle Lord

with his wings intertwined and outstretched. His face emerges from the eagle's beak,

which

is

open toward the

sky.

We

can discern at his sides the man's arms and

a clear depiction of both the mystical

appears to be

legs. This

meaning of the eagle warrior and

of the initiate's spiritual elevaticn, as he receives sacred powers from the sun.

The preceding discussion confirms that animals played


the Aztecs. These indigenous people had
very different from ours.

In light

a central role in

the

life

of

consciousness or knowledge of the cosmos

of this difference,

it

would be erroneous

to call

them

"ecologists," but we must recognize that rather than bringing about the extinction of

species, they

had sufficient wisdom to preserve the harmony between humankind and

the natural world.

i"

10.

Grasshopper

Aztec, ca.

1500

'.!

?**

":*

JEW

*>1

it
.*-

The Aztecs and


Their Ancestors

Man and

Precolumbian
Felipe

Cosmos

His

Suit's

THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, THE AZTECS, ALONG WITH OTHER NAHAUTL SPEAKERS

IN

FROM

neighboring towns, related various stories to explain the origin of their universe

who had

to the Spanish conquistadores

of the gods' participation


birth of the

human

an act of creation

in

race, to

have survived are written

some

Spanish.

in

in

which

new

world. They told

a basic event

was the

which they proudly belonged. Most versions of the

stories that

are

just reached the

Nahuatl, their original language, and

in

summary

magnificent visual

of this myth can be seen

in

the central design of the extraordinary unfinished monolith called the Sun
Stone, which

was discovered

main plaza

Mexico

in

December 1790

in

in

the course of paving the

City.

Eras Preceding the Aztecs

and the

Birth of the Fifth

Sun

There are images describing the original myth that survived the catastrophe of
the Conquest, sculpted on extraordinary
relief
is

on the Sun Stone

is

outstanding.

defined as the myth of the five suns/

destruction of prior ages, to reach the


era

was attended by the

its

own

one of

its

these, the central

versions, the original

myth

which the sequence of creation and

in

fifth age, is

explained. The origin of each

whom sym-

participation of a significant deity, each of

bolized, as a deity per se,

"sun" had

monuments. Among

In

one of the four basic elements of nature. Thus, each

particular inhabitants

and plants that would be destroyed

made

by catastrophic events generated by the very element that

a force in

it

the creation.

As could be expected, there are profound differences among the various

monuments, mainly

written sources and the archaeological

sequence of the ages.


ation stories found

ence of

biblical

We

in

believe that the

some

explanations of the creation. For this reason,

most

the order or
in

the cre-

colonial manuscripts reflects the profound influ-

pristine story contained in the relief

four ages, the

in

emphasis on sun or water

reliable source.

we

on the Sun Stone, and on

consider the

its

altar of the

Here the order begins with Nahui Ocelotl

(4

Jaguar) and reaches Nahui Atl (4 Water), including the four extremes of the universe, concluding with

shown

in

Nahui

The task of forming the


spiritual

would

light that

and

drical

Movement), the

fifth creation,

first

sun

fell

which

is

to Tezcatlipoca, ancestral deity of war,

power of darkness, and one of the symbols of the


age would be

Ocelotl (4 Jaguar). The giants


era

Ollin (4

the center of the stone.

their food,

name used

gathered

a ferocious feline; therefore

known
in

earth. The star that


it

was named Nahui

as Quinametin were the inhabitants ot

the wild,

was

called

chicome

malinalli, a calen-

to describe a certain variety of pine nuts. This sun, linked with

the color black, lasted 676 years; at the end of this period, formidable jaguars

came down to earth and devoured


enormous bones discovered in the

all

the giants.' The Aztecs said that the

fields

under cultivation and

in

the

hills

frnrei

Page from the Codex Mendoza,

ca. 1541.

(paleontological remains of Pleistocene fauna) were reliable

evidence of the gods'

first

experiment to create

life

on

The second sun was created by Quetzalcoatl, the plumed serpent and adversary of the deity of war. This era was a heavenly

body

called

Nahui Ehecatl, "four

wind," whose

Of the food that sustained the people of


its

yellow.

color

is

we

only

this era,

know

calendrical identity, Matlaetlomome Coatl (12 Serpent), with

no specification of

its

the survivors turned themselves into birds and butterflies.

Next

earth.

botanical species. The chroniclers attrib-

it

falls to

Chalchiuhtlicue, she of the jade

sun, which illuminated that age. This time,

valued liquid without which


the female deity

in

life

cannot

god-

was made of

more stage

tion with Tezcatlipoca. That era lasted

in his

676

and

years,

ute the creation of one age to the destruction of the previous

drical

is

Nahui Xochitl

(4 Flower).

to the patron-

eternal confronta-

one, precipitated by fights between the deities. Thus, the

name

that

The presence of

was thanks

the act of creation

age of Quetzalcoatl, as one

it

exist.

itants ate a wild variety of maize called cineoeopi,

first

skirts,

dess of water, and companion of Tlaloc, to constitute the fourth

its

inhab-

whose calen-

White was

its

dominant

sun or era ended after Quetzalcoatl gave Tezcatlipoca a tremen-

color. That era concludes with a disastrous flood that caused

dous beating, and the second age ended when the god of darkness gave a mighty kick to the plumed serpent, leading to its

even the mountains to disappear, covering everything with

end by the force of hurricane winds. The survivors of


that era, which lasted 364 years, were turned into monkeys.
Tezcatlipoca takes revenge in his work as a creator and

any humans who survived turned themselves

terrible

troduces Tlaloc, the god of

rain,

as the creator

hird

What is enigmatic about


element was fire; thus, its color is

age, called Nahui Quiahuitl (4 Rain.)


this creation
red,

and

its
.

volcano

is

that

ruling
is

described as a catastrophic rain of

Xitle,

which destroyed most of the southern part

where Cuicuilco flourished

age lasted 312 years, and


lose calendrical

When

utions of the

could be a reference to

Valley of Mexico,
third

its

destruction

this cycle

its

one

time. The

people ate acecentli, a wild

name was Chicome

ended with the

at

ol

rair

fin

Tecpatl (7

described above,

water for fifty-two years. Finally the sky

fell

on the earth, and


into

fish

and

other aquatic animals.


In

its

wisdom, the myth of the suns shows the conjunction

of the four elements that are fundamental to

life

the uni-

in

verse, the origin of the colors that rule the directions of the axis

mundi, as well as the origin of some animals (monkeys,


birds,
is

and bir

il

h creation.

lived in

fish,

Everything

being prepared for the birth of the heavenly body thai

will

illuminate the time of the Aztecs.


rhe five-era creation story recalls other universal creation

myths,

in

which the people from

all

continents have explained

a creation process that occurs in the darkness of the eternal

nigh

occasion,

all

the gods met

in

Teotihuacan

ca

1170

for the

Halunm,

purpose of choosing

who among them would have

able mission of lighting up the world anew. The

was

god of

Teeuciztecatl,

He of the Conch

earth,

the honor-

respond

first to

Shell; to bal-

ance the sacred act of the gods, they sought another candidate
for the

supreme

ing to

do

revered and most

gious

the absence of any volunteer offer-

sacrifice. In

humble of

Nanahuatzin,

all,

who

covered with sores,

spirit,

who was

they inquired about the god

this,

the least

deformed

reli-

accepted the mandate.

Separation of Earth and Sky


Other stories

tell

that

some time

after the sky

and Tezcatlipoca turned

Quetzalcoatl

on the earth,

fell

themselves

name

two seg-

for Tlaltecuhtli) by her extremities, breaking her into

ments (some considered


to be female).

One

this

two

into

gigantic serpents, holding the goddess Tlalteutl (another

god male and others believed her

piece constitutes the celestial planes, and the

other makes up the earth, strictly speaking. The

archaic

text, in

Both Teeuciztecatl and Nanahuatzin prepare themselves for the

Nahuatl, states: "Then, that done, to compensate said goddess

ceremony

for the injury those

would

for four days by lighting the ritual bonfire that they

themselves

sacrifice

The gods invited Teeuciztecatl

into.

to be first to throw himself into the

act

Nanahuatzin,

who throws

formed

and he hesitated-an

fire,

The self-sacrifice

cowardice.

of

unforgivable

himself on the pyre and

to

falls

trans-

is

into a radiant disk, the final sun of the fifth era. Envious,

Teeuciztecatl then throws himself on the sacred

another resplendent

At that moment, one of the gods

disk.

grabs a rabbit by the ears and throws

extinguishing

Teeuciztecatl,

remained

in

becoming

fire,

his

and

light

the face of

into

it

he

Thus,

heat.

down
forth

punishment, he

is

condemned

to

The sun was

formed, but

dess cried, inconsolable


long as she

remained immobile

inquire

to

spirit),

it

of such a disastrous event. The sun agreed to


hearts and

Teotihuacan, given

of

blood

life."

To do

from her

this,

in

rivers

Sometimes

her desire to eat

was not given the

and caverns; from


at night, this

human

human blood/

The People of the Fifth Creation

in sacrifice.

Once they

through

sun

the

life in

the

the

fifth era,

the sun

was

finally illuminating the thriving

and the gods conferred one more time to discuss who

new

the

in

live

creation.

Once again

was up

it

exchange
meeting

carried out the col-

fifth era.

celestial

this,

he had to penetrate the underworld, gradually descend-

level,

home

of Mictlantecuhtli and Mictlancihuatl, the couple

travel his

who

From the

search, according to

comes

vault

ruled that realm of darkness. The

some indigenous

plumed serpent began


chroniclers,

by his nahual, a devotee of the god that has the faculty to enter
the underworld without dying and thus return to the surface.

of

The creator god requested the precious bones of ancestral generations from the lord of the world of the dead,

who

responded:

relief

fan blades that

make up the

the suns of earth, wind,


face of Tonatiuh

is

rain,

carving

five eras.

we

sign,

in

the Sun Stone

On the ends

of the

recognize the sequence of

and water.

In

the central

circle,

the

complemented with the numeral 4 through

an equivalent number of chalehihuitls, or symbols of preciousness. Tonatiuh's

tongue

claws.

We

is

turned into Tecpatl, holding

can see

human

sequence of the twenty sym-

bols of the calendar in a ring around the sun of the fifth era.

new
movement

This reminds us that beginning with the creation of this

the sequence of days and nights as well as the

of the sun generate the calendar.


is

running

is

the Aztecs' time.

side,

the

bones of women." So Quetzalcoatl took them and mixed them

The Fifth Sun, the Days, and the Calendar

summarizes the succession of the

his

accompanied

calendrical

itself.

The complex chronographic

to

ing through the various planes until he arrived at the deepest

"On one side are the bones of men, and on the other

that

As

hearts, she did not wish to give

do

in

the

at

name Ollin Tonatiuh, sun of movement, whose


name Nahui Ollin (4 Movement) would become a metaphor

era,

god-

hearts.

move

the

in its

skin, the

flowers; from her eyes, wells, fountains

Quetzalcoatl to seek out the remains of ancient humankind. To

gods

the

all

route from east to west, creating

hearts

came

the gods

about the cause

ceremony, Tonatiuh then began to

lective sacrificial

existence

all

and grasses; from her

she was finally irrigated by

fruit, until

would

finally

nahual (guardian

of

little

her nose, mountains and valleys.

the sky. Faced with this problem, the gods sent an eagle, the

passage

human

trees, flowers,

and small caves; from her mouth, great

earth,

in

and

finest of grass

in

the

gods made

With the

follow behind the sun.

for

the fruit needed for

all

hair the

to her,

and ordered that from her would spring

the condition of a moon, with the imprint of the

animal on his face, and, as

star's

two gods had done

to console her

From that time

on, the time

up,

and carried

this

mess away. The

lord of the

underworld soon

repented and ordered animals from the dark regions to pursue


In

running to

traps, scattering the

bones over

Quetzalcoatl and excavate hollows

one of these

in

the subsoil.

escape, he

fell

the

whereupon they were chewed by

soil,

into

quails.

When

Quetzalcoatl regained consciousness, he sensed the urgency and

decided to perform the act of creation

in

that very place, the

underworld. He requested help from the goddess Cihuacoatl, the

female serpent

(called Quilaztli in the chronicles).

the bone fragments and deposited them

upon which Quetzalcoatl

spilled

Finally,

the god

made

a hole

She ground

sacred receptacle,

own blood
humans of the

drops of his

penis; the resulting mixture created the

exit

in a

frcy

through which these people could

and populate the universe.

New Human Race

Maize, the Food of the

On

human

Tlalticpac (earth),

of water, distinguishing

now

beings were

placed

favor-

in a

able environment surrounded by animals and vegetation, but

was then considered. The gods once

the matter of basic food

reed, the sign of acatl.

It is

canoe

figure paddling a

in

migratory group that began

Quetzalcoatl would act

Tecpatl

observes a

favor of the people. The god slowly

maize to the

ant carrying

red

was

Tonacatepetl, the sustenance mountain where grain

He questions the

insect

ant does not

him. Thus, the god

tell

stored.

about the source of the seeds, but the

comes up with a curious


black ant and manages to

strategy; he turns himself into a

who

deceive the red ant,

of the

interior

takes him to the sacred mountain

where the maize kernels are

kept.

From that time on,

this

would

be the food of the humans, created by Quetzalcoatl himself.

between men and

link

and crossbred

selected

maize

until

and acquisition of basic

their search for

and other wild

varieties of teozintle

we know

they arrived at the maize

today, with

nutritious kernels that can be eaten. Seed maize

deposited

made

hole

in a

the

in

clear the fields of wild plants that

is

workers must constantly

impede

growth, because

its

the early stages, the stalks are incapable of making their

through the weeds;


mixture

made

with ancestral bones and the seminal blood of


its

humans,

early stages,

way

Similarly, in the mythical creation story, the

Quetzalcoatl sought

reach maturity;

it is

exit

like

through the hole he made.

maize, would require care

fitting that their

in

In their

order to

food would be the kernels

of the prodigious plant.

long journey

in

groups that
migration,

accompany them

will

including

who would conclude


Tenochtitlan. But

their

were

gin to peoples that

neighbors

their

and

called

it

described as an island

which they crossed to

Aztlan, the place of the


in

the middle of a lake

terra firma in canoes.

From

there,

they undertook the long journey that would lead them to the
place determined by their god/guide,
their future capital, Tenochtitlan.

where they would

build

Other documents consider the

great cave within Chicomoztoc, "mountain of the seven caves,"

ities

more important

ancestral

cave

is

site.

made up

where the seven main groups

Characterized by

its

of seven internal cav-

that populated the

Anahuac

Valley at a given time were believed to have originated.

Some

historians

Chicomo/tor

document

In

fact,

accord-

the central area of

in

their messianic destiny.

The Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca, a manuscript created


the mid-sixteenth century by people

who

lived

in

in

Coatlinchan

on the eastern bank of the Tetzcoco Lake basin, provides the

most impressive image we have of Chicomoztoc.


dering, the sacred

shown

the ren-

In

mountain can be recognized from

hump,

its

as a curving figure; the surroundings are characterized

by an abundance of desert plants, such as the barrel cactus,


nopal (prickly pear), and maguey. Amid the vegetation, a priest
disguised as a wolf or coyote lights the
like

cave of origins

we can

new

fire. In

womb-

the

see the seven chambers and images

names.

movement
In

fifth

the exit pathway are footprints indicating

In

of a population, suggesting origin and return.

Teotihuacan, the renowned

sun took place,

a cave

site

where the creation of the

was discovered

in

importance of

to the north of the universe

this

who

wanderings by founding Mexico-

Mesoamerica but did not share

the

peregrination painting),

la peregrinacion, or

curved promontory,

will

also extended the Aztlan-Chicomoztoc ori-

it

ulated the central area of Mexico settled. They placed this site

to be the

tells

ed them privileged status, choosing them as the historic people

from around the beginning of the Christian

or inlet,

who

Left),

which they

Chalca, and Huexotzinca. This codex explains the Aztecs' place

the mythic place where the Aztecs and other groups that pop-

is

with the

in its inte-

Tepaneca, Tlahuica,

Pyramid of the Sun, the

It

the year Ce
hill

while during their

for a

Matlatzinca,

the

one of the best-known of these pictographic books, describes

color white.

in

has a cave with images

guide them to the place

will

divided.

impose domination on the universe. Next are pictured the eight

addition to ancient stories, the Codex Boturini (1520-40; also

de

its

of Huitzilopochtli (Hummingbird on the

rior

them that he

their place

In

hill

was

of the different Chichimec peoples born there, identified by

The Origin of the Aztecs and their Neighboring Peoples

called the lira

city

search of land represents the

reach Teoculhuacan, the

Flint) to later

(1

curved protuberance. This

carefully

using the coa, a curved

soil

staff used for sowing. Agricultural

in

who

plant invented by the Mesoamericans,

is

houses, presumed

six

of origin and their encounter with their god/guide,

The pre-Hispanic peoples bore witness to the inextricable

food. Maize

pyramid with the water

surrounded by

again asked about what people would eat, and once more,
in

neighborhoods into which the lakeside

to be

from

it

claim

that

the

area
the

tl

of Aztec affiliation,

shows the

is

called

Codex

island

earliest ritual plinth

this city for societies of

that preceded

it

may

Boturini, a

and the expanse

site,

dating

era. Certainly the

period as well as those

be attributed to the vast size of

its

con-

structions. Even as ruins, these evidence the force and domi-

nance of one of the most powerful indigenous states of


Mesoamerica. A natural cave of volcanic formation with

chamber
Sun.

Its

is

located almost

in

is

deep

practically at the starting point of the plat-

form attached to the western part of the


tial

the center of the Pyramid of the

access gallery has an irregular shape, winding from the

entrance, which

layer, after

the

first

plinth.

Beneath an

ini-

pathway, two additional cavities were

excavated on either side; the gallery continues to the back,

where the space broadens


Aztlan-

its

the subsoil of the

on that

chambers that

Among

recall

into four cavities

more

like

ritual

the silhouette of a flower with four petals.

other ideas, this design symbolizes the indigenous axis

mundi, a horizontal plane with four directions and a center.

wf
:,

In

some

dressed and tied [the deceased]

codices, Teotihuacan can be identified by the exis1

tence of caves under the pyramids, evidence that people

in

the

and early colonial periods had knowledge of these

Postclassic

we may

sacred caves. Thus,

This

consider this and other caves to be

tains,

the empirical proof for naming this as the mythical creation of


the fifth sun. The indigenous tlacuilos (scribes)

Duran

texts by the friar Diego

peculiar way.

re-created Chicomoztoc

in

hills,

located

recall

is filled

distancing

This

stones, with people inside,

and the vegetation

is

This

to

pass through eight

one

it

carried rocks

made

they

Tlaltecuhtli

through and passes

tographs, however,

rows of

and

thorny

body that

recalls Cipactli, the original creature that could

been

like

sacrificial knives,

before

arrived

and presented

where

hells,

by.

have

little

which

river,

swimming on top

the deceased crosses over,

and

living

of a

dog.

They say that upon arriving at the riverbank

a lizard or a crocodile.

referred to above, the deceased looks at the dog;

Structure of the Universe from Indigenous Point of View


Like

many

peoples

in

the gods.

For

recognizes

swims

the history of the world, the inhabitants of

Mesoamerica, particularly the Aztecs, interpreted

environment as

a universe constructed

god

through the action of

earth, with the

that led the deceased toward Mictlan,

and

his wife Mictlancihuatl

trip

where Mictlantecuhtli

were located. The

ous lectures given to the deceased by

rites

began with

Thus,

ii

windows, and

which has
/cr

yi

and

is,

carries

leave

him on

its

in

this

place

which

called

is

av*

In

the Aztec geometry of the universe, there were thirteen

vertical planes

world.

Some

above the earth and nine planes

scholars envision this

like

the under-

in

two stepped pyran

the underworld being the smaller of the two,

an inverted

in

way

that the ver-

both pyramids meet and constitute earth

tices of

place,

master

if it

the river and

position, representing the heavens, in such a

their relatives:

You have already gone to the darkest

his

into

and

underworld below. Fray Bernardino de Sahagun

gathered from the indigenous peoples a description of the

where

jumps

it

Chiconaumictlan, the deceased end their lives and pass

them, this primarily meant Tezcatlipoca and

Tlaltecuhtli. This led to the creation of sky

to

master,

its

back

their natural

Quetzalcoatl, who, as discussed above, split the body of the


ancestral

him the

to

a broad river flows

There are dogs

walking around on the bank of the

has a monstrous face with eyes bulging

it

sharpened

when they passed through

After four years have elapsed, the deceased leaves

tation of the earthly beast Cipactli. In the pre-Hispanic pic-

out, teeth

neck they

papers they were carrying.

that had thus

and goes to the nine

already been created

its

Chiconahuapan.

deceased

the

the early colonial period as a reinterpre-

in

and around

Mictlantecuhtli, they offered

the

characteristic netted hair that identifies them. The animal figure


a curious image of

because the wind was

and pieces of knives

the deceased take along a

fur,

top of the dog

river in hell, called

When

hunters, they

arms-bows and arrows-and have

to pass through the knife-

called Itzehecayan,

put a loose cotton cord; they said that the deceased

swam on

looks canine,'-

what you need

In addition,

indigenous artists included one that shows the migration of the

bear their offensive

pass through eight

what you need

is

Teochichimeca, departing Chicomoztoc from the head of the


first

where there

to pass through

to

small dog with reddish

jaws open. As the

to pass through the road

what you need

so strong that

the illustrations that enrich Duran's descriptions, the

its

amid two moun-

edged wind,

recalls a thicket.

monster depicted with

what you need

is

This

simply orna-

is

a snake guarding the road.

is

[mountain] passes;

shown enclosed by

to pass

what you need

is

plateaus;

even further from the pre-

Hispanic tradition. The seven caves are

Among

the silhouettes of

close to Duran's, illustrates this

itself

a green wall lizard called Xochitonal;

is

with flowering plants. The Tovar Codex

document very

same passage,

the paper;

after the next;

is

This

and the passage, rendered with European-

in its interior,

mental and

This

the pre-Hispanic style. The original families are

style perspective,

(1583-87),'

in

what you need

is

one

where there

illustrated

Duran's codex (1579-81), the seven caves are

In

separated from each other and vaguely


the

who

in

saying

anonymous

indigenous painters

the Cod<

anus

whose

(also called the

level."

The

illustrations appejt

Codex

Rios, ca.

in

1570-95)"

also re-created a vertical vision of the cosmos, indicating the

Then the old people and paper


-ned

officials cut

and attached the pap<


deceased and

shortened

<'d,

his

and
.

legs,

terrestrial bd'
je

rpac (earth) with eight levels below and


he number of levels

above. The matter ot ad

above and below to reach the sum of nine plus thirteen has

"i

complex

at

the pyramid

given

rise to

history

of

various hypotheses and discussions over the long

Generally, the version


is

on

research

Precolumbian

deemed

to be

Mexican

religion.

most current and accepted

Codex

heaven of Tlalocan and the moon. He also proposes that

a full

the

levels, or planes,

using

Omeyocan, be counted twice because

Tlalticpac as the first level:

spelling/

celestial sphere,

Lopez Austin believes that counting should begin from the

proposes

that set forth by Alfredo Lopez Austin/'

reading and ordering of the underworld's

who

Regarding the set of heavens that make up the

highest

level

represented

in

Codex Vaticanus, the

the
it

is

a place of duality;

constitutes the twelfth and thirteenth heavens:"

thus,

it

Codex

spelling/

proposed reading

Translation

Proposed order

proposed reading

Translation

Tlalticpac/Tlalticpac

Earth

1st level

Homeyoca/Omeyocan

Place of duality

Proposed order
13th and 12th heavens
(9th

Apano huaya/
Apanohuayan

Water passageway

2nd

Teotl tlatlauhca/

are found

The

hills

Yztepetl/lztepetl

Hill

of obsidian

Yeehecaya/ltzehecayan

Place of obsidian wind

Tepetli

monanamycia/

Tepetl

monanamicyan

3rd level

God who

11th heaven (7th higher

red

is

heaven)

Teotl tlatlauhca

Teotl

cocauhca/

4th level

Teotl

cozauhca

5th level

Teotl yztaca/

God who

yellow

is

where

Place

Pancuecuetlacayan

flutter

flags

Temiminaloya/

Place where people are

Temiminaloyan

in

Teocoylqualoya/

Place

Teyollocualoyan

hearts are eaten

Yzmicilanapochcaloca/

Place of the obsidian of

Itzmictlanapochcalocan

the dead; place with no

10th heaven (6th higher

heaven)

God who

is

white

9th heaven (5th higher

heaven)

Teotl iztacca

Pancoecoetlacaya/

and 8th higher

heavens)

level

6th level
Yztapal nanazcaya/

Place that has corners

8th heaven (4th higher

Itztapalnacazcayan

made

heaven)

Ylhuicatl xoxouhca/

Heaven that

of obsidian slabs

7th level

a great hurry

where people's

8th

level

9th

level

llhuicatl

Ylhuicatl yayauhca/

opening to

let

out smoke

llhuicatl

yayauhca

Ylhuicatl

mamaluacoca/
mamalhuacoca

llhuicatl

is

green

xoxouhca

Ylhuicatl huixtutla/

Heaven that

is

blackish

llhuicatl

Heaven of the turn-

5th heaven (1st higher

around

heaven)

Heaven, place of

salt

Sun heaven

3rd heaven (3rd lower

heaven)

Tonatiuh

Heaven

llhuicatl Citlalicue

(She of the Skirt of

Ylhuu

Heaven of Tlalocan and

tlalocaypaii'

the

li.jiocan

4th heaven (4th lower

heaven)

Ylhuicatl iztlalicoe/

il

6th heaven (2nd higher

heaven)

jixtotlan

Ylhuicatl tunatiuh/

7th heaven (3rd higher

heaven)

of Citlalicue

moon

2nd heaven (2nd lower


heaven)

1st

heaven

heaven)

[1s1

lowei

As archaeological witness to

we have

celestial planes,

this vertical perception of the

the Stone of the Heavens, a sculpture

On one of

the form of a rectangular prism.

in

see a sequence of bands with stars

nous representations of the planet Venus.


is

larger sides

its

like stellar

we

eyes and indigesetting, there

In this

pathway through which images of the pre-

a kind of central

Hispanic deities go up and down, along with the silhouette of

an eagle holding a bundle of victims

in its beak.'

which the deceased were directed. Outstanding for


ity
is

was Chichihuacuauhco, the nursemaid

represented only

in

its

peculiar-

tree. This vegetal site

the Codex Vaticanus;" the unusual repre-

sentation of a tree has the characteristic pre-Hispanic pattern

which plants have


is

notes

made by

in

their roots uncovered. In the codex, this tree

designated Chichiualquauitl, "the milk

tree,"

the story that explains the creation of the horizontal plane,

and according to

Fray Pedro de los Rios:

Ome

was the

this

life,

third place passed

to which

through by

Omeyocan. Because of

their

constant activity as creators, they

went only those children who died

it is

a tree that

the children
is

who

dripped milk, where they took

one

is

characterized by a specific color, which

must

give an identity to the region each one

the

Tezcatlipoca,

smoking

mirror,

red

Tezcatlipoca, the real

black; Quetzalcoatl Yohualli Ehecatl, the

wanted
this

is

in

men

to emulate God. As our sacred wise

the limbo for children

who

this,

Huitzilopochtli, the emaciated

man, the two-headed serpent,

the southern hummingbird, or

Hummingbird on the

which the color blue or green

attached.

elements

is

Left,

was shared by
in

it

all

is

say,

plane

tal

the

the Codex

These reprein

the

surrounded by the names of the twenty days of the

is in

The design

die unbaptized, or

to

the center, the cosmic ceiba tree with igneous

in

ritual calendar.

it

is

plumed serpent, night

The best-known representation of the horizon-

the Codex Fejervary-Mayer (dated before 1521).

recalls a

Greek cross, with narrower bands for the

diagonals with curved borders that resemble petals and a recthe center. Reading counterclockwise, from

made by an indigenous

person.

tangular panel

what they made these poor people

believe:

the upper right, the design begins with the direction east, called

virtue of a sacrifice
is

Yayauhqui

characteristic color

wind, linked to the color white; and Omitecuhtli Maquizcoatl

four corners;

all

uncircumcised, under the old law, or without the

This

color;

in

Tezcatlipoca whose

will

build: Tlatlauhqui

sentations have a quadripartite design with the couples

died at that age, because the devil

so envious of God's honor that even

incorporate

the boundaries of the quadripartite vision of the cosmic uni-

Tro-Cortesianus (also called the Codex Madrid):

without having reached the age of reason. They pretend

who

generate the four Tezcatlipocas, their children,

Mesoamerican people. The Mayas represented

spirits of

and

Tecuhtli

Cihuatl, located on the cusp of the celestial planes, in

This horizontal vision of the universe


This

Ome

the original divine couple are participants:

verse. Each

addition to Mictlan, there were various other places to

In

Horizontal Plane and the Surface of the Earth

77? e

In

that there

was

this place for their children,

added another

error,

in

Tlapcopa or Tlahuilcopa, on the side with the

and they

which was persuading them

mic

tree, Xiloxochitl, that

light,

with the cos-

has beautiful flowers on which

tioned a quetzal. The patrons of this direction are

that these children [angelitos] would have to leave

is

posi-

Itztli,

the

was

divine knife, and Tonatiuh, the sun god. The colors of the east

destroyed for the third [originally: second] time, and

are red and yellow, tonalities that characterize the sun;- for this

that

place

repopulate

to

they thought

it

the

world after

it

must have already been destroyed,

reason,

20
because the two [times] had already occurred.

it

considered to be the house of the sun, Tonatiuh

is

Ichan, through

which

it

Quetzalcoatl reappears

Based on the information provided

in

the Florentine Codex,

Miguel Leon-Portilla argues that the Chichihuacuauhco

Tamoanchan,

"our place of origin."

2'

is in

the

To the

which

is

Stone of the Heavens.

north,

falcon.

Tepeyollotl,

Mictlampa

Detail of

left is

the
is

the

is

raised in the firmament. Thus, here

in his role

The deities

heart of the

name

as the planet Venus.

where the spiny pochote grows, above

who

hill,

rule

and

this

Tlaloc,

designating north;

it

is

direction

are

deity of rain.

considered the

divine plain par excellence, and

deceased begin their


The lower part

is

trip to

it

said that this

is

the underworld.

west, with the huisoche

see a hummingbird. This

the region of the

is

is

color

Its

where the
is

on which you can

women

and

female patron of the sexual

Tlazolteotl, the

color white defines this direction,

before going through the hole

trip

On the

right

is

where the cocoa

where the sun ends


in

act.
its

The

daily

the east.

on which

sits a parrot.

The deities

that rule the south are Mictlantecuhtli, the underworld patron,

and Centeotl, the god of maize.

vision of the universe as the fifth direction,

god of

fire

one single perception of the universe; per-

many and

is

this horizontal

the

domain of

with his offensive arms or weapons,

was mentally

constant. The creation

We

are familiar with several images of the Mexica-Aztec

Codex Mendoza

foundation

the

re-created

Tenochtlitlan,

which occurred

of
in

(1541-42),-' they

Mexico-

city-state,

their

the indigenous year

Ome

Calli

House, or 1325). Once again, the island was marked out as a

quadrangular plane with four directions and related corners.


There they found the symbol promised by the god

who

patron-

ized the start of their migration. At the center, the icon: the
tenochtli, the nopal flowering out of a rock,

The central region, which would complete

Xiuhtecuhtli, the

just

vision of the cosmos. In the

(2

south, the region of the colors blue and green,


tree grows,

was not

and physically re-created when circumstances so required.

Cihuatlampa;

so the patrons are the goddesses Chalchiuhtlicue, she of the jade


skirt,

there

ceptions were

black.

is

on which an eagle

positioned with wings extended, under which

is

the symbol of

war, the chimalli, an indigenous shield, with arrows behind


a horizontal position.

The borders of the future

city that

it

in

would

defined by the four currents of blood that evoke the sacred food

be the capital of the Aztec empire are defined as bands of water.

of the cosmos.

These bands show that the quadripartite space

should be noted that this pictographic document was

It

anahuac, or

circle of water,

executed by peoples of the central/eastern region of the valleys

was

of Puebla, and Tlaxcala and the region bordering Oaxaca, particu-

four sectors corresponding

larly

the Mixteca. This

was

the reason for the peculiar association

of the direction south with the

kingdom of the dead and the

north with Tlaloc, linked with the ideas of Tlalocan, where the

abundant

rains

gave

rise to a

surplus of food and flowers

all

For the Aztecs, north

phytic vegetation,

is

the cold plains, populated with xero-

where the frozen wind blows, Mictlampa

Ehecatl. Therefore, they considered north to be the direction of

was

the source of the people

also the

way

/e of

who

populated the earth, which

to Mictlan. In the south, meanwhile, from the

the Lake Tetzcoco basin, are the valleys o


rnds),

moderate temperatures. These lands are


agree

in

char,.

flourished,
d

and abundance of crops. As the majority of


ij

where the indigenous domains of

Cuauhnahuac (Cuernavaca) and Huaxtepec

ity

in

the middle of a

Codex Fejervary-Mayer
but

is

within an

to

the

lake).

The division into the

regions indicated

in

the

once again shown by bands of water,

transverse position.

in a

We know

when

that

the founding of the city took place,

Tenoch, the guide/chief, placed the various segments of the

Aztec migratory group into four sectors: to the east, Acacitli and

year round.

n,

also an island

lies

which surrounds the land (Aztlan

by their
schi

these explanations of the cosmos,

Cuapan;

to the north, Ocelapan, Tecineuh, Xocoyotl,

and Tenoch

himself; to the west, Xiuhcaqui and Atototl; and, finally, to the

south, Ahuexotl and Xomimitl. The Tlatelolca

group from Aztlan adapted

them as

a place to settle,

founded

their

When

own

to the site

who came

and thirteen years

later, in

glory, they sculpted extraordinary monuments in


confirming their dominion ol the known universe
city,

ated

for

1338, they

capital city Mexico-Tlatelolco.

the Aztecs reached the pinnacle of their

or

with the

Tenoch designated

power and

volcanic rock,
that originat-

the very center of the axis mundi. The Stone of


in

the western pdii

the sacred site of the

ol

Page

lino de

Codex, also

de

la

known

Nueva Espaha, 1575-77.

Sahagun, Florentine
general de las cosas

Page from the Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca, 1550-70.

>* -M*

""

^^

s^r

i
1

*>..-*-

*m2m

Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan.

Templo Mayor,
monolith

in

is

the best example.

the form of an

in

On

relief,

we

side,

shows the
is

this

verti-

represented by

monster that holds men on

its

back,

its

thorns that outline four threatening jaws indi-

cating the four directions of the universe.


the

curved

its

cylinder

cosmos. On the base, earth

cal vision of the

Tlaltecuhtli-Cipactli, the

body covered

enormous

the central band of

In

see fifteen scenes, each one representing the most

that

grows out of

a rock,

upon which an eagle

serpent. The mythic construction

supported the weight of the

was

celestial

sits

devouring a

perfect: the rock cactus

band, and, at the conver-

gence of the four directions, the symbol identifying the Aztec


people as Tenochca supported the sun/eagle,

its

supreme

deity,

through the sacred food, the prickly pear/hearts, obtained from


the conquered peoples.

significant military conquests carried out by the Aztecs. These

conquests were conducted by rulers from Acamapichtli to Tizoc


in

every direction illuminated by the rays of the sun. This

is

con-

firmed by the upper strip on the side, a celestial band with stars

and symbols of the planet Venus.

It

supports an enormous

design carved on the upper side of the monolith of the solar


disk with four rays radiating in the four directions of the cos-

was designed as a
where they confronted

mos. Like Temalacatl,


Tlacaxipehualiztli,

it

sacrificial altar for the

prisoners of war cap-

tured during the wars of conquest.

Lopez Austin, following the stories of the chroniclers, shows


that the pre-Hispanic peoples imagined a separation of the

and the sustenance of the


ic

trees located

celestial

sphere through four

on the borders of the universe, which they

Oted from the underworld. The A/t-

ed this vision

into a material reality by placing sculptures

nochtlitlan

in

s.

On

on the borders of

the form of cacti, which also


their bases,

each one bears the


oolic reading

nan.'

by iman

.acred nopal

Above: Templo Mayor, Mexico

City.

Notes
Codice Chimalpopoca: Anales de Cuanhtitlan y leyenda de los

Primo Feliciano Velazquez,

ile,

soles,

facsim-

(Mexico City: Imprenta Universitaria, 1945),

ed.

pp. 119-42.
2.

The paintings

Mexicanos coincide with

Historic de los

in

this sequence.

Angel Maria Garibay Kintana, Histona de los Mexicanos (Mexico

See

City: Editorial

Porrua, 1965), pp. 21-90.


3.

The image of one of these giants was re-created

Colonial

Codex Vatieanus 3738,

See

period.

Cansen, and Reyes Garcia, eds. 1996,

Garibay Kintana, Historia de Mexico,

5.

Described

6. Felipe

p.

the Codex Chimalpopoca,

Olguin

the early part of the

Ferdinand Anders,

f.4v.

4.

in

in

facsimile,

108.
p.

120.

La Culture del Maiz (Mexico City: Clio, 1998), pp. 11-17.

Solis,

7.

Doris Heyden, Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca (Copenhagen: 1942),

8.

Codex Xolotl,

9.

Diego Duran, Historia de las Indias de Nueva Espana e

Heyden, 1998,

in

(Codex Durdn) 2

p.

f.

16

r.

25.
Islas

de

Tierra Firme

(Mexico City: Coleccion Cien de Mexico, 1995).

vols.

Juan de Tovar, Manuscrit Tovar: Origines et croyances des Indiens du

10.

Mexique, Jacques Lafaye, ed. (Graz: Akademie Druck Verlagsanst, 1972).


11. Ibid., plate

I,

238.

p.

12.

Codex Duran,

13.

Bernadino Sahagun, Historia General de

plate

3.

las

Cosas de Nueva Espana,

(Mexico City: Editorial Porrua, 1997), pp. 205-07.


14. Luis Barjau,

mito mexicano de lasedades (Mexico

El

Autonomade Tabasco,

Universidad Juarez

Codex Vatieanus,

15.
1

p.

City:

Juarez

Autonoma

17.

plates 1v-2r.

humano

Alfredo Lopez Austin, Cuerpo

6.

1998),

antiguos nahuas (Mexico

City:

e ideologia: Las concepciones de los

Autonoma de Mexico,

Universidad Nacional

Instituto de Investigaciones Antropologicas, 1984),

p.

63.

17. Ibid.

18. Dioses del

(Mexico City:
A.,

1996),

p.

Mexico Antiguo, exh.

UNAM,

cat.,

Antiguo Colegio de San lldefonso

Ediciones del Equilibrista, S.A. de C.V. and Turner Libros

19.

Codex Vatieanus,

20.

Ibid.,

pp.

plate 3v.

50-51.

21. Miguel Leon-Portilla,

De Teotihuacan a

los

Aztecas: Antologia de fuentes e

interpretaciones historicas (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional

Mexico, 1983),

p.

Autonoma de

209.

22. Salvador

Mateos Higuera explains that the

color red and

was therefore nicknamed

was

S.

41.

called Yayauhqui; the third

first

to be born

Tlatlauhqui; the second

was born white and had

showed the

was

to be

black,

named

and

Iztac

Tezcatlipoca, the white mirror, identified with Quetzalcoatl, symbol of the


beautiful;

and the

last

was born without

flesh,

was only bones, and they

called

him Omitecuhtli, the man of bones, better known as Huizilopochtli, and the
color of his skin

had to be

blue.

Salvador Mateos Higuera, Enciclopedia

grafica del Mexico, 4 vols. (Mexico City: Secretaria de Hacienda y Credito


Publico, 1992-94), vol.

23.

II,

p. 11.

Codex Tro-Cortesianus [Codex Madrid]

(Graz:

Akademische Druck-u.

Verlagsanstalt, 1967), pp. 75-76.

24. Codice Fejervary-Moyer: El Libro de Tezcatlipoca, senor del tiempo, facsimile,

Ferdinand Anders, Maarten Jansen, and Gabina Aurora Perez Jimenez, eds.

(Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Economica, 1994),


25.

A microscopic

firmed that the only colors originally covering

its

This corresponds with information in the codices

26.

p. 1.

analysis of the pigments used to paint the

Codex Mendoza (Mexico

City:

Sun Stone con-

surface were red and ochre.

and

in

the chronicles.

San Angel Ediciones, 1979),

folio 2r.

Origins and Forms of Art

the Aztec Empire

in

Felipe Sola

THE EXTRAORDINARY ARTISTIC

AND SYMBOLIC REPERTORY THAT CHARACTERIZED THE ART OF THE

Aztec world comes from different traditions,

some

of considerable antiquity. The

artisans of the Postclassic period recovered original models

of their ancestral

cities,

the ruins

in situ in

mainly Teotihuacan and Tula. Teotihuacan was consid-

ered to be the place of origin of the fifth sun and thus the site of creation, and

was therefore regarded


of the ruins there

as supremely sacred. The Aztecs carried out excavations

and recovered ceramics, carved stone

figures,

and valuable

to the gods at the Templo Mayor. They

masks, which they gave as offerings

often embellished these objects with paint or other ornamentation, reusing

them

connect

to

They also copied the architectural

their present with the past.

forms and bright polychrome mural decoration of Teotihuacan


in

own

their

stone to constructions as the ancients


ity is

did.

in

the buildings

adding animal figures sculpted

capital, Mexico-Tenochtitlan,

One important example

in

of continu-

the serpent heads that begin and end the framework around both sides of

the stairways of the Templo Mayor.

The Aztec presence


ing

in

the city of Tula

from Aztlan, the Aztecs had settled

at least

two decades. The

in

was unique.

In

the course of migrat-

the remains of the abandoned

city for

ruins retained signs of their original greatness, includ-

ing sculptures of ancient deities

and columns

in

the form of serpents as well as

images of powerful ancestral warriors, which archaeologists have called caryatids or atlantes. These figures
built,

were designed to support the temples that were

according to legend, by Quetzalcoatl himself. Forms and styles from even

more distant times were

familiar to the Aztecs as well. In fact,

armies expanded into far-off

from the Olmec period

(ca.

territories,

1300-400

in the valley of the

Mezcala

River.

and material evidence of other cul-

was one such

Among

culture,

which flourished

the objects recovered there were

anthropomorphic figures and curiously simple masks with


tion that

the Aztec

they obtained as tribute cast-off items

B.C.)

tures that preceded them. The Mezcala

when

geometric orienta-

approaches abstraction.

Given the importance the Aztecs placed on the past, there was nothing

unusual about their plans to evoke the ancient


Tenochtitlan.

Once again, there would be

city

of Tula

Mexico-

in

grand metropolis covered with

stones decorated with eagles and jaguars. Atlantes would cover the horizontal

space (the axis mundi) and there would be new renditions of the chacmools
ual attendants) associated with fire

ornamentation of the

rain

god

By the fifteenth century

(rit-

and water and bearing the insignia and

Tlaloc.

a.d.

the Aztec empire

was

flourishing

in

various

indigenous capitals of the central valleys of Mexico, such as Tetzcoco, Xochimilco,

and Calixtlahuaca. During

their

ascendancy the Aztecs also fostered

13.

Sculpture of a

kiruj

Huaxtcc, 13th oi 14th century

oped new formal designs, creating images of men and

new

who

developments. This was particularly true for sculptors of the period

artistic

women

devel-

that would signify each

Depictions of male figures were imbued with the maturity associated with

era.

procreation and sustaining the family and the state. Thus, these sculptures present the

forms of young adult men,


a

garment that was

bound

sculptors felt

bared breasts.

masculine. Depictions of females were different: Because

to exalt

young matrons as

In reality,

women

some people from

tion of

organs discreetly hidden by a simple maxtlatl,

their sexual

strictly

shown with

symbols, they were

fertility

did not reveal themselves in this way, with the excep-

the coast of Oaxaca and Guerrero,

who maintained

this

ancestral tradition.

Many
a

wrap

stone images also honor women's garments of the period. By

called a cutitl. in a range of designs,

body and held


torso.

ing

in

Mexico-Tenochtitlan and neighboring

as a triangle,

differently

in

it

was not unusual

movement

wide

woman

put her head.

of the wearer's arms.

was considered the most

also rendered

to see a

liv-

a peculiar article of clothing

the center through which a

in

the Aztec period, young adulthood

them

cities,

front and back, allowing free

in

manhood; however, sculptors


treating

to cover the lower part of the

One was the quechquemitl,

with a rhomboid shape and a hole

In

skirt,

number of people from other regions of Mesoamerica

a great

variety of female garments.

It fell

of a

place with a sash, while a very long blouse called a huipil covered the

As there were

in

was used

way

significant stage of

images of old men as well as older women,

accordance with their

of older men, only

sex. In sculptures

the faces were covered with wrinkles. Occasionally, the eyeteeth were prominently featured and the incisor teeth were missing to denote age, but the bodies look vigorous;

perhaps these images were meant to show men's aspiration not to lose their sexual

prowess with the passage of time. Depictions of older


flaccid breasts indicate the effects of childbearing
In

the

monumental sculptures

basic formal

women

include wrinkled faces;

and nursing on the female body.

that undoubtedly served a ritual purpose, these

models depicting the sexes were embellished with many other garments

and ornaments

were trans-

for representing the various deities. Thus, the effigies

formed into personifications of the gods, indicating the importance the human figure
had acquired. Sculptors were expressing themselves more freely than they previously

human movement. They extended

had, exploring the mystery of rendering

dard sculptural repertory, daring to show figures on bent knee or seated


half-lotus position in addition to
or seated positions. The

more

Olmec had achieved formal

millennia earlier by turning the torso

(600-400

B.C.),

the Dancing

The
in

artistic

in

the

some

Monkey
modes

figures to

sculpture

(ca.

one
1

lotus or

human body two


known as The Wrestler

liberation of the

this technical

side. This style

500),

in a

poses accentuated by vertical

famous sculpture

and Aztec sculptors rediscovered

turning the heads of


in

traditional, rigid

the stan-

which turns

and

reached
its

body

artistic

its

fullest

in a spiral

advance by
expression

movement.

of the Aztecs influenced the people they conquered. Sculptures

the Aztec style were placed alongside indigenous images and representations by the

Huaxteca and Totona<

the Gulf Coast, the Mixteca of Oaxaca,

state of Guerrero. The Aztec style,

allowed

its

pract

to

and peop

which became known as the international

integrate the various forms of visual

prevalent during the epoch into a cohesive approach.

style,

communication

The Olmec
\nn

'yphers

<

THE STORY OF CREATION AS TOLD BY THE OLMEC WILL NEVER AGAIN BE HEARD. ALSO LONG

forgotten
country")

same

land

name, as the term "Olmec" ("inhabitant of the rubber

their true

is

borrowed from

is

a culture that

many

the southern Gulf Coast lowlands

in

in

centuries later inhabited the

the Mexican states of Tabasco

and Veracruz. Without surviving written documents, knowledge of America's


earliest civilization must be gleaned from the pieces that have survived the ravages of time

in

an unforgiving tropical environment. The ephemeral nature of

most Olmec remains challenges archaeologists

meaning and

to discover their

function, but luckily their splendid stone sculptures survive intact, bearing

immutable testimony

to ancient aristocratic beliefs.

Between 1500 and 400


roundings with means

B.C.,

that,

the Olmec exploited their jungle-covered sur-

though

primitive,

were apparently quite

fruitful,

since food production sustained significant population concentrations (more

than 10,000 people)

and

and around each of the regional capitals of San Lorenzo


fish, turtle, freshwater shrimp, and

in

The intense consumption of

La Venta.

other aquatic resources obtained

in

the bounteous

swamps, and

rivers, lakes,

was complemented by root crops, maize, palm, squash, chilies, and


well as deer and other hunted fauna. The high grounds safe from

floodplains
beans, as

flooding were used for swidden (slash-and-burn) agriculture, and recession

techniques were implemented

The

1000

B.C.

the floodplains.
sculptures, fashioned

the most privileged social sector,

for

about rulers and the

leaders'

between 1200 and

embody numerous concepts

political structure, origins, social relations,

Carefully devised images

Olmec

in

Olmec monumental stone

first

destined to aid in

and

religion.

managing and disseminating the

worldview were ostentatiously produced

in basalt, a

sacred vol-

canic stone. The transport of these monuments from basalt sources

in

the

neighboring Tuxtlas mountains to the capitals, a distance of 60 to 100 kilomerequired the efforts of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of subjects.

ters,

It

is

stag-

moving

human exertion and organization involved in


minimum volume of stone- 150 cubic meters, or 450 tons-required
making the 159 monuments present in the San Lorenzo region between

gering to imagine the

even the
for

1200 and 800

Among

B.C.

the heaviest of

called "altars"),

monument
r,

monuments

are the large thrones (previously

to a particular ruler, but also an icon of the office held by thai

The size of these cyclopean symbols of individual

office,

larger

all

each weighing more than 22 tons. Each sculpture was not only

was clearly related


the monument, the

to the

rulers, also

greater the

human

exertion required For

Colossal heads are often considered the hallmark of


:e, in

contrast to that of thrones, does

sovereign power, as

no

many were

icons ot the

magnitude of the sovereign's power, since the

Olmec

art

'is

transport.

and

culture,

he intensity ol

not sculpted from raw rock in the distant basalt

Olmec,

ca.

800

v
.

some were made from

flows. Rather,

and thus did not


each

1200-800

afar.

The production of nine colossal heads-

ruler-near the end of San Lorenzo's period of

a portrait of a

cence,

monuments, such as thrones,

previously existing

from

entail transport

seems an impressive

B.C.,

monument,

sculpted from a recycled

flores-

each head was

commemoration constituted

this allegorical

power by waning

singularly fictitious display of

maximum

feat; nonetheless, since

who perhaps

rulers,

could not mobi-

sufficient labor for long-distance conveyance.

lize

Olmec

who

rulers considered

dwelled

where

large thrones

mouth

cave, the
society,

is

it

themselves the descendants of specific sacred ancestors

the underworld. The concept of divine right

in

of the earth monster deity and the entrance to the underworld.


that social position

likely

ones to those lacking

Olmec

art

abounds

in

a real or fictive

human

blood relationship to a divine precursor.

figures depicting ideal physical forms. Robust bodies

monumental

in

small greenstone objects. Another major

theme

in

slit

eyes are salient

whereas bodies may be slender

art,

Olmec

art

is

in

thought to be shaman-

nature. Fantastic figures with gradations of anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, or

istic in

may

unnatural qualities

Embedded

in a social

and

provided the means to

game,

to the

ranged from royal and aristo-

and chubby faces with squared jaws, down-turned mouths, and


elements of figures represented

In elite

was defined by the genealogical distance

apical lineage ancestor. Hierarchically ordered lineages


cratic

patent on the front of

is

seated ancestor emerges from a niche symbolizing the origin

in

represent stages
political milieu

commune

which the cosmic

The Olmec succeeded

nomic networks.

battle

in

Terrestrial

the ritualistic transformation process.

in

charged with mysticism, transformation

between the sun and darkness was reenacted.

uniting the vast coastal region

and water routes formed

and transportation system; long

artificial

located villages founded

in

were

built next to rivers

vital

and eco-

communication
likely

task of governing strategically

remote portions of the vast landscape was achieved

and horizontal web of

a vertical

in social, political,

their elaborate

causeways

used as docks for dugout canoes. The difficult but

through

rites

with the supernatural, as did the ceremonial ball-

ideology. The distribution of utilitarian

network as well as with places as

far

and

social

political relations

and luxury resources took place

away

as

El

Salvador.

Among

and
in

cohesive

the regional

the items traded

obsidian, a volcanic glass used for practical and ceremonial purposes, which

obtained from more than twenty quarries located


Iron ores, used for

adornments,

tools,

in

was
was

Central Mexico and Guatemala.

and ceremonial

objects,

were acquired from

Chiapas and Oaxaca. Native petroleum resources, such as bitumen (used as a sealant

and

resin),

were traded

locally

and to distant

places. Small statues, plaques, personal

adornments, and axes made from various kinds of greenstone procured from sources
in

Guatemala and Mexico were widely exchanged outside the Gulf Coast

Olmec ways of

when
set in

this culture

life

region.

and worldview did not completely disappear from Mesoamerica

drew

to a close

around 400

B.C.

Like the Aztecs, their origin

caves; the succession and legitimating of dynastic rulers

myth was

was based on

divine

genealogical rights; they occupied a region with abundant water and built transportation architecture; a

complex subsistence system based on agriculture, hunting,

and collecting underwrote the production of important


used

in

fishing,

commodities, which were

craft

long-distance exchange; and the ritually and politically significant ballgame

embodied

ideological elements related to celestial struggles similar to those in Aztec

cosmology. As the

first

dominant

cultural

group

in

Mesoamerica, the Olmec were key

contributors to fundamental cultural processes implicated

Mesoamerican

historical traditions,

and

their influence

in

was

the early development of

felt

both near and

far.

Teotihuacan
I.

WHEN

THE AZTECS ARRIVED

IN

mild

Miiiiztmillii

TWO PROMINENT CULTURES-THE

THE BASIN OF MEXICO,

and Teotihuacan states-were collapsing or had already collapsed


Teotihuacan, had dominated the economics,

earlier of these,

bolism of Central Mexico during the

centuries

first six

a.d.

politics,
Its

TOLTEC

The

there.

and sym-

capital, a

huge

metropolis that controlled important resources such as obsidian (the basis of


technology),

was

planned urban

site, a

multiethnic

city, a

crafts center,

its

and

sacred place, conceived as a model of the Mesoamerican cosmos. Because

was

and

a prestigious crafts center

sacred

city,

some

1960s have proposed that the mythical Tollan

a
it

archaeologists since the

(the

archetypal

city)

was

Teotihuacan and not Tula, the seat of the Toltec empire, as was long believed.

When

the volcanic eruptions of the

part of the Basin of Mexico

century devastated the southern

first

and the slopes of Popocatepetl, many

deserted, their inhabitants fleeing to different regions.

where the Pyramid of the Sun was

Valley of Teotihuacan,

century as a temple of
city of

fertility

sites

were

One such region was the


built in the

intended to appease the violent

fire

second

gods. The

Teotihuacan eventually covered 20 square kilometers, the construction

material being quarried from underground tunnels. The city had an urban grid

with a main north-south

axis,

the Street of the Dead.

An east-west

axis origi-

nated from the Ciudadela and Great Compound, perhaps emulating a former
east-west street that had departed from the Pyramid of the Sun.

Throughout Mesoamerica, the cosmos was conceived as three superimposed


levels: at

the bottom, the underworld;

in

the middle, the earth, divided into the

four quarters of the universe; and at the summit, the sky. The symbolism of the

quartered world found expression

number four

are found

the glyph of the

city;

in

just

to

Many

references to the

may have been

the pre-Hispanic tunnel excavated by the Teotihuacanos

under the Pyramid of the Sun ends


Xalla,

various forms.

in

Teotihuacan: The four-petaled flower

in

a four-petaled

the north of the Pyramid of the

making compound-had

chamber; the palace of

Sun-perhaps

a central plaza with four structures,

cardinal point, around a central temple; and

it

is

decision-

each directed to a

possible also that the city

was

coruled by four lords.

Many elements
streets

of urban planning were present

and avenues arranged on

in

orthogonal

this

city:

a grid, a well-planned drainage system, large

basins for the storage of water, a center that included the main religious and

administrative structures, multifamily house-compounds, and distinct wards


for

people of various trades or places

merchants' wards, as well

as,

tectural style of the tablero t

to a flat table, the tables

|in

.mall

which
dy present

(such as the Oaxaca and

Michoacan enclave). The archi-

a sloping wall, the talud, leads


in

was reproduced in most of the constructions throughout


was then adapted to regional styles throughout Mesoamerica.

of Puebla-Tlaxcala,

iacan

It

up

of the Valley

the Format:

250-650

TTirijii

[|i<wmi1n

In

Tenochtitlan, the Aztecs copied this style

in

some constructions

of the sacred

precinct to recuperate Teotihuacan's past. The division of Teotihuacan into four quarters

and

its

organization of wards

Teotihuacan housed around


craftsmen, or constructors.

may

also have been emulated

25,000 inhabitants, most of

Among

Tenochtitlan.

in

whom

were bureaucrats,

the craftsmen were different groups of potters

manufacturing diverse wares, obsidian knappers, craftsmen polishing stone tools for
grinding or woodworking, lapidaries,

tailors, shell

workers, and so on.

Some

of their

products, such as painted stucco tripod vessels or green obsidian prismatic blades,
traveled far
situ

in

Mesoamerica. Others, such as funerary masks, have not been found

known from private collections.


Teotihuacan was profusely occupied by

The Valley of

on top of the ancient

city,

and there

is

the Aztecs,

either to extract stone for the construction of

new

in

Tenochtitlan).

placement of such objects in front of temple

and other secular

houses

the periphery of Teotihuacan,

in

Throughout Mesoamerica,

example-but Teotihuacan objects such as


agricultural fields

built

buildings or to recuperate objects

such as vessels, masks, portrait figurines, and other items

Templo Mayor

who

evidence of the extensive disturbance of Classic

contexts by these Postclassic inhabitants, particularly

in

in

but are largely

(like

those found

strict rules

the

temples themselves, for

stairs or in

portrait figurines are also

sites.

in

governed the

commonly found

Excavations inside quarry tunnels behind

the Pyramid of the Sun, where Aztec food-preparation areas were found, likewise

uncovered Teotihuacan portrait heads, perhaps used as small


After Teotihuacan

fell

idols.

around 550-600, the quarry tunnels that had been exca-

vated to extract the volcanic scoria to build the ancient city were occupied by post-

Teotihuacan groups: the Coyotlatelco, Mazapa, and Aztecs. The Codex Xolotl depicts
the two main pyramids (Sun and
likely

The

Moon) on top of

a "cave"

that this figure represents the oracle mentioned

last

Aztec tlatoani, Motecuhzoma

II

in

with a person inside.

It

is

the Relaciones geograficas.

(reigned 1502-20), visited Teotihuacan to be

invested of the power to rule and to consult the oracle.

When

the Aztecs arrived, they interpreted the city of Teotihuacan-already an

archaeological site-as the mythical place where the gods assembled and sacrificed

themselves to create the

fifth

sun. Thus, Teotihuacan

was conceived as a place of


It was visited as a

beginning for the Late Postclassic groups of the Basin of Mexico.

sacred place, a site of pilgrimage. The Postclassic tradition attributed to giants the construction of the metropolis. The Aztecs

place

where persons were converted

named

the site (Teotihuacan, meaning "the

into gods"), as well as the

main constructions and

axes (the Pyramid of the Sun, Pyramid of the Moon, and the Street of the Dead). The

Aztecs symbolically derived their ancestry from both Tula and Teotihuacan, but

Teotihuacan that inaugurated the era of large capitals


Mexico, including the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan.

in

it

was

and around the Basin of

40.

Fragment of a mural painting

Teotihuacan, ca. 100-600

r.

(HI

41.

Plaque with an image

of a goddess with a
reptile-eye glyph

Teotihuaean, ca. 250- 700

Tula and the Tolteca


Richard

Diehl

THE AZTECS INHERITED A RICH CULTURAL AND ARTISTIC TRADITION FROM THEIR PREDECESSORS.

While

many elements

of this tradition were basic to

Aztec leaders deliberately chose certain others

in

all

Mesoamerican

cultures,

an effort to establish

real or

invented kinship with glorified ancestors. As Leonardo Lopez Lujan recently


observed, these efforts included the reuse of older objects, often obtained

through excavations into ruined buildings, and the imitation or replication of


ancient forms. While
ers

some of these borrowings reached back 3,000

drew on more recent cultures-most

years, oth-

significantly, the giant Classic period

metropolis at Teotihuacan and the smaller but ideologically charged ruins at


Tula, the ancient Toltec capital located 70 kilometers north of Tenochtitlan.

Tula occupied a defensible ridge overlooking the confluence of the Tula and

Rosas

rivers.

Founded during Central Mexico's "dark ages" following the demise

of Teotihuacan, Tula

emerged as Mesoamerica's

extensive empire by

a.d.

renowned
At

its

1100. The Aztecs considered the Tolteca to have been

artisans, builders, warriors, merchants,

and philosophers.

height, Tula covered 13 square kilometers

inhabitants living

and had more than 50,000

packed multifamily compounds surrounding the

tightly

in

and the seat of an

largest city

main ceremonial precinct on the bluff overlooking the

The precinct con-

rivers.

tained temples, palaces, and other public buildings that formed the stage on

which Toltec

elites

enacted public

life

and formulated state

policy.

Terraced square or rectangular platforms (often referred

to,

mistakenly, as

"pyramids") topped with flat-roofed masonry buildings were the most


Toltec architectural form.

the

city,

One unusual

incorporated round sections, which suggests that

the Mesoamerican deity Quetzalcoatl

common

structure, located at the north

in

his guise as the

edge of

was dedicated

it

to

wind god Ehecatl.

Public buildings included temples, ballcourts, skull racks, small open-air adoratories, "palaces" that

nitaries,

and

probably served as meeting halls for local and foreign dig-

elite residences.

public buildings, although

Masonry columns supported the roofs of most

Pyramids B and

employed round stone drums carved

in

C,

Tula's

two

largest

buildings,

the likeness of atlantean Toltec warriors.

Smaller stone sculptures included bench facade tablets depicting ceremonial


scenes,

wall

plaques,

roof ornaments, small

recumbent chacmool sculptures thought

to

atlantean altar supports, and

have served as

sacrificial altars.

polychrome paint

Plain or carved tablets covered with stucco and, at times,

decorated the exterior walls of platforms. Those on Pyramid B depict jaguars,


coyotes, eagles, and vultures, perhaps emblematic of Toltec warrior societies,
alternating with a fantastic creature that combines
characteristics.

human,

feline,

and avian

freestanding eoatepantli (snake wall) covered with carved

polychrome panels on both sides closed off the northern side of Pyramid

hundred yea'

and even some

'/tecs replicated Toltec architectural


ol

B.

Four

forms and layouts,

the heart of Tenochtitlan.

MM

|.

'I

III

Toltec art

is

often characterized as "crude" and

much

materials used as

skills

"stiff,"

attributions that reflect

the

of the artisans. Nevertheless, even the most avid

must concede that while Aztec forms and

Toltec enthusiast
in

as the

style

were often grounded

Toltec prototypes, Aztec artisans far surpassed their Toltec ancestors' best efforts.

Toward the end of the twelfth century, the Toltec empire disintegrated and Tula

was abandoned. The


causes.

facts of the matter are largely

intrigue and internal conflicts

about

unknown,

to say nothing of the

Legendary accounts written down by sixteenth-century Spaniards

among

between good and

a struggle

Quetzalcoatl, or a priest or ruler

who

The most

evil.

carries his

common

of

talk

factions, cloaked in a confusing overlay of

myths

of these has the deity

name, defeated or shamed by the dark

forces of Tezcatlipoca, god of night and sorcerers. Quetzalcoatl flees to the east and
either sails off to Yucatan

on

a raft of

serpents or becomes the planet Venus, promis-

ing to return someday.

The archaeological evidence for Tula's demise

not

is

much more

enlightening than

the legends. Parts of the city apparently were sacked and burned, but these events

may

have postdated the actual abandonment by decades. Systematic looting of building


facades, sculptures, and burial offerings complicate the matter. Graves inside "altars"
in

house patios were destroyed and

their contents

abandoned, but these acts could represent reverential


ing residents or desecration

mine abandoned buildings

removed when the houses were


rituals

on the part of the depart-

and plunder by invaders. Later peoples did systematically

for sculptures

and facade

tablets, often leaving offerings of

Aztec-style pottery and stone sacrificial knives on the building surfaces.

Although Toltec
itan

art

and architecture exerted

Aztec culture, the culture of the Aztecs was

what had

refined version of
larger,

existed a

considerable influence on metropol-

much more than an expanded and

few centuries before. Aztec populations were

and Aztec society presumably more complex, than those of the

Furthermore,

we

lack reliable information

on

many

dangerous to compare the two societies

in

merce,

politics,

religion,

society

must have confronted

governance, militarism,
different

aspects of Toltec

life,

far

Tolteca.

making

it

matters such as craft organization, comphilosophy, and worldview. Aztec

and perhaps

confronted by the Tolteca. Such challenges surely

far greater

summoned

challenges than those


forth institutions that

arose out of the Aztec experience rather than any harking back to the past. However,

Aztec rulers never

were

in

danger of

lost sight of their Toltec ancestors.

falling into

When

their

most sacred

Spanish hands, they are said to have hidden them

cave near Tula, never to be seen again.

idols
in a

^f<

44.

Chacmool

Toltcc, ca.

1100

K'
** R--IP
t

R^t

*%.-

<Sfc-

"

Li*'

H
^B
I 4

*-.

"J"

The Templo Mayor

Excavations at the Templo Mayor


ilium tin

Villas

\lni Irziiiiin

ON FEBRUARY

AT DAYBREAK

AN EXTRAORDINARY DISCOVERY WAS MADE

21, 1978,

IN

DOWNTOWN

Workers from the Compania de Luz y Fuerza (Light and Power


Company), carrying out installation work at the corner of calle de Guatemala
Mexico

and

City:

de Argentina, came across a relief-covered stone

calle

Realizing that

it

in

their

path.

could be an ancient sculpture, they stopped work and the fol-

lowing day notified the Departamento de Rescate Arqueologico (Archaeological

Recovery Department) of the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia

Department members knew immediately that

(INAH).

this

and commenced archaeological recovery without

relief

By February 23,

it

a very important

had been determined that the sculpture included

adornments on the head. Work continued

profile with

was

delay.

eventually revealing an

for

enormous monolith, 3.25 meters

a face in

another four days,


in

diameter, with a

representation of a decapitated and dismembered nude female carved

confirmed that

visiting the site,

was

Soli's,

moon

goddess, Coyolxauhqui, who, according to myth, was

god of sun and

Huitzilopochtli,
hill

known
From

this

in relief.

a depiction of the

Felipe

Aztec

killed

by her brother

war, following a desperate battle

on the mythic

as Coatepetl.

this startling discovery, the

Templo Mayor Project was begun. For the

next five years, under the auspices of INAH,


of

consisting

archaeologists,

biologists,

directed an interdisciplinary

chemists,

and

historians,

team

physical

anthropologists dedicated to unearthing the Templo Mayor and nearby buildings

order to understand the several stages of construction of the temple and

in

the Aztec people themselves.


ings that had been placed

over

it:

Felipe

in

Tlaloc, deity of rain,

matically

new

In

the process,

Little

by

who

presided

Huitzilopochtli. Scholars have noted the dra-

parts: before

and

that research about the Aztecs can be

after the

Templo Mayor excavations.

not be forgotten, however, that important discoveries were also


ago.

hundred offer-

perspective offered to Aztec studies by the project's findings.

two

divided into

honor of the temple and the gods

and

for example, has stated

Soli's,

we found around

little,

made

It

must

centuries

the Aztec past has been revealed by the important pieces that

have been found and that have enriched our knowledge of the Aztec people.
In
in

790,

on the orders

of

Count Revillagigedo, viceroy of Mexico, work began

the Zoealo (main square) of Mexico City to install water pipelines and to pave

the plaza. During these operations, various Aztec sculptures were unearthed,

among them

the famous statue of Coatlicue, the mother goddess, discovered

790, and the Sun or Calerni.ii '.tone, found on December 17 of


same year. A contemporary account of these events appears in Antonio de
Icon y Gama's famous work Description historica y cmnoloqica dc las dos

on Augusl

13,

the

piedras

,;

was

moved

to write this in order to reveal to the literary

world

Wall with stucco-covered stone skulls


at the

Templo Mayor.

some

of the vast knowledge that the Indians of the

Americas possessed

of their heathendom, so
ly

and sciences

in arts
it

will

be

of the halls of the university over fears on the part of the clergy

the time

in

known how

that such

false-

"strange sculpture" could

provoke antagonistic

relates:

these enemies of our Spaniards are accused of

being irrational or simple,

this

in

way

the

Count Revillagigedo, Viceroy, had

discrediting

monument

transferred to the University of Mexico, which he

conquest of these kingdoms. This written

considered the most proper place to conserve one of

account and the pictures of the figures presented


here

this

in

the glorious feats performed [by the Spaniards]

will

show

nal figures

that the people

were superior

no knowledge of

who made

artisans,

the rarest remains of American antiquity. The profes-

the origi-

sors, at that

although they had

their feigned images,

in

it

order to represent

and created other architectur-

of tempered chisels and steel

again

able

in

1803,

was

pleas,

and pre-Hispanic monuments,

ences

Views of the Mountain Ranges and

senous Peoples of America.

ones discovered

in

Among

Many

relating his experi-

Monuments of

the sculptures he

the Zbcalo

in

790, includ-

which had been moved to the Real y


idad on orders of the viceroy, who had ha

the Coatlicue stone,

measured, weighed, and sketched before having

it

buried

in

halls of the building, at a

examine

it

if

Don

depth

would not have been

Feliciano

then

Marin,

his

way

to his diocese and, listening to

my

asked the rector of the university to have

it

up.-'

who

particularly interested in archaeo-

logical sites
in his

to

Mexico on

solid, instead

dug
ed Mexico

one of the

not want to

Bishop of Monterrey, had not been going through

like axes.'

The German explorer Baron Alexander von Humboldt,

in

priests, did

Mexican youth, so they buried

of half a meter. Consequently,

works, using as tools for these labors different

stones that were even harder and more

time Dominican

exhibit this idol to the

iron or steel; they carved statues of

hard rock with great perfection

al

Von Humboldt

ideas.

one

years passed before planned excavations

lexico City

were dug

in

the center

were undertaken, although when foundations

for buildings, fortuitous discoveries occasionally

shed

was made in
1825, when the head of Coyolxauhqui sculpted in diorite was
uncovered. Antonio Penafiel states that this was unearthed
light

below

on pre-Hispanic structures. A major

house on

calle

find

de Santa Teresa (now the continuation

of calle de Guatemala, east of the Zocjlo)

This building

Abo\<
I.'..,,

'iq
I

Mill

was the

page: Templo
.ill

III

I'll

property of the Convento de

la

Concepcion, and the piece was

donated by the abbess to the National Museum.


In

1897,

some carved stone

Among

the most important archaeological

carried out in 1913

pieces were found at the inter-

Manuel Gamio

the Zocalo area

in

was

at the corner of calle de Seminario

section of the Portal de Mercaderes (now the west side of the

Santa Teresa. Excavation became possible

Zocalo) and calle de Tlapaleros (now calle de 16 de Septiembre),

demolished, and as

in

the southwest corner of the Zocalo.

measured 1.65 meters


ters high

One

of these sculptures

long, 1.22 meters wide,

and had on

its sides,

carved

in

and 68 centime-

relief,

armed warriors

with serpents above their heads. Another sculpture, 60 centimeters high,

was carved with representations of the four

cosmogonic

suns, or

were believed to have preceded the cre-

ages, that

ation of the fifth sun or the present world.

Leopoldo Batres,

who examined

de Escalerillas (Guatemala)

in

Archaeological Explorations

1900, described the objects

in Escalerillas Street, City

Batres mistakenly locates the Templo

and gives

it

Mayor under the Catedral

it

patio of the Marquis del Apartado's

de Relox (Argentina) and

calle

home-at

Jr.,

the corner of calle

was found, together

with a serpent's head with a "4 Reed" glyph carved

in

stone sculpture

in

the form of a jaguar.

In

1985, another sculpture representing an eagle

and

is

now

in

under the

de Cordobanes (Donceles)-part

of a stairway running from east to west

the collection of the

Museo

project, resulting

del

in

and

calle

de

was
the southwest corner of the Templo
a building

specialists in this

expert work on several different aspects of

the findings. For instance,

Hermann Beyer

studied the banquette

decorated with warriors and Moises Herrera classified the flora

and fauna.
In

1933,

when some

buildings were demolished at the corner

Guatemala and

calle

de Seminario,

in

same block
Gamio twenty

the

as the Catedral-opposite the area investigated by

years earlier-a team led by architect Emilio Cuevas excavated


the vacant

lots.

Architectural features of particular

found by Cuevas included

a very elaborate balustrade

interest

and part

of a stairway, perhaps belonging to the platform that supported

Mayor in one of its latest stages of construction.


Hugo Moedano and Elma Estrada Balmori explored this platform
in 1948, finding that it was decorated in the middle of the south

the Templo

actually faces west.

1901, during work directed by Porfirio Diaz,

a great

in his

of Mexico.

southward orientation, even though, as with most

pre-Hispanic temples,
In

calle

a result

when

Mayor was discovered. Gamio included various

of calle de

remains found beneath

investigations

that undertaken by

the

in relief

same

and

place,

was discovered,

Templo Mayor.

facade with snakes' heads, a great serpent's head, and a


Objects
unearthed.

from
In

the

1964,

Argentina, where a

ancient

excavated

city
a

have continued

brazier.

to

be

decorated altar on calle de

magnificent mural depicting Tlaloc was

found on one of the sloping

walls.

Eduardo Contreras discovered

an important offering within the pyramidal structure of the

Templo Mayor

way began

in

1966. In 1967. work on the Mexico City sub-

the Zoealo area and resulted

in

mation about the ancient

city.

much new

test pits in the parking lot of

Some

the Secretaria de Hacienda on calle de Guatemala.

were found, but unfortunately they had been

altars

pear cactus grows, build a small chapel where our

infor-

1973, the Archaeological

In

Reco^ry Department of INAH dug

in

destroyed during the construction of the parking

lot.

rest;

stone

made

let

we can do

is all

built a

dation

belonged to Hernan Cortes's palace.

was also discovered

altar

itself.

Monumentos

1975. the Departmento de

started the Basin of Mexico Project

down

prickly-

thick grasses

square base, which was to serve as the founchapel

the

of

built a

for

god to

the

poor but pretty

[T]hey

were so poor,

rest

house

little

place their god

in

mud

hut

and trepidation.

fear

and

destitute,

that they built even that small

Prehispanicos

purpose was to control

Its

Then everyone

where the

in;
.

covered with the reeds they gathered from the water

NacionaL
In

for the time being."

willingly to the place

and so they

circular pre-Hispanic

the rear courtyard of the Palacio

in

cannot be made of

it

of wattle and daub, since that

from the reeds that grew next to the cactus, they

later,

unearthed the remains of some columns that had probably

in

though

pear cactus grew, and, cutting

largely

the Ratio de Honor of the Palacio Nacional

excavations

be

it

went very

small

A year

god may now

in

fearful

which to

the constant and anarchic growth of the city and to halt the

Recent studies have shown that a solar eclipse took place

destruction of archaeological remains The metropolitan area

was divided

into four sections, each consisting of a

number of

zones and under the supervision of a different team of specialAt the Catedral. work was carried out by archaeologists

ists.

under the supervision of Constanza Vega. Here, beneath the

some Aztec

Catedral,

buildings and

ceramic remains were

found. The most interesting discovery was part of a


inscribed with a glyph that

may correspond

to the

wall

Temple of the

1325,

very significant symbolic event

in

ancient Mexico.

in

were thought to be battles between the sun and the

Eclipses

moon from which

emerged triumphant. Struggles

the sun

between the powers of day and night were

related in Aztec

myths, including the story most closely associated with the

Templo

Mayor: the

between

battle

and

Huitzilopochtli

Coyolxauhqui.

Sun. By 1991. excavations under the Catedral had uncovered


several buildings in the ceremonial precinct of Tenochtitlan,

Stage

including the ballcourt Shrines, offerings, and drains were also

This stage of construction

found, and several construction phases of the Templo Mayor

Tlaloc

wrrc located, dating between approximately 1450 and 1500.


Another major find took place
sculpture

lar

was

1988,

when

discovered. The sun appears

of the stone, which


victories of

in

is

surrounded

Motecuhzoma

was located opposite the

in

a great circu-

the upper part

by depictions of the military

(reigned 1440-69). The sculpture

Moneda

at

Ten years prior to

lemplo Mayor
the

Museum

this,

Project.

previous year with

museum

city [he

of excavating

where

the area

at the site illustrating

all

aspects of the ancient

seven distinct stages of construction.

lies

meters high at this stage. The two shrines at the

top, as well as the

two stairways that

lead to them, are fairly

well preserved.

The side dedicated to Huitzilopochtli was found with


rificial

stone
it,

situ,

in

co

floor,

an offering of

were two funerary

as a small

golden

was found
small

was

urns. One,

bell

and

made

nearby. Inside

greenstone

it

made

under the stuc-

of obsidian,

was

a small silver mask, as well

signs of having been

of alabaster with an obsidian

were burnt bones,

golden

bell,

ornaments, and obsidian

ear

disks,

bench on which

its feet,

number of bones, which showed

burnt. The second urn,

sac-

and green beads was

sacrificial knives

god must have stood. At

found to contain

its

opposite the entrance to the shrine.

a statue of the

the aim

at least

fifteen

it

calculated to have been

new undertaking incorporated


Project, which had commenced the

excavations of the Templo Mayor Project would even-

uncover

tually

around

is

discovered. At the far end of the shrine

remains of the Templo Mayor had been found and then setting

up

lower part of the temple could not be excavated because

however, work had begun on the

This

of Tenochtitlan

associated with the shrines to

is

and Huitzilopochtli erected atop the Templo Mayor. The

Beneath

the Ar/obispado building.

1390)

below groundwater, but the building

front steps of the temple honoring

Tezcatlipoca. the remains of which are beneath calle de

(ca.

II

lid,

two

disks.

Recent studies have shown that the cremated bones inside the

two urns are

Staqrl(132S)
Archaeologists have not yet uncovered the

of the

site

first

shrine built in Huitzilopochtli's honor, but historical sources


State thai the
reeds,

god ordered the

first

temple to be

and mud Fray Diego Dur^n describes how

wa*, erected. His description suggests that


"let

t.36

built of

us

all

go, and, in that place

it

was

where the

this

wood,

temple

very small:
prickly-

related,

and

that, given their

placement

at the feet

of the god, they must have belonged to a high-ranking Aztec.

The Aztecs were


Azcapotzalco

in

still

under

1390, and so

belong to one of the

first

the

rule

of

we can assume

the

Tepaneca

of

that these remains

three rulers: Acamapichtli (reigned

1376-96), Huitzilihuitl (reigned 1396-1417), or Chimalpopoca


(reigned 1417-27). Everything points to the remains belonging

:*"*.

L
&

5fc

^m^^m

':

W*z. v+

^**
I

Excavations at the Templo Mayor

in

1978 when the

stone depicting Coyolxauhqui was discovered.

to the last of these.

were found on the

total of six offerings

Huitzilopoehtli side of the temple, of which four were funerary

plumbate pot

urns. One, a

(the clay has a metallic sheen) in the

shape of a dog, was produced

in

the southeastern regions of

The date given to

was taken from

this stage of construction

glyph found on the highest step, on the same axis

with the sacrificial stone, which corresponds to the year 1390.

On the

recumbent figure with

Tlaloc side, a

stomach,

known

statue

as

that form the entrance to the shrine

On the

of painted decoration on them.

resembling eyes, under each of which

lies

black-and-white

pillar.

The

have their arms crossed over


(According

heart.

their

beneath

a blue stripe;

stripes.

Remnants of paintings of

who

figure,

represent water,

at the back of

depicted walking on a blue

is

a yellow

line

is

bench at the

may

that

associated with the gods of maize. As

is

Huitzilopoehtli shrine, there

each

in

the

to

sap)

Tlaloc side of the temple:

one represents

body painted black and the other

a figure

half painted red.

found on the Tlaloc side was the body of

a stone serpent with a

total of thirteen offerings associated with this stage of

Some contained

construction were discovered.

offering of fifty-two green obsidian knives (fifty-two

was the

and forty-one stone

beads of the same color was discovered.

uncovered. This

is

lead

them

to

any of the offerings

not surprising, given the date ascribed to this

stage, as the Aztecs


at this time

in

were

still

under the control of Azcapotzalco

and had not yet begun the expansion that would

dominate part of both

the remains of

marine animals; one of these, found at the rear of Stage


the Tlaloc side, contained a sawfish

saw and

shells,

III

on

along with a

magnificent blue-painted pot with the raised face of Tlaloc.

the Aztec empire continued to expand, as

There were no marine remains found

its

end of the

far

Under the sculpture of the chacmool, an

"century")

with half

Another piece

face emerging from the jaws of an animal.

them

Nahua

is

fer-

and the moon.

Stages IV and IV(a)

the

of

figures were also found on the stairway on the

These stages are attributed to Motecuhzoma

in

story

made from

drink

(a

Four offerings were found on this side of the temple, three of

number of years

their chest, as

the

Furthermore, several

chamber; here another sculpture of Tlaloc would have stood.

inside the shrine.

fig-

like a

god ate the hearts of the

in battle.)

associated with the gods of pulque

Recumbent

front are black circles

is

Huitznaua after defeating them

mented cactus

have the remains

still

ornaments on the forearms are

figure with

chest containing a greenstone,

of the figures wear a yacameztli, or lunar nose-ring, which

its

these blue stripes are two horizontal red stripes attached to vertical

protect

to

if

based on the fact that some of the

is

in their

heart, while others

opposite

container on

chacmool,

the entrance to the shrine. This has been identified as Tlaloc. The
pillars

ures have a cavity

Huitzilopochtli's birth, the triumphant

Mesoamerica.
a "Rabbit 2"

Coatepetl. This opinion

rials

(ca.

is

I,

under whose rule

evident

in

the mate-

excavated. The richness of the building at this stage

is

made

symbolic and decorative elements, such as the great

clear by

its

braziers

and the serpents' heads found toward the center of the

north and south faces and at the back of the temple platform.

The braziers on the Huitzilopoehtli

side,

characterized by

bow

stood on either side of a serpent's head. The

tied to the front,

ones on the Tlaloc

side, in the

of the god on the front,

coasts.

1454)

still

shape of large pots with the face

have some of their original painted

decoration.

Stage

III

(ca.

The expansion of

1431)

This stage of construction completely covered Stage

II

and the

various unsuccessful attempts that had been

made

temple. The date assigned to this stage

derived from the

is

to build the

Stage

IV(a),

this stage of construction, referred to as

did not involve

only the main facade.

It is

inscription "4 Reed," carved on a stone set into the rear wall at

and

now

a significant quantity of items

which corresponds to the year 1431. Since the building grew

of Mixtec stone figures

in

the region of Oaxaca

that a large

number of workers were already


in

kind and

the rule of Itzcoatl (reigned

in labor.

is

likely

available at this

time and therefore that Tenochtitlan had taxpayers


obliged to pay both

it

Indeed,

in

who were

1428, under

1427-40), the Aztecs had freed

themselves from the yoke of Azcapotzalco, creating the

Triple

In

from the region of Mezcala-

Chamber

I,

known

was

as penates indicates that part of

also ruled by Tenochtitlan at this time.

on the Huitzilopoehtli

side,

was found

a figure

made from a large piece


of greenstone that undoubtedly came from the south of
situated at the center of the stairway
Mesoamerica. Chamber
identified as Mayahuel, god of pulque,

II,

leading

to

the Tlaloc shrine, contained a

large quantity of

Mezcala-style masks. Another important offering was found

Alliance with Tetzcoco and Tlacopan.

Among

number

the state of Guerrero-south of Tenochtitlan. The presence

considerably

with this stage of construction,

four sides of the building, but

of offerings, a strong presence of fish remains, coral, and shells,

the base of the temple platform on the Huitzilopoehtli side,

size

all

characterized by a very large

the most significant finds at this stage were eight

Chamber

III,

on the Tlaloc

side,

in

which contained two multicol-

recumbent sculptures-some life-size-found on the stairway on

ored pots with images of Chicomecoatl, goddess of foodstuffs

the Huitzilopoehtli side of the temple.

and sustenance. Between the two pots were discovered

believe these stone fig-

feline

ures represent the Huitznaua, warriors from the south against

remains and a large quantity of objects and animals from both

whom

the coast and the highlands.

the god

Detail of cat. no. 63.

of

war had

to

do

battle

after

his

birth

at

I .

In* 1
,

w
I
r\u
ft

ft/3
Ef J

I
i

Detail of cat. no. 64.

Stage

The majority of the offerings uncovered during the Templo

IV(b) (ca. 1469)

This stage, a partial extension to the western side of the

Mayor,

main facade,

its

the throne of Tenochtitlan

in

1469 and remained

1481. The dating of this stage

is

Templo

who came

attributed to Axayacatl,

is

in

power

to

until

derived from a "3 House" glyph

found on the south face of the temple base. Under Axayacatl,


the Aztec empire conquered several regions and

when

only

One of the most

was defeated

overcome the Tarascans of Michoacan.

tried to

it

significant conquests

was

that of Tlatelolco

Mayor excavations were found


Tenochtitlan

was

Stage

in

at the height of

confirming that

IV(b),

success and

its

in full military

expansion at this time. The number of tributary towns had


increased,

both

sion,

and the contents of the offerings


in

reflect this

the types of animals sacrificed and

deposited. The Templo

Mayor had increased

and

size

in

expan-

the objects

in

in

splendor, reflecting the empire's military might.

in

1473; the commercial success of this market town must have

Stage V(ca. 1482)

made

The part of the main platform upon which the Templo Mayor sat

it

tempting prospect for the people of Tenochtitlan.

The architectural remains of

con-

this stage of construction

of the main platform on which the temple base

sist

sat. This

platform has five steps leading up from the ceremonial square,

which

is

composed of

paved surface. The front steps have no

line

but are interrupted only by a small

with the center of the Tlaloc side. The altar

Altar of the Frogs because

it is

mals, which are linked to the

Toward the middle of the

is

altar, in

known

as the

decorated with two of these ani-

retains

some of

is

thought to date to the

reigned from 1481 to 1486. The platform

the stucco that covered

and four offerings

it,

were found within.


The building known as the House of Eagles, north of the

Templo Mayor, may also have been constructed

at this time.

Here superb clay sculptures of eagle warriors were found, as


well as sculptures of skeletons

and two

life-size

representations

of the god Mictlantecuhtli, lord of the underworld. The building

god of water.
steps,

who

rule of Tizoc,

central division, as can be seen on those leading to the upper

part of the temple,

that remains of this stage, which

is all

on the Huitzilopochtli

side,

itself

consists of a vestibule area with

and

pillars,

a rectangular

an enormous sculpture of Coyolxauhqui was found. Various

chamber. A short corridor leads to an internal patio with rooms

offerings with rich contents are associated with this goddess,

at the north

among them two

benches decorated with processions of warriors,

ered with

funerary urns

made

of orange clay and cov-

which contained the cremated bones of two

lids,

adult males. Tests carried out on the bones

showed

might have belonged to people involved

military activities,

since there

was

clear evidence of

in

that they

original colors.

associated with war.

all

Stage

This stage

spears. Because of their placeside of the temple dedicated

to Huitzilopochtli, very close to the sculpture of Coyolxauhqui,

goddess who died

in

combat,

it

has been suggested that the

remains belong to high-ranking soldiers injured


against Michoacan and brought to Tenochtitlan to

in

the war

differ

two

die.

were

offerings,

In

in

lids.

were

row facing south

The southward direction of the universe was ruled by the god

who was

closely connected to this quadrant in

accordance with the movement of the sun.


At the north and south ends of the platform, chambers with
floors

paved

in

marble were found. Two enormous serpents'

bodies met on the platform, one looking north and the other
south. Between
still

bear

some

them was

a serpent's head. The three snakes

of their original painted decora'

who

ruled from

1486 to

four sides at this time. The

main platform supporting the temple, one of the excavated


remains,

is

characterized by decoration on the balustrades of

made up

the east-facing stairway consisting of a molding

light various shrines

is

important because

it

of

brought to

surrounding the Templo Mayor.

The Red Temples, the two shrines found on the north and

facing and both have a vestibule with a circular altar at the cen-

Inside each of the offerings, along with greenstone beads,

Huitzilopochtli,

all

between the

stone boxes with

thirteen Mexcala-style figures arranged in a

was extended on

south sides of the Templo Mayor respectively, are both east-

two of which stood out from

the others because they were placed

1486)
attributed to Ahuitzotl,

god

side devoted to the water

from those on the side of the war god.

central heads

is

502. The edifice

each of the two stairways leading to the shrines of Tlaloc and

two on the

VI (ea.

three elements. This stage

Serpents' heads rested on the platform on either side of

Huitzilopochtli. The

their

musculature on the bones.

Furthermore, the urns were decorated with images of gods

in

still

The decorations throughout, including the rep-

resentations of eagle warriors, skeletons, and Mictlantecuhtli,


are

armed with spear-throwers and

ment beneath the platform on the

and south ends. The whole complex has stone

Each vestibule

ter.

hoop

is

made up

of two walls topped by a stone

also painted red; the walls are decorated with paint.

offering containing a considerable

ments, both sculptural and


the south temple.
pies

Among

real,

number

was found on the upper

the other items discovered

were large painted ceremonial

knives.

A study

on these shrines shows that they were related

god of flowers,
T

plants, song, dance,

An

of musical instru-

in

part of

the tern

carried out

to Macuilxochitl,

and games.

he Red Temple on the north side of the Templo Mayor, also

known

as Shrine C,

and

These stand on a paved stone floor that forms the floor

B.

is

aligned with two other shrines: Shrines

of the ceremonial square. Shrine

A has two

stairways,

one fac-

ing
its

on

west and the other


walls. Shrine B
its

skulls

east.

There

is

no particular decoration on

has a west-facing stairway and

is

decorated

three remaining walls with 240 stucco-covered stone

arranged close together

on which the

like a

tzompontli, a

skulls of sacrificial victims

wooden

rack

were displayed. Thus

Shrine B was probably associated with the northern sector of


the universe, the region related to death.

On the upper

part of

Stage

1502)

VI I (ca.

What we

see of this stage

is

the main platform on which the

Templo Mayor stood. Attributed

to

to the

ground

in

dable challenge to the Spaniards.

upper

is

It

and has

well preserved

story, indicating that

once housed

it

is

the west-facing

a recess in

the floor of

a circular

was not found during the excavation.


The House of Eagles, discussed in relation

its

sculpture

surmounted during Stage

VI

to Stage V,

Among

pieces of paper
fabrics,

made from

which seem to have formed part of the garb of

Almost two centuries passed between the supposed founding of


1325 and the destruction of the Templo Mayor

Tenochtitlan

patio,

by the Spaniards and their indigenous

pre-Hispanic

being

structure

reused

as

the

grandeur

facing stairway and

will

which

still

decorated at each end with

birds' heads,

have painted black-and-white feathers and yellow

paint on their beaks.

main platform.

It

was found

to be

and various offerings were discovered on


the next stage of construction.

Page from Juan de Tovar, Tovar Codex, also

known

as Relacion delorigen de los Yndios

que havitan en esta Nueva Espana segun sus


historias,

1583-87.

allies in

now

it

its

1521. Having fol-

beginning to the

had attained just before the Spanish invasion, we

turn our attention to the symbolism of the Templo

Mayor, and to the reasons

why

it

was the most important

build-

ing in the ceremonial complex.

Recent excavations have uncovered part of the stairway that


led to the

in

lowed the building's development from

foundation for conquistador housing. The platform has a westis

a priest

Tlaloc.

was

by another similar building. Only

was found, on top of which was a colonial-style


which must have belonged to one of Cortes's captains-an
a

was one containing

ornate-tree bark and well-preserved

the platform

example of

a formi-

the most important

offerings found between Stages VI and VII

who worshiped

that

estimated to have

is

must have presented

of which only the platform exists,

Also to the north of the Templo Mayor

(reigned

been forty-five meters high. Destroying this architectural mass,

and objects related to

Shrine D.

II

the sixteenth century. The building extended

around eighty-two meters per side and

the shrine were offerings, one of which contained feline remains


Tlaloc.

Motecuhzoma

1502-20), this was the stage that the Spaniards saw and razed

it.

in

good condition

These correspond to

According to the cosmovision of the Aztecs and other

Mesoamerican peoples, the universe was divided


levels,

of which

the

central

inhabited by man. Above

it

level the

terrestrial

were thirteen

into

three

zone-was

levels, or skies,

the

^ipi^fWl
E^fcr^i

ii

highest being Omeyocan, the place of duality. Below the terrestrial

zone was the underworld, consisting of nine

was

lowest of which

levels,

the

Mictlan, inhabited by Mictlantecuhtli and

Mictlancihuatl, the discarnate deities

who

ruled the world of

The center of

axis mundi.

a glyph.

and

was

identified with a god, a plant, a bird, a color,

and

The north, known as Mictlan, was the direction of death

cold. Its

glyph was a

and

sacrificial knife (or flint)

it

was

associated with the colors black and yellow and the xerophyte,
a

Mictlan

tree native to the region.

Tezcatlipoca. The south

was the region

was

ruled

by the god

of dampness, identitinl

by the color blue and ruled by the god Huitzilopochtli.

was

it

departed the four directions of the uni-

a rabbit,

symbol of

fertility

and abundance. The

Its

east,

glyph

where

it

contained the forces of each.

Suggesting the centrality of the gods of rain and war

The cardinal points were the four universal directions. Each


direction

was crossed by both the ascendant and descen-

It

dant forces and from

verse, with the result that

the dead.

cosmos was the Templo

of the

this vision

Mayor, center of centers, the most sacred place, the universal

Aztecs' worldview, symbolism related to Tlaloc and


pochtli figured prominently

Mayor and

in

in

the

the architecture of the Templo

the elements that surrounded

it,

from the sculp-

tures with serpents' heads to the braziers that adorned the great

platform on which stood the four structures that formed the

pyramidal platform, to the upper shrines dedicated to the two


deities,

painted red and black for Huitzilopochtli, blue for Tlaloc.

Each of the temple's two parts corresponded to a specific

hill:

and

the Huitzilopochtli side represented Coatepetl, the place where

was the path along which warriors, killed in combat or by sacrifice, traveled to accompany the sun from dawn until midday.

Coatlicue gave birth to the Aztecs' patron god to fight her ene-

the sun

It

rises,

was the masculine guadrant

of the universe

belonged to the red Tezcatlipoca or Xipe Totec, identified by


I'olor

of the

midday

mies; the Tlaloc side represented Tonacatepetl, the

Women who

died during childbirth, which

was

to dusk,

(llaltecuhtli),

when

the Sun

was devoured by

earth goddess (Coatlicue) gave birth to


ing in the east. The color oi the west

house, and

it

the earth

passing through the world ot the dead until the


it

again the next morn-

was white,

its

corresponded to the god Quetzalcoatl

glyph was a

hill

where

grains of maize were stored and given to men.

The discovery of the sculpture of Coyolxauhgui on the main

and by a reed glyph. The west was the female sector

universe

considered a battle by the A/tec, accompanied the sun from

platform

at

the

foot

of

the

temple-hill

devoted

to

Huit/ilopochtli suggests that this platform represented the terrestrial level of


tle,

the universe. According to the story of their bat-

Coyolxauhqui was captured

Huitzilopochtli,

side of the

who beheaded

hill;

the body

ground. Tins myth

is

the top of Coatepetl by

at

her and threw her body over the

was dismembered as

it

tell

to the

reproduced on the Huitzilopochtli side of

>n i|.>

as Historia

<//

in

Huitzilo-

f Isla

<

Dm, in, Cm/ex Damn,

jIso

de la Indiasde Nueva Espafla

ante,

1579-81.

the Templo Mayor: the victor

the top of the temple-hill,

sits at

and the vanquished goddess, beheaded and dismembered,

Notes
1

lies

Antonio de Leon y Gama, Description historica y cronologica de

las

dos piedras

(Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, 1990).

on the ground below.


2.

The four

pyramidal platform of the Templo

of the

tiers

Mayor may thus express

levels.

celestial

At the top, the two

shrines dedicated to Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc are the clearest

representation of the life-and-death duality: on one side

god of the sun and war; on the other

the god of water,

is

is

the

fertil-

Culturay
3.

and

life.

This reflects the essential needs of the Aztecs: war,

which provided Tenochtitlan with taxes extracted from the conquered regions, and agricultural produce. Moreover, each side of

was

the building

identified with a

who

after death: warriors

the sun along part of

in

place

where people went

battle or sacrifice

whose death was

related to water (from

waterborne disease, drowning, or lightning

summer

Tlalocan, the place of eternal

The two sacred

Mictlan, the place

strike)

went

to

god of water.

ruled by the

mountains represented by the Templo

or

hills

Mayor were one of the

accompanied

path and were therefore associated with

its

Huitzilopochtli; people
a

died

steps a person had to take to reach

first

where those who died of any other causes

were destined. An Aztec poem speaks of the places where people

would go

after death:

Oh, where

Where
Where

will

will
is

go?

go?

the duality?

Perhaps everyone's

home

oh so

Difficult,
is

difficult!

there,

where those who no longer have

body

live,

inside the sky,


or perhaps the place for those

no longer have

Who

would

body

say:

is

who

here on earth!

"Where are our friends?"

Rejoice!

In this

way, the Templo

Mayor was the

focal point of the Aztec

view of the cosmos, the survival of the Aztec people, and the
order of the universe, and the unimpeded daily progress of

heavenly bodies, including the sun,

relied

on what

it

represented.

la

Coatlicue al Templo

in

Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, Las piedras

Mayor (Mexico

City:

Consejo Nacional para

la

las Artes, 1998).

Antonio

Penafiel, "Destruccion

Moctezuma,

ed.,

de Templo Mayor de Mexico,"

in

Eduardo Matos

Trabajos arqueologicos en el centro de la Ciudad de Mexico

(Mexico City:SEP-INAH, 1979), pp. 95-133.


4.

ity,

Alexander von Humboldt, quoted

negadas: de

Diego Duran, Historia de

las Indias

de

la

Nueva Espana e

3 vols. (Mexico City: Editorial Nacional, 1951).

islas

de

la tierra firme,

The Templo Mayor


at Tenochtitlan
Jmin

IN

MID-NOVEMBER

Mbrriii

Human

Berrelleza

FROM THE HEIGHTS OF THE MOUNTAINS SOUTHEAST OF THE VALLEY OF

1519,

Mexico, Hernan Cortes was amazed to observe at his feet a panorama he could

never have imagined: an enormous lake with an incredible city rising out of
This

was

and highly developed empire

in

it.

most sophisticated

Tenochtitlan, seat and capital of the Aztecs, the

pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica just prior to the

Conquest. The urban center occupied almost 12 square kilometers and had

approximately 200,000 inhabitants.


the city center, the most remarkable buildings were those found

In

in

the

sacred precinct, an area of approximately 400 meters per side, where the Aztecs

worshiped and venerated their most important gods. On either side were broad

and well-built roads that

linked the city to the

mainland and to the many

neighboring peoples located on the shores of the great

Bernardino de

lake.

Sahagun mentions that within the precinct there were approximately seventyeight buildings, which probably corresponded to an equal

Standing out

among

the buildings because of

was the Templo Mayor,

its

number of gods.

great height and magnificence

seat of Tlaloc, the god of rain and the earth's

fertility,

and Huitzilopochtli, the god of sun and war, the Aztecs' main patron gods.
It

would not be long before the amazing

vision of this city

would change

dramatically. History tells us that the military conquest of Tenochtitlan, which

occurred

in

was followed by the city's near-total destruction.


way to a new colonial city that would rise there and would
modern metropolis of Mexico City.
the year 1521,

Tenochtitlan gave

become

the

The Origin of the Templo

Mayor

The origin of the Templo Mayor goes back to the very founding of the
Tenochtitlan

in a.d.

city of

1325. According to contemporary chronicles, after a long

journey, the Aztecs were obligated to build a temple to the god Huitzilopochtli.
It

was

to be erected at the site

given the priests:

where they would

an eagle standing on a nopal

serpent. The chronicles indicate that initially the

with impermanent materials, "since that


After these

make

it

one of

god. This

his

main tasks

was written

in

i)f

to enlarge

we can do

the pyramid-temple,

of his letters to Charles

time being."

would

tlatoani (ruler)

and beautify the "house" of

power was obligated

their patron

is

"There are about forty very

taller

in

evny

to increase the size

whose grandeur was confirmed by Cortes

towers, and the greatest has fifty steps

most important tower

for the

various ethnohistorical sources, which stated that


to

had

devouring a

Templo Mayor was constructed

humble beginnings, however, every Aztec

new governor who acceded


beauty

is all

find a sign that the deity

(prickly pear) tree,

tall,

beautifully

the approai

than that of the greatest church

towei

in

and

one

worked

itself;

in Seville."

the

Archaeological Findings

500

For almost

years, the vestiges

and structures of the pre-Hispanic edifices remained

buried under the foundations of the buildings that occupy the space today. During this

many attempts

long period, there were

to reconstruct

and understand what the

Spaniards' feverish destruction had wrought. These efforts finally culminated

launching of the Templo Mayor Project


for five years

in

the

in

1978, which carried out archaeological work

under the patronage of the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia

(National Institute of Anthropology and History). This work brought to light the architectural remains of the Aztecs'

main building, as well as

that were placed within. The project also

a large quantity of offerings

amassed valuable data and information about

the ceremonial and ritual activities performed there.


This project confirmed that the
plan,

Templo Mayor was

whose main facade looked toward the

a building with a

great platform from which rose four stepped-back tiers with


the upper

where

level,

two stairways that

led to

temple dedicated to Tlaloc on the north and to Huitzilopochtli

on the south were located. Because of floods, structural


tling,

quadrangular

west. The base of the pyramid sat on a

and sinking and set-

faults,

the building had been expanded on seven occasions on the four sides, and the

main facade had been added onto four times

in

successive phases of construction.

In

addition to determining the building's architectural features, the project established


that over a construction period of less than
to a size of

two hundred

had grown

years, the building

82 meters per side and an approximate height of 45 meters.

Symbolism of the Templo Mayor


From

their beginnings, the

Aztec people had proclaimed themselves a warrior group,

destined by divine orders to conquer and subjugate other peoples

in a

broad region of

Mesoamerica. While the Aztecs concentrated the center of their imperial force
Tenochtitlan, they also envisioned the city as the center of the world.
vision of the cosmos, the

In

in

the Aztec

Templo Mayor was the symbolic nucleus of the universe. The

four horizontal directions of the universe radiated out from the building, correspon-

ding with the four cardinal points, each of which was associated
color,

and

The world was also divided

Templo Mayor. The middle


The

in

turn with a god, a

a glyph.

level

celestial level, projected

world, which

was

was

earth,

where humans and

beings

(place of duality). Projected

downward was

last

lived.

being

the under-

divided into nine levels, the last and deepest one being the dwelling

of the gods of death, a place

known

as Mictlan.

The building was further divided into two

and the other

living

all

upward, was divided into thirteen heavens, the

Omeyocan

the most sacred:

three great levels that started at the

vertically, into

to the

parts,

one dedicated

to the

god of water

god of war. The presence of these gods on the uppermost

level

of

the pyramid-temple symbolically marks the dual economic needs of Aztec society: on
the one side, water, as the most essential element for the agricultural production that

sustained them; and on the other, war, as the method of subjugating neighboring
groups, from
Finally,

whom

the

they

demanded

pyramid-temple

tribute

and thus stocked the imperial

represents

two

hills.

On the

Tonacatepetl, the "mountain of sustenance," which contained


including maize, that the rain gods would give to

coffers.

side

harvests.

was Coatepetl, the mythic "mountain of the serpent,"


of the god who became protector of the Aztecs after he defeated his

Coyolxauhqui,

who

lies at

was

kinds of foods,

humans through good

the Huitzilopochtli side


place

all

Tlaloc

On

birthsister

the feet of her conquering brother.

Thus the Templo Mayor represented the Aztec model of the universe, the most
sacred place and driv
social, political,

economic,

<

behind a society that achieved enormous stature

religious,

and

military spheres.

in

V.

**

-*** 1

jf

-wkk

46. Huchuctcotl

Aztec, ca.

1486-1502

y^MiS:

-y

*>

61.

Red God offering

Aztec, ca.

500

63. Eagle warrior

Aztec, ca.

1440-69

^5

ra
64. Mictlantccuhtli

Aztec, ca.

*&L'Jj

1480

Facing page, clockwise from


top

left:

66. Scepters

Aztec, ca.

1325-1418

67. Scepter

Aztec, ca.

68.

shaped as a serpent

1325-1481

Anthropomorphic eccentric

(sacrificial knife)

Aztec, ca. 1500

65.

Anthropomorphic mask and ear ornaments

Teotihuacan, ca. 300-600

69.

Polychrome incense burner

Aztec, ca.

1250-1521

s*+i.

70. Xiuhcoatl

Aztec, ca.

"

1500

-,-

U.s
A &

71.

Coyolxauhqui

Aztec, ca.

1250-1521

^B

72. Butterfly

Aztec, ca.

nose ornament

500

**

-*;.

Aztec Religion

Aztec Religion:
Creation, Sacrifice, and

Renewa

kail Taube

DURING THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, THE SPANISH COLONIZERS OF MEXICO WERE BOTH FASCINATED

and

horrified by the intensely religious

of the Aztecs.

life

were intrigued by apparent shared

clerics

borns, oral confession, and the

fashioned from seed.

In

In fact,

of Spanish

communionlike consumption of god images

addition, the early chroniclers wrote approvingly of the

the Franciscan Colegio de Santa Cruz

the schooling of native children,

There were,

A number

such as the baptism of new-

of children, including the school for

strict religious training

calmeeae.

traits,

nonetheless,

in

was based conceptually on

many Aztec

traditions

youths, the

elite

Tlatelolco,

devoted to

this institution.

were antithetical to

that

Spanish religious perceptions, including necromancy and the worship of multifarious deities and their graven images. The sixteenth-century chroniclers were
especially concerned by

human

which they often described

sacrifice,

gruesome images of

"el

diablo" the netherworld death god, Mictlantecuhtli-

doused with buckets of human blood.

human

tions of

sacrifice

were used to

Clearly,

justify

such descriptions and

an important component of Aztec

religion,

how

terms of creation mythology and

illustra-

both the Spanish Conquest and

human

the suppression of native religious traditions. Nonetheless,

in

in explicit

The early colonial Codex Magliabechiano and the Codex Tudela portray

detail.

not only as a

the Aztecs

sacrifice

ritual offering,

saw themselves

was

but also

in

relation

to the surrounding world.

somewhat

is

It

vilified

ironic that

many

of the sixteenth-century chroniclers

who

Aztec religious practices also provided detailed perceptions of the Aztec

worldview, or cosmovision, including


sacrifice.

some

of the underlying reasons for

human

Two works probably based on the early research of the Franciscan Fray

Andres de Olmos, the Historia de

los

mexicanos por sus pinturas and the

Histoyredu Mechique, contain detailed accounts of Aztec creation mythology.


The studies by Fray Bernardino de Sahagun, especially the Primeros memoriales

and the Florentine Codex, are unparalleled sources of information concerning


Aztec

ritual

and mythology.' The magnificent Codex Borbonicus- rendered

essentially pure Aztec style even

though

it

was painted

period-contains detailed portrayals of deities and the


the

New

Fire

in

years. The Borgia

of pre-Hispanic screenfolds, comprising the Borgia, Vaticanus


illustrate

an

ritual calendar, including

ceremony performed once every fifty-two

and Fejervary- Mayer codices, also

in

the early colonial

Aztec gods and

rites,

B,

Group

Cospi, Laud,

although they

are not painted in the imperial Aztec style found in the Codex Borbonicus, and
cular deities, such as the maize

goddess Chicomecoatl and the tutelary god

Huitzilopochtli, are entirely missing

from them. Pre-Hispanic Aztec sculpture

likewise offers a wealth of vivid material pertaining to gods, ritual,

and creation

mythology.

Numerous aspects

of Aztec religion were innovative and unique, but the

ecs also took part in the broader traditions of Mesoamerica. Certain Aztec

"AW-

*****.

Page from the Codex Fejervary-Mayer, before 1521.

Mm

and

religious traditions, both general

specific,

occurred-and

occur-in other cultures of Mesoamerica. Although the

still

Classic

Maya

(ca.

250-900) possessed an

from that of the Aztecs, many

tinct

including

calendrics,

and

ritual,

However, Teotihuacan

is

art style strikingly dis-

of their religion,

traits

mythology,

were

similar.

the Classic-period culture that most

directly relates to Aztec traditions. Located

some 50

kilometers

north of Tenochtitlan, the future Aztec capital, Teotihuacan

much

exerted a powerful influence over


the Early Classic period
tecture

(ca.

of Mesoamerica during

250-600), and Aztec art and archi-

freguently displayed

evocations of the earlier

clear

ancient style of Teotihuacan.

addition, certain Aztec gods,

In

making and destruction of four previous worlds was

suns, the

described

ongoing cosmic war between

terms of an

in

complemen-

Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl." As symbols of the

and Quetzalcoatl

tary forces of creation, however, Tezcatlipoca

also acted as

much

allies,

creation mythology.'

Maya

the hero twins of ancient

like

one important Aztec creation episode,

In

Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl were said to have

done

battle

against a monstrous being floating on the primordial sea.' This

known

creature,

as

was

Cipactli,

devouring mouths on

its

joints.

serpents, Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl tore Cipactli


part of the

with

crocodile

fishlike

Transforming themselves into

body forming the earth and the

in half,

one

From

other, the sky.

including the plumed serpent Quetzalcoatl, the rain god Tlaloc,

the body of the earth deity, Tlaltecuhtli, the natural world flow-

and the old

ered, the eyes

god Huehueteotl, can be traced to Teotihuacan.

fire

According to Aztec mythology, Teotihuacan was the place where


the present world began, and

many Aztec

beliefs

and

was the canonical source of

it

and the origin of music.

ing to heart sacrifice, sacred bundles,

including those pertain-

ritual practices,

dualism, including such binary oppositions as

male and female,

light

and

dark,

and

fire

for example,

god who was

believed to reside

male and female

the uppermost heaven of

in

Omeyocan/ The dualistic principles of Aztec religion were by no


means conceived of as static; complementary opposites interacted actively, and this dynamic tension was the ultimate and
continually abiding source of creation. One Aztec cosmogonic
myth described the birth of four original gods from Tonacatecuhtli
In

and Tonacacihuatl-male and female aspects of Ometeotl/

Aztec manuscripts and the Borgia Group, the primordial

human couple was

depicted beneath a blanket to denote the

original act of conception.

interaction of creation

supreme

effort

and

for this

dynamic

battles created

through

Another metaphor

was war-cosmic

sacrifice.

The making of the ordered world

out of primordial chaos was seen as an inherently heroic and

courageous
lives

act. In the

same manner, Aztec warriors gave

their

not only for the growth of the Aztec state, but for the con-

tinuity of this created

As

hair.

The origin of the heavens and earth was often portrayed

in

to nourish Tlalte-

"We

eat of the earth then the earth eats us.'"

Aztec thought, the created universe had three realms. The

In

uppermost was the


particular

gods and

and wind. The


llhuican,

died

composed of

sky,

brilliant,

was the

celestial

afterlife

in childbirth.

thirteen levels occupied by

phenomena, including the sun,

celestial

stars,

paradise of the sun, Tonatiuh

abode of valiant warriors and

women

The lowest realm of the universe was the

nine-leveled underworld, Mictlan, ruled by the crafty death god,


Mictlantecuhtli,

and

to sickness or old age

went

and dusty region, from which there was no

was another netherworld

there
rain

god

Tlaloc.

Unfortunate

his consort, Mictlan-cihuatl.

who succumbed

souls

Here people

lightning lived amidst

to this dark

return.

However,

region: Tlalocan, paradise of the

who

died by drowning or from

abundant food and vast

Between the underworld and the sky

riches.'-

lay the surface of the

earth, Tlalticpac, the place of the living. The act of creation

divided the world into four quarters, each with


ic tree.

At the center stood a

offering

fifth tree,

its

Aztecs, this middle place

B.C.),

had

own symbol-

the pivotal axis mundi,

access to both sky and underworld.

Formative Olmec (900-500

cosmos.

humans had

result,

hearts and blood to placate the violated

Contemporary Nahua, close descendants of the ancient

Aztecs, note:

who

own

cuhtli with their

and death,

and water. The Aztec

was Ometeotl,

supreme god,

life

forming pools and springs, the mouth becoming

and caves, and trees and blossoming plants growing from

the flowing

earth.

underlying Aztec religious thought was

basic concept

rivers

In

the Middle

the Classic Maya, and

the

was often portrayed as maize, much as

the four-cornered world constituted a symbolic corn field."

Aztec mythology as a cosmic battle between a pair of gods,

if

Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl. Together, these two beings repre-

An Aztec casket from Tizapan contains

sented the concept of complementary opposition: Tezcatlipoca

image of the Aztec maize goddess Chicomecoatl, with four

was the

other

fateful

god of

conflict, darkness,

shifting earth, while Quetzalcoatl

was

dawning east and the ethereal but


bolized by breath
this

and the

in

but

a celestial being of the

also eternal

and wind. Rufino Tamayo

complementary opposition

solid

his

life

force

sym-

vividly portrayed

remarkable

painting

black, yellow,

quadripjM

Tlaloc

some

nig^

Tlaloc painted

te,

known

as the myth of the five

in

and white on the underside of the capping

red,

lid.

commonly

"presenting rains of the four cardinal directions.

had four water basins, each with


ol

beneficial

a specific type of rain,

and others famine-producing.

Pages 27 and 28 of the Codex Borgia portray

the Aztec creation cycle

of

greenstone

According to the Historia de los mexicanos por sus pinturas,

laguar) locked in battle as opposing forces of

In

aspects

Aztec and other Mesoamerican rain gods were

Duality (1963-64), with Quetzalcoatl (the plumed serpent) and

day and

deities-directional

a central

surrounded by four Tlalogue, each of

whom

a central Tlaloc

dispenses either

life-giving or destructive rain.

The four Tlaloque were also iden-

with directional mountains,

tified

and peaks being the

hills

dwelling place of the rain gods and the source of water and

Among

abundance.

the Aztecs, the most important mountain

was Mount

pertaining to the rain god

Tlaloc, located east of

the

numerical position

first

day name.

treeena along with a specific

in

addition to the god and directional orientation

In

associated with that day name, each

was presided

treeena

over by a pair of gods as well as by another deity; by the birds


identified with

each of the thirteen day positions; and by an

Tenochtitlan. According to the Dominican cleric Fray Diego

independent sequence of nine

Duran, a square stone enclosure atop the summit contained

extraordinarily complex, the combinations of gods, numbers, and

moun-

directions providing nuanced and subtle auguries for the days.

a central

image of Mount Tlaloc surrounded by

lesser

tains.

reconnaissance

Archaeological

by

Felipe

Soli's

and

calendar was

deities. Clearly, this

Whereas the 260-day calendar frequently pertained

to the

Richard Townsend has documented a series of boulders-one

private affairs of individuals, such as personal well-being, the

on the eastern

outcome of business

one on the western

side,

the four corners, and one

in

Townsend notes that

within the enclosure.

to the arrangement, in the

ilar

Codex

this plan

is

very sim-

the Primeros

In

debt-payment of children to

sacrificial

stone enclosure atop a

Tlaloc, a victim lies in a

at each of

Borgia, of a central Tlaloc

surrounded by four others at the corners.

memoriales scene of the

one

side,

the center-surrounding a shrine

hill.

Behind the

ventures, or the compatibility of particular

spouses, the 365-day calendar expressed the cosmic processes


of the sun, the seasons, and the primordial doings of the gods.

Since this calendar conformed vaguely to the solar year,


of the deities evoked were beings of agricultural
ing maize, the earth,

fertility,

many

includ-

and water. The 365-day calendar was com-

posed of eighteen twenty-day months (often referred to as

head of the victim, three mountain gods, the tepietoton, are

veintenas) and five extra days (the nemontemi). During veintena

shown

celebrations, particular deities

this

positioned on three sides of the enclosure; quite possibly

scene refers to Mount Tlaloc and

its

shrine of directional

was

one version of the

Cipactli

said to have occurred

myth, the creation of the earth

on the

The origin of the world was thus

first

day of the

first year.

tied to the creation of the

calendar-the integration and organization of time and space.

One

of the most complex portrayals of this cosmological order-

on page

ing appears

of the Codex Fejervary-Mayer, where

world trees grow toward each of the sides and corners of the
quartered world. As
this

ordered space

is

in

the myth of Tlaltecuhtli, the creation of

depicted as the result of cosmic battle and

sacrifice': at the outer

edges of the plan are the dismembered

remains of Tezcatlipoca, the powerful deity embodying conflict

and change

in

the universe.-

Beginning with the eastern tree at

the top of the scene and moving counterclockwise from there,


the body parts of Tezcatlipoca

lie

to the left of each tree-arm,

leg, torso,

and head. Gouts of blood from the four quarters of

the world

fall

to the central warrior figure, Xiuhtecuhtli,

god of

time and the pivotal world centerof the Codex

Fejervary-Mayer portrays the combination of two calendrical


systems, the 260-day and 365-day years. The eight-lobed band

framing the eight world trees denotes the 260-day divinatory or


calendar,

which combined twenty day names-Tochtli

(Rabbit), Atl (Water), Itzcuintli (Dog),

bers

to 13. Each of the

and cardinal

and so on-with the num-

twenty day names had

direction, with the

days running

a specific

in a

god

continuously

counterclockwise motion (from east to north and so on). This


cycle
a

was combined with the

day named

for

striking

examples of deity imper-

cycle of thirteen numbers, so that

Rabbit would be followed by 2 Water, then 3 Dog,

example. The 260-day calendar was divided into twi

thirteen-day treeena (weeks), each

during which devotees of the god Xipe Totec would don the
skins of sacrificial victims.

named by

the

number 1-

Temporary embodiments of the gods,

deity impersonators were frequently sacrificed, releasing the

divine spirit so that

it

could be renewed the following yea-

Aside from timing the annual


solar year, the

Years

annals.

historical

and celebrations of the

rites

365-day calendar served as the

basis for Aztec

were named using the numbers

through 13 and four of the twenty day names of the 260-day


cycle-Acatl (Reed), Tecpatl
(Rabbit).

own

(Flint),

Cat

li

(House), and Tochtli

Each of these year bearers, as they were

called,

had

its

directional association: east for Reed, north for Flint, west

for House,

on page

descending
square. As

and south

the 260-day calendar, the cycle of

combined with the

cycle of year bearers, so that

Flint,

facing,

numbers was
1

Reed would

3 House, and so on. The combination of

four year bearers and thirteen


cycle of distinctly
Far

The year bearers are depicted

one near each of the four corners of the

birds,
in

for Rabbit.

Codex Fejervary-Mayer as inwardly

of the

be followed by 2

Aside from illustrating the cosmos, page

ritual

were often portrayed by deity

One of the most

sonation occurred during the veintena called Tlacaxipehualiztli,

mountains.
In

impersonators.

numbers created

named 365-day

a fifty-two-year

years.

more than simply marking the succession

of years, the

Aztec year bearers were tied to basic concepts of Aztec creation

and cosmology, as each was


tional

god and

identified with a specific direc-

tree that supported the

sky As with other Meso'

american peoples, the Aztecs considered both spans of time and


public offices as cargos, heavy burdens to be supported and
carried.

Although the Aztec

deities

known

as sky bearers had the

weighty responsibility of supporting the firmament, they could


.form into fierce star demons, the tziztimime, during periods

of darkness, as

in solar eclipses.

depicted as spiders hanging

The tzitzimime were sometimes

down from

the sky, or as skeletal

beings with sharp talons.

a tzitzim ime

one Aztec scene,

In

sham4

bles in the starry night sky

toward the sun god,

menacing being

upper portion of the Bilimek Pulque

Vessel,

recalls the

Tonatiuh.-'

This

which portrays two figures Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl and

pulque god-attacking

sun with wooden

partially eclipsed

For the Aztecs, an especially feared calendrical event

the completion of the fifty-two-year cycle, occurring

in

was

this

momentous ceremony xiuhmolpia, meaning

"the

binding of the years." The termination of the fifty-two-year


cycle appeared

Aztec stone sculpture

in

bundles called xiuhmolpilli, each

the form of

in

wood

correspon-

stick symbolically

ding to a completed year. Although "binding" surely alluded to


the tying up of

sticks,

it

probably had other meanings, including

the making of a package to carry as a burden and the bundling

of the "dead" calendrical cycle.

25

Recalling the Aztec practice of

the east, but

in

through the

sky.

move and

did not

it

follow

path

its

To ensure the creation of the world, other gods

then sacrificed themselves and offered their hearts to the sun.

mantles and other remains, priests fashioned the

their

tlaquimilolli (sacred bundles).

2 "

According to Aztec accounts, the

the

veintena of Panquetzaliztli during the year 2 Reed. The Aztecs

termed

appeared

born. After

and Tecuciztecatl, the sun

the self-sacrifice of Nanahuatzin

From

clubs and stones.

was thus

died freely for the empire and the sun,

huacan marked the

shift

world of historical

reality.

dawning

first

at Teoti-

from the mythic time of the gods to the


29

Thereafter, as can be seen

their

in

sacred mortuary bundles and stone images, the gods remained


silent

and immobile,

much

but,

honored ancestors, they

like

could be invoked by incense, music, and


clothing and other articles

sacrificial offerings.

deity impersonation, by which the deities were manifested


porarily

in

The

the tlaquimilolli were used for

in

tem-

the world of mortals. Elizabeth Boone notes the close

between the

relationship

inert

god bundle and the

teixiptla,

the

cremating the bound and shrouded dead, wood bundles were

"image" or physical manifestation of the god. 30 The term teixiptla

cast into a hearth at the Temple of Darkness during xiuhmolpia.

also referred to

cosmos through the

This act represented the renewal of the

making of new
tle,

In

fire,

an event expressed

in

terms of

cosmic bat-

the forces of darkness and night versus the resplendent sun.


preparation,

all

the city of Tenochtitlan were extin-

fires in

guished, with the hearthstones, ceramic vessels, and other old


objects of the household discarded and replaced. At night, the

inhabitants of the city waited anxiously for

on the chest of
the southeast.

new

fire

fire to

be

made

atop Huixachtecatl, located to

a sacrificial victim
If

new

were not created, the world would be

destroyed by the tzitzimime:

Thus was

it

said:

it

was claimed that

if

fire

would be ended; there would evermore be

Nevermore would the sun come


prevail forever,

out.

myth of the creation of the

This

In

the

contained

hearts

the

first

Mesoamerica.

in

Moreover, Teotihuacan art and writing portrayed eagles and


jaguars devouring

human

hearts, a

convention also known

in

Mexico (900-1521). The Aztecs replicated

Postclassic Central

the original sacrifice of the gods with the ritual offering of

human

hearts to the sun. Hearts were placed

basins

known

in

human

name

stone

sacrificial

were ornamented

as cuauhxicalli. These vessels

hearts and had an

carved on the underside.

deity, Tlaltecuhtli,

Nahui

interior displayed a central sign, the glyph

calendrical

and the demons of darkness would

who wore

world suggests that the

fifth

portrayals of sacrificial

image of the earth

Night would

those

the tlaquimilolli.

ancient art of Teotihuacan

the

fact,

widespread

The

night.

is,

in

Aztec institution of heart sacrifice also began at Teotihuacan.

with portrayals of eagle plumes and

could not

be drawn, then [the sun] would be destroyed forever;


all

god impersonators-that

mantles and other raiments contained

Ollin

the

of Tonatiuh. Just as the gods presented their

hearts to the sun at Teotihuacan, the Aztecs placed sacrificial

descend to eat men. 26

hearts atop these images of Tonatiuh to revive the dawning sun.


In

both form and function, the xukuri of the contemporary

During this terrifying night, the primordial battle of creation

Huichol of Nayarit closely resemble Aztec cuauhxicalli.- As well

began anew.

as being used to present sacrificial blood to the gods, they often

As part of the nocturnal

New

Fire

ceremony, the

fire priests

display images of the sun

women, and the

impersonated the gods as they proceeded to Huixachtecatl; the

to water,

Codex Borbonicus

of the underworld

leading

other

illustrates a

priest dressed as Quetzalcoatl

godly beings to

the

pyre

at

the

Temple of

Darkness. This nocturnal meeting recalled the mythical creation


of the fifth and present sun at Teotihuacan,

vened to

light the

great pyre,

it

was

world anew.-'

said,

when

the gods con-

By throwing himself into

the humble Nanahuatzin

became the sun

god, Tonatiuh. Since the haughty but timid Tecuciztecatl hesitated, he

became the weaker moon. Out of

this fire also

emerged

the eagle and the jaguar, symbols of the sun and famed Aztec
military orders; the

code of the courageous warrior, one

who

is

in

their interior.

earth:

in

a blood-filled xukuri.'

that cuauhxicalli symbolized the


earth, the place

we

The xukuri

related

one Huichol myth, the

womb

Similarly,

and

it

womb

is

likely

birth canal of the

from which the sun was daily born. Page 32 of

the Codex Borgia portrays a birthing figure

in

the squatting

position of Tlaltecuhtli, with the hips depicted as a sacrificial

basin lined with

flints. In fact,

quently resembles

bowl or

basin,

the skirt

much

as

worn by

if

Tlaltecuhtli fre-

her hips constituted a

a bucket.

The Classic Maya also had

bowls marked

in

the

form of the four-lobed

k'in

sacrificial

interior with solar images, here in the

Maya sun sign. In Classic Maya art, such bowls


commonly appeared as censers containing hearts and other
sacrificial offerings. One incised earspool portrays a Maya cosmic monster in the same squatting position in which the later
Aztec Tlaltecuhtli was depicted; the hips are portrayed as a solar
sacrificial bowl. Like the Aztec cuauhxicalli, these Classic Maya
glyph, the

womb

bowls also denoted the


The

sacrificial birth

shared by

many

from which the sun emerged.

was

of Tonatiuh at Teotihuacan

creation account, this one referring to the ongoing

myth

peoples of highland Mexico. However, another

expansion of the Aztec

state,

hegemonic

was wholly Aztec; the

characters had no obvious precursors

in

principal

the art and ideology of

Central Mexico. The preeminent character, the fierce and belli-

cose Huitzilopochtli, served as the

solar,

tutelary

god of the

Aztecs and their empire. Also known as the Blue Tezcatlipoca,

embodied

Huitzilopochtli

conflict, strife,

and the fate of the

Aztec people. Huitzilopochtli was magically conceived while his


mother, Coatlicue, was sweeping

her temple. Coatlicue's

in

daughter, Coyolxauhqui, and her four hundred brothers, the

Centzon Huitznaua, were enraged by

and prepared

emerged

armed and slew

fully

Almost

mother's pregnancy

their

However, at

for battle.

his birth Huitzilopochtli

his older siblings at Coatepetl.

hundred years ago, Eduard Seler suggested that

the mythic battle at Coatepetl symbolized the dawning of the

sun out of the earth and the defeat of the beings of night and
darkness, with Coyolxauhqui being the

Huitznaua, the innumerable


this

episode

Coyolxauhqui
tral

stars."'

remains obscure,

monument

importance

in

moon and

the Centzon

Although the meaning of

1978 discovery of the

the

Templo Mayor revealed

at the

its

cen-

Aztec ideology. Located at the base of the

Huitzilopochtli side of the

Templo Mayor, the monument fea-

tures Coyolxauhqui stripped and dismembered, her head and

limbs severed from her torso. Clearly, this


her defeat at Coatepetl, where she tumbled
hill.

Due

to this major discovery,

it

monument portrays
in pieces down the

evident that the sacrifice

is

of captives atop the Huitzilopochtli side of the Templo

Mayor

reenacted the defeat of Coyolxauhqui and her brothers: Just as


the mythic enemies of Huitzilopochtli were slain at Coatepetl,
captives from

enemy

states were sacrificed and cast

down

the

temple steps.
Directly

below the Coyolxauhqui stone

of the defeated goddess rendered

stone monument, she

is

in

lies

an

earlier version

sculpted stucco. As

in

the

nude and dismembered, her head and

limbs cut from the central trunk." Howevei, the stucco example
portrays the severed limbs well

away from

the torso and ori-

ented to the four quarters of the world, recalling both the


I

laltecuhtli

on page

myth and the


of the

sacrifice of Tezcatlipoca as

it

dered as the earth, dismembered and fashioned into


ordered world

appears

Codex Fqervary-Mayer. Coyolxauhqui

Hie birth of Huitzilopochtli

is

ren-

new,

was thus associated

with the creation of both the Aztec sun and

its

earthly domain:

Page from Fray Bernardino de Sahagun, Rorentinc


Codex, also

de

la

Nueva

known

a\ Historia general de las cosas

Espafia,

575-77.

from the dismembered Coyolxauhqui and the bodies of van-

responds well with Aztec concepts of music and conjuring

quished enemies, the Aztec world was made.

ancestral souls. According to John Bierhorst, the early colonial

The symbolic axis mundi of the Aztecs, the Templo Mayor


at

lay

the center of the four quarters not only of the city of

Tenochtitlan but of the entire Aztec world.

supported two

It

ure.

the northern structure to Tlaloc. The two temples have been

interpreted

in a

to the Aztecs of both agriculture

and war,

for example, or of the

new Aztec

contrast of ancient traditions to the

world. The tem-

ples

have also been interpreted as representing

two

distinct mountains, Coatepetl

nance dedicated to

Tlaloc,

and

merging of

mountain of suste-

with Coatepetl relating to the earth's

moun-

surface and the historical doings of the Aztecs and the


tain of Tlaloc

concerning the interior of the mountain and the

ancient paradise of Tlalocan.


tions of the

37

Templo Mayor, an

During one of the

renova-

later

altar with steep steps, centered at

drums portrayed

aztli

temples, the southern structure dedicated to Huitzilopochtli and

number of ways-as symbolic of the importance

who

Cantares mexicanos concerned the conjuring of revenants,

descended as birds from the heavens.


44

An

At times, Aztec tepon-

flying individuals similar to the Borgia fig-

excellent example occurs on an Aztec ceramic

Although

teponaztli.

probably

still

covered

by a

Xochipilli

this object

is

model of

not a true teponaztli,

in

in

almost

position

identical

that

to

the Codex Borgia image. Both wear the

collar of shell tinklers.

the Codex Borgia image.

bird,

of

same

similarly flying figure appears

containing flowers and a tropical

side of this

is

tympanum. The drum's surface portrays

skin

another Aztec drum-this one an actual teponaztii-m

in

it

ceramic drum, the open mouth originally being

flying

Quetzalcoatl

dance

41

on

band

elements also appearing

Whereas the

central scene

drum portrays the sun engaged

in

on one

celestial battle,

the other side depicts the eagle and jaguar, symbols of the Aztec

was added. Topped by

a pair of

military orders dedicated to the sun. Bierhorst notes that a cen-

frogs, this altar recalls a description of Tlalocan in the

Primeros

tral

the base of the Tlaloc temple,

memoriales, according to which two frogs

mark the entrance

38

to Tlalocan.

The frog

sit

altar

atop

may

wall to

thus have

represented a symbolic entrance to Tlalocan, a realm perhaps

thought to have been located

Many

Mayor.

the Templo

have referred to

well

may

The Aztecs were very aware of

their historical past,

and many

Templo Mayor

ation of the present sun at Teotihuacan. Although this episode

also have been identi-

and the ancestral

ritually attracted

and compelled

using wind instruments, such as conch trumpets and flutes.'

According to Fray Geronimo de Mendieta, the priests

was

clearly tied to Aztec militarism

and the solar war

also connected to the practice of heart sacrifice, the

past.

Aside from sacrificial offerings, music was also an essential

gods were

45

aspects of their religious traditions related mythically to the cre-

Aztec means of contacting the gods and ancestors. Guilhem


Olivier notes that the

realm closely identified with Teotihuacan, the mythic birthplace


of the sun and the eagle and jaguar military orders.

this paradisiacal

place of wealth and plenty. Earlier phases of the

buried by subsequent construction


fied with the realm of Tlaloc

of

the interior of the Templo

in

of the rich offerings buried within both sides of

Mayor may

theme of the Cantares mexicanos was the summoning

warrior souls from the flower paradise of the sun, a celestial

who

fash-

cult,

it

was

making of

sacred bundles, and music. Like the sun, the earth and sky were
also created through sacrifice, by the

dismemberment of the

primordial Cipactli. The birth of Huitzilopochtli similarly involved

human

that this wholly Aztec

myth con-

cerned both the origin of the sun and the Aztecs'

terrestrial

sacrifice,

and

it is

likely

ioned the original tlaquimilolli at Teotihuacan sought music to

realm. For the act of heart sacrifice, four priests held the limbs

conjure and communicate with the gods after their mass sacri-

of the victim, thereby creating a

fice.

40

Two

related

accounts of

describe either the wind or

this

mythic origin of music

priest of Tezcatlipoca traveling

across the sea to the house of the sun to obtain music.


sion of this episode appears on pages 35 to
Borgia.*'

On page

35, Tezcatlipoca

4
'

ver-

38 of the Codex

and the wind god,

Ehecatl,

Yucatan, the four priests

Aztec

dane event.

great stream of wind exiting a red flute at the center of this

opening

Xochipilli,

related to

drums,
flowers.

played by the god of music,

on page 37. Within the stream of wind appear items


music and dance, including ceramic and

flutes,
In

is

and dance

staffs, as well

addition, there are five

with his eyes shut, denoting death

turtleshell

as precious birds

images of Quetzalcoatl
or,

more

likely,

and

flying

ecstatic trance

achieved through music and dance.

The

flight of Quetzalcoatl

in

the Codex Borgia scene cor-

grasped the limbs were referred to


Jr

During

were played to mark the numinous period of contact with the

the attributes of both Tonatiuh and Tlaloc. Page 36 depicts a

flute

who

of sacrifice, conch trumpets and other instruments

rites

deities.

same

of the four quar-

as chakoob, the four directional rain gods of the Maya.

obtain a bundle from a temple occupied by a figure displaying

bundle; the very

cosmogram

ters with the victim's heart at the center. In sixteenth-century

To the Aztecs,

It

was an

doorway

human

sacrifice

was anything but

mun-

act that restored the violence of creation,

into the original world of the gods.

Notes

Sacrifice: The

Beacon
2.

Aztec Empire and the Role of Violence

in Civilization (Boston:

Angel Garibay, Teogonia e historia de los mexicanos: Tres opusculos delsiglo


City: Editorial Porrua, 1979).

and Fray Bernardino de

1997);

Press,

Sahagun, Florentine Codex: General History of the Things of


Arthur

0.

J.

Anderson and Charles

New

Spain, 13

Dibble (Santa Fe: School of

E.

American Research, 1950-82).


The Histoyredu Mechique

4.

the thirteenth and

"In

4.

and his/her realm:

explicitly describes this deity

last

(Garibay, Teogonia e historia

[heaven],

the highest, there

de

los

mexicanos,

god

is

is

called

goddess"

103, trans, author). For Aztec

p.

concepts of dualism, see Miguel Leon-Portilla, Azfec Thought and Culture:

Study of the Ancient Nahuatl Mind (Norman: University of Oklahoma


1963); and Alfredo Lopez Austin, The

Richard

Human Body and Ideology:

Press,

Concepts of

The Book of the Gods

Diego Duran,

Fray

15.

of

Oklahoma

Change

F.

Garibay, Teogonia e historia de los mexicanos,

6.

The portico murals of Structure A

1975, more than ten years after

p.

Townsend, "The Mount Tlaloc

Cacaxtla-discovered

at Late Classic

Tamayo painted Duo//fy-feature

in

same

the

The Maya eagle warrior of the east stands upon a plumed

serpent, while the Mexican jaguar warrior of the west

is

atop a jaguar serpent;

and

7.

month of

the later

child sacrifices

solescosmogonicos,"sfud/osdeCu/fura/Vdhuof/7(1969), pp. 183-210; and Henry


Nicholson, "Religion

Pre-Hispanic Central Mexico,"

Handbook of Middle American Indians,


395-446.

8. For the

Maya hero

1993), pp. 56-67;

Robert Wauchope, gen.

10 (Austin: University of Texas Press,

vol.

twins, see Michael D. Coe, 'The

Justin Kerr, ed., The

pp. 161-84; Karl

in

upon Mount

vol. 2, pp. 1-2,

42-44; and Duran, The Book of the

de

los

mexicanos,

a.d..

105.

p.

Maya had portrayed

the ancient

of a mythical

reptile, clearly a

myth were

Maya

Vase Book,

vol.

Hero Twins: Myth and Image,"

(New

York: Kerr Associates, 1989),

Museum

Taube, Aztec

and Maya Myths (London:

and Dennis

Tedlock, Popol Vuh: The Definitive Edition of the

episode appear

and the Histoyre du Mechique

British

Press,

in

debs mexicanos porsuspinturas

the Historia

(see Garibay, Teogonia e historia

de

los

mexicanos,

pp. 26, 105, 108).


10.

From the two creation metaphors of copulation and

violent conflict arises a

by which the creation of the earth can be seen as a form of cosmic rape. For

dismemberment

discussions of the mythic

Elizabeth del Rio, Bases psicodinamicas

Amic

Editores, 1973);

de

of Tlaltecuhtli as rape, see

la cultura

Azteca (Mexico

and Michel Graulich, "Myths of Paradise

City:

Alma
Costa-

version of the Cipactli myth. Versions of the

This statement, by a

Puebla,

contemporary Nahua informant of the

was recorded by Tim Knab and

as Ritual Space,"

in

and Periphery

(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987),

of

Sierra de

in

uma,

the Aztec World

20.

In

traveling to Tlalocan (pp. 179-83). Tim

imong

tr

Pueb<

und-

->g

is

described as a "mirror that gives off smoke," probably

an allusion to Tezcatlipoca (see Michael

Hernando Ruiz de Alarcon

D.

Coe and Gordon Whittaker, Aztec

Superstitions that Today Live

and

trans.

to

mod

n Broda,

''eltsand

Nahua

ol

'a

among

thought, see Karl A. Taube,

pment
an Southvs

the Indians to this

Press, 1984],

p.

New Spain,

1629, ed.

95).

common metaphor for


in native New

the creation of the universe and the division of the seasons

"Ballgames and Boundaries,"

World mythologies (Susan

Gillespie,

Scarborough and David

Wilcox, eds, The

R.

in

Vernon L

Mesoamerican Ballgame [Tucson:

University of Arizona Press, 1991], pp. 317-45).


22. See David Carrasco, City of Sacrifice, pp. 130-32.
23. For a discussion of sky bearers, see

and

Directions in

Maya and Mexican

Thompson, Sky

Eric S.

J.

Bearers, Colors

Religion (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie

of Washington, 1934), pp. 209-42;

and

Karl A. Taube, "The Bilmu-k

entral

Mexico," Ancient Mesoamerica 4 (1993). pp. 1-15.


24.

In

drawing

of

this

scene published by Hasso von Winning {Pre-

Columbian Art of Mexico and Central America [New York


1968], plate 397),

read

is

wraparound image on a

to face

tii-

'

Harr\

N.

Abrams,

away from the sun Howi

cylindrical bone, the figure

can be

award the sun. Given the fundamentally antagonistic nature


iht,

the lattei

seems the most

likely

hi

25. For the

mortuary symbolism

of year bundles, see Alfonso Caso, Los calen-

danos prehispamcos{Mc>

p. 108).

York at Albany,

on the Heathen

Richard Andrews and Ross Hassig [Norman: University of

J.

As Susan Gillespie notes, dismemberment was

de

realm occupies the center of the

"Templo Mayor as Ritual Space,"

New

Treatise

[Albany: State University of

and Hernando Ruiz de Alarcon,

1982], pp. 131, 304;

Knab has documented a form

the contemporary

-'i

of M,j

Dumbarton Oaks,

the colonial Nahuatl chants recorded by Hernando Ruiz de Alarcon, the

since this

p. 107.

The Primeros memoriales contains a remarkably detailed description of a

woman

D.C.:

Pulque Vessel: Starlore, Calendrics, and Cosmology of Late Posl

Johanna Broda, "Templo Mayor

cited in

Broda, David Carrasco, and Eduardo Ma'

The Great Temple of Tenochtitlon: Center

12.

also present in Late Postclassic Yucatan (see Karl A. Taube,

surface of the earth

Lost in Pre-Hispanic

Central Mexico," Current Anthropology 2A, no. 5 (1983). pp. 575-81.


11

their

the days

if

1992]), pp. 128-31).

21.

third,

as

David Stuart has determined that a text from the recently dis-

sacrificed.

Oklahoma

this

much

cartouche denoting blood,

covered Late Classic bench from Temple 19 at Palenque refers to the chopping

Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life and the Glories of Gods and Kings (New York: Simon
Accounts of

Atlcahualo,

Tlaloc occurred during

Rites, p. 425).

day names surrounded by

and Schuster, 1996).


9.

of

Sorcerers in Seventeenth Century Mexico: The Treatise on Superstitions by

1971), pp.

in

in

Press

Ochpaniztli (see Sahagun, Primeros memoriales, pp. 55-56;

Sahagun, Florentine Codex,

were

month of

sacrifice of children to Tlaloc during the

Duran mentions that the

The Major Gods of Ancient Yucatan [Washington,


los Arcos, "Los cinco

the Ancient

Although the Primeros memoriales and the Florentine Codex describe the

mountain

pent of the nocturnal west.


suns myth, see Roberto Moreno de

and

University

(Niwot:

Cipactli

five

Rites

Colorado, 1991), pp. 26-30.

thus the murals depict a plumed serpent of the dawning east and a jaguar ser-

accounts of the

cis-

Project," in David Carrasco, ed., To

Place: Aztec Ceremonial Landscapes

19. Since at least the first century

23.

and the four

Press. 1971), p. 156.

18. Garibay, Teogonia e historia

Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1988).

5.

ed

cis-

Calendar, trans. Fernando Horcasitas and Doris Heyden (Norman: University

Montellano

B.

The four large

1999), pp. 137-44.

Gods and

7. For

26.

p.

Townsend, The Aztecs (London: Thames and Hudson,

F.

the Ancient Nahuas, trans. Thelma Ortiz de Montellano and Bernard Ortiz de

dualistic opposition.

Mesoameriec

rains of the four directions. For a description of Tetzcotzingo

16. Richard

Ometecuhtli [Ometeotl], which means two gods, and one

(Salt

in

National Gallery of Art, 2000), pp. 296-337.

D.C.:

See Garibay, Teogonia e historia de los mexicanos,

terns, see

Fray Bernardino de Sahagun, Primeros memoriales, trans. Thelma D. Sullivan

(Norman: University of Oklahoma

vols., trans.

Olmec Art and Archaeology

Pye, eds.,

E.

(Washington,

cat.

terns oriented to the cardinal points atop Tetzcotzingo probably refer to the

Press, 1999).

XVI (Mexico
3.

and Mary

Clark

For a recent discussion of Aztec sacrifice, see David Carrasco, City of

1.

1967), pp
26.

Sahagun, Florentine Codex,

27.

On

the

onal

Autbnoma de Mi

129

New

Fire

vol. 7, p. 27.

ceremony and the Teotihuacan creation myth, sec

Karl

Taube, "The Turquoise Hearth:

of War,"

David

in

Fire,

Carrasco,

and the Central Mexican Cult

Self Sacrifice,

and Scott Sessions,

Lindsay Jones,

eds.,

County Museum of

Art, 2001), pp.

43. Cantares mexicanos:

102-23.

Songs of the Aztecs,

trans.

John Bierhorst (Stanford:

Mesoamerica's Classic Heritage: From Teotihuacan to the Aztecs (Boulder:

Stanford University Press, 1985),

University Press of Colorado, 2000), pp. 315-16.

44. For examples of flying figures on teponaztli, see Marshall H. Saville, The

28.

On the making of god

Geronimo de Mendieta,

bundles, see Fray

Historia

eclesiastica indiana (Mexico City: Editorial Porrua, 1980), pp. 78-79.

29. Similarly, in the sixteenth-century Popol

and the

Vuh of the Quiche Maya, the gods

animals were turned into stone at the

spirits of

sun (Tedlock, Popol Vuh,

first

dawning of the

30. Elizabeth H. Boone, Incarnations of the Aztec Supernatural: The

and Europe

Huitzilopochtli in Mexico
Society, 1989),

(Philadelphia:

Image of

American Philosophical

31. For the original identification of heart sacrifice in Teotihuacan art, see

Laurette Sejourne, Burning Water: Thought

(New

York:

Vanguard

and

Religion in Ancient Mexico

compared the gourd bowls of the

Cora, close

neighbors of the Huichol, to the ancient Aztec cuauhxicalli (Preuss, "Die


der

Mexikaner erlauter

alten

Indianer," Zeitschrift fur Ethnologie

nach Angaben

der

Cora-

43 [1911], pp. 293-308). For discussions of

Huichol xukuri, see Carl Lumholtz, Symbolism of the Huichol Indians (New

Museum

York: American

of Natural History, 1900), pp. 161-66; Robert M.

The Huichol: Primitive Artists (New York: G.

Zingg,

634-35; and Johannes Neurath, Las

fiestas

de

E.

Stechert,

1938),

pp.

Casa Grande: Procesos

la

rit-

cosmovision y estructura social en una comunidad Huichola (Mexico

uales,

Nacional de Antropologia, 2002), pp. 175-76.

City: Institute

33. Juan Negrin, The Huichol Creation of the World (Sacramento,

Calif.: E. B.

Crocker Art Gallery, 1975), pp. 82-84.


34.

In this

regard,

it

is

also

noteworthy that Classic Maya

elite

women were

often portrayed wearing the sacrificial offering bowl as a headdress, denoting

the relation of this vessel to


Centrality, Rulership,

Dumbarton Oaks,
Eduard

35.

1998),

Seler,

women. See

in
p.

Classic

Maya

Taube, "The Jade Hearth:

Karl A.

and the Classic Maya Temple,"

Function and Meaning

in

Stephen

D.

Houston,

Architecture (Washington,

ed.,

D.C.:

464.

"Eineges uber dei naturlichen Grundlagen

mexikanisher

mythen," Zeitshcrift fur Ethnologie 39 (1907), pp. 1-41.


36. Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, "Las seis Coyolxauhqui: Variaciones sobre un

mismo

tema," Estudios de Culture Azteca 21 (1991), pp. 15-30.

37. For a recent discussion of these interpretations of the

Carrasco, City of Sacrifice,

p.

me

Templo Mayor, see

72.

38. Sahagun, Primeros memoriales,

mentioning to

p.

181.

am

indebted to Alan Robinson for

the similarity of the Templo Mayor altar to the Primeros

memoriales account.

Guilhem

39.

Olivier,

"The Hidden King and the Broken Flutes: Mythical and

Royal Dimensions of the Feast of Tezcatlipoca


Keber, ed., Representing

in Toxcatl," in Eloise

Aztec Ritual: Performance,

Text,

and Image

in

Quihones
the

Work

of Sahagun (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2002).


40. Mendieta, Historia eclesiastica indiana,

p.

80. Excavations in the sacred

precinct of Tenochtitlan also suggest that the Aztecs related music to ancient

Teotihuacan. Clearly evoking the architectural and mural style of Teotihuacan,


the Red Temple structures at Tenochtitlan contained offerings of musical

instruments, including miniature forms (see Bertina


rojos del recinto

sagrado de Tenochtitlan [Mexico

Olmedo

Vera, Los templos

Nacional de

City: Instituto

Antropologia e Historia, 2002]; and Leonardo Lopez Lujan,


for the Past," in

Eduardo Matos Moctezuma and Felipe

,,T

he Aztecs' Search
/Aztecs

Soli's, eds.,

[New

York: Harry N. Abrams, 2002]).


41. See Mendieta, Historia eclesiastica indiana;
ria

de

los

42. Karl A. Taube, 'The Breath of Life: The

eds.,

and Garibay, Teogonia e histo-

mexicanos, pp. 111-12.

and the American Southwest,"

in

cat.

(New

York:

Museum

of the

addition,

it

appears that the Aztec concepts of the flower paradise and

was already present

at

Ideologies of Sacred Warfare and Teotihuacan,"

Pre-Columbian

Symbolism of Wind

Virginia M. Fields

The Road to Aztlan:Art From a Mythic

BAR

Art: Essays

in

Berlo, ed., Text

and Image

in

on the Interrelationship of the Visual and Verbal Arts

nternational Series,

983], pp. 70-

1 1

and Taube, "The Turquoise

Hearth," pp. 269-340).

46. Alfred M. Tozzer, Landa's Relacion de las cosas de Yucatan:

Translation

(Cambridge, Mass.: Peabody Museum, Harvard University, 1941), pp. 112, 119.

Press, 1956), pp. 119-27.

32. Long ago, Konrad Preuss

Opferblutschale

In

Ancient Mexico, exh.

Indian, 1925), plates 33a-b.

the relation of warrior souls to birds and butterflies

[Oxford

29.

p.

45.

in

19.

Teotihuacan (see Janet Berlo, "The Warrior and the Butterfly: Central Mexican

161).

p.

Wood-Carver's Art

American

p.

in

Mesoamerica

and Victor Zamudio-Taylor,

Homeland (Los Angeles:

Los Angeles

Mundi

Axis

Roberto Velasco uonso

THE AZTECS CONCEIVED OF A COMPLEX ORDERING SYSTEM TO ORGANIZE THE DIFFERENT PLANES

and paths of the universe. These planes were interconnected to bring order to
the present and can be understood as realities with alignments vertically super-

imposed, divided into four sections oriented to the four cardinal directions.
Each had a different magnitude, interpolation, and proximity to the various

domains comprising the world of humans.


The biggest of these realms was the sphere of the
Ometeotl (God-Two),
all

ruler of the universe,

was contained by

dual principle that both contained and

aspects of the Aztec worldview. Ometeotl was the primordial axiom whose

existence could not be represented (and thus there are only symbolic representations of his perceptible manifestation

the

in

cosmos and/or

physical world).

He was understood as an all-embracing and all-embraced premise that preceded everything. Ometeotl conceived the four Tezcatlipocas (Smoking Mirrors),

among which
directions,

the contents of the universe were divided and ordered into four

each marked by dual divisions of essence and influence, extending

inward toward a center. These four divine offspring would impose themselves

upon

reality

from

their individual spheres,

would be marked by
through

their

their

own

smoking-mirror

distinct

reflection,

and each

level

features,

which they would create

each of

of subsequent reality

a different color

and with

different nature.

Xiuhtecuhtli (Turquoise Lord; god of

fire

and

time), the focus or center

where the four directions united, was determined by the balanced meeting of
these four possibilities and shared the quintessential characteristics with the
primordial sphere, differing only according to longitudinal and temporal rank.

The Aztecs believed that

this equilibrium

ing order to a given era,


itself.

From

this

focal

was the determining

factor for bring-

and Xiuhtecuhtli was regarded as the

fusion,

which would be subject

ruler of order

the approval of

to

Ometeotl himself, the four Smoking Mirrors created within the borders of
sphere the original elemental substances-Huehueteotl

fifth

(fire),

Tlaloc

this

and

Chalchiuhtlicue (water), and Cipactli-Tlaltecuhtli (earth)-that were preceded by


the element of
In

air

as Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl, the White

Mirror.

the vortex created between essential force and elemental substances

(always

in

dual form), four eras arose, each presided over by a sun, each charged

by an element. Earth was the


by wind, and then

had

Smoking

its

own

fire

first

element to dominate an

and water. According

followed

beginning, and once the equilibrium of the reigning element

disrupted, the era suffered a violent end

humanity or

era,

to the notion of duality, each era

its

was

marked by the extermination of

transformation into various creatures With the creation of

life,

was the need to create death. Nine levels were established beneath the
terrestrial plane where existence unfolded. When a human being died, it would
there

encounter the nine requirements that would cause

it

to shed

its

singular virtue.

// Cihuacoatl plaque, detail


A/trr, ra

1200-1521

3&

78. Relief of the five

Aztec, ca.

1400-1521

ages

tf&

when

This might be understood on an individual level as well:


deliver nine of

nonmaterial properties that once gave

its

gathering of

agreed to create

the creative forces

all

new

Ometeotl for consent.

"sun,"

being dies,

the virtue of

it

must

it

life.

the universe then took place, and they

in

and the Smoking Mirrors once again had

to return to

they divided Cipactli-Tlaltecuhtli, erecting the heavens

First

(separated by thirteen levels of proximity) and establishing the earth (with four horizontal, perpendicular influences restricted only by the dual sphere of Ometeotl). This

separation was achieved by the establishment of four supports, either


trees, gods, or

men, located

at the

in

the form of

boundaries of the focus or center-the domain of

Xiuhtecuhtli.

Then the Smoking Mirrors ordered the Earth to create sustenance


converting

its

earth goddess

various parts into mountains,

showed

her great discontent at having sacrificed

condition for the continued growth of

the form of

human

which represented, through

their

of the physical world, such as


fertility

caves,

on earth, the gods established the

Once again the Smoking

era.

own immediate

fertility,

a pre-

required a tribute

in

of the categorical numina,

rise

proximity, intelligible manifestations

and war.

ritual for

through

Mirrors,

ion over this sun by bloodletting

mankind,

and as

its unity,

human nourishments, she

blood and hearts. Thus began the

for

By weeping, the

rivers, caves, plants, etc.

their

In

order to bring light and ensure

bringing about the fifth "sun" or

numenic

entities, vied for

and autosacrifice (not only as

a gift of blood,

dominbut sig-

nifying acceptance of death for the birth of this sun).

Due

to the deteriorated state of the astral deity prior to this ritual,

the gods give up their


tained. This sun

lives,

so that

its

was characterized,

daily path

first,

demanded

it

that

through the heavens could be main-

by the fusion of

and elemental

essential

all

new focus (the gods' renunciation of their state of absolute purity).


Secondly, this sun was charged (or defined) by the rotating dominion of the cardinal
influences included in every daily completion of its trajectory through the sky, whose
charting and measurements were taught to the first human couple. The men of the

vital liquids into a

four previous eras had been formed from the multiple combinations of elemental sub-

stances that occurred

those preceding eras. Their bones were jealously guarded by

in

the Lord of Mictlan. Once again Quetzalcoatl, with the help of Xolotl, his proximal deity
(but of a lower magnitude), descended into the realm of the dead to retrieve these

bones. The divine essence had already departed from the skeletons, and

of this

bones

numen
until

it

to shed

own

its

it

was the

task

blood and that of Cihuacoatl to be ground with the

created the mass from which the

first

human couple

of the fifth era

would be formed.
They then gave the humans maize,
instructed the people

of days). With

in

most perfect form of sustenance, and

their

the arts of divination and the reading of the tonalamatl (book

this, a strict

retribution covenant

was made: veneration for the gods, the


humans lived in the

use of incense, and the rituals of self-sacrifice or bloodletting. The

mythic land of Aztlan, where th^y reproduced and grew


instructed to migrate.

patron

to

venerate

(Hummingbird on the
immediately after

was during

It

the

in

Left),

being

sun,

this long

with

its

who was devoted


born,

in

numbers,

until

they were

journey that the Aztecs found a new


categorical
to war.

Huitzilopochtli

numen, Huitzilopochtli

According to the mythic model,

decapitated

his

sister

the

moon,

Coyolxauhqui (She of the Rattles on her Cheeks), and devoured the blood and hearts
of the vanquished lunar
people, and

if

army

they obeyed his

(the countless stars).


will,

From then

on, he

would guide the

he promised them the conquest of the world.

As an ultimate reflection of these influences, the Aztecs validated and reinforced


this

mythic model by orienting the structures of their capital

practices,

city,

toward the perceptible cosmic structures, devoting

all

and

all

of their social

their tasks to

them

and considering themselves as anointed with the duty of providing tribute

in

the form

of blood and hearts. They also devoted themselves to providing sustenance for the

other gods.

their ritual center, Mexico-Tenochtitlan, they built

In

adorned with the symbols related to the residing


ous moments
or times

when

in

temple-pyramids

They also marked the vari-

divinity.

which the gods' proximity was made perceptible, namely, those points

they became phenomenologically present on Earth.

During the major

festivals, rituals

were given added

spiritual

emphasis through

instruments and symbols associated with the particular deity being venerated, as well
as those associated with his or her path of influence.

Due

to their

knowledge of the

tonalpohuolli (the divinatory calendar), the Aztecs were able to locate themselves
within this celestial and temporal cycle with a complete understanding of both the
tial

ini-

point of origin and the rhythms and trajectories of the heavenly bodies, which

were also reflected


aligned with

in

the physical world. They

what proximal patrons

at

knew

exactly

what

distal divinities

any given moment. This imbued the

the possibility of creating a portal through which

all

ritual

were
with

transcendental manifestations

could be briefly focused on a given essential direction (categorical, proximal, numenic,


elemental, distal) through

its

with an axis for participating


in

phenomenological presence. This provided the Aztecs

in

the sacred, thereby complying fully with their mission

the cosmos: that of erecting, maintaining, and perpetuating the fifth support, the

great cosmic tree,


ences, and

whose

among whose deep

roots converged a balance of

who

branches sheltered the universal birds,

energy of the hearts and blood to

its

all

cardinal influ-

carried the primordial

dominant essences.

--

too

82. Atlantean figure (north)

Aztec, ca.

500

83. Atlantean figure (center)

Aztec, ca.

500

Following pages:

84. Atlantean figure (west), detail

Aztec, ca.

500

85. Atlantean figure (south), detail

Aztec, ca.

500

3e?

oC

86. Tizapan casket

and maize goddess figure

Aztec, ca. 1250-1521

87. Tlaltccuhtli

Aztec, ca.

1200-1521

"%*

88.

Fragment of anthropomorphic

brazier

Aztec, ca. 1300

89. Life-death figure

Aztec, ca.

1440-1521

90. Duality

Aztec, ca.

1500

91. Solar disk with calendar date

Aztec, ca.

1500

try

Gods and

Rituals
<

HOW

ANCIENT MESOAMERICAN MYTHS TELL

tiitlltriit

Olivier

THE SUPREME DIVINE COUPLE CREATED OR BEGAT

who

various gods (two, four, or thirteen, depending on the particular myth)

formed the

first rites

to thank their creators

and acknowledge

per-

their superiority.

The myths mention prayers and offerings of copal and of blood from autosacrifices

creation

and from animals immolated

myths

moon were generated


fice to feed the

among

example,

telling, for

how

in

honor of the supreme

also explain the origins of certain rituals.

sun and the earth

an especially prominent

is

deities.

Human

sacri-

ritual, particularly

the Aztecs.

numerous

Besides the mythic prototypes that mortals reenacted during


feasts,

Other

the sky and the earth, the sun and the

time was the fundamental element that ruled the entire

system.

ritual

Every ritual had to conform to a precise time frame determined by different cal-

endar calculations. Myths speak of the creation of these calendars by the gods,

who were

patrons of their

many

attributes, including individual days, trecenas

(the thirteen-day weeks), solar, lunar,

and Venusian

earth, aged, died,

and were reborn only on

eras. Yet

came down

to

specific dates.

The Mesoamerican belief system was based


pohualli, a solar calendar of

and

cycles, suns,

the gods themselves were affected by time. They were born,

two calendars: the xiuh-

in

365 days comprising eighteen veintenas (months)

of twenty days each, plus the nemontemi, five extra fateful or dangerous days;

and the tonalpohualli,


this ritual calendar

a divinatory or ritual

were

identified by

calendar of 260 days. The days

twenty signs

in

numbers. One feast cycle was developed based on the solar calendar;

was celebrated
trast,

in

each of the eighteen months. The "movable

were celebrated

in

is

famous toxiuhmolpia

the

was

a festival

feasts,"

accordance with the divinatory calendar.

calendars coincided, that

in

combination with thirteen

When

by conthe

two

every fifty-two years (the so-called Aztec century),

New

(the Binding of the Years, or

Fire,

ceremony)

carried out.

The tonalpohualli, the older of the calendars, was used


days.

Its

in

reference to birth

connotations influenced the character and fate of individuals, as well

as those of

all

kinds of beings and other things created, including the gods.

Important rituals dedicated to specific gods were held on their individual


anniversary dates. The tonalpohualli was also used to select the best days

any number of

ncluding going on

a<

trips,

forming cures, inaugurating buildings, and enthroning

were accompanied by complex


The eighteen feasts

were held
vest.

ol

rulers.

Such

ntcnas, ordered according to the solar calendar,

tandem with the main

ri

a*.

activities

ritu

agricultural cycles of planting

and the har-

During these feasts, there were reenactments of creation myths

ple,

(such

in

foi

hunting, getting married, per-

of sacred war) and important events

ica-Aztec migration). The different

in

(for

exam-

the history ot the people

iroups participated

92. Ehecatl

in

vr'i

sv

-1.- -..

>JKrl
"&."

<

'&?&.

\teitem
*&&.%

%
>^
ig

s
fW-

>y&m

some

these festivals; whereas

included

all

more

the groups, others were

select, as in

the case of the veneration of particular patron gods by nobles, priests, artisans, prostitutes, or

other subdivisions of Aztec society.

these celebrations were characterized by a great variety of prayers, chants, pro-

All

and

cessions, dances, offerings, autosacrifices,

and people. These

sacrifices of animals

two practices attracted more attention from sixteenth-century conquistadores

last

and monks, and even today's

any other Aztec

scholars, than

own body

extraction of blood from different parts of one's

with various cutting instruments (awls of bone or obsidian,

spread throughout Mesoamerica beginning

in

Autosacrifice, the

ritual.

(tongue, penis, ears, legs)

maguey

thorns),

was wide-

Preclassic times. The purposes of this

were varied: to do penance and have one's offenses forgiven, to acquire merit

practice

and thereby prolong one's

life,

to feed the gods, to boost the fertility of the earth, and

so on. There seems to have been a symbolic equivalence between autosacrifice

and human

While autosacrifice represented a

sacrifice.

also die symbolically through sacrificing a victim


(ixiptla)

"partial" death, a

who was

person could

believed to be an "image"

both of him- or herself and of a particular god.

During the veintena of Toxcatl (Dryness), a young warrior representing Tezcatlipoca

was

ruler,

closely linked to royal

power and acted as the protector

or tlatoani. The ruler in turn acted for the

the ruler

val,

was

sacrificed. This deity

of the

was the

the young warrior,

between the

"sacrificer"; in other

who was

Mesoamerican

sacrificed

one of the ideological foundations of

is

sacrifice.

The gods themselves were revived through the


Children, youths,

mature women,

girls,

sacrifice of their

own

images.

or old people stood in for the deities for a pre-

determined time and at the end of that period were


different

earth. During this festi-

the image of the god Tezcatlipoca. The shared identity

and the

sacrificer

god on

words, he died or sacrificed himself through

more

sacrificed. To be

specific, the

gods were represented by the appropriate groups: prisoners of war

for the

warrior gods, Tezcatlipoca and Huitzilopochtli; old people for the god of the underworld, Mictlantecuhtli;

young women

for the

goddess of maize, Chicomecoatl; children


a ritual

death would

also allude to the particular divinity's characteristics. For example, victims

were burned

to personify the rain

in

god

honor of the god of

assistants, the Tlaloque.

fire,

The procedure of

Xiuhtecuhtli-Huehueteotl; skinned for Xipe Totec, whose

name means "Our Flayed Lord"; and shot with arrows for the god of hunting, Mixcoatl.
By means of autosacrifice and sacrifice, the sun, earth, and gods were fed. After all,
these very gods had given their lives so the stars could move at Teotihuacan, and had
given their own blood to create humankind. In Mesoamerican thinking, the idea that
life arises out of death was fundamental. A significant example is that bones were considered to be seeds, and
ated.

it

was from those "seeds bones"

that living

humanity was

Another essential concept was

gods were governed by exchange. Mortals delivered offerings and


gods,

who needed them

for their

own

cre-

that the interrelationships between people and

renewal;

in

sacrifices to the

return, the divinities granted

humans

and earthly goods.

life

Parallel to all these majestic public rites,

attended by thousands, were numerous

private rites performed in various spaces. These occurred

occasion of births;
tain

gods and

private rites

in

the fields to foster the land's

to ask for rain.

Although

in

fertility; in

private houses on the

caves to thank

local authorities participated

from time

were not carried out under state control. Many of these

of course, with

some changes,

in

rites

present-day indigenous communities.

still

mounto time,

survive,

'

:-^

o, +*i-

-~

%
C*JS ***<>3?y

'

3*S
_

%J*

93. Seated Xipe Totec

Aztec-Matlatzinca. ca. 1250-1521

96. Figure of Xipe To tec

Aztec, ca.

1500

97. Figure of Xipe Totec

Aztec, ca.

500

100. Ehecatl

monkey

Aztec, ca. 1500

104. Chalchiuhtlicue

Aztec, ca.

aloe

500

mask

106.

Pumpkin

Aztec, ca.

1500

Facing page, clockwise

from top

left:

107. Agriculture

Aztec, ca.

108.

goddess

500

Teomama

Aztec, ca.

500

109. Tlaltelcuhtii

Aztec, ca.

110.

500

Cihuateteo

111. Skull

500

Aztec, ca.

Aztec, ca.

goblets
1

500

*v<
^*v

^p.
V

V SW
S3

/*"'/"

"

112. Xochipilli

Aztec, ca.

1500

Facing page:

Detail of cat. no. 112

Jr
5Pj

fjjWBi

'

JS )P*A

';'

W'

*4

*rj

flft

f^^|

1^^

ft.

113. Deified warrior brazier

Aztec, ca. 1500

114. Techcatl

Aztec, ca.

1500

115. Autosacrifice casket


(tepctlacalli)

Aztec, ca.

1500

Painted Books

and Calendars
Elizabeth Hill Boone

IN

WAS

AZTEC MEXICO, WRITING

painted books

now

AND KNOWLEDGE WAS RECORDED GRAPHICALLY

PAINTING,

called "codices." These painted

IN

books recorded almost every

aspect of Aztec culture. They told of the creation of the world, the beginnings
of the Aztecs, and the deeds and conquests of their rulers. Religious books

how

explained the nature of the sacred,

how

the gods should be worshipped, and

the feasts and religious rituals should be observed. Divinatory codices

described which supernatural forces governed the various periods of time, and

when the fates were most auspicious for different activities; they indihow to live a correct life. Practical manuscripts listed tributes and taxes,

thus told
cated

described the allocation of lands to be farmed, and recorded the cases and decisions of the legal courts. There

not addressed

some

in

was

fashion

in

little in

the

life

of the Aztec empire that

was

the painted books.

The author-painters and reader-interpreters of these books were called


tlamatinime. They were the sages,

the wise

guardians of community knowledge.

form the
to read

ideals,

was

It

understandings, and facts of Aztec culture, and

and interpret the painted books

tem was

men and women who were

their task to record in pictographic

for their people.

fell

it

to

them

The Aztec writing sys-

pictographic system that employed both figural elements and

abstract symbols, combining


carried meaning.

them

Although the

structured compositions that themselves

in

figural

images generally stood

for

what they

represented, their precise, conventional meanings had to be learned, as did the

meaning of the abstract symbols.

were arranged

All

spatially according to a

well-developed visual grammar. Physically, the books were usually composed of


long pieces of bark paper (amate) or deer hide, which were folded back and
forth like a screen or accordion to form pages. Sized with gesso to achieve a
stiff,

gleaming, white surface, they were painted on both sides and preserved

between wood covers. Other manuscripts were made of

woven

paper, hide, or

large sheets of bark

cotton, on which the painters could extend their picto-

graphic messages into great diagrammatic compositions.

The painted histories were especially important to


codices explained the present through
cate

how

and how
lished.
c

the people

Almost

from

all

way,

to

occupy

the histories begin

their ancient

to the Valley of

the

came

their relations with the other

homeland

their

communities,

their territory,

from whence they came,

communities around them were estabthe mythic past, with the Aztecs' depar-

of Aztlan. They then track the long migration

this

in

the

momentous

founding

of

the

new

capital,

Tenochtitlan.

founding, the histories then detail the creation

unsion of the empire. They record the successive reigns of


conquests, and natural
affected the

for the

to the past. The histories indi-

Mexico and the great hardships the Aztec people suffered along

culminating

Beginning with

in

its links

community

phenomena
!

rulers, their

(such as earthquakes and eclipses) that

Kually

composed as annals ordered year by

116 Xiuhmolpilli,
i

ca.

500

Death

SSA

*:

%
L
I

40*f
S *

-**

year

long continuous

in a

these histories present the Aztec empire as an ongoing

line,

began with Aztlan and continues as long as time

entity that

As valuable as these histories were for the Aztec


Aztec society as

human

whole were the

behavior by indicating

religious

how

itself

endures.

the most

rulers,

vital

books for

and divinatory books. These books guided

every being and every action was governed by time

and the prophetic forces attached to time.


Time for the Aztecs was measured by two interlocking calendrical systems. The seasonal or solar calendar, called the xihuitl,

months

was

365-day

composed of eighteen

cycle

of twenty days each, followed by five extra days, which were useless and

unlucky. This calendar controlled the monthly feasts to the gods and paralleled the
agricultural
(literally,

cycles.

The more important calendar, however, was the tonalpohualli

the "count of the days"), the divinatory or

fates and actions.

It

was

a cycle

ritual

thirteen numerical coefficients. Each of the days

way, the day

Crocodile

was followed by

set

in

number from one through

repeated. Each day also had a


In this

human

was assigned one of the twenty

symbols and the corresponding name, which followed

repeated.

calendar that shaped

of 260 days, composed of twenty day signs linked with

sequence and then

thirteen,

which likewise

2 Wind, 3 House, 4 Lizard,

and so on.
Four of the day signs (Reed,
coefficients also served as the

numbers created
tury.

The

Flint,

names

House, and Rabbit) linked with their thirteen

of years. This meshing of four signs and thirteen

fifty-two-year cycle, called a xiuhpohualli, equivalent to our cen-

brilliance of

Mesoamerican calendrics

is

that the xihuitl and the tonalpohualli

cycled together every fifty-two years. Each day had both a place

and

day name

in

in

the solar calendar

the divinatory calendar, which repeated every fifty-two years, just

as the year count repeated every fifty-two years.

The divinatory calendar governed


of

its

parts

directions,

all

human and

was associated with and influenced by


and other

qualities.

cultural happenings, because each

gods, supernatural forces, cardinal

The divinatory codices, called tonalamatls

(literally,

"book of the days"), recorded these prognosticatory elements and showed

were attached to the different units of time. Multiple almanacs

in

how

the

they

the tonalamatls pic-

tured the gods and prophetic forces that were associated with the individual day signs,

with the day coefficients, with the periods of thirteen days, and with other internal
cycles

in

the divinatory calendar.

was the goal of the calendar

It

priest or

daykeeper to

consult these different almanacs to discover the multiple influences affecting a particular

day or group of days. He or she would identify and interpret the distinct gods,

symbols, and elements painted alongside the day glyphs, would weigh and judge their
relative merits,

and would seek

balanced reading of the

fate.

Every child had

its

fate

read shortly after birth, and every Aztec consulted the calendar priests at significant

moments throughout

his or her

life.

day, just as rulers timed battles to

Farmers planted corn according to the fates of the

correspond to the dictates of the tonalamatls.

Although most of the religious and divinatory books were destroyed as


the Spanish Conquest, Aztec secular manuscripts (histories, maps, tribute
like)

continued to be painted and valued for another eighty years,

until

a result of

lists,

and the

about 1600.

Manuscript painting endured because the Aztecs and Spaniards both recognized the
painted books as containers of knowledge and authentic records of Aztec culture.

/A

*m

''/?

''**&&

1'

;!/^

w&
:t"

Ml

.>

120. Altar with calendar dates

Aztec, ca.

1325-1521

i%
i

feJE^.'

ti**^iB

Ir^
"

121. Xiuhmolpilli

Aztec, ca.

1500

M&l**

Aztec Society

Commoners

Nobles and
Michael

I:

Smitli

AZTEC SOCIETY

WAS COMPOSED OF TWO UNEQUAL

commoners. Although nobles made up

many

less

AND THE

SOCIAL CLASSES, THE NOBLES

than 5 percent of the population,

they were

in

owned

the land and con-

trolled the

government. Despite the taxes they had to pay to

their rulers, nobles

were

charge of

aspects of society. They

than commoners. Commoners, on the other hand, had to

far wealthier

provide labor service to nobles, pay taxes to their city-state governments, and

obey the laws and rules set by the ruling


that Aztec
lives.

We

know, for example, that they had access to

either as items used in their

of their daily lives


Distinctions

and

nobility. This

commoners were poor and downtrodden,

society.

Aztec

in

homes

does not mean, however,

anonymous

leading bleak,

many

fine artistic objects,

or as public art encountered

the course

in

cities.

between nobles and commoners influenced many aspects of

life

look at the varied lifestyles and social roles of both groups helps

us understand the ways art

was created and used

in

the Aztec empire.

The Network of Nobles

The power and wealth of the nobility rested upon


labor. All the land in a city-state

their control of land

belonged ultimately to the tlatoani

and
but

(ruler),

he granted estates to high lords called tetecuhtin (singular: tecuhtli) and to

important temples. These estates were passed on to the

maintained

in

often residing

myths,

descendants or

perpetuity by the temples. Below the rank of tecuhtli

Most

a regular noble (plural: pipiltin).

pilli,

lords'

in

or

around

rituals, calendrics,

his palace.

was

that of

served a tecuhtli or tlatoani,

pipiltin

Nobles received specialized training

in

and they learned

to

and other esoteric

disciplines,

read and use painted books (codices) that recorded rituals, dynastic history, and
additional information.

The Aztec nobility comprised a hereditary social


ited to the offspring of

from different

two noble

city-states. In

one

class;

membership was

parents. Nobles' spouses frequently

respect, this

was done

for

lim-

came

simple demographic

reasons: Most city-states were small, and their noble classes simply did not have

enough members

for

everyone to find an appropriate spouse. But the marriage

of nobles across city-state lines, particularly

form of diplomacy. Rulers wanted to


an important goal

in

ally

to

royal families,

the atmosphere of competition and war

among the Aztec city-states.


A basic form of marriage alliance was
ful

between

was

also a

themselves with powerful neighbors,

that

state and a daughter of a more powerful

between

ruler.

that existed

a ruler of a less

Indeed,

power-

one can trace the

power of the Mexica dynasty of Tenochtitlan by noting

its

rise

patterns of mar-

riage alliances. Before the formation of the empire in 1428, the Mexica rulers
i

to

advance by marrying the daughters of several powerful

cities,

including

Azcapotzalco and Cuauhnahuac. Once the Mexica ruled the empire, however,

ICUC

ttti

txiidtyacaMtith

mill

v y coaftli
g

crvtipfyrtut

folic

pul

ixitfhyacavrttttf^

^itylun
vciuirhivia
ix.aiil TtayAj o

y4cpef\piy.f?<d

*yytoahl mat

x 1 *tUya&* miitt^

ixuikhl *n&
*tch in*

syfohepaL

vevyo

-xHtpefjatCfHi

__

\~urf[aoc<f}'m
iicitt(rfy>n

txittU yaat

coccyaoaifil

>

itca/thma

ffTtf**y

ixiuUitlnja+.~J*ilit***a

y fipofjonyM.
txv./r%o/i
*

vi ulr-ynca

-y tvhcfxil

w;/^

million
+c<?hil?im>(*-y*

IXtlliihlltM
jovtrTiadox.

xitchujticnfih)'-

ikHI ir^cn

ixmti\a<4rmi4ii
\><im?y-rn

Page from Fray Bernardino de Sahagun,


Florentine Codex, also

known as

Historic

general de las cosas de Nueva Espana,

575-77.

1X111

+ ill

T/4

'Xftlit/n

fc&L

the rulers of subordinate city-states vied with one another to

marry

women

from the Mexica dynasty.

many
A shrewd ruler

Nobles

practiced

and powerful lords had numerous

polygamy, and

rulers

wives.

could use strategic marriages to advance

his standing

and power.
in

royal funerals,

documented

best

of these

at major state ceremonies. Rites of accession,

states to gather

from many different

for nobles

city-

and celebrate together. These events included


elaborate feasting, public oratory, and the

rituals,

exchange of valuable

gifts

among

Such ceremonies took

nobles.

Marriage alliances, diplomatic events, and attendance at state

ceremonies

all

link

polit-

inten-

highlands, uniting local elites from

Tenochtitlan, other parts of the Valley of Mexico, and surround-

Once the

empire was formed by the

Triple Alliance

Mexica, Acolhua, and Tepaneca,

many

areas. Local rulers

empire bought their loyalty with


perquisites.

When

gifts,

left in

Conquered

retain their seats; they

and other

rulers put these

its

were allowed to

rulers

were given precious

state

power, and the

privileges,

the empire expanded,

to work.

sionally attended

were

gifts;

and they occa-

ceremonies or engaged

in

marriage

was an important component of the

processes that integrated the Aztec nobility.

exchanged

Many

social

of the gifts

at state ceremonies were valuable items of jewelry

and clothing made from exotic lowland materials, such as tropical bird

feathers and greenstone. The elaborate clothing

to such events

was expensive and

exclusive.

extensive network of elite interaction

mon

interactions led to the production of a

stone sculptures
Calixtlahuaca

One

was the

worn

result of this

creation of

com-

material styles throughout the diverse regions of the Aztec

and painted documents, the material culture of the Aztec

the Mexica style

in

the

in

same

in

number of

Tenochtitlan and transported to Calixtlahuaca

some 50

(a

kilometers), carved by local sculptors, or

carved locally by sculptors from the imperial capital. That

some

of the true masterpieces of Aztec art-such as a sculpture of

Malinalco-come from

Ehecatl or the Huehuetl of

areas

is

provincial

material proof of the importance of elite networks

structuring Aztec society and

in

art.

Palaces

While nearly

Aztec palaces conformed to

all

they varied greatly


mirrored

in size

the variation

archy.

Although these

wealth

in

nobles. Provincial pipiltin

were

larger

hier-

their control, lived in palaces

much

and more luxurious than the houses of commoners, and

participated

palaces,

in

the exchanges and interactions of the Aztec

Archaeologists

networks.

which range

Artifacts from

nobles used

size

in

several

of

elite

their

from 350 to 550 square meters.

garbage deposits suggest that provincial

their

much

have excavated

same

the

kinds of domestic objects as

commoners, although these nobles had more decorated and


imported ceramic serving vessels.
Wealthier and more powerful than nobles of the
tecuhtli rank,

the

rulers

of provincial

elaborate. The rulers of Calixtlahuaca


lived

pilli

and

city-states controlled

numbers of subjects-both noble and commoner-and

network and a by-product of that integration. This

in

amounts

of tribute and taxes from those

were correspondingly larger and more

compounds on

palace

and Yautepec,

for

example,

the order of 5,000 to 6,000

square meters. These palaces were constructed with fine mason-

"jduced here their great importance to us today.


I

bottom of the noble

urban commoners (such as merchants and luxury artisans), they

subjects. Their palaces

one example, are remarkable

layout,

were often poorer than some

rural lords

a force that contributed to the integration of the Aztec elite


latter role of

common

and power among Aztec

at the

larger

material culture-as a signal of elite social processes-gives the

and elaboration. This differentiation

received far greater

to take

provincial cities. At

in human sacrifices at this


we do not yet know if these

empire revealed impressive commonalities over large distances.

cities,

in

used

style

city exists as well. Unfortunately,

The nobles' use of objects conforming to shared styles was both

Aztec

style of

Mexica-style sculptures of deities have been excavated, and a

empire. From buildings and city planning to clothing, jewelry,

obj'

common

the Valley of Toluca, for example, a

in

had groups of farmers under

alliances with nobles of the Aztec heartland.

Material culture

political

regional nobles.

advantage of

rulers took

its

these patterns of noble solidarity and instituted a policy of indi-

same processes

Elite

were carved

transcended the

among

painted codices throughout the empire and the appearance of

distance of

in

borders of city-states. These processes operated most

rect rule in

than a century. They were thus not the products of


coercion but rather of interaction

com-

empire by more

styles in fact predate the formation of the

Aztec society:

sively within the central

ing regions.

mon

the nobles of the diverse Aztec city-states into a

served an important function

single, tightly integrated social class that


ical

the similarities of Aztec provincial buildings and city layouts to

stone altar

place out of public view.

They helped

rooms

plan, with

with a single entrance. Although writers sometimes attribute

temple dedications, and celebrations of military

were occasions

sacrificial

other kinds of activities that cut

One of the

across city-state borders.

victory

common

to a

on elevated platforms that surround an enclosed courtyard

the imposition of styles by the conquering empire, these

Nobles also engaged

was attendance

and nonroyal, conform

royal
built

in-

ry

and had

amp

'

ilaster

on

floors

and

walls.

Around the

open courtyards were numerous rooms and

sistency of their building forms and styles as well as of their

requisite

large,

principles of urban planning-across a large geographical area.

chambers

for the royal family, servants, wjrriors, administrators,

One

of the best examples

is

the palace.

All

known /

.ices,

and others. The palaces also featured

altars

and

shrines.

At the top of the hierarchy of nobles were the rulers of the


imperial capital cities of Tenochtitlan and Tetzcoco (modern-day

was considerably

Texcoco). (Tlacopan, by comparison,


erful

and wealthy than

its allied capitals.)

palaces have not been excavated, written

pow-

Although these

cities'

documents

give

some

and sumptuous nature of these

idea of the size, complexity,


structures. The chronicler

less

Fernando de Alva

Ixtlilxochitl, a

dant of the rulers of Tetzcoco, compiled a number of

descen-

neighborhood within
obligations toward

belong to a
but

calpulli. Theoretically,

management

practice

in

members had

a city. Rural calpulli

nobles than their cousins


nobles

of the land

who

lighter

not

did

owned the farmland,


was left in the hands

of a calpulli's governing council. This council assigned plots of


land and organized joint tasks. Urban

commoners

also varied in

the extent of their freedoms and economic well-being.

The larger Aztec

historical

were home to several categories of

cities

accounts a century after the Spanish Conquest. After examining

commoners who stood above

the ruined palace of his ancestors (now destroyed or buried

status.

under the modern city), he described it as a huge compound of


some 800,000 square meters. Within an outer wall, the palace
contained many buildings, gardens, temples, a ballcourt, a zoo,

belonged to exclusive guilds and traded expensive goods over

and

private entrepreneurs. Their trade expeditions, consisting

a marketplace. In addition to the living quarters for the

ruler

and

royal family, there

were servants' quarters;

room; chambers for judges and


section for scientists and

throne

officials; a hall for warriors; a

musicians and another for poets,

and historians; archives; and storehouses

philosophers,

for

weapons, food, and other goods. One can only imagine how
elaborate the palaces of the yet

more powerful Mexica

rulers

must have been.

Many
used

in

of the works of art

precious stones were most

palaces,

in

objects

were

this exhibition probably

and the

like

also
these.

Commoners'

Lives

was

nobility,

to serve

in

palaces.

had access to jewelry,

On

meals

ceremonies

in

the other hand,

and

vessels,

The Aztec nobility did not have

ritual

monopoly

and

wealth and power within the

commoners

so too did Aztec

lifestyles.

vary

wealth,

their

in

At the bottom of the hier-

archy were the tlacotin, or slaves. This was not a large social

was not

category, and slavery

as punishment for crimes or

times of famine or

slaves

order to save themselves during

Owners were responsible

crisis.

for slaves.

in

became

hereditary. People

for feeding

Most of them labored as domestic

vants; female slaves were particularly valued for their

macehual. This was

ser-

fit

a highly varied

known as

the category

in

group, but

its

distinctions

do

not correspond to clearly labeled subcategories. At the lower

end of the scale were

rural

peasants

dependent upon

a lord

who were

like

medieval

and without independent

access to agricultural land. Higher up within the macehual cat-

egory were the members of

common

who

show

human

carriers

of

and armed guards, could be

off wealth, the

pochteca usually returned from

when they

their

could secretly enter their houses

with high surrounding walls) and escape the notice of

nobles.

Many

of the objects illustrated here, from gold jewelry to

lived

occupation.

and sold

some

at

point by the pochteca.

The luxury craft worker was another special category of

commoner. The

of Aztec utilitarian

fields

goods were organized very


tilla

and obsidian tools were produced by part-

griddles, baskets,

time specialists

products

the

in

working

in

near

ealpullis.

calpulli

was

group of

one another and often shared a

calpulli could be a rural village or a

and luxury

crafts

differently. Practical items like tor-

who worked out of their homes and sold their


markets. Many of these crafters were farmers

their spare

time or during the dry season. Luxury

as stone sculptures, jewelry, and featherwork-on

the other hand, were produced by full-time specialists

who

Although they sold some of

their

worked

for noble patrons.

output

in

the

who

directly for their patrons,

selves or presented
craft

them as

workers were highly

worked

in

the royal

most pieces

these artisans created

markets,

either used the products

gifts to other nobles.

skilled,

them-

The luxury

and many of them

palace, along

lived

and

with their families (who

and the luxury

assisted in the workshops). The pochteca

craft

workers were wealthier than other commoners, and they interacted with nobles on a more regular basis.
Rural

commoners, that

is,

peasants, lived

in

houses of adobe

brick with stone foundations. In provincial areas

The majority of commoners

families

as agents of

months. Because commoners were not allowed

expeditions at night,

skills in

spinning and weaving.

serfs: heavily

Some pochteca found employment

for

goods-such

fine art.

a hierarchy of

status, independence,

and caring

on the road

and

nobles. The poly-

and pipes were played

flutes

on valuable objects and

Just as there

worn by

likely

may have been employed

vessels

that might have been conducted

commoners

wealth and

merchants who

buying and selling on consignment, but most worked as

teams of specialized

(built

their

in

professional

polychrome pottery to stone sculptures, were probably bought

nobles' palaces. The fine jewels of gold, obsidian,

chrome ceramic

long distances.
rulers,

to

the rest

pochteca were

The

most of these

houses were small, one-room structures, which were arranged


in

groups of several houses around

structure

was home

common

to a family group.

Sometimes

generation family shared a single house.

moners

lived in larger,

multiroom

sum

In

lines.

patio.

Each

a big, multi-

Tenochtitlan

com-

The different rooms

may have housed separate families, so that a single urban house


may have contained numerous residents from several family
units

In

the

provincial

houses were almost idem

city-states,
u :al

in

however,

commoners'

those of rural peasants

In

com-

spite of their duties to lords

and

maeehual means

social control in Aztec society

and the prevalence of marketplace

the minds of Aztec nobles, the peasants and other

moners

existed to serve them. While the term

commoners

"subject,"

varied

in

their degrees of subjugation,

from the heavy burdens of slaves to the

relative

merchants. Most commoners, however, had

number of

tions to their lords, first and foremost of which

them with
ily,

regular tribute

payments

in

was

in

obliga-

to provide

goods. Assessed by fam-

The indirect nature of

exchange gave commoners opportunities for economic


and advancement outside the control of nobles.

most commoners

did not have to interact

they were free to

make

their

own

much

In

activity

daily

life,

with nobles, and

decisions on

many matters

without worries about interference from their betters.

form of

The Aztecs used several kinds of objects for money, most

the Aztec economy), food items, or specific goods pro-

commonly cacao beans for small purchases, and cotton textiles


for larger items. Money was used to buy goods and services in

these payments consisted of cotton textiles

money

freedom of

rulers.

duced by the

families.

regular labor service.

Commoners also
Men cultivated a

(a

provided their lords with


lord's land;

women spun

and wove for him; both sexes worked as domestic servants.

Such duties

typically rotated

among

a lord's subjects, with

each

week

the marketplaces that sprang up each

days long)

five

located

in

in

most towns and

cities.

(the Aztec

week was

The largest market,

Tenochtitlan's twin city of Tlatelolco and open every

family contributing several weeks of work per year. These pay-

day of the week, overwhelmed the Spanish conquerors with

ments of goods and

size,

of nearly
In

all

labor, called tequitl,

were basic obligations

commoners.

addition to tequitl,

complexity, and

60,000 buyers and

commoners were

called

upon

to serve

good

sellers

order.

attended this market every day.

organized and run by the pochteca merchants,

the ruler for various special activities. The Aztecs did not have a

a judicial court to settle disputes

standing army, and troops were conscripted for each campaign.

economic

When

a real problem.)'

a large project

was

to be carried out, such as the con-

commoners were

struction of a temple or canal system,

up

in

Although nobles were

in

charge of

Most managed

to

meet

to provide themselves with

their

some

many

own

level

of

aspects of society,

known

own

des-

economic comfort

as Historic general de las cosas de

Nueva Espana, 1575-77.

their

basic needs and even

Page from Fray Bernardino de Sahagun, Florentine


Codex, also

For

tem

a labor draft for the task at hand.

most commoners had considerable control over


tinies.

called

in

and

commoners, the key

wove cotton

to

production of

cloth

in

their

advancement
textiles.

who

was

from

cacao beans were

via the

Aztec

It

maintained

to try cases arising

activities in the market. (Counterfeit

lay in the

its

Hernan Cortes wrote that

market sys-

women spun and

homes, work they interspersed with

other domestic tasks, such as food preparation and child care.


Textile

production was an important part of the gender identity

of Aztec

women, both nobles and commoners. Commoner

r*

c
"S

;C X-

<*^v

women

had

choice

little

producing

in

cotton cloth was the major tax item


well as to the emperor.

If

produce more cloth than

exchanged

of a household could

tax obligation, the excess could be

its

the market for whatever goods were needed.

in

house excavated by archaeologists has

Virtually every Aztec

yielded

paid to the local ruler as

women

the

however, since

textiles,

numerous ceramic

spindle whorls and small spinning

Note
1.

It

should be emphasized that although the Aztec economy was a commer-

cialized one, with

was not

prominent

a capitalist

roles for

money, marketplaces, and merchants,

economy. The major feature of capitalism

is

wage

it

labor. In

the Aztec economy, land and labor were not commodities; they could not be

bought and sold

like

cooking pots, dogs, or obsidian jewelry. Confusing capi-

talism with commercial institutions,

of the latter

in

some authors have denied

ancient economies. The Aztec system

was

the existence

similar to a

number

of other ancient commercial economies, including those of Mesopotamia,

bowls, evidence of cloth production at the household level.

Greece and Rome, and the Swahili of Africa. These can be contrasted with

Most goods used


jewelry,

in

Aztec society, from stone tools to gold

were bought and sold

were amazed

the markets. The Spaniards

in

at the variety of items for sale in the Tlatelolco

market, and several commentators produced long

goods.

commoner wanted

If

lists

of these

obsidian earspools, there

law prohibiting him or her from buying a pair

was no

the market.

in

Such items were expensive, however, and vendors of exotic jewfound more customers among the nobility than among the

elry

commoners. Nevertheless, many


sometimes

and commoners.
houses,

many

finely

were

labeled "elite" items

in

made

objects that are

fact used by both nobles

have excavated numerous Aztec

commoner

of which have yielded complexly polychromed

ceramic serving vessels, tools and ornaments of bronze, musical

instruments

including

obsidian, rock crystal,

and

flutes

and jewelry of

whistles,

and greenstone. The palaces of nobles had

large quantities of these items, but such objects

commoners. Goods

basic domestic inventory of Aztec

were even excavated

at provincial villages, far

Nobles,

these

Commoners, and Aztec Art

social

ditions

in

and economic dynamics of Aztec society created conwhich few material objects were used exclusively by

nobles. While
certain

goods

we know

of

few sumptuary laws-rules

made

greater use of things

stone sculptures.

class. Nevertheless,

noble patrons, and the nobility could


in

much more comfortably

the market. The elaborately

polychromed ceramic serving ware of Cholollan,

for example,

served as the everyday dinnerware of nobles and as

the rarely used "fine china" of

One

the

objects were produced directly for

afford to purchase such items

likely

in

nobles clearly

gold jewelry, featherwork, and

like

Many such

limiting

goods were available

to the nobility-most

markets to buyers of any social

most

like

from the large

and central marketplaces.

cities

The

were part of the

some commoners.

of the remarkable characteristics of Aztec art

is its

wide-

spread distribution across the Aztec empire. Codices, sculptures,


ritual items, jewelry,

empire, not just

in

and the

like

the capital and

were
a

all

used throughout the

few large

and markets dispersed such goods, and the

cities.

Merchants

social interactions of

nobles disseminated shared tastes and styles. The combined


actions of these two forces distributed the corpus of objects
that

is

known today

as Aztec

art.

Page from Fray Bernardino de Sahagun, Florentine


Codex, also

known

as Historic general de las cosas de

Nueva Espana, 1575-77.

ancient,

noncommercial economies

like

which lacked both money and markets.

those of the Inca and Egyptian cultures,

Everyday

Life

Tenoehtitlan

in

Michael E. Smith

EVERYWHERE TAKES PLACE

DAILY LIFE

people use to the houses they

IN

A WORLD OF MATERIAL OBJECTS. FROM THE TOOLS

human

the street, material objects frame


Tenoehtitlan,

day

life

many

were the

down

to the things they see as they walk

live in

existence. For the inhabitants of

of the material objects that played prominent roles

every-

in

craftsmanship and high aesthetic values.

result of proficient

made

During the day-as people ate their tacos, burned incense to the gods,

purchases

in

the market, and carried out innumerable other basic activities of

daily life-they

we

came

across and interacted with numerous objects that today

classify as "art." Aztec art

daily

life.

cannot be understood without

This text looks at a

a consideration of

number of events from the everyday

lives

of

Tenochtitlan's inhabitants, with particular attention to the material objects that

people used, encountered, and talked about.

Regular mealtime. The utensils used to prepare and cook food

Aztec

in

kitchens-such as ceramic cooking pots and stone metates to grind maize-

were

for the

most part

plain, utilitarian objects rarely classified

today as

The ceramic vessels used to serve food, on the other hand, were more

"art."

finely

finished, often with colorful surfaces painted in geometric designs using a vari-

ety of organic and inorganic pigments. Complexly polychromed plates and

bowls were used

in

the houses of nobles and

houses are remarkable

commoners

alike.

Excavated Aztec

for the quantity of painted serving dishes

and

for the

variety of decorative styles encountered at a single structure. Each region of


central

Mexico had

its

own

distinctive, painted serving ware,

and these vessels

were widely traded between regions. Many Aztec families-both nobles and

commoners-must have

eaten their dinner from imported, painted vessels.

Feasts. Special-purpose

meals punctuated the daily routines of Aztec fami-

Monthly calendrical ceremonies and

lies.

life-cycle celebrations,

such as wed-

dings and funerals, were occasions for larger groups to gather at the house
of a host family. Feasts called for out-of-the-ordinary foods served
vessels or containers.

Cups and goblets were used

to drink cacao

in

special

on

festive

occasions, and bright red pitchers were used to serve either cacao or pulque.

Polychrome serving vessels may have been used at feasts more commonly than
at regular meals.

An enigmatic

vessel

form-an

oval, bilevel dish

on three

legs

with painted decoration-was perhaps part of a serving set for celebrations.

Domestic

rituals.

Inside Aztec

homes,

a series of religious offerings

made, mostly by women. Incense was offered to the gods


censers similar to those used
lacking the colorful

paim

in

temples.

in

Numerous fragments

was

long-handled

of such censers,

he temple examples but identical

in

form, have

been excavated from the domestic deposits at Aztec houses. These censers were
basic household items, as were small
lity.

used

in

Musical instruments, including

'ines used in rituals ot curing


flutes, whistles,

Aztec homes, probably for fundamental

ritual

and

rattles,

events.

and

were also

Some

of the

123. Funerary casket

Aztec, ca.

1500

implements of domestic
items used

household

eral different types of

Many

the home.

in

particularly

the

long-handled eensers-duplieated

Others-most notably the small

clay figurines-were

domestic realm. This suggests that people participated

largely restricted to the

Work

ritual

public rituals.

in

rituals

wove

the markets.

produced

goods

in

in

into textiles that

it

Many other
Aztec homes

utilitarian

women spun

Many

cotton

were used to pay taxes and to spend as money

in

goods-pottery, basketry, stone tools-were also

by part-time crafters. Family

the marketplace.

sev-

Aztec craft items were produced within homes. The most

widespread and important domestic craft was cloth production;


thread and

in

with differing practices and meanings.

members would then

sell

worked out of their homes, which either were located within

these

who

luxury goods were produced by specialists

also

were sep-

royal palaces or

arate dwellings.

trip to

the market. Marketplaces were major

Along with foodstuffs,

cities.

all

components of

Aztec towns and

all

kinds of goods, from the fanciest and

most expensive

luxuries (featherwork

and greenstone jewelry) to the most mundane household imple-

ments, were for sale

in

but most

nobility,

works

did not have the funds to purchase luxury items very

most elaborate offerings from the Templo Mayor and

often. Except for the


objects, the

the markets. Only a few goods were restricted by law to the

commoners
in this

exhibition probably

few other

changed hands one or more times

Aztec marketplace. Marketing was not only an economic activity but also
event, a time to

meet friends and associates and

gossip. People probably put

market day,

for

on

My

weekly occurrence.

and nobles, objects that were probably obtained

trip to

the

the palace.

the market.

ruler,

went

It

trip to

to see a judge,

in

commoners

the houses of both

at the markets.

the royal palace

was where people

their jewelry

excavations at Aztec sites have turned up

jewelry (of obsidian, rock crystal, and greenstone)

trip to

news and

to catch up on the latest

good clothes and perhaps even

their

at an

a social

was probably not

as enjoyable as a

paid their taxes, fulfilled their labor duties to

and took care of minor administrative matters. Palaces

were large complexes, and commoners there on everyday business were able to see
neither the interior living quarters of the royal family nor their luxurious furnishings

and

art objects,

trip to

such as sculptures and featherwork.

the temple. Public ceremonies at the

numerous temples

were regular occurrences. Since few people had time to attend

all

of Tenochtitlan

the ceremonies, indi-

viduals probably selected events of particular personal significance.

In

the temple

precincts and on top of the pyramids, large stone sculptures, braziers burning with

perpetual flames, and


flutes

variety of ritual implements, from long-handled censers to

and drums, could be seen by

However,

visitors.

many

material objects at Aztec

temples were not meant to be seen by casual visitors and supplicants.

Some

sculptures

monkey with an Ehecatl mask


was buried next to a small circular temple (which can now be seen, restored, in the
Pino Suarez metro station in MeAico City), and a life-size Ehecatl sculpture was buried
next to a large round temple at Calixtlahuaca. Likewise, many of the elaborate objects
excavated at the Templo Mayor were used in ceremonies for restricted audiences and
of deities were buried as offerings; for example, a stone

then buried as offerings. Thus they were probably never viewed by anyone other than
their creators

Daily

were

and

life in

a select

few

priests

and nobles.

Tenochtitlan took place

finely crafted

in a

access to most kinds of Aztec objects and


in

their

homes were

of the objects

in this

realm of material objects,

many

of which

and aesthetically appealing. Commoners as well as nobles had

typically

on display

in

art;

exhibition were public art

and discussed by large numbers of people

items that people did not

public places or

in

in this

in

own

or have

temple compounds. Most

sense, and they were used, seen,

the course of their daily

lives.

(nihil
,

ca.

uhlh prndjnl

1500

^F

126. Jaguar pectoral

Mixtec.ca. 1200-1500

127. Xiuhtecuhtli

Aztec, ca. 1200-1521

f?C

m
~
i

*<\

128. Ear

ornaments

Aitec-Mixtec, ca. 1400-1500

3
L^

**

w7 \
l*ii^*fci'
-

129. Ring with the figure

of a descending eagle
Mixtec, ca.

1325-1521

W Mt

-L^

new
f

*-

>>*.'

130. Pendant with the

figure of Xiuhtecuhtli

Aztec, ca.

1500

131. Ring with serpents


in filigree

Aztec,

900-1521

132. Xiuhtecuhtli

Mixtec, ca.

1500

pendant

vVU

or,.*

sfri

133. String of snail-shaped beads

Aztec-Mixtec, ca. 1300-1521

134. Lip-plug in the shape of a

serpent with
Aztec, ca.

its

tongue out

900-1521

VI

, I

vv

135. Ear

ornaments

Mixtec, ca. 1500

\.

"

,\*

136.

Pendant with the

head of a cox-cox bird


Mixtec, ca. 1200-1521

Following pages:

137. Ahuitzotl plaque,


detail

Aztec, ca.

1500

;>

*t

-wv

y*..
-

'u

--V-'

*-\T
'-**-".'
*

-*

**

-"->.

>

>

x
i*jV

'-

"V-

^; #f
/*

-^

--^V-

"'
Oik *-

ys
r^-

*"V

^T-

-.

-g

>S-'-

f?#

.,.-^.

--.*

e>
5wft

^p*'*

S*- *

*2&

vr-v

-.

:%-

'

*,

\l.

<

93

*
-

;*

vsE
-^.V ""'

/"*

"

*&

5Jt

_ V

*#&

/-<*"

^ "

fcfi

~J*

,w-

St
as?

&y*.

35^
L

/
^^>

vv

i^:^'
<SS

'*?

*v

V>#v
4,

&*

JtfffiW

The Aztec Empire


/in

hard / Townsend

IN

DAWN

THE CLEAR

OF A NOVEMBER DAY

snowcapped volcanoes east of the

THE YEAR 1519, AS THE SUN ROSE OVER THE

IN

Valley of Mexico, illuminating the gleaming

and white pyramid-temples of Tenochtitlan, thousands of people

lake basin

dugout canoes were swarming


the island

to line the long southern

At the center of the capital,

city.

nobles and warriors were assembling

in

in

in

into

the patio of the royal palace,

ceremonial finery:

their

all

causeway leading

brilliant

feathers, golden jewelry, obsidian earspools, jade labrets, cloaks with heraldic

designs, embroidered loincloths, and high-backed sandals.


patio, a splendid litter lay waiting.

Motecuhzoma
plaza

in

would soon appear,

II,

On the

floor of the

The huey tlatoani (great speaker or


to be borne by nobles to the

ruler),

wide

city

front of the palace. Nearby, to the north, lay the walled ritual precinct

with the looming

bloodstained

tzompantli

tiers

Mayor and other

of the Templo

stairways,

the

ballcourt,

(skull rack), a tall rack

council

tall

houses,

temples with wide,

and

the

fearsome

of poles strung with the heads of thousands

of sacrificed victims. The royal procession would turn southward, advancing at


a

through the

stately pace

respectful throngs toward

silent,

appointment, where the long causeway reached the imperial

the place of

city.

short distance to the south, by the town of Ixtapalapan, a different host

was assembling. A high

wail of fifes

and the beat of marching drums sounded

the signal, and the strangers stepped out onto the causeway toward the heart
of the Aztec capital. Sunlight glistened on their polished steel armor, and horse-

men scouted
files

the vanguard. Then

came

the waving banner of Spain, followed by

of pikemen, crossbowmen, harquebusiers, and artillerymen, and then the

party of Hernan Cortes and his captains. They

numbered

barely 500. The crowds

wondered and whispered, watching the outlandish procession. A disquieting


rustle

and murmur swept through the throng when they saw a raised White

Heron standard leading some 3,000 Tlaxcalan Indian warriors-arch enemies of


the Aztecs,

now

allies

The parties met


litter,

of the strangers-forming the rear of the column.

at the place called Xoloco.

Motecuhzoma stepped from

wearing the gold and turquoise diadem of supreme

office.

his

Ceremonially

supported by nobles, he approached the dismounted Spaniards. Greetings were

exchanged

in

Nahuatl and Spanish, translated by Malintzin, the remarkable

high-born Indian lady


Spanish. Cortes

was

who became

Cortes's consort

politely restrained

from giving

and was now learning


Motecuhzoma a formal

embrace, for the Aztec tlatoani was considered semidivine by

his people; yet

he

reached out to bestow upon Motecuhzoma a necklace of fine Venetian glass

beads strung on gold filament and scented with musk. The parties turned to
continue

in prot

nto the

ed to a servant,

city,

who brought two

and, during a pause,

Motecuhzoma ges-

necklaces of red shells and eight golden

shrimps a span long, which Motecuhzoma himself put on Cortes's neck. Hie
qers were

invited

to

quarter their

army

in

the old

royal

palace of

WM

tk

Page from Fray Diego Duran, Codex Duron, also

known

as Historia de las Indies de

e Islas de Tierra Fume,

579-81.

Nueva Espana

<

Axayacatl, just east of the ritual enclosure


Tenoehtitlan,

in

the middle of

where more formal discourses were made before

Spaniards and Aztecs were both gambling

their

employed unsuccessfully

mutually

the prospect of total success. From Motecuhzoma's outlook, the

hostile intentions with diplomatic overtones since first learning


in

the preceding months. After the Spanish landed

at Veracruz, the reception of Aztec

tacular gifts and

ambassadors bearing spec-

Motecuhzoma's message discouraging

a visit

only encouraged Cortes to burn his ships and dare to lead his

toward the fabulous

tiny force

Then came

tlefield discipline
drill

city far in the

his victory over a Tlaxcalan army,

combining

highland

bat-

and close-order

pikes proved superior against open formations of charging

warriors-foes the Aztecs had never vanquished. Cortes's diplomatic genius was subsequently displayed

making the

when he succeeded

in

fierce Tlaxcalteca his allies, creating a base for the

next stage of the journey. These events were duly reported by


spies to

Motecuhzoma. The massacre

at

Cholollan

(modern

Cholula) followed: secretly directed by Aztec overlords, Cholollan


chiefs planned to trap the Spaniards
their city, assaulting

tactics of

the narrow streets of

them from rooftops and

open maneuver. The

less Cholollan leaders

in

were

plot

killed

was

nullifying their

discovered, and the hap-

without quarter

in their

own

among

rebellion

Cortes and

held the initiative. Yet

Motecuhzoma met
it

at Xoloco, Cortes

still

cannot be imagined that Motecuhzoma,

a highly successful ruler

was

that

dissident tribute-paying

it

tried again,

with

might encourage

towns

in

the Aztec

empire. For Cortes, the conquest of Tenoehtitlan would yield for


the crown of Hapsburg Spain an empire surpassing that of

ancient Rome.

The Conquest of Mexico has been vividly described by many,


beginning with Cortes's Five Letters of Relation to the Emperor
Charles

Bernal Diaz del Castillo's classic True History of the

V,

Discovery and Conquest of Mexico, and, from the Aztec point of


by Fray Bernardino de Sahagun's Indian

view, the narration

informants

in

book twelve of the Florentine Codex. Such records

portray one of the most dramatic and moving events

The

initial

months

of residence

uprising

and

the

disastrous

their recovery in Tlaxcala;

Motecuhzoma; the Aztec


of

retreat

Tlaxcaltecal as they barely escaped

allies joining

in history.

Tenoehtitlan; mounting ten-

in

sions and the capture and death of

the

Spaniards and

from Tenoehtitlan by night;

and the renewal of the campaign with

from many Indian communities seeking to over-

throw hated Aztec overlords-all

and

warrior,

was unduly frightened

or

starvation, smallpox,

to

led

Mediterranean

civilization taking

indigenous ways of

years

ence from Spain

was supposed in accounts written


Motecuhzoma was pragmatically reluctant
open field combat and had resolved to allow

later. In fact,

army

in

and other diseases

The colonial centuries began, with

superstitiously affected, as

sk his

might be

the final siege and

destruction of Tenoehtitlan by force and the devastations of

city plaza.

When

at Cholollan

real threat of Cortes's small force

interior.

when Spanish

cavalry, firearms,

the tens of thousands. Aztec tactics

in

meeting,

in this

and Motecuhzoma had been masking

of each other

rounded by some 250,000 to 300,000 people, among them


warriors numbering

the formalities ended.

for Cortes

the alien force into Tenoehtitlan, where they would be sur-

in

life.

shape

in

August 1521.

new form
in

of Hispanic

association with old

From the time of Mexican independ-.

1821 to the present, Mexico has sought to

develop a view of the past that acknowledges the heritage of

from the Codex Boturim, also known


Tira

de

la peregrination, ca.

520-40.

<r.

its

tin

many

among whom

peoples,

the Aztecs have special signifi-

cance. Archaeological excavations

in

downtown Mexico

City

and

around the Valley of Mexico continue to reveal foundations of


Aztec buildings, sculptures,
ing sites,

and areas of

artifacts, residential

and manufactur-

These remains are interpreted

cultivation.

contexts and detailed sixteenth-century

using archaeological

In

was

the early thirteenth century, the future site of Tenochtitlan


a

unclaimed

of

cluster

and

islands

reedbeds

the

brackish

Lake

in

Tetzcoco, inhabited by the teeming waterfowl and aquatic

life

of

wetland environment. The southern lake basin,

where marshes were fed by freshwater

had been

aquifers,

prosperous zone of settlement long before the

millennium

first

records written by Spanish and Indian scholars, as well as infor-

B.C.

mation from other, pre-Aztec societies of Mesoamerican

had been densely populated since the flourishing of Teotihuacan,

lization

fall

whose remains extend

beyond 2000

well

civi-

centuries

was

course for

readily

matched by that of

their extraordinary rise,

from

the thirteenth century to their position by

in

the time of Cortes's arrival as rulers of an empire covering vast

by the empire of the Incas


religion,

with

its

in

domain surpassed

Peru.

The

sacrificial

only

aspects of their

seeming indifference to human

and repelled the Spaniards.

in size

But, as historical texts

life,

appalled

and modern

archaeology continue to show, beyond the ritualized violence


there are
a

more

easily

apprehended achievements: the formation

highly specialized and stratified society and an imperial

administration; the extension of far-reaching trade networks

and tribute systems; the development of


agricultural

economy

highly productive

carefully adjusted to the land;

and the

adaptation of an ancient, inherited Mesoamerican worldview

in

intimate contact with the earth, the sky, and the changing seasons.
a

An annual round of

agricultural

and state

rituals

provided

powerful means for maintaining social and cultural cohesion,

and the

brilliant

imagery of Aztec

visual expression to an
their imperial society

art

and architecture gave

awareness of the interdependence of

and the larger cosmology of nature.

Page from the Tovar Codex,

583-87.

a.d.

first

and

its

The

saw

later

urbanism, yet no single city had dominated the

monuments

disintegration into smaller townships.


rise

of Toltec Tula between the tenth and twelfth centuries

the creation of a

new

some 70 kilometers to the


monuments at Tula speak of

military state

north of the valley. Harsh sculptural


a

and seventh

The prestige and model of Teotihuacan set the

basin since the destruction of Teotihuacan's central

regions of central and southern Mexico. Fearless warriors and


practical builders, they created a

well-watered northeastern part of the valley

the grandest city of Mesoamerica, between the

B.C.

These diverse sources reveal that the drama of the Aztecs'

an immigrant tribe

of

Similarly, the

warrior aristocracy seeking wealth and power through the con-

quest of tribute-paying domains. Their empire

life

among

stantially

may have

included

rhythm of communal

parts of the Valley of Mexico, but the slow

the small lakeshore towns appears not to have sub-

changed.

Yet, as

had periodically occurred

in

the past,

the valley continued attracting immigrant populations. The violent downfall of Toltec Tula
tribal

produced refugees and

set in

motion

peoples moving south from desert regions. The histories of

incoming groups preserved

in

traditions recorded by Indian


reflect

idealized,

"official"

pictorial

manuscripts and

oral

and Spanish historians tended

migration

legends,

with

to

formulaic

episodes, legendary happenings, and mythic occurrences inter-

woven with events


able locations.

that

may

actually have

Such conventions portrayed

happened
tribal

in identifi-

protagonists as

legitimate heirs to a prestigious, hallowed ancestral past.

cxrzm

*=

/..

fl

.'

Page from the Matriculadc

Tributes, early 16th century.

Among

these groups migrating to the valley, four were to

play especially important roles

The

first

in

the

rise

of the Aztec empire.

group was the Tepaneca, who probably arrived during

the twelfth century, settling

among

older communities around

Tlacopan and Azcapotzalco on the west side of the basin. The

second group, the Chichimeca,

times settling for years, raising crops of maize, beans, squash,

amaranth,

status given by the spirit of Huitzilopochtli through priestly

mediums.
The migration entered the realm of history when the

northwestern

filtered into the

and tomatoes. But they always moved

chia, chilies,

on, curiously propelled by prophecies of their future "imperial"

arrived

dynastic seat at Tetzcoco on the less-inhabited eastern side.

at

Tetzcoco was destined to become the second most important

uncouth and dangerous squatters and were soon violently

and

city in the basin

ing the Aztec empire.

major partner, with Tenochtitlan,

The

tled the volcanic peninsula dividing the

more properly

the Aztecs,

Today the term Aztec


of the valley
is

different

last to arrive

generically applied to

with

ethnicities,
itself.

episodes

the

it

origins to

some communities antedating


is a com-

The Mexica -Aztec migration legend

and

posite of stories assembled long after they arrived

not

are

sequential,

settled;

expressed

are

facts

in

Chapultepec,

persed

the

Mexica-Aztecs were seen

primitive

nearby Tepanec chieftains of Tlacopan

by the

as
dis-

and

Azcapotzalco. The tribe begged protection from the Acolhua


lords of Culhuacan,

who

granted them land

in

old lava flows by

the brackish shore of Lake Tetzcoco. Courageously, the outcasts

adapted to the inhospitable environment and began serving as


the peoples

all

episode of Mesoamerican history, but

in this last

Teotihuacan

were

called the Mexica-Aztecs.

is

remember that the many towns traced

well to

build-

southern and central

was Culhuacan. The

basin; their principal city

in

group was the Acolhua, who set-

third

tribe

the Valley of Mexico around 1300. Settling by springs

valley during the thirteenth century, eventually establishing a

in

warriors

petty wars between Culhuacan and

in

Soon they were trading

frogs, fowl,

fish,

its

neighbors.

and produce

the

in

marketplace and began to intermarry, but the Culhuacan chieftains perceived a future threat

and the Mexica-Aztecs were

again violently forced to

time to the unclaimed marshy

flee, this

islands offshore. The circumstances

were humiliating, and

in

legend was proclaimed to explain the foundation

later years a

was

metaphoric terms, and there are magical and fabulous events

of Tenochtitlan as the fulfillment of a sacred vision:

that cannot be explained historically. The story says that the

that long before, Huitzilopochtli had prophesied that an eagle

Aztecs originally lived on an island

in

a lake far to

the north.

perched on

wandering

second group, known as the Mexica,

to have witnessed this hallowed sign

Huitzilopochtli.
tion legend

is

The most

vivid

by the chieftain

event associated with the migra-

the magical birth of Huitzilopochtli at Coatepetl

(Serpent Mountain),

in a

remote, mythical time.

It is

said that an

summit of the mountain was

earth temple at the

aged

priestess, Coatlicue, a

dess.

She

kept by an

metaphoric name for the earth god-

woman,
named the

described as the mother of a powerful

is

Coyolxauhqui, and

host of warriors, collectively

should

tribe

A branch

beds.

said

nopal cactus would signal the place where the

After departing from this island, they were soon joined by a


led

it

settle;

sure enough, the leaders were said

amid the desolate reed-

of the tribe established themselves on another

island,

nearby to the north, where the future town of Tlatelolco

would

flourish before

forcible incorporation into the larger

its

urban zone of Tenochtitlan during the fifteenth century.

From the outset, the refugees made the best of

women
lake

established a marketplace, while the

it.

men gleaned

and continued to serve as occasional warriors

The
the

for locally

Centzon (Four Hundred) Huitznaua. Coatlicue was sweeping the

quarreling warlords. By the end of the fourteenth century, the

when she was impregnated by a ball of feathers


from the sky. This was the supernatural conception of

ascendant

shrine one day

Huitzilopochtli.

Coyolxauhqui,

and

kill

their

Her

pregnancy

who summoned

threatened

the

outraged

the Huitznaua to assault the

dishonored mother. However, one of the Huitznaua

ran to whisper of the

impending attack to Huitzilopochtli

mother's womb. As the


Huitzilopochtli

enemy

force

was suddenly born

Wielding a xiuhcoatl

(fire

as

reached

an

in his

the summit,

invincible

warrior.

serpent, or ray of the sun), he dis-

patched Coyolxauhqui, whose dismembered body rolled


to the base of the mountain. The Huitznaua
his

hill

down

were scattered with

spearthrower and darts. Eventually, this story became the

Mexica-Aztec hero myth and would find powerful symbolic


expression

in

the

fierce

imagery of the Templo Mayor

in

Tenochtitlan.

The Mexica-Aztecs wandered across the sere tablelands of


north Central Mexico, hunting and gathering yet also some-

Mexica-Aztecs were fatefully bound as tribute payers to the


Azcapotzalco. There, the tlatoani Tezozomoc,

city of

a ruler of ruthless genius,

region since the

fall

was

building the first empire in the

of Toltec Tula, using flattery, bribery, assas-

and treachery, combined with acute military strategy,

sination,

to break the balance of

towns of the
nities as a

valley.

power among the contentious small

Requiring warriors from defeated

commu-

form of tribute payment, he also motivated them by

offering part of the spoils of conquest. The Mexica-Aztecs participated

in

Tezozomoc's campaigns and learned new

intimidation, statecraft,
ticeship

ended

in

and

levels of

military organization. Their appren-

1426 when Tezozomoc died; the

ruler Itzcoatl

of Tenochtitlan, prince Netzahualcoyotl of Tetzcoco, and the


dissident Tepanec

ruler

Tlaluacpan of Tlacopan successfully

rebelled, laid claim to the empire,

and

in

1428

set out to extend

their conquests.
First

they secured the agricultural southern lake district and

Following pages:
after 1521.

Map

of Siguenza. from the Codex Ramirez,

'

<

^
r<
i

J
-

ft

f-

.f-

MMua
-<;

*"

*
'

"T
./.N

&*

Au

*>

'

ift
i.

*
.

liar'

;.

*:

A.

I.

'

>

s
ft

I. <>

4JB
N

**
~*f

fel

1*

Wfc*

initiated the

long-term conversion of marshland into a zone of

chinampas (from

intensively productive raised-field

fence of cane). These plots of


digging a grid of canals

first

chinamitl,

farmland were made by

fertile

the shallow marsh, then fencing

in

the resulting rectangles with cane walls and stakes. The enclo-

sures were

filled

ing platforms

above water

gave the

vegetal matter, creat-

the adjacent canals, the raised

in

The attendance of

lesser

was

and pre-

also required, as this tended to consolidate control

vent thoughts of insurrection and rebellion. Lesser lords were


further obliged to pay

and to

homage

to their ruler

them with men and supplies

assist

in

on state occasions
war.

the time of turmoil and rapid change between the late

In

1420s and 1460s, as Aztec society grew increasingly diverse


with residents from different ethnic groups bringing regional

gardens.

illusion of floating

relations.

lords or their children in the courts of their respective capitals

Each plot measured some 100

level.

by 10 meters. From canoes


fields

mud and

with layers of

through networks of blood

Spheres of influence and rights of conquest were established by the allied leaders for their respective cities.

Schedules

customs and

Netzahualcoyotl

mores,

1431-72) devised standardized

of Tetzcoco

laws governing

(reigned

the

diverse

payments from subjected communities were

groups. These laws favored the rule of the state, establishing

affirmed, Tenochtitlan and Tetzcoco each receiving 40 percent

order by defining behavior and responsibilities through punish-

tribute

for

of the spoils

and Tlacopan, the junior member, receiving the

ments

to be

meted out with

Rules prescribed

strict impartiality.

remaining 20 percent. The aims of conquest were unlike those

exclusive and

of Old World empires,

and were mechanically applied with no regard

in

that the Aztecs did not primarily seek

permanently garrison troops

to incorporate territory or to

conquered lands;
if

aim was to obtain tribute by intimidation

their

possible or by force

in

and punitive retribution

conquest campaigns began extending

far

necessary. The

if

beyond the Valley of

Mexico, south into the Valley of Cuernavaca, east and northeast

and southwest over the mountains

to the tropical Gulf Coast,

concrete solutions for specific types of disputes

circumstances. Yet

judged

in

it

was apparent

so strictly a legalist manner;

it

was necessary

certain traditional tribal aspects of justice,

widely

to

notions

held

new codes

Nevertheless, the

handed out

reasonable

of

to keep

which held no

prescriptions for crime and punishment but

according

for mitigating

that not everything could be

rigid

justice

behavior.

controlled judges, curbed corrup-

deep into Oaxaca. A pattern was established, to be followed by

tion

successive warrior-rulers throughout the fifteenth century and

the courts while limiting the influence of dissident lords. The

into the reign of

Motecuhzoma

II

(reigned

502-20). By the late

1430s and into the 1440s, wealth poured into the

on

a regular basis, enabling the rulers

riors to build

allied capitals

and high-ranking war-

impressive establishments with elaborate courts

through the use of labor and materials from

their tributary vas-

and other abuses of power, and increased the efficiency of

legal

system thus contributed to the breakdown of old

society

and

built greater

tralized state authority.

this period,

(reigned

from

tribal

regimentation and submission to cen-

On many levels, the great rulers during


and Motecuhzoma of Tenochtitlan

Itzcoatl

1427-40 and 1440-69,

respectively) to Netzahualcoyotl

round of agricultural and state cere-

of Tetzcoco and the lesser lords of Tlacopan, were taking control

monies, which began to be held with increasing ostentation,

of the resources of a vast landscape, distributing goods within

public display, and

their hierarchy,

and providing

sals,

for the

ceremonial gift giving.

Already, the old


society, with

its

communal

traditional

elders participated

in

was changing as new,


emerging. As the

conquered
directly

stratified

commanded income from


power

lands, they also acquired the

for

the

from

whose

socioeconomic classes began

to influence or

decisions and set policy goals, diminishing

the governing role of the calpullis.

d,

(clans)

an egalitarian form of decision making,

rising military class

make major

ted,

structure of Mexica -Aztec

tribal

system of calpullis

rulers

derived

their erstwhile

A form
their

of aristocracy already

legitimacy

antagonists

in

by

having

Culhuacan, that

the prince Acamapichtli (of mixed Mexica and Culhua descent)


serve as their tlatoani

in

1375. The royal family of Culhuacan

their personal

The immense, thriving market of Tenochtitlan was located


Tlatelolco, the

larger

city

town

forcibly incorporated as a district

during the reign of Axayactl (reigned

had long attracted

local

in

producer-vendors due to the easy

md

o'
'

ip

tl

sphere.

those

commanders thus became bond-

with lead

lies

ibling

them

of principal
to

maim.

also

the valley by lines of porters led by the long-distance traders


called pochteca.

Pochteca acted as agents

as independent traders, dealing

and turquoise, exotic

furs,

in tropical

ignated wards

under

their

in Tlatelolco.

own

was

for

inherited

lived in

des-

Pochteca administered the market


A/tec capitals to

where warehouses were

route led to the Gulf Coast and

and

and

making the beverage


and they

legal system, hails linked the

distant ports of trade

of Guatemala,

for the nobility

feathers, greenstones

copper and obsidian, cotton gar-

chocolate. Their occupation

means

was

luxury merchandise brought far from the confines of

Concentration of power was also accomplished by the


Tlacopan by

in

the

1469-81).

transportation of goods over the lake by canoe. There


trade

in

most famous market

Vividly described in Spanish accounts, this

ments, and cacao beans and vanilla

power and that of

their nations.

'ned descent from an old Toltec lineage.

ndant rulers of Ten-

ed

and extending

its rivers,

kept.

One major

into the Peten region

to the Caribbean coast of Honduras.

|li

l, ill

ill

tin

Another

Mum

ill

li/nc.

^ tm

mm

route

down

led

and

Oaxaca

to

across

Isthmus

the

of

Tehuantepec, to Xoeonochco on the Pacific shore of Guatemala.


Traders

probably also

reached

Queretaro, Zacatecas, and

turquoise

sources

in

pochteca were not

north

to mining

districts

Durango, perhaps even as

Cerrillos,

a rising

New

Mexico.

far

However,

forces of nature

assumed profound

functions of rulers and their priests were

the

critical in

through

sacrificial

rites,

the regularity of the seasons, the pro-

improve economically but could not

states

higher social posifor social,

and economic advance.

The land and

quest were not the only determining factors shaping Aztec


society.

The force of an ancient worldview and

ssion also

its

powerful

maintained Aztec cultural, economic, and social

cohesion. Since remote times, the rhythm of Mesoamerican

had been embedded


annual cycle of

rain

farming people as

it

in

the land and the changing seasons. The

and drought determined the

nee,

essential to regulating
ent.

activities of

had for the hunter-gatherers long before.

Obtaining food went hand

and regular

life

in

hand with

a sense of pei

and calendrical observations were

human par

in

in

the natural envi-

The interaction of the community with the deified

and animals, and the

well-being of their communities throughout the year.


In

Tenochtitlan, Tetzcoco, Tlacopan, and elsewhere, artists,

and choreographers of

architects,

of designing a

ritual

these ancient cosmological themes

and

their

were assigned the task

new, distinctive visual vocabulary to express


in

terms of the Aztec

city-

was correspondingly

Tenochtitlan

interests.

planned as a cosmic diagram, with four avenues leading to the


cardinal directions, the east-west line

resources and income from trade and con-

its

maintaining

these relationships, for they were traditionally obliged to ensure,

ductivity of the land, the fertility of crops

remained the principal avenue

and

as

commoners below the nobility. The Aztec


market system linked many sectors and regions within a highly
commercialized economy, yet it was not wholly a capitalist system: there was no wage labor, land was rarely bought and sold,
and investment by nobility or wealthy commoners was limited
to pochteca expeditions. Commoners and merchants could

political,

ritually

cities

through selected features of the surrounding landscape. Religious

zation of high-ranking

tions; the military

in

in

middle class but a guildlike organi-

rise to

was

significance and

affirmed through festivals held at sacred places

assuming

special impor-

tance as a reflection of the daily passage of the sun. The great


ritual precinct
in

defined the middle, with the Templo Mayor rising

four great tiers as an axis

and the underworld region.

mundi between the sky, the earth,


the reign of Motecuhzoma

In

pyramid was notably enlarged, following


adding a new outer

layer.

re of

tl

The pyramid was a dual structure with

the symbolic configuration of twin sacred mountains. The


(north) half stood as the

left

"mountain of sustenance," supporting

the temple of the rain god Tlaloc, representing the seasonal for-

mation of
right

half

rain clouds

on the mountains rimming the

represented

Huitzilopochtli's

mythical

valley.

The

mountain

Coatepetl and supported the temple of the deified hero.

Two

wide stairways on the west facade


ples

led to

the side-by-side tem-

on the upper platform of the pyramid. At the foot of the

stairway on the Huitzilopoehtli side,


bered Coyolxauhqui

walk by this fearful

was

monument on

sacrificed. Their blood

power of the looming,

sculpture of the

dismem-

prisoners were obliged to

their

was intended
fetishlike

War

placed.

way up the

to fertilize

stairs to be

and increase the

pyramid mountain. During one

of the later renovations of the pyramid (date unknown), a colos-

head of Coyolxauhqui carved

sal

the

in

theme of Coatepetl was very

green diorite was added. Yet

old

in

Mesoamerica and was

certainly adapted into the Aztec symbolic vocabulary as

the ways

in

which they signaled

power and prestige of the

their position as heirs to the

commemo-

monuments. The Stone of Tizoc and Ahuitzotl portrays the

deceased Tizoc (reigned 1481-86) on the

left,

confronting his

in

cial

temple

within

Tenochtitlan. Yet

all

life,

pierces his ear, the blood flowing into the

open mouth of the

date 8 Reed (1486),


of

when

Ahuitzotl

assumed

office.

power was thus consecrated and confirmed by

ing the earth,

and the earth

itself

The passage

ritually feed-

was simultaneously claimed

as

As the

allied capitals

sans, traders,

grew cosmopolitan with incoming

arti-

diplomatic delegations, and others from client

Views of Malinalco.

fire;

of

wind, and groundwater;

rain,

was the

Some

of their cult names,

in

deified sun, a primary source

The earthly

representative

of the

sun

was

fire,

Huehueteotl, whose annual midnight renewal was celebrated by


being

fire

kindled

on

the

Huixachtecatl before being brought

summit of the

down

ners to relight the temples and hearths


basin. Tlaloc

was the

cities

summon

tall

festival, in late

made

Tlaloc,

effigy of Tlaloc, enthroning


sacrifices

and spread out

clouds

rain

highland mountains.

May

or early June,

was

a pilgrimage to the

remote shrine

where they ceremonially dressed an


him as

sacred tlatoani, and

made

a great feast offering of food. This rite

was immediately followed by


Lake Tetzcoco. Ehecatl

the towns of the

the rainy season: four rulers from the

of the valley

on the top of Mount

in all

named because

summit of the

most important

designed to

main

deity of rain, so

called

hill

by torch-bearing run-

that of Chalchiuhtlicue, the god-

dess of groundwater, at a shrine marked out

the Aztec empire.

spe-

precinct

often depicted as a solar disk with rays to the cardinal

directions.

Tlaloc's

earth between the rulers. The large cartouche below has the

in a

these deities reflected the worship of the

Nahuatl, follow. Tonatiuh

of

ceremonial

principal

earth and the fertility of plants.

They stand on

Twin

the

forces of nature: sun and

take form upon the

a strip representing the face of the earth.

custom of housing

sacred effigies and the ritual bundles of subject nations

successor-brother Ahuitzotl (reigned 1486-1502) on the right.

incense burners rest on the ground before them. Each tlatoani

peoples also arrived and found

the program of annual festivals. The protean vari-

ety of these diverse cults reflected the Aztec

new

past.

Cosmic themes were also expressed by imperial


rative

one of

many

nations, the deities of

expression

was the wind

in

the middle of

that sweeps

gusts and claps of thunder, bringing curtains of

down
rain.

In

with

one

M
.

'

'

was represented wearing the

guise, he

of an aquatic bird,

bill

name

suggesting the swift flight of wind-borne water; another

was

associated with these forces

Quetzalcoatl, alluding to the

symbol of royalty and

long, iridescent-green quetzal feather, a

name

was

Quetzalcoatl

or legendary heroes

of

a giver

tually claims

all

life,

the source of

was

Coatlicue

fertility,

that grows or walks on

its

effigies of Coatlicue often display skulls or


feet. Tlaltecuhtli

was another

was Tonantzin. Among the


xilotl,

war as

well

Aztecs

summer

woman

and

times,

also even-

In

tivals

was

September rainy season

of a cycle of

life,

was

She

essential.

holding the

many

tender

first

other deities

performers at

ritually attired

in

city.

principally keyed to the

for planting, cultivating,

June through

and harvest,

and war. The year was thus seen

were also linked to the annual


which

rulers

were

Coronation

lar.

in

terms

death, and renewal. As a matter of course, rites

of passage marking transitions

in

individual

cycle. In

initiated into office

rites

and

collective

Aztec society, the

life

rites

by

were the most spectacu-

encompassed vast

resources,

mobilized

hundreds of thousands of people, and unfolded over several

months of elaborate pageantry with solemn ceremonies,


and the giving of

withdrew on
the

royal

gifts.

From the

outset,

when

feasts,

the ruler-elect

ceremonial retreat, to his public investment with


to

regalia,

the coronation

war,

the bestowing

of

emblems of office, and the victory sacrifices of prisoners, the


new warrior-king followed the mythic model of the archetype
hero

Huitzilopochtli

slaying

doubt, the vast apparatus of

formance created
determining role

and

enemies on Coatepetl. Without


art,

architecture,

and

ritual

at the imperial capitals played a central


in

per-

and

maintaining the cohesion of Aztec society

state.

When

the Mexica-Aztecs and their neighbors migrated into the

Valley of Mexico, they were determined to win a place for


selves in that

fertile,

luminous

setting.

Many

them-

factors contributed

to the subsequent rise of their empire: the role of imaginative

and forceful

rulers; the

for ritual

reciprocity

in

which

toward the

way

never

of

life.

But for

outgrew

really

all

these integrating features, the

their

predatory instincts. They

enriched themselves principally by capturing wealth with the

menace

of violent retribution. Within the expansive

empire building, there existed

a great

dynamic of

and constant mass of

dis-

war but not those of government. So on that November day

and to the lengthy dry season that followed, which was the time
for long-distance trade

answered the need

clawed hands and

the cities of the Valley of Mexico, the annual cycle of fesof these deities

manner of Tula and Teotihuacan centuries

affection and antagonism. The Aztecs had mastered the arts of

Aztec sculptors fashioned as permanent effigies of the gods


the temples and shrines of the

the

surface; hence the

these attired impersonators that the

is

it

doll)

season. These and

were impersonated by masked and


festival

it

deities of vegetation, Xilonen (from

tender ear of maize, and nenen,

green corn of the

but

the deified earth, as

ritual title for

took the form of an adolescent

in

an obedient and fanatical population inured to bloodshed and

deity by virtue of their closeness to the earth's surface. The earth

not only

sacrifice

in

represented. Serpents, spiders, and centipedes were signs of this

is

Tolteca

sun, water, earth, and food sources, while also serving to create

among which

titles,

new

before; and the unifying force of their cosmovision,

of ruler-

title

ancient Mexico. The earth, conceived

in

many

female terms, had

far-reaching system of trade; the idea of making themselves

the

also associated with historical

the sweeping, flowing force of wind and water.


ship, the

extension of tribute networks through

force of arms; the creation of a firm agricultural

base; the

proclamation of laws favoring the centralized rule of the state;

1519,

when

meet Motecuhzoma

the causeway to
Tenochtitlan,

and

in

many
their

upheaval was set


1521 was as

lost
in

II

at

the entrance of

subject or threatened people felt a tremor;

the events that followed, they

and reclaim

in

the Spanish and allied Tlaxcalan warriors crossed

pride,

saw the chance

property,

to arise

and power. A seismic

motion. The collapse of the Aztec empire

much an

Indian revolt as

it

was

in

Spanish conquest.

The Provinces
I
of the Aztec Empire
/nun

WAS

THE AZTEC EMPIRE

es I

Berdan

THE LAST OF THE GREAT MESOAMERICAN EXPANSIONIST POLITIES,

dominating Central Mexico from 1430

conquest by the Spaniards

until its

in

1521. Fundamentally, the empire reflected older Mesoamerican political patterns.

was

It

built

were

capitals

on widespread city-state organizations. The three imperial

were likewise city-states of varying

Mesoamerica throughout
volatile, political

matic

rise

and

and the bodies they conquered

at the center of city-states,

all

and military

fall

its

sizes

history

relations.

It

and power.

was characterized by dynamic, even


was

a region that experienced the dra-

of city-states and of empires. The fluidity of the political

sit-

uation cannot be overemphasized. City-states fighting each other to the death

one year might have been

relatively

amicable

experienced unpromising beginnings could


cal entity. This

Aztecs,

the next.

develop into

who began

city-state that

powerful

politi-

as poor mercenaries

in

comparatively young city-state yet emerged as military head of the

a small,

largest

was the case with the

allies

still

empire

in

Mexica, as these

The capital

city of the

people called themselves, was the huge and

impressive

Mesoamerica's pre-Hispanic

Tenochtitlan, which had as

many

history.

as 250,000 inhabitants

1519,

in

when

the

Spaniards arrived.

The Valley of Mexico was the setting


In

for the

emergence of

the early fifteenth century the valley's strongest polity

this great empire.

was Azcapotzalco,

the west of Lake Tetzcoco. The death of that city-state's ruler

subsequent bickering between

his

to

1428 and the

in

power-hungry sons offered the Mexica of

Tenochtitlan an irresistible opportunity. They joined with their neighbors, the

Acolhua of Tetzcoco, and conquered the divided Azcapotzalco. By adding the


Tepaneca of Tlacopan as

Now

widely

known

allies,

they established the powerful Triple Alliance.

as the Aztec empire, this Triple Alliance began almost

immediately to overwhelm

its

neighbors

already making aggressive military

When

the Spaniards arrived,

the

in

the Valley of Mexico. By 1450

moves against
alliance

city-states

controlled

beyond the

thirty-eight

was

it

basin.

tributary

provinces and had established asymmetrical, clientlike relations with city-states


in

another twenty-three provincial regions. The client states were located

some distance from

at

the imperial core and effectively served to insulate the trib-

utary provinces, which were closer to Tenochtitlan and

its allies.

To further their wars of conquest, the Aztecs offered valuable economic and
social rewards,
tle

such as elaborately decorated capes and specially designed bat-

costumes, to inspire their warriors

unclear

if

is

opposition forces were motivated by similar reward arrangements.)

In

addition, they

n e

ferocious hand-to-hand combat,

(h

in

were usually capable of amassing

nple Alliance

larger armies than their ene-

norated warriors from already conquered

tai

with

procession of warriors
ca

200- 1521

TRIBUTARY PROVINCES OF THE TRIPLE ALLIANCE

..

TRIBUTARY REGIONS

TRIPLE ALLIANCE

The North

I.

Oxitipa,

1.

{Codex Mendoza,

Luis Potosi

3.

Tuchpan, Veracruz

4.

Atlan, Puebla (folio 31)

folio 57)

(folio 30)

5.

Atotonilco, Hidalgo (folio 10)

6.

Tlapacoyan, Puebla

7.

Acolman/Acolhuacan, State of Mexico

(folio 28)
(folio 5)

The Ancient Tepaneca Empire

II.

Tetzcoco

San

Tziuhcoac, Veracruz (folio 32)

2.

8.

Xilotepec, State of

9.

Axocopan, Hidalgo

Mexico

(folio 11)

(folio 29)

State oe

Mexico

Tlacopan
Federal
District

10. Atotonilco

Mexico-Tenochtitlan

de Pedraza, Hidalgo

(folio 30)

Xocotitlan, State of Mexico (folio

Hueypochtlan, State of Mexico

2.

5)

(folio 9)

Federal District
13.

Quahuacan, State of Mexico

14.

Quauhtitlan, State of Mexico (folio 8)

(folio

2)

Tlatlauhquitepec, Puebla (folio 29)

Cuauhtochco, Veracruz

(folio 26)

Cuetlaxtla, Veracruz (folio 27)

Tochtepec, Oaxaca

(folio 48)

The Heart of the Empire

IV.

19 Citlaltepec, State of

Mexico

(folio 17)

20. Petlacalco, State of

Mexico

(folio 4)

Mexico-Tlatelolco, Federal District (folio 3)

V.

TheTarascan Frontier

22. Tolloacan, State of Mexico (folio


23. Ocuyllan, State of

Mexico

24. Malinalco, State of

(folio

Mexico

25. Tlachco, Guerrero (folio

(folio

3)

4)
1

5)

6)

26. Tepecoacuilco, Guerrero (folio 17)


27. Cihuatlan, Guerrero (folio 18)

The Southwest

VI.

28. Chalco, State of Mexico (folio 21)

Cuauhnahuac, Morelos

29.

30. Huaxtepec,

Morelos

(folio 6)

(folio 7)

31. Tlalcozauhtitlan, Guerrero (folio 20)

Quiyauhteopan, Guerrero

32.

VII.

(folio 20)

The Mixteca-Zapoteca Zone

33. Tepeyacac, Puebla (folio 22)

ihualtepec, Oaxaca (folio 20)


35. Coaxtlahuacan,

Oaxaca

36 Tlauhpan, Guerrero
37. Tlaxiaco,

Oaxaca

(folio

38 Coyolapan, Oaxaca
39.

(folio 23)

(folio 19)

47)

(folio 24)

Xoconochco, Chiapas

(folio 25)

more

distant campaigns,

providing substantial rewards for their participation as well. This

was one important

from within the Valley of Mexico)

city-states (most

way

in

its

which conquered city-states within and near the Valley of Mexico were more

in

and goals than were

closely integrated into the Triple Alliance's imperial structure

farther-flung provinces.
Imperial

mented

goals were predominantly economic, and the alliance's rulers imple-

and

a variety of military

A primary aim was

political strategies to control a vast array of resources.

the assurance of a regular and predictable flow of utilitarian and

luxury goods into the three imperial capitals. Diverse resources were provided by the
tributary provinces brought into the imperial

these

goods-such as shimmering

web through

tropical feathers,

military conquest.

Some

of

adornments of precious stones,

decorated clothing, and cacao-enhanced the sumptuous

lifestyle

of the ruling

others especially massive quantities of staple foodstuffs-supplied the

elite;

with a

cities

hedge against possible famine.


As the empire expanded,
rulers. Early

rial

conquests

a greater variety of

goods became available to the impe-

highland regions yielded tribute such as bins of maize

in

and beans, maguey-fiber clothing, honey, and wood products. Later conquests
land zones provided
stones, gold, cacao,

payment

and jaguar

in

low-

in

cotton and cotton clothing, precious feathers and

skins,

among

other goods. Almost

all

provinces turned

over feathered warriors' costumes; highland peoples would have had to import the
tropical feathers to

meet these demands. The

institution of imperial tribute practices

therefore would have stimulated, or at least sustained, established trading patterns.

The Aztec imperial powers developed another significant strategy to achieve their

economic goals when, instead of outright conquest, they established


tions with outlying areas. These resembled alliances, yet the
clearly asymmetrical; this
rulers.

It

their clients

clients

system was more efficient and inexpensive

was understood, however,


if

tribute. Clients

gifts, reflecting a

more

reciprocal

arrangement than the payment of

were also expected to provide the essential service of protection.

was

located along an important trade route,

Aztec merchants on their dangerous treks;


it

for the imperial

that the Aztec powers could at any time conquer

served their economic and military purposes. The Aztecs and the

it

exchanged

client city-state

clientlike rela-

power relationships were

if it

was

warfare with the

enemy

in

territory,

it

If

assured the safety of

situated close to a critical resource,

protected that resource for the empire; and, most commonly,

adjacent to an unconquered

it

if

a client city-state lay

maintained the border through intermittent

that frontier zone. Combined, these requirements relieved

the Aztecs of the need to directly protect and sustain trade routes, critical resources,

and

tended to insulate the

volatile imperial borders. Additionally, the client states

trib-

utary provinces from incursions by long-standing enemies.

The empire as a whole was loosely organized.


in

In strategic

provinces, and typically

tributary provinces, local city-state rulers retained their right to rule even after being

incorporated into the imperial net. This hegemonic arrangement continued as long as
tributary obligations
lectors

were met and the city-states refrained from

were usually stationed

and garrisons had

A more

in

conquered regions;

less

rebellion. Tribute col-

commonly, Aztec governors

to be installed.

subtle imperial strategy involved establishing marriage bonds between

imperial rulers

and the

ruling

houses of conquered or

client

city states.

In

arrangements, any offspring would carry royal legitimacy from both imperial and

Page

these
local

1541

heritages.

future ruler from such a pairing would be enculturated with loyalties to

the imperial powers, while also enjoying local support.

The

Triple Alliance

city-states into

economic and
participation

political

its

social

in

empire thus employed several strategies for integrating outlying

web and achieving

were

in

elite

formed

marriages between imperial and

emperor Motecuhzoma

client relations with city-states that

II,

rebellions,

who

resources quelling revolts

ruled
in

local ruling

encouraged by

loose structure. The Mexica


a great deal of his mil-

already conquered provinces. These were sparked

addition, the empire's military energies

clusive battles with

its

and they

houses. Nonetheless, the

from 1502 to 1520, spent

part by the annoying presence of tribute collectors


In

They provided

goals.

the Valley of Mexico for their

strategic positions to aid the empire in protecting critical areas;

empire experienced numerous

itary

economic
in

distant military conquests; they established tributary provinces that

paid specified and scheduled tribute; they

arranged

its

rewards to conquered peoples

in

and the draining tribute payments.

were devoted to fighting recurring, incon-

unconquered enemies, such as the Tlaxcalteca. Under these varied

pressures, the empire had probably reached

its

maximum

expansion by the time of the

Spanish Conquest.

A-

*,

>
it

*<

-V

The Population of the


Mexico and Toluca Valleys
IWI,i\ll,

Pen

THE SUCCESSIVE ARRIVAL OF TRIBES MIGRATING TO THE VALLEY OF MEXICO CONFIGURED A

human geography

during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

NEW

the north-

In

west, the Chichimeca and Acolhua, tribes of hunter-gatherers, began to settle


in

the extensive territory of Acolhuacan, where they engaged

intertribal skirmishes.

such as Huexotla, Papalotla, and Tepetlaoztoc, while the


important. They constructed

increasingly

expand cultivation

in

in

continuous

These peoples subsequently founded other urban centers


city of

Tetzcoco became

noteworthy hydraulic systems to

the plains near the lakeshores and

in

the highlands near

the mountains bordering the valleys of Puebla and Tlaxcala. During Netzahualcoyotl's reign,
its

Acolhuacan was considered an advanced cultural center because of

achievements

in

the arts and literature, specialized crafts, and the construc-

tion of public works.

had also

It

up considerable

built

quering far-off provinces to the east of the

military power, con-

Along with the Mexica of

valley.

make

Tenochtitlan and the Tepaneca of Tlacopan, the Acolhua would eventually

up the

Triple Alliance.

The Tepaneca reached the valley during the thirteenth century, occupying
southern sites such as Tacubaya and Coyoacan, around the same time as
the Otomi,

who

settled

various northern areas.

in

toward Xaltocan, the Tepaneca occupied

When

the Otomi retreated

territory to the north

and west of the

Valley of Mexico, disregarding the prior occupation of these areas, especially

who had come from Teotihuacan.


among the Nahua

Azcapotzalco and Tlacopan, by people

Bernardino de Sahagun considered the Tepaneca to be


peoples
centers

who came from Chicomoztoc. They soon conquered


both

beyond

and

within

the

neighboring urban

valley Cuauhtitlan,

Xaltocan,

and

Tepozotlan to the north and Cuitlahuac and Chalco to the far south of the lake

area-and established

their

capital

who

Azcapotzalco. The Aztecs,

and seat of government

settled

on the

in

the city of

island within the lake,

were sub-

jugated by the Tepaneca, forced to pay tribute to them and serve as warriors
in their

battles of conquest. The

Tepaneca controlled most of the valley

eral decades during the fourteenth century, and

fifteenth century that the Aztecs gained their

war against Azcapotzalco

in

it

was not

until

for sev-

the early

freedom and participated

in

the

which the Tepaneca were conquered.

According to the Memorial de Culhuacan, the Culhua settled on the lake on


a site near Huixachtecatl,

founding of Culhuacan

is

known today

as Cerro de

believed to have taken place

The

la

Estrella (Star

in

the twelfth century, by

Hill).

which time Xochimilco and Tacubaya were already populated. Other important
nearby Culhua urban centers were Ixtapalapan, Mexicaltzingo, and Huitzilo
pochco, agricultural towns that also produced
of Tolteca emigrated

Mexico settled

When

in

in

salt

various directions; those

After the

who

fall

of Tula, groups

reached the Valley of

such places as Chapultepec, Culhuacan, and Huitzilopochco.

the Aztecs reached the valley

in

the last stage of their peregrinations,

143. Serpent warrioi


M.jtl.il/mrj. ca

'*W

"^-SSpif^^fc:

&sm^ma
^x^

WM

***&-*

VH

AN
7.'i

t.M

1M

..V;!

they were unable to find a suitable territory


at Chapultepec, they

which to

in

were subjects of Culhuacan for

settle. After

New

founded. Every fifty-two years, they held the ceremony of the


with important

Estrella,

rites

being defeated

was

a time, until Tenochtitlan


Fire

on Cerro de

that helped maintain the status of the Culhua

among

la

the

four peoples that were heirs of the Toltec culture.

The Cuitlahuaca and the Mixquica settled


respectively,

each located on a different

the towns of Cuitlahuac and Mixquic,

in

of land between lakes Chalco and

strip

Xochimilco. For the most part, these were insular settlements, with the advantage of

being located

chinampo area with

in a

culture. Although both

tribes

spoke Nahuatl, they were from different ethnic groups

and had different customs and forms of government:


formed

ters

was

when

Alliance

Itzcoatl in the fifteenth

in

to

expand

their territory.

century and were

The two peoples were

paying tribute to the Triple

still

the Spanish conquistadores arrived.

The Xochimilca were one


pated

manage

in

and although the Cuitlahuaca made some

tinually skirmished with their neighbors,

conquered by

Cuitlahuac, four urban cen-

Both the Mixquica and the Cuitlahuaca con-

a sole tlatoani (ruler).

limited conquests, they did not

in

governed by their four representatives, while

a single organization

Mixquic, there

adequate for intensive agri-

irrigation canals

group of Nahuatl speakers who

tribe in a larger

the migrations, leaving from Aztlan and finally settling

partici-

Xochimilco. This

in

urban center had a large territory that extended southeast from the shores of the
fresh-water lake bordered by Coyoacan on the west and Cuitlahuac and Chalco on the
east.

power extended south beyond the

Its

subject towns. The

first

Xochimilca settlement

in

agriculture, Xochimilco

numerous

the valley, requiring

flotillas

Olac,

and Tecpan, with numerous subject

fifteenth century;

town was

when

its

contribution to the develop-

was considered the greatest food

of canoes to transport

was organized

or altepetl (city-state), Xochimilco

and several

the region dated back to the tenth

in

century, after which time they migrated. Because of

ment of chinampa

and

to Totolapan, Tlayacapan,

lakes,

Yecapixtla, an area that included lakeside chinampas, highland forests,

its

goods. As

supplier
a

town

into three urban centers: Tepetenchi,

districts.

was conquered by

It

the Spanish conquistadores arrived

in

Itzcoatl in the

the Valley of Mexico the

Tenochtitlan tributary.

The Chalca were next to arrive

in

the Valley of Mexico after the Xochimilca.

According to the Anales de Cuauhtitlan, they

left

Xico

in

1150 to found Chalco; the

seventeenth-century Nahua historian Domingo Chimalpahin confirms this event but

does not specify the

year.

The Chalca settled well to the southeast of Lake Chalco,

stretch of land near the Sierra


tribes

from other regions,

political

Nevada volcanoes. Due

their ethnic

makeup was

to the

continuous

very complex; similarly, their

organization required numerous administrative categories and levels of gov-

ernment. Their economy balanced an exploitation of the


tivation of

chinampas with

was

local trade. This

lake's

resources and the cul-

carried out at the four major urban

centers-Amaquemecan, Tlalmanalco, Chimalhuacan, and Tenanco-and

was conducted with other

cities in the valley. In 1445,

Chalco, a battle that would continue for


ing

in a

arrival of

more than twenty

on the participation of other ethnic groups

in

external trade

Motecuhzoma declared war on


years, with the rulei

the Valley of Mexico to aid

it-ly-

in his

conquests. After their defeat, the Chalca were subjugated by Tenochtitlan, living under

Mexica military rule

until the

Spanish Conqu<

The Otomi settled not only


Cuauhtitlan, but also

in

urban centers such as Xaltocan, Otumba, and

in

other locations around the Valley of Mexico: to the north,

the Teotlalpan region; to the west,

in

the Sierra de las Cruces, a

wooded

the valleys of Mexico and Toluca (Cuauhtlalpan); and to the east,


region,

which borders the Valley of

Tlaxcala.

Otomi also

lived side

in

in

area between

the Acolhuacan

by side with Nahua

-w

>*; 4

peoples

in

other populated areas of the valley:

Tlacopan (Taeuba), Tacubaya, and the

in

area between Tacubaya and Coyoaean. Other Otomi centers developed

the Sierra de Guadalupe and to the east,

assumed that
ward
city

after the

into the Valley of

of Tula

fall

in

in

It

is

the thirteenth century, the Otomi migrated east-

Mexico and settled

whose hegemony extended

the towns of

in

the mountain ranges near Tetzcoco.

in

Xaltocan, which

came

to be an important

east to the Sierra de Puebla and Meztitlan. In the

following century, however, Azcapotzalco attacked and conquered Xaltocan, which

became

Tepanec dependency, and Azcapotzalco's growing power

led to the decline

who spoke

of other sites settled by Otomi. The language of these settlers,

not Nahuatl

but Otomi, belonged to the Otomi/Pame linguistic family. Although they were considered underdeveloped by contemporary tribes, they did practice seasonal agriculture as

and gathering, and they made

well as hunting, fishing,

ginal areas,

textiles

the Otomi of the Valley of Mexico lived

fibers. In 1519,

and

from cotton and tough

mountainous

in

regions,

mar-

Nahua towns.

in

The Tenochca Mexica and the Tlatelolca Mexica migrated together from Aztlan,
eventually settling

in

same developmental
textual sources

and

the Valley of Mexico. Both tribes spoke Nahuatl and were at the
level in

terms of material culture and ideology, as indicated

However, once Tenochtitlan was founded

Mexica and established the


island, divided

when

on

the Tlatelolca,

two

site

toward the north of the

some

time, during the period

nearby

a channel. For

vassals of Azcapotzalco, the

paths sharply diverged

1325, the Tlatelolca split off from the

in

city of Tlatelolco

from the Tenochca by just

when both were

in

pictorial narrations in codices as well as archaeological materials.

tribes

had

a similar history, but their

who had no government

of their own,

asked the Tepaneca to provide them with one, which initiated the Tlatelolca lineage.

Under Tepanec leadership, the


battles until 1428,

when

Tlatelolca paid tribute

Tepaneca, they were forced to participate


as the

famous conquest of

Finally, in

and served as warriors

in

Tepanec

the Triple Alliance defeated Azcapotzalco. Once freed from the


in

the imperialistic plans of the Aztecs, such

Cotastla, a victory that brought

1473, Tlatelolco and Tenochtitlan faced

off,

fame

to the Tlatelolca army.

and with the Tenochca victory

the Tlatelolca lost their independence and their government. The conquerors placed

them under

military rule subject to Tenochtitlan,

ple until the arrival

and they remained

subjugated peo-

of Hernan Cortes. Nonetheless, several sources praise the valor of

the Tlatelolca warriors

in

downfall of Tenochtitlan

defending their
in

city

during the final battle that led to the

1521.

i.

nli.HHiuJ.il In
.I

1200-1521

"

147. Xilonen ceremonial vessel,


detail

Aztec, ca.

500

i
is

*-

l
L

-oT

148. Chicomccoatl ceremonial vessel

Aztec, ca.

1500

>

**

fa
149. Nappatecuhtli ceremonial vessel

Aztec, ca.

1500

The Puebla and


Tlaxcala Valleys
I

THE CULTURES OF THE POSTCLASSIC PERIOD EMPLOYED A


religious concepts

the various elites

eronica

etdsquez

COMMON ICONOGRAPHY

and established the foundations

who

THAT FUSED

worldview shared by

for a

inhabited the region of Puebla and Tlaxcala during the

diaspora that followed the

of Teotihuacan.

fall

The valleys of Puebla-Tlaxcala are located

in

a temperate region, bordered by

the volcanoes Popocatepetl, Iztaccihuatl, and Malinaltepec. People began to settle

the area

in

the Preclassic period, at such sites as Las Bocas, Tlalancaleca,

and Tetimpa, which were part of vast trade networks across

Xochitecatl,

Mesoamerica.
During the Postclassic period, groups from the Chichimec culture migrated

from northern Mexico. These peoples comprised

five different tribes,

mostly of

the Nahuatl language group, and, to a lesser degree, speakers of Otomi and

Popoloca. They established settlements of a ceremonial nature along the hilltop


ridges of Tlaxcala and eventually created one of the

most important domains

in

Central Mexico.

The Tlaxcala domain, which dominated the valleys of Puebla and Tlaxcala,

was organized around

four main urban centers,

of which maintained a

all

degree of hostile autonomy from the Triple Alliance. Tlaxcala was associated at
various times with Cholollan (modern Cholula) and Huexotzinco, thus forming

which developed into the most powerful and, geo-

a type of counter-alliance,

graphically, the closest

enemy

of the Triple Alliance. They also allied themselves

with the Spanish forces during the defeat of the Mexica-Aztec empire. The wars

between the Tlaxcalteca and the Tenochca Mexica continued

for a long period,

during which the former were cut off from access to a wide range of essential

goods such as cacao and

as well as luxury items such as

salt,

silver,

cotton, and

featherwork.
Cholollan

was located

one of the most

in

an area that has been continuously inhabited


It

was

also within

one of the

fertile

regions

in

for nearly three

Mesoamerica,

thousand

Coast with the Valley of Mexico, Tehuacan, and the Mixteca region

Made up

of

more than

gious center

in

fifty

communities, the

Mesoamerica.

years.

principal trading corridors, connecting the Gulf

It

city

was here that an important

worship of Quetzalcoatl developed. Cholollan, which

enormous pyramid, was governed by

in

Oaxaca.

was the most important


cult

also

is

a theocracy of high priests

reli-

devoted to the

famous

for

who performed

ceremonies and undertook pilgrimages to neighboring kingdoms. Aside from


ritual

importance, the city became widely

occupation for

its

known during
known

lying elements of the Postclassic period.

in

its

the later period of

production of polychrome earthenware.

characteristic type of ceramic work, also

bols uniq

its

he

ritual

It

as laca, serves as one


features idiosyncratic

that had been established over the years

Mesoamerica. Dating from the

-'nth

century (after the

fall

150 Kipr
.-.,,,,

of

Intel
I'.llll

iW *k^

-&

v%*

PS

>'^if/

C^r-SsW
vs>.

m**j*l*

Hi

fffcr

the Toltec state), this style has been found at various

from the areas north of

sites,

Oaxaca to the south of Puebla and Chalco. Due to the formal similarities between this
symbolic system and the glyphs and signs found

manuscripts such as the Codex

in

Borgia, this style has also been referred to as "codex type."

has been applied

It

murals found at Ocotelulco, Tizatlan, Tlaxcala, and Tehuacan

on the

earthenware produced

fine

extensive trade

the

in

was evidently

explaining

these regions. This style spread through the

in

Valley of Mexico.

style evolved into a useful

ious peoples seeking a


dition

way

means of communicating the

to unify ethnically

interests of var-

heterogeneous communities. This

tra-

quite freely adopted, without any force or imposition, thus

presence at numerous Late Postclassic

its

demonstrated,

the

ceramics to such distant areas of Mesoamerica as the Gulf Coast,

Maya dominions, and the


The codex

in

Viejo, Puebla, as well as

neutron

activation

analysis

of

As some authors have

sites.

polychrome ceramic remains has

allowed for the identification of various production centers: Huexotzinco, TizatlanOcotelulco, the Valley of Mexico, and Tehuacan. Huexotzinco

was probably the main

production area for the Puebla region.

From the evidence

we

retrieved,

believe that these ceramics

may have

arrived in

Tenochtitlan through trade or as payment of tributes, and that ceramic workshops

away from

were found

in

tinctions

iconography found on vessels originating

in

areas both close to and far

various regions, as well as on

in

common

those attributed to local workshops, they had a


referred to as "international." This style

the imperial capital. Despite dis-

style,

combines the use of

red,

which has been

orange, white, and

black pigments to create frets and xicalcoliuhqui (stepped frets); zoomorphic repre-

sentations

in

such forms as coyotes, serpents,

and fantastic figures;


the

skulls

Nahua pantheon; the eye of the

in

ritual

religious

nature of this ceramic work

and

political

and

night; military

or symbolic signs associated with gold, hearts,

The

rabbits, deer,

and frogs; phytomorphs

and chalchihuitl (symbols of preciousness);

is

deities

from

and glyphs

sacrificial motifs;

and blood.

undeniable, and

it

was probably employed

ceremonies. Incense burners, cups, effigy vessels, and tripod

serving bowls with animal or

mushroom-shaped supports were used

for burning

incense, drinking chocolate or pulque, or containing the blood from autosacrifice or

bloodletting ceremonies.

Based on the decorative designs found on such vessels, particularly on cups, three
possible ceremonial functions have been proposed for these objects: sacrifice, indicated

by a band of plumes running along the vessels' outer surface, simulating the form of a
cuauhxicalli (container for holding sacrificial blood),

drops of blood,

stellar

eyes,

and jaguar

pelts,

in

all

which

it

is

possible to identify

associated with the rituals of

Tezcatlipoca; sacred war, implied by the appearance of chalchihuitls, which

may

rep-

resent the vessels' intended use for drinking sacred substances such as pulque or

blood before entering into battle; and

fertility rites.

Although much remains unknown about the function of

work

in

Postclassic societies,

we do know

and military ceremonies, and that

this

earthenware ceramic

that such pieces were used

their decorative

in

both religious

iconography served as

language

unifying the elite during a period of diaspora for the peoples of Mesoamerica. This

medium allowed them


to ancient family

to create a

code through which they could establish

and state lineages, thus legitimizing

affiliations

their status as rulers.

The Domain
of Coatlalpan
Luis Rojas Martinez

Josi

THE PRESENT-DAY CITY OF IZUCAR DE MATAMOROS, PUEBLA,

IS

LOCATED

IN

A REGION KNOWN

pre-Hispanic times as Coatlalpan, which translates from the Nahuatl as

IN

the

"in

was inhabited by various

land of the serpents" or "land of serpents." This area

indigenous settlements and domains concentrated along the Nexapa River


basin.

Among

the more important of these settlements were Epatlan, Tatetla,

Tepapayeca, Tlapanala, Tilapan,


Itzocan),

which

is

described

Citela,

Colucan, and Izucar de Matamoros

(or

sixteenth-century ethnohistorical sources as the

in

main urban center of the Coatlalpanecas.


In

regard to the cultural development of this area,

we must remember

that

although the presence of humans has been confirmed from very early times

Mesoamerica, only

in

in

Coatlalpan have material remains survived from every

period of Mexico's pre-Hispanic history.


In texts

by such sixteenth-century chroniclers as

Tomas de Torquemada,

Fray

and Geronimo de Mendieta, the large amount of overlap-

Toribio de Motolima,

ping information indicates that they were based on privileged access to the

same

first-hand sources, which have unfortunately disappeared. These texts

relate

how

Izucar de

the eleventh century

Matamoros was founded

in

the Postclassic period, during

They report various migrations from

a.d.

Tula, Hidalgo, that

would eventually lead to settlements such as Izucar de Matamoros and Epatlan


in

the southern region of what

is

now

the state of Puebla. They also mention

group of people related to the Nonohualca-Chichimeca and the route they


through the areas of present-day Cuernavaca, Amecameca, and

followed

Huaquechula,

they finally reached Tehuacan, Puebla.

until

In

recounting this

migration, the religious chroniclers mention Xelhua as the leader of the group
that

came

to establish Izucar de

Matamoros and other

that inhabited pre-Hispanic Central Mexico

were said

settlements. The nations


to have

descended from

the ancient god Iztac Mixcoatl, a native of the legendary Chicomoztoc ("place
of the seven caves"); his sons-Xelhua, Tenuch, Ulmecatl, Xicalancatl, Mixtecatl,

and Otomotl-were
Because of

its

said to be the founders of these settlements.

importance and strategic location, the

Matamoros appears

in

such as the Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca, known as Codex

maps

of

tioned, that migratory

dominant groups, thus

waves spread from the northern and


territorial

As

colonial period, by the Belgian geographer

important

and

territory

in this

central parts of

boundaries of the

justifying the rights corresponding to the

these large tracts of land. The cartography published


-arly

Xolotl,

and

Mesoamerica. Contemporary texts delineate the

ularly

Izucar de

Totimehuacan-doeuments from the Late


(1200-1521). It was during this time, as previously men-

Cuauhtinchan

Postclassic period

city of

both pre-Hispanic and colonial cartographic sources,

in

ownership of

the sixteenth century,

Abraham Ortdius

is

partic-

regard.

for external influences,

two factors were decisive

in

the development of

153. Bcakrr with upplird figure

Coatlalpaneca, ca. 1500

Kftt*'

Matamoros. The

Izucar de

Coatlalpaneca, which alone


area, as a

first

was

means of extending

was the

strategic location

city's

in

sufficient for the Triple Alliance to set

its

the region of

its

sights on this

realm of influence and obtaining resources through

trade and the levying of tributes. The date of the Triple Alliance's incursion

but

began sometime during

it

its

is

unknown,

period of territorial expansion and culminated

between the years 1458 and 1466. As an immediate consequence of the invasion, the
Coatlalpanecas were forced to pay tribute and Izucar de Matamoros was absorbed into
the Mexica-Aztec tributary province of Tepeyacac.

The main urban center of


Tepeaca,

this province

was located

at the present-day city of

the central region of the current state of Puebla. Plate 22 of the Matricula

in

de tributos (Tribute Register), which corresponds to page 42-[obverse] of the Codex

Mendoza, contains

list

of the towns

were required to present to the

in this

vide large contingents of soldiers to fight

Aztec empire

were

critical

in
in

province.

Triple Alliance, the


in

addition to the products they

In

Coatlalpanecas were forced to pro-

the military campaigns undertaken by the

areas to the south and north of Izucar de Matamoros. These campaigns

conquering additional territory and subduing revolts

Chiapas,

in

Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, Coixtlahuaca, Huexotzinco, Cholollan, and Tlaxcala.

The predominant cultural manifestation of Izucar de Matamoros was the

formed during the 1960s by the National Museum of Anthropology

lections

City

and through exhibitions at other museums, primarily

States.

Due

to the lack of research

city's

become widely known through

intensive production of ceramic work, which has

and publications on

in

in

col-

Mexico

Mexico and the United


such

this style of ceramics,

pieces have often been mistakenly identified as Toltec or Mexica, overlooking their

obvious identification as Coatlalpaneca, or more precisely, from Izucar de Matamoros.

The singular features of

own

this

ceramic

style, a

determining factor

cultural identity, include a significant variety of

which were applied on the vessels using


incising,

in

this group's

forms and decorative motifs,

wide range of techniques, such as painting,

and stamping. The elements displayed on these ceramic vessels have allowed

us to identify their origin and chronology, and have also enabled us to determine

the existence of a tradition that


manifestations,

whose

was shared by

utterly distinctive style

is

a single

group with similar cultural

unique to Izucar de Matamoros and

the Coatlalpanecas.

Among

the most important and exceptional examples of this ceramic ware,

in

both

formal and decorative aspects, are those that harmoniously combine graphite black
with bright red or cherry red pigments. This combination

is

found primarily on tripod

serving bowls with crenellated, cylindrical, or zoomorphic supports and polished or

burnished surfaces, as well as on anthropomorphic effigy vessels, pitchers with raised


or protruding central
tional

ceremonies to

bands of motifs or with incised necks, which were used

Ome

Tochtli, the

in

devo-

god of pulque. The Coatlalpanecas also crafted

ceramic bowls with bottoms decorated with protruding, button-shaped knobs and
outer surfaces adorned with incised hook motifs.

These are some of the salient characteristics of one of the Late Postclassic ceramic
traditions of Mesoamerica's Central Plateau region. Identification of these elements

has helped us to rescue the Coatlalpanecas, "the people of the land of serpents," from
oblivion.

The Mixteca
1/

\<7/i

THE MIXTECA ARE MEMBERS OF AN ETHNIC GROUP THAT SETTLED

became home

the areas that

to the high culture of

themselves Nuu Savi ("people of the


ancient myth that related
trees

whose

first

roots

how

IN

Robles Garcia

NORTHERN OAXACA, ONE OF

Mesoamerica. They called

proclaiming their origin

rain"),

their ancestors

in

an

emerged out of the legendary

grew from the caves of Apoala, located

in

what

is

now

Nochixtlan, Oaxaca.

Though

relatively

little

archaeological work has been done

enough information has been gathered

to

show

this region,

in

that the Mixteca created a

complex culture and that as they migrated throughout the Valley of Oaxaca and
Central Mexico, Mixtec culture had a decided influence on other groups
area. Mixtec cultural traditions are

on

a par with other

in

the

important groups, such

as the Zapoteca, the inhabitants of Teotihuacan, and the Maya. The settlements
established over time by the Mixteca have recently begun to be documented.

Mixtec artifacts recovered through archaeology are known for the fine finishing techniques

employed by the artisans who created them,

particularly in

works of architecture, jewelry and ornaments made of precious metals, stoneworking, and mural painting. Mixtec artworks, such as the funerary objects

found
in

in

Tomb

Monte Alban and

7 at

in

Tombs

and

2 in Zaachila

located

(all

the Valley of Oaxaca), were exquisitely designed, and as a whole they con-

veyed an extraordinary impression of the culture.


Characterized by tremendous religious devotion and a highly cooperative
collective spirit, the culture of the late Mixtec era (Late Postclassic,
to the Valley of Oaxaca, specifically to Xoxocotlan,

250) spread

on the mountainsides to the

south of Monte Alban, and to nearby Cuilapam. Archaeological findings at both


sites

have uncovered diverse materials associated with Mixtec culture.

The Mixteca were able to


royal families

settle in

Zapotec

territory by

through marriage and other means. Their

the Valley of Oaxaca

was due

tated by a migratory

spirit,

partly to the overall

forming alliances with


relatively late arrival in

dynamics of

an expansionist philosophy

their culture, dic-

in their political

domains

and kingdoms, and the constant threat posed by the Mexica-Aztecs, who consought improved trade and exchange conditions.

tinually

emerging domains forced the Mixtec

expand

their territories.

royal

In

addition, other

families to seek better

ways

to

They ultimately came to dominate an area that reached

from Oaxaca's northeastern border to the

Pacific coastal region

known

as the

Costa Chica (home to the Tututepec empire), and west to the territories comprising the

With
in

modern

their

state of Guerrero.

profoundly religious perspective, the Mixtec groups that settled

the Valley of Oaxaca attributed sacred qualities to the ancient city of

Monte

Alban, an ancestral Zapotec stronghold that had been gradually abandoned

beginning

in

tomb

ad. 850. Mixtec royal remains have been found inside the

156. Xo<

hipilli

pi

Mixtec, ca. 1200-1521

!
1

ill

fe

\*

,i

known today as Tomb 7, which was constructed by the Zapoteca. The offerings placed
inside this tomb to honor the Mixtec dead constitute some of the richest treasures of
Mesoamerican history. Currently housed at the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca, the
objects include gold,

and mixed-metal jewelry

silver,

ated by weaving together metallic threads

in

in

traditional filigree designs, cre-

an embroidery-like

style.

Another Mixtec achievement was the creation of masks using the lost-wax method.
This highly
ing

complex technique involved coating models with beeswax and then cover-

them with ceramic molds. When molten metal was poured

would melt and be


deities,

was of an extremely high

coral, rock crystal,

shells,

raw material for extraordinary pieces of jewelry and

Examples of such

their

articles,

and ceramics, were found


these and other sites

it

journey to

ritual

in

objects that were

and

2 in Zaachila, to the

south of Oaxaca. At

it is

apparent that the Mixteca

Xoxocotlan-at the foot of the mountain on the south side of Monte Alban,

Mixtec style that

is

Postclassic sites of Mitla

ture meeting a Zapotec

distinct

territory. This

hostile

was the

is

environment-a challenge

difficult to deteris

the case of the

abundant evidence of Mixtec

in

the Valley of Oaxaca formed a complex social

attempts at conquest, strategic

alliances,

and the defense of

situation that greeted the Spanish conquistadores,

a territory ripe for

that the Mixteca remained

in

who found

the Valley of Oaxaca for at least part of the colonial period.

who comprised

this

magnificent culture retreated to

the place of their origin: the high mountains of northeastern Oaxaca,


like

in

domination and settlement. Linguistic evidence indicates

Eventually, however, the peoples

clouds,

cul-

for archaeologists in their efforts to

articles.

The Zapoteca, Mixteca, and Mexica

dynamic based on

it is

from that of the Zapoteca. Such

and Yagul, where there

decipher the origin of specific

Oaxaca

to

has been difficult to establish the extent to which the Zapotec

the areas of Yucu Saa, Cuilapam, and Zaachila-at other sites

mine

meant

including a variety of fine precious metalwork objects

Tombs

in

and pearls were used as the

eternity.

and Mixtec cultures had blended with each other. While


settled in

wax

such as alabaster, turquoise,

quality. Exotic materials

jaguar bones and teeth, conch

accompany the dead on

into the mold, the

The workmanship on these masks, which represented various

"lost."

true lords of the rain.

among

the

158. Lip-plug with the figure of a cox-cox bird

Mixtec.ca. 1200-1521

^1

%""

159. Bell

pendant with the figure of a bat

Mixtec, ca.

500

163. Ehccatl bell pendant

Mixtec, ca. 1200-1521

164. Butterfly nose

ornament

Mixtec, ca. 1200-1521

&

Wrf?

V-

<^
;-

t#

*''

*1U.'~

S3

165. Shield pectoral

Mixtec, ca.

^^^r^'s*

s*^

'Tj^r*

x...

"^

.-.'"
"

_
rS^SsiSs^Ss^-L.^.

^i-4*=

^*
-

*--^=-

J
PL

r3|^L*r

900-1200

"

S~5

'^1

A*^*

\*

J&'

^^

^c^ssSi^

,,

^^Mbs!'
166. Disk

Mixtec, ca. 1325-1521

jr

170. Temalacatl

Mixtec, ca. 1250-1521

^i

'JOUB**
'*&

^~~

'*

U!t\

_*

t.

4-tf}

x**

'T\

^ws^w^

172. Plaque with ritual scenes

Mixtec, ca.

1325-1521

The Huaxteca and


the Totonaca
/(///

THE EASTERN COASTAL REGION OF MESOAMERICA

WAS

INHABITED BY VARIOUS PEOPLES

were contemporaries of the Aztecs during the

who were

those

notable for their warlike

spirit

Solis

late Postclassic period.

WHO

Among

as well as their dazzling art were

the Huaxteca and the Totonaca. While the Huaxteca, linguistically linked with
the great

Maya

family,

have

history that dates back to very early

a cultural

times, linguistic studies indicate that the Totonaca are late arrivals, with a cul-

ture dating only back to the eighth century

a.d.,

name Huaxtecapan

Nahuatl speakers gave the

at the earliest.
to the large area that included

the central eastern part of the state of San Luis Potosi, the southern part of

Tamaulipas to the northern part of Veracruz on the Gulf Coast. The region had a
range of ecological environments, from coastal plains and basins of mighty
the Panuco, to vast highlands with tropical climates and the

rivers, particularly

region bordering the eastern Sierra

Madre mountains. The Huaxteca adapted

these various ecological niches with extraordinary

ing the resources offered by the sea, the mountains,

to

successfully exploit-

facility,

and the

tropics.

Although

they never constituted a unified political entity, they achieved a firm cultural

went beyond language. They were

identity that

also recognizable by their reli-

gious pantheon and distinctive artworks: sculptures displaying the features of


their

main

and other

ceramic vessels, and ingenious ornaments worked

deities,

Huaxtec archaeological

sites

are

still

called

by

Tanquian, Tancahuitz, Tamuin, Tamposoque, and Tantoc


Luis Potosi,
ple

in

conch

shells.

Tabuco

in

Veracruz, and Tancol

in

their
in

names:

ancient

today's state of San

Tamaulipas. Today's country peo-

(campesinos) use the word "cues," what the Spaniards called the indigenous

pyramids with temples

built

on top, to

refer to the

mounds and platforms

constituted Huaxtec religious buildings or constructions


This

because of

is

their curious shape,

rounded corners on

its

plinth.

which looks

Important

like

in

that

Precolumbian times.

an elevated cone with

artistic treasures

have been discovered

was contemporary

with the Aztec period,

the only mural painting preserved from the Huaxtec world

was discovered on

in

these locations.

an elongated

In

Tamuin, a

altar.

site that

procession of characters

in

attire that

may

represent

deities or their personifications, outlined in red, stands out against the

stucco
It

wh

layer.

was

in

Consuelo, a settlement near Tamuin, where the extraordinary

Postclassic sculpture
rying a child

on

its

known

as The Adolescent-a young nude male figure car-

back-was

discovered. This

is

one of the most refined works

not just of Huaxtec art but of pre-Hispanic Mexican art

he great majority of Huaxtec sculptures, which

uncovered, evidence of phallus worship


ins in
-rns

show

general.

It

is

typical

lie cranial deformation and perta-

the ears and nostrils are linked to the

common

in

the male sexual organs

to this coastal society. Figures

a<

known

jnd ornamental
as Old Sowers are also

Detail of rat

no.

177

$'

Based on their wrinkled faces, these pieces represent individuals of advanced

typical.

age who performed

with a sacred staff that was used for sowing the earth.

rituals

Huaxtec sculptures of females are generally shown with nude torsos and both hands
placed on their abdomens. With their conical caps, zoomorphic
bodies, they have been

patron of

fertility

and an eater of

Huaxtec sculpture
of the Brooklyn
a skeleton

on

is

round

who was

Along with The Adolescent, the most famous

York. This figure, set

in

in

the collection

an elegant hieratic pose, carries

which forms part of the ornamentation while adding symbolic

back,

value. The sculpture has


life

full,

goddess

undoubtedly the Life-Death Figure (Apotheosis),

Museum, New

its

filth.

and

attire,

identified as Tlazolteotl-lxcuiname, the

been interpreted as representing the very essence of duality-

and death, creation and destruction-that

is

always present according to Meso-

in

the late Postclassic period are styled

american thought.

The ceramic vessels typical of the Huaxteca


with

designs

brilliant

brown

black or dark

in

tonalities that stand out against the

whitish color of the clay. These tones are consistent on both the traditional globular

and phytomorphic forms and those that represent human beings and animals. The creations of these coastal people demonstrate the international style of the period that

was dominant throughout most of Mesoamerica. The symbols on

polychromatic

their

would have been recognized by different peoples of the time:

vessels

and so on. Conches and other

eagles,

shells,

solar disks,

which were so abundant on the gulf coasts

of Mexico, were used as the raw material for striking objects. The Huaxteca also

made

earspools or circular disks and elegant breastplates resembling ladles that contain

complex
regions

scenes bearing

ritual
in

resemblance to images

the codices from other

in

Mesoamerica.

The Totonaca occupied

known

a vast territory

as Totonacapan

the center of

in

Veracruz, extending from the foothills of the eastern Sierra Madres to the coastal
plains of the gulf. This people had linguistic links with the Tepehuan,

neighbors, and the

name

Zoqueana

family,

some

suggests, according to

which reached as

who were

their

The enigmatic

far as Chiapas.

authors, the three principal places of their origin.

Totonac objects continued the traditions of societies that previously inhabited the
coastal region. Although
ples,

we do

not

know

the specific identity of those ancestral peo-

they are archaeologically recognized as a Remojadas culture, characterized by the

extensive production of figures

made

of clay decorated with paint

very peculiar sculptural artwork reached

found

at the

El

Zapotal site

This people also

in

its

most sophisticated

made

of

tar.

This

level in life-size figures

Veracruz.

made works

in

the international style, and their clay sculptures

represent deities characteristic of the Aztec world: Tlaloc, Xochipilli, Xipe Totec,
Xilonen, and so on. Such figures can be recognized by the attire and ornamentation

popular throughout

late

all

Mesoamerica. Some of these stone sculptures appear to

have come from the same


However, they survived

haps the

workshops

in

Tetzcoco or

artists

from the Nahua world

Mexico-Tenochtitlan.

of clay. The figures

may

traveled to the coast, or perin

he Aztec

sites exci

Cempoala, located to the north

the codices, which could

domuut um

at Tenochtitlan,

instances,

we

Ehecatl. The

second

and sculpture

where the primary

find the typical


site

is

ritual

double pyramid and

Castillo

in

of the port of Veracruz.

familiar urban pattern, with a walled ceremonial precinct

Mayor

in

numbers than those made

have been transported from the center of the Veracruz region.

Two archaeological
first is

art

smaller

who
images were reproduced from drawings made

have been executed by

easily

in

the Totonac region. The

There

we

recognize the

that recalls the

constructions are housed.

Templo
In

some

plinth with a circular plan relatni to

de Teayo, an Aztec mihtjry camp with architecture

typical of the central highland style rendered by coastal

arti:

T-*

i
f

\.

9
JP-=^

177. Life-Death figure (Apotheosis)

Huaxtec.ca. 900-1250

I
V
-

178.

Goddess with descending

god headdress
Huaxtec, ca. 1250-1521

m-

The Tarascan Empire

The Tarascan Empire


Phil

<

\\

eigand

WHEN

THE EUROPEANS ARRIVED ON THE SHORES OF MESOAMERICA

who were

IN 1519,

AMONG

THE GREAT

encountered north of the Isthmus of Tehuantepee were the Aztecs,

polities they

predominant, the Cholollans and Tlaxcalteca within Central Mexico,

and the Purepecha, or Tarascans, as the Spanish

The

called them, to the west.

Aztecs' astounding run of military successes prior to 1519 did not include vic-

along

tories

western

their

Tarascans had developed.


resistance

tle

when

It

lapse of the Tarascan

when

military

stalemate with

the

therefore ironic that the Tarascans offered so

the Spanish penetrated their heartland

lit-

1522. The col-

in

empire-occupying roughly the same area as the present-

day state of Michoacan-was


1521

where

frontier,
is

walkover compared with what had happened

in

the Aztecs were defeated after the bloody, prolonged siege of

Tenochtitlan. Of course, there

is

an explanation: the Euroafrican diseases, which

had already heavily weakened the Aztecs,

infiltrated the

Tarascan empire prior

to the actual presence of Spaniards. Having been brought back to Tzintzuntzan,

the Tarascan capital,

sometime

1519, these diseases

after

court, thus especially impacting the nobility


ruler at Tzintzuntzan,

stage

Zuangua, was

felled

and

first

appeared at

by the epidemic then

in its

West Mexico. The consequent confusion and disorientation

in

ty so structured in the nobility's favor

meant

Tarascan

military. In 1520, the

incipient

socie-

in a

that the capacity to resist

was

nonexistent by the time the direct confrontation with Europeans materialized


in

1522.

The Spanish soon discovered

how

politically, socially,

and

militarily

the Tarascan state had been. Relacion de Michoacan, compiled

among

the very

first

in

advanced

1539-41 and

post-Conquest codices documenting pre-

extensive

Conquest customs, offered the Spanish detailed insights into the

social

system

was perhaps the most "modern" of those they encountered in


Mesoamerica. Relacion and a number of other codices and primary sourcesCodice de Cutzio and Codice de Huetamo (both 1542), Lienzo de Jicalan (ca.
1565; also known as Lienzo deJucutacato),' Codicede Tzintzuntzan (ca. 1567),

that

Informe de Vaseo de Quiroga

Michoacan
uments
and
in

its

(1

533),'

and Relaeiones geografieas del

siglo XVI:

(various dates, mostly around 1580)'-are the basic historical doc-

for our

present-day understanding of the pre-Conquest Tarascan state

sociocultural order. The pioneering research published by Nicolas Leon

1904 was the

first

modern attempt

at a systematic analysis of the ancient

Tarascan social and cultural order.'

Although archaeological research concerning the origins of the Tarascans


only a few decades old,

Complex
.

cultural

life

haft-tor

These tombs had rid

there are a growing number of excellent

began early

in

Michoacan, js evidenced by the spectacu-

1800-800
is,

is

field studies.

B.C.,

found

in

the

Jacona-Zamora

area."

often having served as crypts for burials over a

long period of time. They clearly indicate the early existence of social systems

Page from Fray Jeronimo de Alcala, La Relation de

Michoacan, 1539-41.

beginning to rank or stratify themselves, and which had the

Mesoamerica before the central and southern zones. By 900,

power

West Mexico was

to attract exotica from far away. Simpler versions of such

shaft-tombs have been found


Formative periods

In later

well-developed

regional

in

various localities

650

(ca.

in Jalisco.

began to

The

flourish.

revolution, as

ical

number of

b.c.-a.d. 100), a

traditions

elsewhere

tion

research has focused upon settlement patterns and architec-

empire

and the

tural complexes,

received an extended

was

Epiclassic periods

valley

(especially the

millennium

a.d.

the

comof

Jalisco

this vast

never isolated from the rest of Mesoamerica,

its

Lerma

tierra caliente

a character that

from Central Mexico. While

that

in a series

Bajfo,- the

and the

*),

is

sociocultural

approaches to the

of Tingambato

site

clear

By the Classic and

patterns.

distinctive

is

few centuries

in

speakers.

orientation

from the Olmec world were almost

bow-and-arrow tech-

now do

many

raphy, sharing

bors

further

and was also

east,

Mesoamerican trade
Archaeology as

it

cultural

geog-

basic cosmological concepts with neigha

full

player

within

the

applies to the Tarascan origins per se


sites in the

Urichu. Tarascan origins are probably related to

ation

in

two

distinct but

phenomena: growing populations throughout the

interrelated

accompanied

in

lin-

fashion as an

in

sion.

If

so,

a.d.

than

then the

it

more

far

is

it

that

likely

correct,

is

might be

wider distribution during the

a far

first

had at the time of the European intru-

new migrants-carrying

Nahuatl

a version of

along the northern frontier (Caxcan) and Totorame elsewhere

(including Cora, Tequal, and Huchol as today's only survivors)


into

West Mexico may have actually reduced the area of proto-

guistic

speech

while,

certain

is

that even

is

in

lin-

and research,

for further discussion

the Tarascan heartland

around the Patzcuaro basin there was


diversity,

the

stimulating

time,

development of the region that remained. The

arguments are up

but what

same

the

at

and ethnic

linguistic

probably as early as 1200, just as

much

in

some

areas by population nucle-

defendable locations; and, between

a.d.

Relacion de Michoacan offers the

700 and 900

of the Tarascan

origins

While

state.

official

this

completely with the archaeological record,

confirm the parts where confirmation

is

of the rest

it

important as

western

it

Mesoamerica.

In

opposition

to

and cultural centralism into the pre-Hispanic

clearly

the far older metallurgical traditions of northernmost South

close

enough

cial

critical

essay collections on

to

polity,

has seriously affected studies of

clearly was,

West Mexico were probably already experimenting with copper,


introduced from

is

concerning the uniqueness and centrality of the Aztec

Octavio Paz was severely

much more advanced technology was

history of the

does not dovetail

most important. Dogma

the appearance of metallurgy. While the indigenous cultures of

Many

general, occurred.

Joseph Greenburg

if

Chibcha-had

millennium

is

Patzcuaro basin that have

received professional attention are Tzintzuntzan, Ihuatzio, and

entire region,

in

not accept what for decades was

of Mesoamerica.

structure.

more problematic.' Key

these migrations, or better said, the

were Uto-Aztecans. For West Mexico,

sociopolitical

as the Southwestern

West Mexico participated within Mesoamerica's

when

Uto-Aztecan

almost dogmatic assertion: that the speakers of Teotihuacan

exchange relationships reached as

far

unclear

It is

linguistic spread of

Tarascan

United States and northernmost South America. Of course,

later.

southern Uto-Aztecan

some exotica and architectural touches from


Teotihuacan were more numerous. During later times, distant
nonexistent;

reorganiza-

the Tarascan

in

arrival of

related to

was
was

arrow, must

political

arrival of

quite

was

1100,

ca.

West Mexico was the

proto-Tarascan-which,

region

bow and

glimmers of

first

as

first,

accompanying the

Possibly

guists

the

highland Michoacan, which resulted

in

nology

a role in

high-

obviously toward the western highland lake districts and the


Pacific littoral. Influences

the world, with copper and then, by

in

have played

near Zacapu, has

was being consolidated

lands-West Mexico had assumed


distinctive

Alta,

(100-900)-along with the

general,'

in

first

increasing and

and highly

original

Loma

amount of attention/' What

by the beginning of the


plexity

of

site

haltingly entered into a metal age,

it

bronze. Both metal technologies, plus

known of these is usually called the Chupicuaro culture,


largely known from mortuary materials and practices. Recent

best

the forefront of Mesoamerica's technolog-

in

such

dogmatism,

of extending today's political

cultural

history,

past; his

two cru-

Puertas al

campo

(1966) and Posdata (1970), remain pertinent critiques of

this

Nonetheless, according to the prevailing dogma,

America." Hence, metallurgy's rapid adaptation and spread

perspective.

throughout most of West Mexico." Elsewhere, metallurgy, when

the entire West Mexican zone had only village levels of social

and where

organization, accompanied by interesting but small-scale arts

the

it

first

appears, promotes revolutionary adaptations;

proto-Tarascan

zone would

The collapse of Classic civilization


dition,

have

been

in Jalisco,

no exception.

the Teuchitlan tra-

which had spread and affected parts of the

probably related

in

part to the

Bajio,

is

appearance of metallurgy there

by around 650-700. West Mexico's reorganization proceeded


apace. At the

same time as

the appearance of metallurgy,

another new technology arrived


arrow."

These

radical

in

figurines
gift

from Central Mexico, arriving

Postclassic

polity,
C

priori

in

(ca.

and

900)

was

in

at the beginning of the early

thus derived

the Tarascans were a marginal, barbarous,

western

appeared

period

civilization

from,

first,

Teotihuacan, and, second, the Tolteca. According to this dogma,

West Mexico: the bow and

innovations

and other items of material culture;

whose emergence was

quasi-Mesoamencun

inspired by copying their superior'

neighbors. However, as Helen Pollard points out, "This a

marginalization

of

the

region

has

impeded research

without reflecting the culture-history dynamics revealed by the


available evidence."

22

a pity that the overcentralization of

is

It

development of Mesoamerican archaeo-

policy determining the

continues to ignore West Mexico.

logical research

As Nicolas Leon

Tarascan state probably preceded by a short time the emergence


of that of the Aztecs.

addition, while at first briefly character-

In

was

ized by a degree of fragmentation, Tarascan

more

unified

endeavor, depending far less on alliances and far more on sheer

power and colonization

military

to effect impositions over

neighbors. The official Tarascan history


tells

us that the Patzcuaro basin

in

was the

tory for the latter period

its

Relation de Michoacan
locale of the first stir-

legitimately claim the

title "ruler."

He united

fell

number of

could

how

Exactly

Ihuatzio

the basin, such as Patzcuaro,

and Ihuatzio.

into this early picture

According to the royal account of

sometime around
Tarascan

fits

capital

Uayameo-the

1350 Ihuatzio
Patzcuaro,

at

which

point of origin for

family-about

not

is

own

its

displaced

briefly

com-

history,

the

had

itself

first

displaced

Concerning Uayameo, even

was the

the royal accounts are fairly imprecise. Ihuatzio

capital

only during the reign of Hirepan.

different

from

the

other

major

architecturally

is

imperial

at

site

Tzintzuntzan. While having structures similar to the yacatas for

which Tzintzuntzan

is

famous, the major structures

Ihuatzio

in

have other formats. 22 Ihuatzio had two major periods of occupation, therefore

preceding Tzintzuntzan as a complex

Patzcuaro basin. The

reached
central

apogee

its

site

after

precinct area

around 55 hectares, and


ble-pyramid structures

pyramid complex exists


Ihuatzio

is

Around 1400, Tzintzuntzan, meaning "place of the hum-

site in

the

1400.

Its

and extensive, measuring

in

and remained so during the

royal capital

ital

following the murder of the last

by

Nuno de Guzman, combined

administrative power to Patzcuaro

24

when

The

1540. The final blow

was

hectares, the

2 '

and the more dispersed sec-

The

site

is

population of from 25,000 to 35,000

estimated to have

when

the Spanish

1522, despite the fact that the Euroafrican epidemic

was already raging.


The immense central

precinct

is

dominated by

a great plat-

form, protruding as a terrace from a hillside and facing Lake


Patzcuaro. The platform measures
deep, and over 10 meters high

in

450 meters wide, 250 meters


most

estimated half-million cubic meters of

famed yacata

structures.

places, thus having

fill.

On

its

West Mexico had had

unique

architectural tradition, based on a concentric cir-

cular pattern, long before the yacata

were conceived, 26 so the

are not out of context. Yacatas are characterized by a stepped

the one

in

front of the various

researchers have interpreted a few of these huge

and truncated conical structure appended to


form, which

was

in

rectangular plat-

turn accessed by a rear stairway. These struc-

tures were faced with beautifully shaped, square volcanic slabs,

which often have petroglyphs.


There are five monumental yacatas placed at regular inter-

yacatas were dedicated to

vals atop the base platform. The

of the interior spaces, this seems improbable.

Curicaueri, a sun god, as well as his four brothers.

is

an

upper surface

architectural innovations so well represented at Tzintzuntzan

rectangular plazas,

It

progres-

importance.

enclosures as ballcourts, but given their width and the sheer size

in

came

contemporary town of the same name

tions are hundreds of hectares.

in

1530

relocated to

a village of little regional

clearly covers sections of the ruin,

in

II,

sector has been estimated as encompassing

site's central

had

in

the colonial capital

degenerated into

650-750

Tangaxuan

(today's Morelia). Thereafter, Tzintzuntzan

Valladolid
sively

ruler,

with the transfer of colonial

dou-

pyramid complexes, are enclosed by impressive freestanding

Some

became the

double-

earliest

earlier

the Lake Chapala basin,

forming monumental processional ways

walls.

mingbird,"

monumental

much more monumental. Huge

hectares outside the

5,000 seems reasonable.

are the

Mesoamerica. While an

in

while not completely sur-

site,

precinct area. The population estimates vary considerably, but

began around 900 and apparently

dominated by one of the

is

in

have any tributary communities. The

may have covered around 125-150

veyed,

1200, perhaps as late as

nucleated

is

duties, did not

more dispersed sections of the

arrived

meaning "place of the coyote,"

Ihuatzio,

quite

lineage at Tzintzuntzan, and having important religious

royal

and military

forty years later

what became the Tarascan

a century earlier.

the

Spanish arrived, the great lord of Ihuatzio, while related to the

importance ended only with the Spanish deemphasis of the cap-

Tariacuri had reigned (ca. 1300-1350),

pletely clear.

royal

in

objects,

When

ornaments.

shell

after his death his

With reunification shortly afterward, Tzintzuntzan definitively

where

complex obsidian

pipes,

and

negative/

etc.),

most important period of Tarascan expansion. Tzintzuntzan's

apart due to competition between his heirs.

surpassed the other centers

tweezers, adzes,

differ-

though

ent, smaller states within the basin,

accomplishment

who

person

first

bells,

plugs,

lip

Tarascan: metal objects of cop-

fully

polychrome ceramics,

such as ear and

rings of imperialism. There, during the first half of the four-

teenth century, Tariacuri emerged as the

is

per and bronze (needles,


resist

emphasized, the emergence of the

first

coyotes, have been located as well. Otherwise, the artifact inven-

possible that,

addition, the upper surfaces of these enclosure walls served

Atop the

yacatas were painted, wooden temples, themselves of consider-

as causeways.

able size. Sacrificial stone altars and skull racks

A monumental chacmool (sculpture of reclining figure holding a bowl) was found associated with one of the secondary
plazas. A number of large stone "thrones," in the shape of

structures.

bones,

Not

many

of

far

from the yacatas,

them

sacrificial victims.

accompanied the

a large deposit of

human

burnt, presumably represent the remains of

Many

of the skull fragments were perforated.

The great platform,


burial

addition to

in

The Tarascan

yacatas, also had major

its

chambers within which were extremely

rich

and elabo-

Central Mexico/" Naturally,


gion. The greatest

The approach to

also terraced, part of which constitutes an

From any angle, the complex


stitutes an unparalleled

The

is

this precinct

enormous

is

stairway.

extremely impressive and con-

example of formal architectural design.

rest of Tzintzuntzan

had an extensive array of buildings,

ideological

to Cuerauaperi (earth, fertility, rain, birth, death,

goddess), Curicaueri

(a

childbirth

and feather workers;

artisans, especially metal

trary to Aztec custom,

for farmers

households

belonged to the

and

fertility

as main themes). Tarascan priesthoods

and residences

administration grew

in

other areas of Tarascan speech, such as

Jacona to the west. Tarascan expansion to the east was limited


by a number of factors, the most prominent being the presence

The center was overwhelmingly oriented to

and completely

tied

lineage. Overall, the city

had

accommodated the

to

hilly

in

the destiny of the imperial

a formal plan

and configuration

topography of

this section of

the Patzcuaro basin. While other large sites with

some urban

characteristics existed within the Tarascan empire, as well as to

the northwest

heartlands around the Patzcuaro basin. Secondary centers of

of the Aztec-dominated Triple Alliance. The Tarascans also had

site.

the administration and affairs of the empire, clearly urban

but also

in

Colima, Nayarit, and Jalisco, Tzintzuntzan

was

little

own

legends concerning Chichimeca origins; although

some groups

of Tarascan speech were indeed Chichimeca, this

is

an unlikely area to look for their overall origins. Expansion to

the south and west, however,


sixteenth century, Tarascan

was another

matter. By the early

dominance was

largest imperial presence in

Ihuatzio, Tzintzuntzan,

Tarascans as

well

as

Turquoise was popular but did not figure

in

it

was

commodity

consumption
trade.

long-distance trade,

merchants or

either as a product acquired by the royal


ute. Instead,

elite

long-distance

for

that circulated

among

in trib-

the

elite

elements of the population. Long before the Tarascan royal sys-

tem was organized, turquoise was

major but localized item

within the Mesoamerican trade structure.


the Aztecs obtained

some turquoise

In

comparison, while

in tribute,

they too did not

acquire this most valued material via their long-distance trade

organization,

the

pochteca."

The

Tarascan

artisans

set

turquoise into both obsidian and silver jewelry. Along with


turquoise artistry and metalworking

in

copper, bronze,

silver,

and gold, featherworking was extremely important and was

royally sponsored art. Feathers decorated costumes, headdresses, shields,

standards, and other elite objects.

-mporary

known of the former


same name covers almost

Little is

city of the

last

beyond

conquest

Tangaxoan
lasting

I's

basis

under,

Patzcuaro,

his death, apparently

formed the expansionist ideological basis


especially,

round

for the next

Tangaxoan

I.

And

was

it

reforms and social innovations that formed the


for

the

Tarascan

empire,

revolutionizing

life

throughout West Mexico.


By the mid-fifteenth century, military conquests had become
institutionalized

quickly

filled

and

tribute state

had emerged. Expansion

the area between the Balsas and Lerma

and north, and west into the central highland


Jalisco.

rivers,

south

lake districts of

The Tarascan expansion into the Chapala basin

bly in part responsible for the collapse of the great

that had existed there during slightly earlier times.

proba-

is

complexes

Huge

sites,

such as San Gregorio, were abandoned. The entire southern shore


of the Chapala basin apparently
military

Other sites of importance within the Patzcuaro basin were


Patzcuaro and Urichu.

of

basin:

Urichu, Erongaricuaro, and Pechataro.

While this unification did not


it

the second

it

Mesoamerica. Tariacuri united the

most important centers of the Patzcuaro

the

over an area of

felt

approximately 75,000 square kilometers, making

probably the only truly urban center within West Mexico at the

The crafts at Tzintzuntzan were largely for

some

success penetrating north of the Lerma River, despite

of their

time of the Spanish intrusion.

among

and

nobility

Most of the nonelite

craft production.

nature,

dominated by the

institutions,

the central part of the city were dedicated to

on the peripheries of the


in

nobility);

and

Tarascan militarism carried royal power far afield from the

luxury products; large storehouses; residential areas for other

and

fire),

Xaratanga (daughter of the earth creator, wife of the sun, with

organized over time with hereditary offices.

residences and centers for long-distance merchants (who, con-

and creation

sky force: the sun's messenger,

cazonci (ruler/emperor); a large marketplace for

elite families

of

we know most about the state relinumber of temples apparently were dedicated

were formidable

and

areas

radical differences with

including additional temple precincts; a royal palace for the


utilitarian

structure

neighboring

Mesoamerica, though also displaying

personage into the

afterlife.

with

similarities

One chamber contained around sixty individuals,


most of whom were meant to accompany the prime interred
rate offerings.

system and

religious

many

shared

march

became

subject to a Tarascan

for access to areas further west.

By 1460, the

Zacatula area on the Pacific coast had been conquered.

since the

By around the 1480s, imperial efforts were being made to

of the

penetrate and control the metal-producing areas outside of

all

rum, and few salvage efforts have taken advantage of inspect-

Michoacan

ing the profiles of either sewer or water lines or openings left

the major impetus for Tarascan expansion outside their original,

by current coi

on

the site of the nr

generated for the bas

activities. In contrast,

Unchu had been

on and survey project yet

core lands

many

itself.

Helen Pollard has convincingly argued that

was embedded

in a

systematic effort to control as

source areas for copper and

worked well

in

tin

as possible." This strategy

parts of Jalisco, especially the Tamazula zone, but

Page from Fray Jerbnimo dp

Alt

La Rclacidn de Michoacan,

539-41.

.il.i,

View of the yacatas of Tzintzunzan

in

Michoacan.

=Vi3.^^--^

t';;^ttll
*

'

tf?v

'j**^

w.ii

-.-

:*?

tot.

- ...

*-*-

ran afoul with the attempts to control the small but highly milstates further north

itarized

and west. Ameea and

despite a

number of

These two

sites controlled the rich

Etzatlan,

destructive raids, could not be subdued.

copper and

silver

deposits of

the Sierra de Ameca. The political dominance of salt-produc-

was another Tarascan

ing areas

strategy.

selected areas, the Tarascans at times instituted a policy

In

of forced population relocations to help keep conquests securely

While leadership positions were hereditary

in line.

nobility,

the

conquered zones, were chosen by the

local leaders, especially in


ruler.

among

the Tarascan ruler generally had the final word, and

A system

of governors evolved that tied local power struc-

tures firmly and directly to the royal lineage at Tzintzuntzan,

and these

were often reinforced through marriages. While

ties

a great deal

of

autonomy

existed, the ruler

any

cised right to overrule

had the often exer-

local decision. Political

systematically centralized to a degree not seen

areas of Mesoamerica.

ed military and

civil

in

power was
most other

addition, the ruler occasionally divid-

In

authorities

in

certain localities.

Aside from the flow of luxury goods desired by both sides,

was

the Tarascan-Aztec frontier

around 1440
4

hostilities.

did

characterized, from probably

the Spanish intrusion, by almost continuous

Luxury items, especially turquoise and metal

were highly desired

facts,
ties

until

indeed

cross

in

Central Mexico.

the

tions were not involved

tribute.

on either

side.

and then to Central Mexico as either trade or

Groups of Otomi were possibly involved

two empires,

or perhaps

because of

ambassadors exchanged between the


tain

frontier

hostile

A more logical route for


down the Pacific littoral

frontier trade as well. Despite the hostile

the

arti-

commodi-

these

clearly royal trading organiza-

the flow of such items might have been


or via Oaxaca,

and

militarized

between the two empires, then

If

the cross-

in

environment between
it,

there were official

We know

polities.

for cer-

about only one such ambassador from Tarascan, as he was

present

in

Tenochtitlan

that city's collapse.

It

in

1519, witnessing the

was apparently he and

first

phase of

his party

who

carried the first Euroafrican sicknesses back to Tzintzuntzan.

Generally,

it

was

military confrontation that distinguished

the frontier situation and interempire affairs. The Tarascans


built a great fortress at

Taximora, which

managed

to defy

all

attempts by the Aztecs at conquest and to block with a degree


of effectiveness Aztec attempts to penetrate
Aztecs, despite

their

all

much beyond. The

might and military reputation, simply

did not have the capacity to defeat or inflict lasting

damage on

the Tarascan polity.

At the time of the Spanish intrusion into West Mexico, there

probably were around two million people within this general


area.''

The Tarascans controlled only a fraction of that popula-

perhaps a quarter

or,

at most, a third

Hey did not have

anywhere near the demographic potential of the


Central Mi

In

addition, urbanism in

West Mexico

polities of
in

general

come close
to the levels within Central Mexico. Tzintzuntzan was probably
the only center within the Tarascan realm that was a true city,
and within the Tarascan realm

in

particular had not

Notes

Brigitte

my

Boehm,

though other centers or areas outside the Tarascan area of

tions

supported

differences, the Tarascans


military

were able to organize an effective

and economic system that dominated much of West

empire at
battles,

battle

bay.

and,

keeping the neighboring Aztec

in

3.

use of archers was another difference between their military

administration

was

centralized

seen within the Aztec realm.


to a long series of

West Mexico.

and coordinated

Its

polity

was

imperial

to a degree not

a fitting conclusion

complex sociocultural developments within

Gobierno

El

de Michoacan, 2000).

del Estado

Hans Roskamp, Los codices de Cutzio y Huetamo: Encomienda y tribute en la


de Michoacan, sigloXVI (Zamora: El Colegio de Michoacan and

Colegio Mexiquense, 2003).

Hans Roskamp,

Eduardo Zarate,

Michoacan and

General de
5.

El

Lienzo de Jicalan,"

La tierra caliente de Michoacan (Zamora:

Gobierno

El

mito y legitimacion:

"Historia,

ed.,

El

in

Colegio de

Estado de Michoacan, 2001), pp. 119-51.

del

Pablo Beaumont, Cronica de Michoacan (1778-1780) (Mexico City: Archivo

4.

organization and that of the Aztecs. The Tarascan

The Colegio de Michoacan has

responsibility.

research efforts for the past fifteen years.

tierra caliente
El

to the Tarascans; their systematic

my

Michoacan and

the ceremonial elements of

were not as important

and any errors are my sole

crucial for

Of course, many of the interpreta-

polity.

Relation de Michoacan: Relation de las ceremonias y rictos y poblacldn y


los indios de la provincia de Michoacan (Zamora El Colegio de

The Tarascan military was dedicated to winning


unlike the Aztecs,

and Eduardo Williams have been

gobernacion de

2.

Mexico and was successful

years, with Shirley Gorenstein, Helen Pollard,

Efrain Cardenas,

understanding of the Tarascan

dominance, such as Etzatlan, the Nayarit coast, and the valley


of Colima, had large population concentrations. Despite these

many

Conversations, held over

J.

Michoacano
6.

Nacion, 1932).

la

Benedict Warren, "Informe de

Vasco de Quiroga.

Lie.

.,"

Anales del Museo

(1989), pp. 30-52.

Rene Acuna, Relaciones geograficas del

siglo XVI:

Michoacan (Mexico

Autonoma de Mexico, 1987).


Los tarasco (Mexico City: Museo Nacional,

City:

Universidad Nacional
7.

Nicolas Leon,

1904). For care in

preparation and readability, Leon's classic works remain interesting and perti-

nent to this day.


8.

mas antiguas de Michoacan,"

Arturo Oliveros, "Las tumbas

Figueroa, ed., Historia general de Michoacan, vol.

1, pt. 2,

Jaime

in

"Epoca prehispanica"

(Morelia: Gobierno de Michoacan, 1989), pp. 121-34.


9. Phil C.

Weigand and Christopher Beekman, "The Teuchitlan

a Statelike Society,"

Richard Townsend,

in

Tradition: Rise of

Ancient West Mexico: Art and

ed.,

Archaeology of the Unknown Past (Chicago: Art

Institute of Chicago, 1998),

35-51.

pp.

Veronique Darras and

10.

chupicuaro: Estudio del


Williams, Phil

C.

de

la

cultura

Puruguita, Guanajuato,"

in

Eduardo

"Cronologia

Faugere,

Brigitte

sitio La Tronera,

Weigand, Lorenza Lopez, and David Grove,

del Occidente de Mexico:

eds.,

Arqueologia

Nuevos datos, futuras direcciones (Zamora:

El

Colegio

de Michoacan, Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies,

and

La Secretaria de Cultura del Estado de Jalisco, forthcoming).

11.

Charlotte Arnauld, Patricia Carot, Marie France, and Fauvet Berthelot,

Arqueologia de

las

lomas en

la

cuenca lacustre de Zacapu, Michoacan, Mexico,

Cuadernos de estudios michoacanos,

no.

(Mexico City: Centre Francais

d'Etudes Mexicaines et Centramericaines, 1993).


12. Efrain Cardenas,

politico (Zamora:

Eduardo Williams and

13.

en

El Bajio

el clasico: Analisis

regional y organization

Colegio de Michoacan, 1999).

El

region del Lerma

Phil

(Zamora:

Weigand,
Colegio

El

eds.,

Arqueologia y etnohistw

Michoacan and Centro de

de

Investigacion en Matematicas, 1999).

Roman

14.

Chan,

Pina

Michoacan (Mexico

ito

Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, 1982).

15. Phil

Jalisco,

Nayarit yZacatecas (Zamora:

Weigand, Evolution de una

civilization prehispanica: Arqueologia


"

C.

Tingmabato,

Exploraciones arqueologicas en

Colegio

El

de

1993); and Phil

di

Weigand, "Architecure of the Teuchitlan Tradition of the Occidente of

Mesoamerica

jmerica," Ancient
16.

archaeolou,
Sfofc

no.

(19%). pp.91

(I

lento del

Weigand,

Mexico (Zamora:

El

Colegio de

Gorenstein, "Settlemr
Phil

C.

Weigand,

101

for a

ol

the region's

\ Legacy: The Prehr,

Pollard

Williams and Phil

and

7,

The most complete and recent summaries

eds.,

1993); Helen

,iscon

Poll. ml,

Investigaciones recicntes,"

Arqueologia del

Michoacan,
toric

1994),

pp

Norte de

29-63;
in

studio

Eduardo

in

('

Tarascan Corr,"

"I

Shirley

Michael Foster

meology of West and Northwest

Mesoamerica

(Boulder,

Westview

Colo.:

Press,

1985),

117-30; Shirley

pp.

Gorenstein and Helen Pollard, The Tarascan Civilization:

A Late Prehispanic
28

Cultural System, Vanderbilty University Publications in Anthropology,


(Nashville, 1983);

Eduardo Williams, "Los tarascos y sus antepasados: Una per-

spectiva antropologica,"
El
1

in Brigitte

Colegio de Michoacan and

El

Boehm,

Michoacan antiguo (Zamora:

ed., El

Gobierno del Estado de Michoacan, 1994), pp.

69-83; Eduardo Williams, "Desarrollo cultural en

Mexico: 1500 a.C-1521 d.C,"

in

cuencas

las

Eduardo Williams and

del

Phil C.

Occidente de

Weigand,

Las cuencas del Occidente de Mexico: Epoca prehispanica (Zamora:

Michoacan

de

and

Centroamericanos,

Centro

1996),

Frances

15-59;

pp.

de

Estudios

Colegio

Mexicanos

de

northern

the

for

El

eds.,

frontier,

Brigitte

Contemporary Tzintzuntzan was the focus

published.

few ethnographic

study that also records

classics, a

history of the site as well:

Smithsonian

Tzintzuntzan,

George

Spanish by

El

27.

Weigand and

fundas de

rebelion de

la

7.

Galicia (Zamora:

de Cultura del Estado de

La Secretaria
1

Acelia Garcia, Tenamaxtli y Guaxicar: Las raices pro-

Nueva

El

Colegio de Michoacan and

Phil

C.

Weigand and

Acelia

Garcia,

Dorothy Hosier, The Sounds and Colors of Power: The Sacred Metallurgy of

Mesoamerica,"

in

Virginia Fields

and Victor Zamudio-Taylor, eds. The Road

Aztldn.Art from a Mythic Homeland, exh.

Weigand,

18. Phil C.

tradicion Teuchitlan,"

"La arqueologia
in Phil C.

de Jalisco vista desde

el

colapso de

la

Weigand, ed, Estudio historico y cultural sobre

loshuicholes (Colotlan: Universidad de Guadalajara,

Campus

Universitario del

and

19. Ibid.;

Phil C.

Weigand,

"La antigua

ecumene mesoamericana: Un ejem-

plo de sobre-especializacion?" Relaciones 21, no.

20.

Totorame

is

most

related

Pollard concentrated

29. Aside

30.

Weigand and

from some minor ceremonial buildings,

of her research on residential areas, offering for the

Weigand and

82 (2000),

pp.

52, no.

Economy

4 (1987),

pp.

of Prehispanic Tarascan Metallurgy,"

741-52.

Garcia, Tenamaxtli y Guaxicar.

35.

J.

Benedict Warren, The Conquest of MichoacdnJhe Spanish Domination of

Oklahoma

El

Templo/Convento

Concepcion de Etzatlan, Jalisco ysu contexto prehispdnico, Coleccion pat-

Kingdom of Western Mexico, 1521- 1530 (Norman:

36. Donald Brand, "Ethnohistorical Synthesis of Western Mexico,"

Middle American Indians,

2000).

(Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967), pt.

campo

(1966; Mexico City: Editorial Seix Barral,

1972); and Octavio Paz, Posdata (Mexico City: Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 1970).
22.

Helen

Pollard,

"Michoacan Region,"

Webster, eds. Archaeology of Mexico

(New York: Garland Publishing

2001),

Inc.,

Susan Toby Evans and David

in

and Central America: An Encyclopedia


p.

464.

23. There has been recent research at Ihuatzio by Efrain Cardenas and Eugenia

Fernandez, but these studies remain unpublished. The best published descriptions are Alfonso Caso, "Informe preliminar de las exploraciones realizadas en

Michoacan," Anales del Museo Nacional de Arqueologia, Historia y Etnografia,


no. 6 (1929), pp.

izadas en

el

446-52; and Jorge Acosta, "Exploraciones arqueologicas

estado de Michoacan durante

los

real-

anos de 1937 y 1938," Revista

mexicana de estudios antropologicos 3 (1939),

85-99; also see Ignacio

pp.

Marquina, Arquitectura prehispanica, Institute Nacional de Antropologia e


Historia,

Memoria

(Mexico

Weigand and

24. Phil C.

secuencia cultural en
inares," in

City, 1951).

Acelia Garcia, "La arquitectura prehispanica y

cuenca de Chapala,

la

Jaliso:

la

Observaciones prelim-

Williams and Weigand, eds, Las cuencas del Occidente de Mexico:

Epoca prehispanica (Zamora:

El

Colegio de Michoacan and Centro Frances de

Estudios Mexicanos y Centroamericanos, 1996), pp. 293-323.


25. The

most complete descriptions of

Leal, Clara Diaz,

de Michoacan,

and M. T Garcia, "Los


vol.

1,

pt.

2,

pp.

this site's architecture are

tarascos,"

193-304;

Decima temporada de excavaciones,"


Universidad

(Mexico

City,

Zoning and

Nacional

R.

M. Castro-

Figueroa, Historia general

Cabrera Castro, "Tzintzuntzan:

Homenaje a Roman Piha Chan,

Autonoma de Mexico,

Serie

Antropologica,

1987), pp. 531-65; and Helen Pollard, "An Analysis of

Planning

in

Prehispanic Tzintzuntzan,"

American Philosophical Society 121


"Los tarascos y sus antepasados";

Much

in

in

no.

no.

79

Urban

Proceedings of the

(1977), pp. 46-69; also see Williams,

and Marquina, Arquitectura prehispanica.

of the original and earlier excavation materials have never been fully

University of

Press, 1985).

rimonio cultural (Guadalajara: La Secretaria de Cultura del Estado de Jalisco,

21. Octavio Paz, Puertas al

Colegio de Michoacan and La

El

Secretaria de Cultura del Estado de Jalisco, 2003).

and Robert Gonzalez,

Weigand, and Acelia Garcia,

Leon, Los tarasco.

34. Pollard, Tariacuri's Legacy.

39-58.

closely to other southern Uto-Aztecan subfamilies,

Phil C.

in

Garcia, "La arquitectura prehispanica."

33. Eduardo Williams, La sal de la tierra: Etnoarqueologia de la produccion

the Tarascan

la

much

from the primary documentation of Relacion de Michoacan, one of

American Antiquity
32.

to

Angeles: Los Angeles County

time detailed archaeological views of this category of material.

first

such as Tarachitan and Tepiman. Weigand and Garcia, Tenamaxtli y Guaxicar;

de

cat. (Los

salinera en el Occidente de Mexico (Zamora:

Norte, 2002), pp. 157-78.

in

of Art, 2001), pp. 184-95.

31. Helen Pollard, "The Political

Ancient West Mexico (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994).

Anthropology,

1948); reprinted

"A Macroeconomic Study of the

the best accounts of Tarascan religion remains that

Jalisco, 1996).

of Social

Nuevo Mundo,

Relationships between the Ancient Cultures of the American Southwest and

28. Pollard, Tariacuri's Legacy. Aside

west, Phil C.

more recent

26. Weigand, "Architecure of the Teuchitlan Tradition."

Museum

Mexicaines et Centrameriaines, 1996); and, for the trans-Tarascan zone to the

of the

Colegio de Michoacan, 2000.

Cuadernos de estudios Michoacanos (Mexico

Centre Francais d'Etudes

one of West Mexico's

Empire's Children: The People of

Institute

Institution,

Publication no. 6 (Mexico City: Imprenta

Faugere-Kalfon, Entre Zacapu y Rio Lerma: Cultures en una zona fronteriza,


City:

Foster,

for

much

vol.

11,

Handbook of

"Archaeology of Northern Mesoamerica"


2,

pp.

632-56.

Tarascan Art
Roberto Yelasco l/onso

AND

THE TARASCAN EMPIRE EXHIBITED COUNTLESS HISTORICAL PARALLELS


to that of the Aztecs. Both peoples

founded and

longed migrations conducted, they believed,

accordance with

in

wishes. Since they reached lands inhabited by groups

american forms and symbols.

expand

many

the Tarascans and the Aztecs adopted

Tolteca,

their

RELIGIOUS SIMILARITIES

settled their cities after pro-

Like the Aztecs, the

their gods'

contact with the

in

characteristic

made

Tarascans

Meso-

efforts to

sphere of control through coercion, under the influence of the bel-

licose character of their religion overall

Curicaueri. Their commercial

and

and

specifically of their patron god,

gave

political aspirations

rise to

continuous

skirmishes along the extensive border they shared with the Aztec empire.

Although the Tarascans appeared


cultures (1250-1521

B.C.),

tem of symbols rooted them

development of Mesoamerican

late in the

their recognition

and use of

within

firmly

European chronicler Fray Jeronimo de Alcala

in

this

broad region's sys-

traditions.

its

As

by their

told

the Relacion de Michoacan, the

Tarascans recognized Nahuatl-speaking people as the original inhabitants of

On

the

among

the

the lands around Lake Patzcuaro, the site of their flourishing culture.

other hand,
other

the Aztecs' ancestral memory, the Tarascans were

in

six tribes living

alongside them

believed the Tarascans to have

of the five

in

abandoned the

Nahua groups, including the

Although there

is

the mythical land of Chicomoztoc. They


site

before the departure of four

Aztecs.

no convincing evidence about

supposed

this

common

ori-

gin and the Aztecs' and Tarascans' different linguistic identities, archaeological

remains of their

cities

show

were

fully settled

in

through

a close ancestral link

must have been assimilated

into their cultures

many

religion. Their beliefs

years before both groups

their respective lake regions. In fact, in the

ceremonial

precincts that survived the Conquest, the Tarascan pyramidal structures-called

yocofos-are composite
to, a

in plan:

that

is,

a circular base

beneath

it.

On top

next

is

rectangular one; each superimposed layer of stone

is

In

who governed

wood

the Aztec region of

were pyramidal structures with very similar

dedicated to the creator god


trast,

and attached

of each circular section there would have been a simple

shrine with a palm roof, positioned to face the rising sun.


influence, there

to,

smaller than the one

characteristics,

the wind. These pyramids, by con-

supported temples of stucco-covered stone with polychrome sections,

which,

like their

Tarascan counterparts, were generally oriented toward the east.

The austerity of
Tarascan empire

in

its

architecture also chara<

West Mexico. From

marked by pragmatism,

the majoi

'

cai

.e

<

hniques

demonstrated

Surviving examples

in

show

the

that these people were


for building temples.

the paucity of decorative element',


early

numenl

we

.1

also exempi

Dture an

it

in

their

the simple symbols used


a distinct

in

tendency towuid

aracterized by strong cutting and pronounced edges.

rai

l^SO-1521

/M

i>.

V
I

180.

Copper disk

Tarascan.ca. 1250-1521

human

The

figure sculpted

stone manifests the Taraseans' self-conception and

in

the features that notably distinguish this culture from


tered

Mexico-Tenochtitlan.

in

Tarascan art

In

counterpart to the east, cen-

its

nudity

full

male figures

in

is

the

rule,

not

the exception. To viewers of the time, the clear emphasis of the genital area would

have suggested the power of

fire.

This element, governed by Curicaueri,

of as a desirable, germinating force. The eyes and

without inlays of

directly into the stone,

Central Basin.

Somewhat

the other digits:

fingers and toes are

All five

Outstanding

Tarascan

in

anthropomorphic figure

on

reclining

shown

its

is

at the

same

which served as an

back,

the

angle.

version of the

its

in

were not distinguished from

big toes

production

artistic

was thought

figures were carved

and obsidian, as was the custom

shell

thumbs and

similarly,

mouths of

chacmool

(an

two

altar-table);

types are known. The life-size type supports a rectangular platform, has a distinct facial
expression, and

and greater

which

was

it

is

adorned only with anklets. The second variant

is

of smaller dimensions

clearly adhering to the limitations of the rectilinear block

rigidity,

from

carved. Examples of both types wear the hairstyle characteristic of

warriors. Just like their equivalents

the eastern part of pre-Hispanic Mexico, these

in

message that transcended the

altars

were understood to be the bearers of

plane.

Thus the warrior was selected as the being best suited to

terrestrial

deliver such a highly

valued offering.

Another element that was widely diffused during the Late Postclassic period
sacrificial stone,

which

rough features and flexed


supporting

feet; this

a sacrifical victim

form

quite an interesting variation for

ing

on

its

four paws,

its

panting, with

it is

representations of coyotes

is

the

closely linked to the object's function of

while the heart

form very popular among the Maya and


is

is

the Tarascan style has the form of a reclining coyote with

in

may

was removed. A zoomorphic throne

choice of subject: Rendered as a coyote standits

mouth open and tongue hanging

be the most expressive of

By contrast ceramics, the lapidary

(a

Tolteca, although depicting different animals)

arts,

out.

Such

Tarascan stone sculpture.

all

and metalwork were the mediums used for

the culture's most refined creations, which are comparable to the works of the greatest

Mesoamerican

ual vessels,
still

ful

artisans. Tarascan potters created magnificent designs for their rit-

produced

know very

little

polychromy of

in

an extraordinary range of forms and the most varied

about

sizes.

We

symbology. Because of the excellent polish and color-

their

on

their finish, these vessels are considered

a par

with the most

sophisticated ceramic traditions of their time. The Taraseans are also recognized for
their long, elegant clay pipes.

Among

the finest examples of yet another distinctive Tarascan art form, jewelry, are

the delicate pieces fashioned

red

in

some

nature of volcanic glass,

and black obsidian.

In spite

of the fragile, brittle

and lip-plugs have sur-

beautiful, obsidian earspools

vived to this day. They testify to the great labor necessary to achieve their exceptional

translucence, which

is

examples, settings of
In

enlivened by turquoise plaques inlaid

hammered

the center and,

in

other

working metal, the Taraseans used various techniques to create a great variety

of designs, forms, and


casting, forging,

and

utensils.

filigree.

Among

the

methods were hammering, lost-wax

They also applied gold plate to copper, which called

an exacting chemical process. The range of items executed


dles, axes, bells,

early

in

gold.

in

bloc, as

repousse

disks,

and pectorals, permeated

Tarascan history. Perhaps this work


it

was shaped by

domination, relegating to

is

in

all

for

metal, such as awls, nee-

spheres of daily

most representative of

life

from

their imperial

culture highly focused on production control and political

lower order the refinement of sculptural techniques and

ornamental architecture.
This collective identity forged Tarascan thinking

and

reflects the effectiveness of

its

cosmological strategy at the societal

level,

which was

a process abruptly interrupted

by the Conquest. Their system shows a secular advance characteristic of the Bronze

Age

region of the Americas. Perhaps

in this

delayed,

when

if

the discovery of the

heard not of the glories of the Aztecs but of great dominions

sun set
in

in

New World had been

the Spaniards arrived on the eastern shores of Mexico they might have
in

the west, where the

the lands of the warrior sun, son of Curicaueri. Had there been

more

an epic battle Curicaueri might have defeated the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli, the

handed sun. The followers of the victorious god-in accordance with


have

184.

built a city

Throne

in

his

the shape of a coyote

left-

wishes-might

dedicated to his greatness on the shores of Lake Patzcuaro.

Tarascan, ca. 1250-1521

time,

j*
:l!

y
v

.**

s*

the Empires

The Conquest as Seen by


the Mexiea-Aztees
m-Portilla

WARS AND OTHER CONFRONTATIONS

OFTEN SAID THAT THE HISTORY OF

IT IS

winners. So

it

was with

Emperor Charles V describing

ters to

IS

WRITTEN BY THE

the Conquest of Mexico. Hernan Cortes wrote long let-

doressuch asBernal Diaz

own

his

as did other conquista-

deeds,

author of the True History of the Discovery

del Castillo,

and Conquest of Mexico:


But

about

in this

their

vanquished-the Mexica-Aztecs and others-also wrote

case, the

own

disgraceful fate. Fray Juan de

Monarquia Indiana, published

Mayor of Tenochtitlan:

who

written by an Indian

young, and wrote

have

"I

Fray

Templo

was present there when he was

says that he

other native testimonies of the

major work,

in his

Nahuatl [the Mexican language], well

a history in

still

how to write."' There are several


vanquished, among them those transcribed by

when he

later,

it

Torquemada

1615, wrote of the massacre at the

in

learned

1554 and included

Bernardino de Sahagun's scribes around

in

the

Florentine Codex.' The Annals of Tlateloleo, an older manuscript, also includes an

account of the Conquest, as do


such

the

as

number

Lienzo de Tlaxcala and

Vaticanus

Telleriano-Remensis,

Here

will

present

for

many

years,

or codices,

Mexicanus,

Codices Azcatitlan,

Moctezuma, Aubin, and

A,

Although such records were forgotten


been brought back to

documents

of pictoglyphic

the

Tepechpan:

more recently they have

light.

some

of the testimonies that described the most dramatic

episodes of this confrontation, which dealt a mortal blow to the Mesoamerican


civilization.

Were they prophecies

a posteriori? Priests

and sages among both the Mexica

and the Maya spoke of portentous happenings preceding the

may

Spaniards, which

arrival of the

be interpreted as a prologue to the story. Here

is

one of

the omens:

The people heard

in

the night the voice of a weeping

sobbed and sighed and drowned herself


cried: "0

can

my

sons,

hide you

are

lost.

II,

my

woman

sons,

where

the Gulf Coast reported seeing boats as large as towers

mountains floating on the

Motecuhzoma

Or she cried: "0

.!"

woman, who

her tears. This

A messenger from
or small

we

in

sea.

Upon hearing

this

news, the Aztec

became deeply concerned:

Other messengers told him

what they had

seen,

was astonished and

how

terrified

<

tl

the journey, and

>gers ate.

Motecuhzoma

by their report, and the description of

strangers' food astonished

He was also

made

they had

and what food

him above

terrified to learn

how

all else.

a tube of metal

[a

cjnnon]

ruler,

v ,

Page from Fray Diego Duran, Codex Duron, also known


as Historia de las Indias de
Tierra Firms,

1579-81.

Nueva Espana e

Islas

de

how

roared,

how

to faint

and grow deaf. The messengers

its

noise resounded,

it

caused one
told him: "A

thing like a ball of stone comes out of its entrails. It


comes out shooting sparks and raining fire. The
smoke that comes out with it has a pestilent odor,

mud. Their deer carry them on

that of rotten

like

their

backs wherever they wish to go. These deer, our

lord, are

as

tall

as the roof of a house.

The strangers' bodies are completely covered, so


that only their faces can be seen. Their skin

as

if

it

were made of

is

white,

They have yellow

lime.

though some of them have

filled
if it

with

terror.

It

had shriveled.

heard this report, he was

was as
It

if

was as

his heart
if

They
here,

replied:

"Where do you

said:

"We

are from Tlaxcala.

you have entered our

live?

Where

You have come

land."

Then they guided them to the

them there and

city;

they brought

them to enter. They paid


them great honors, joined with them as allies and
even gave them their daughters.
invited

The Spaniards asked: "Where

Mexico [Tenochtitlan]?
They

hair,

black. Their beards are

long and yellow, and their moustaches are also yellow.

When Motecuhzoma

The strangers
are you from?"

said: "No,

march. And

it

it

is

Is it

not

far
far,

a great city.

is

brave. They are great warriors

the

is

City

of

from here?"
is

it

only a three-days

The Mexica are very

and conquerors and

have defeated their neighbors on every

side.'"'

had fainted, as

he were conquered by

Accompanied

by

several

thousand

the

Tlaxcalteca,

Spaniards entered the city of Cholollan (modern Cholula),

desi

where, according to Cortes and his Tlaxcalan friends, the people


Despite Motecuhzoma's efforts to dissuade the Spaniards

from marching to Tenochtitlan, the Aztec metropolis, Cortes


mobilized

of his men and Indian allies. En route he met


who were friendly toward him and would prove

some

the Tlaxcalans,

to be a great help in his confrontation with the Mexica:

The lords of Tlaxcala went out to meet the Spaniards,


bringing

and the
"Our

many

things to eat: hens and hens' eggs

finest tortillas.

lords,

They said to the strangers:

you are weary."

were conspiring to trap and

kill

The Spaniards continued


Tenochtitlan,

the Spaniards. Anticipating the

and massacred the Cholollans.

assault, the Spaniards attacked

their

march, tnully arriving at

where Motecuhzoma received Cortes and

and lodged them

in a

<>ma went out to meet them, there

Ihns Mi
Huit/illan.

his

men

palace:

He presented many

gifts to the

commanders, those who had come

and

his

war.

He showered

gifts

in

(\iptjm
to

make

upon them and hung flowers

Above and facing page:

Paci< is

Codex Dut(r

NuevaEspanat

from Fra\
toria

erra

Fume,

de
1

licgo

Dm. in,

las Indias

57"

de

around

gave them

he

necks;

their

necklaces

hung gold necklaces around

flowers. Then he

on the Region of the Mystery. And now you have

of

come out

their

necks and gave them presents of every sort as gifts

of the clouds and mists to

throne again."

on your

sit

10

of welcome.

When Motecuhzoma had

given necklaces to each

one, Cortes asked him: "Are you

you

high

the

ruler?

Is

Motecuhzoma? Are
you

that

true

it

are

Motecuhzoma?"

And he answered:

"Yes,

am Motecuhzoma." Then

words: "Our
you, but

come

to your

under

its

who have gone

guarded

tatives,

sit

it

Itzcoatl,

here to

to Veracruz.

In his

the metropolis, Cortes

in

Alvarado ordered the massacre of

group of Mexica during

it

for

your coming.

for

you

When

with

his

Elder, Axayacatl,
in

to try to escape

Spaniards

many

attacked by the Mexica, and

of

from the

them were

killed.

The text

begins by describing the events at the feast:

moment

the City of

in

the feast,

when

the dance

Spaniards were seized with an urge to


brants.
all

was

and when song was linked to song, the

loveliest

kill

the cele-

They closed the entrances and passageways,

the gates of the patio. They posted guards so that

and sheltered by

patio to slaughter the celebrants.

"Did the kings

their shields.

know

the destiny of those they

behind, their posterity?

only they can see what

sleep.

you

am

only they are watching!

not seeing you


I

If

in

They ran
to the

am
my

not walking

dreams.

my

my

have seen

have met you face to face!

for five days, for ten days, with

in

was

in

eyes fixed

in

place

attacked the

see!

not a dream.

is

at last!

agony

If

left

among

the dancers, forcing their

the

way

where the drums were played. They

man who was drumming and

arms. Then they cut off

his head,

and

it

cut off his

rolled across

floor.

They attacked

all

city

were discovered and

no one could escape, and then rushed into the sacred

it

Cortes returned to Tenochtitlan, he contemplated

men. The fleeing

At this

before, your represen-

and preserved

Indians.

what had happened and decided

Mexico. The people were protected by their swords

"No,

was

absence, Cortes's captain Pedro de

sit

canopy.

Motecuhzoma the

and Ahuitzotl ruled

Tizoc,

come

tired

You have

arrived on the earth.

Mexico. You have

city,

on your throne, to
"The kings

these

in

you are weary. The journey has

lord,

now you have

The kings

came forward,

head low and addressed him

his

away

great feast at the Templo Mayor, an attack that enraged the

he stood up to welcome Cortes; he

bowed

During the Spaniards' stay


called

the celebrants, stabbing them,

spearing them, striking them with their swords. They

some of them from

attacked

ground with

instantly to the

behind, and these

fell

hanging

their entrails

out. Others they beheaded.

put the
killed.

way

to force their

but the Spaniards murdered

them

at

out,

the gates.

ran

into

communal

the

houses were safe there for a while.

The stench of blood and entrails


Spaniards ran into the

who were

water.

like

the

filled

communal houses

to

The

air.

those

kill

They ran everywhere and searched

hiding.

the

news of

massacre was heard out-

this

went

side the sacred patio, a great cry

come running!

up: "Mexica,

Bring your spears and shields! The

The Spaniards immediately took refuge

iron

They began to shoot

arrows and to

fire their

come

"Mexica,

at the

to

chains.

woman who was

edge of the canal. She

cried:

running! They are crossing the canal!

soldiers beat their

were

raised,

The flagship

and the
led the

fleet

moved

way, flying a

drums and blew

their trumpets;

When the ships approached the Zoquiapan


the common people were terrified at the

They gathered

quarsight.

canoes and

their children into the

helter-skelter across the lake,

moaning with

paddling as swiftly as they could. They

shouted the

call

fled

and

fear

left all their


little

farms without looking back.

When

the Mexica discovered that the shots from

cannons always flew

arquebuses and

the

They ran to the right or

fire.

front of the guns.

about to be

away

they no longer ran

line,

ning, they

a priest of Huitzilopochtli

lake.

in

they played their flutes and chirimias and whistles.

straight

in

Our enemies are escaping!"

Then

cannons were mounted

people. The

great linen standard with Cortes's coat of arms. The

their

cannons and arquebuses.

And they shackled Motecuhzoma


The first alarm was raised by
drawing water

the

in

Mexica with

at the

loosing

boats,

possessions behind them and abandoned their

strangers have murdered our warriors!"

palace.

its

out onto the

ter,

When

their

The Spaniards now decided to attack Tenochtitlan

and destroy

everywhere; they invaded every room, hunting and


killing.

them from

forced to retreat again.

the ships, the sails

The blood of the warriors flowed

Mexica was

a single

second advance but our

tried a

such a storm of arrows that the Spaniards were

Others climbed the walls, but they could not save

who

and not

to flight

warriors attacked

Some Mexica attempted

themselves. Those

enemy

The Spaniards

fired

left

in

in

the line of

or in zigzags, not in

they saw that a cannon was

If

and they could not escape by run-

threw themselves to the ground and

lay

shot had passed over them.

flat until the

arms from the temple pyramid. His voice rang out

The heaviest fighting began when the Spaniards

"Captains, warriors, Mexica! Our ene-

entered Nonohualco. None of our enemies and none

over the

city:

mies are escaping! Follow them

them

off,

in

your boats. Cut

When

they heard this

into their boats

paddled with

and

the warriors leaped

The boatmen

set out in pursuit.

their might; they lashed the

all

of the lake until

cry,

it

boiled.

own

of our

warriors escaped harm. Everyone

wounded, and the

and destroy them!"

water

The boats converged on the

Spaniards from both sides of the causeway, and the

toll

was

of the dead was grievous on

both sides. The struggle continued

keep on fighting. After one

all

day and

all

were too exhausted to

night. At last the Spaniards

final

attempt to break the

Mexica ranks, they withdrew to their camp to

rest

and reeovet

warriors loosed a storm of arrows at the fleeing army."


After eighty days of siege, Tenochtitlan

Escaping from the Mexica, the Spaniards took refuge

among

their allies in Tlaxcala,

where they prepared themselves

return to Tenochtitlan.

Motecuhzoma died when the Spaniards'


and was succeeded by Prince Cuitlahuac,

escaped from the


but he soon

city

victim to the smallpox epidemic that had been

fell

among

introduced

for their

Cuauhtemoc was then

the Mexica. Prince

elected to govern the Mexica nation, and

it

was he who

led the

fell

to the Spaniards

and Cuauhtemoc surrendered. The heartbreaking grief of the


vanquished

All

is

expressed

in

laments:

these misfortunes befell us.

We saw them
and wondered

we

at

suffered this

them;

unhappy

fate

resistance to the Spaniards' siege of the city:

Nothing but flowers and songs of sorrow

And now

the

Spaniards came back again. They

marched here by way of Tezcoco,


n Tlacopan

the ash
Alders,

pit

and then divided

battle

began outside

set

up headquar-

their forces.

Tlatelolco, either at

the place called the Point of the

and then shifted

to

Nonohualco. Our warriors

are

left

here

in

Mexico and

Tlatelolco,

where courage
It

is

that

good

to know, Giver of Life,

you look

after us,

although we, your servants,

will perish.

You have scattered your servants

Page from

ll

in Tlatelolco,

A/<" n

tuna,

II,

Ih

cnlury

^2 He
U*t

our cries of grief

Notes

rise up.

1.

down

our tears rain

Hernan Cortes, Cartas y documentos,

ed.

Mario Hernandez Sanchez-Barba

(Mexico City: Libreria Porrua, 1969).

for Tlatelolco

is lost.

Espana, ed. Joaquin Ramirez Cabanas, 2 vols. (Mexico City: Editorial Porrua,

have gone into the water,

1955).

so

3.

it is,

but we, where

will

Fray Juan de Torquemada,

7 vols.

we go?

friends!
4.

now

in

all is

this

you have done,

5.

New

Spain, trans. Arthur

J.

0.

225

(trans, author).

Anderson and Charles

The account of the Conquest included

Miguel Leon-Portilla,

destruction;

6.

Giver of

p.

in

E.

Dibble,

13 vols.

The Annals of Tlatelolco has been

Kemp and appears

translated into English by Angel Garibay and Lysander

flames

and

II,

(Santa Fe: School of American Research, 1950-82).

the city of Mexico,


is

Miguel Leon-Portilla,

ed.

Fray Bernardino de Sahagun, Florentine Codex: General History of the Things

of

The Mexica are deserting

which

Monarquio Indiana,

(Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Instituto de

Investigaciones Historicas, 1975-83), vol.

Oh our

Nueva

Bernal Diaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera de la conquista de la

2.

women

Mexica

ed.,

These manuscripts are described

in

Donald Robertson, Mexican Manuscript

Painting of the Early Colonial Period: The Metropolitan Schools

Life.

in

The Broken Spears (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992).

(New Haven:

Yale University Press, 1959).


7.

Remember Mexica
that He has sent down

Florentine Codex, book 12,

fol. 2v.

8. Ibid., fol. 11r-v.

9. Ibid., fols. 15v-16r.

to us

10. Ibid., fols.

24v-25r.

11. Ibid., fols.

32r-34r.

his wrath, his fear.

Weep and

oh our

learn,

friends,

12. Ibid., fols. 67v-68r.

that with these disasters

13.

Annals of

we have

14.

Manuscript of Mexican songs, preserved at the National

Mexican nation.

lost the

Tlatelolco, fol. 33.


Library,

Mexico,

fol. 6r.

The water has turned


our food

is

bitter,

bitter

these are the acts of the Giver of

These are

among

Life.

the Mexica testimonies of astonishment

and sorrow that stand alongside Spanish accounts of the

Conquest of Mexico. These views from the vanquished form an


epic poem, a classic elegiac expression that has

become

part of

a truly universal literature.

Pages from

ray Pedro

:,-, hi'. in,


i

de Gante,

n, ih

entury

The Spanish Conquest


of Tenoehtitlan
I'ulilii

MOTECUHZOMA

II

WAS CONVINCED THAT

HIS PEOPLE

WOULD

Escalante Gonzalbo

BE DEFEATED

IF

THEY OPPOSED THE

Spaniards, and thus he decided to receive the strangers peacefully. Hospitality,

however, was not enough to keep war from his


sojourn

in

During the conquistadores'

city.

Mexico as guests of Motecuhzoma, some of Hernan Cortes's

became alarmed when seeing young Mexica-Aztecs dancing

in

officials

the courtyard of

Mayor at Tenoehtitlan. They perceived a threat in this display, which


was nothing more than a group of scantily clad boys and musicians playing
drums, and killed them all. Enraged, the Mexica took up arms, renounced their
emperor, and pelted him with stones when he appeared on a balcony to plead
the Templo

with them once again not to enter into battle.

As

a result of these events, the

their supplies.

Spaniards were besieged and cut off from

They decided to escape the

captured during their attempt to

flee

city in late

and were

June 1520. Many were

later sacrificed.

Others died

the battles that erupted along the city's canals, and there were

drowned, weighed down by the gold they had concealed


a third of the

in

in

some who

their clothing.

Only

Spanish force managed to escape.

With the defeat and expulsion of the Spaniards, the phase of tenuous

inter-

action between the foreigners and the native population ended. Formal war

began, guided by the Spanish aim of conquering Mexico. Within a year, Cortes

had managed to multiply

his alliances with

Mexico and nearby areas, and had drafted


by both land and water.

In

the meantime, smallpox, which had infected the

Mexica before the conquistadores


city's people.
In

Among

its

indigenous caciques of the Valley of


a strategy for laying siege to the city

victims

fled Tenoehtitlan,

continued to decimate the

was Cuitlahuac, Motecuhzoma's

successor.

an alliance with the Tlaxcalateca, Totonaca, Tetzcocans, Chalca, and other

groups, the Spaniards began their attack on the twin islands of Tenoehtitlan and
Tlatelolco at the

end of May 1521, and by August 13 of the same year had cap-

tured Cuauhtemoc,

who had ascended

the throne after Cuitlahuac's death.

Along with the great valor and courage displayed by both opponents, the
miseries that generally
ation.

accompany war

potable water, staggered with hunger


tives,

also prevailed: fear, cruelty,

and desper-

The resistance of the Mexica continued almost inexplicably: They lacked

and looked on helplessly as

among

their

the corpses of friends and rela-

women

fell

into the

enemy's hands.

numbers and access to fresh food, the


Spaniards suffered the agonies of war as well. Among them were wounds and
Despite the advantage of their greater

exhaustion, the panic wrought by seeing comrades captured by Mexica warriors,

and the horror of witnessing these prisoners being offered


tims'

heads

later

displayed along the tzompantli (skull rack)

Each time Cortes and his


the

city'

men

laid siege to

irhoods, they destroyed

its

one of the

in sacrifice,
in

the vic-

the Templo Mayor.

islets

that

made up

buildings and used the debris to

ne Spanish force's

movement

over land

In

fill

the

192. Atrium cross

Colonial, ca.

1600

Hi

\m
>>iSa

-*~~~

'-.

--

'^

>w"

193. Chalice

lid

Colonial, ca.

1540

end, Tenochtitlan

was transformed

and covered with cadavers. The

into a squalid

city

swamp immersed

brackish water

in

had to be temporarily abandoned, while the tasks

of draining and cleaning, burying the dead, and reestablishing the flow of drinking

water were accomplished.


Cortes temporarily established his headquarters at Coyoacan, along the southern

shore of Lake Tetzcoco. From there he gave instructions for preparing the terrain of
Tenochtitlan for a

new

city.

Its

which were to be

structures,

was

center

laid

out

to be cleared to

a grid,

in

Spanish

for

and the indigenous neighborhoods,

among

outside the Spanish core, were to be divided

make room

the former four districts of

Tenochtitlan.

The buildings and monuments of the Nahua metropolis were thus replaced by the
palaces, fortifications,

not

all

the

first

cities in

and churches of the Spaniards. However,

Mesoamerica were so quickly

viceroy of Mexico,

made

that, fifteen years after the

gious centers

still

tour of

obliterated.

New

Spain

in

it

should be noted that

When Antonio
535, he

was

Conquest, most of the other pre-Hispanic

remained

intact.

de Mendoza,

surprised to find

The viceroy supposed, probably

and

cities

reli-

justifiably, that

Cortes had preserved certain buildings as reminders of the splendors of the old civi-

which would

lizations,

been

in

turn suggest to

courageous undertaking and

its

New

Spain's residents that the Conquest had

success a glorious achievement. Over the

course of his administration, Mendoza proceeded with the systematic destruction of

pyramids and temples throughout

New

Spain.

The stone obtained from the demolition of indigenous structures was always used
in

the foundations of

new

buildings,

and thus provided considerable savings

However, this was not the only reason for recycling stones.
orders

felt

it

might give

Some

in

in labor.

the religious

advisable to keep fragments of indigenous sculptures visible, so that they

lasting

testimony to the triumph of the true god over the false ones. Today

vestiges of those "vanquished" sculptures can

still

be seen

in

houses, churches, and

convents.

Aside from the military defeat and destruction of the Mesoamerican civilizations,

we should remember that the encounter between the Spanish and the indigenous people was, in many respects, a rich and creative one. Two of the most important results
of their meeting were the development of a strongly syncretic Christian liturgy and,
especially, the creation of

artworks that reflect both traditions, which have been called

"Indo-Christian."
In this

ars

intercultural dialogue,

which may be likened to that of medieval Toledo,

and Indians studied, translated, and exchanged ideas about

traditions. This

and imagery

fri-

respective

interchange-prevalent most notably at the Colegio de Santa Cruz

Tlatelolco together with

them were the

own

their

numerous missionary

inclusion of indigenous

in Christianity,

dance

efforts led to concrete results.

traditions, instruments,

in

Among

ornamentation,

as well as the acceptance of pre-Hispanic symbols, such as

the jade bead, or chalchihuitl, which would

now

be used to signify the precious blood

of Christ and the holy water of baptism.


This attitude of hybridization, favorable to the coexistence of both traditions,

explains
rifices at

why

a great cuauhxicalli (eagle vessel)

the Templo

Mayor

in

used to hold

According to an explanation provided by the Dominican


that this vessel, which held blood of

the Holy

Spirit,

human

hearts during sac-

Tenochtitlan could be converted into a baptismal font.

humans

friar

Diego Duran,

sacrificed to the devil,

is

"It is

now

fitting

a font of

where the souls of Christians may be cleansed."

195. Pendant in the shape of a shield

Aztec-Mixtec, ca. 1500

"Y
,-*

%*!/&*

*
< t

H-

^2-

I I

<X

.-

196. Bracelets

Aztec-Mixtec, ca. 1500

kv

M
Catalogue Checklist
and Bibliography

Catalogue Checklist
366-67

By page number:

Cuauhxilli (side view)


Aztec, ca.

500

17 cm, diam. 40

cm

Pendant with the head of an owl

Stone,

Mixtec. ca. 1200-1521

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Gold, 2.5 x 2.3 x 1.5

Museum

an

h.

City

10-559650

City

10-46617

City

10-9785

cm

of Natural History.

New

York 30/10742

368
cosmogonic suns

Altar of the

12-13

Aztec, ca.

Stone, 60 x 63 x 59

of cat. no. 63

(detail)

500

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

18-19
Detail of cat. no.

45
By catalogue number:

24-25
Detail of cat. no. 177 (rear view)

36-37

Xiuhtecuhtli

(not in the exhibition)

The Great Coatlicue

Aztec, ca.

Aztec, Late Postclassic

Stone,

Stone,

and obsidian, 112

38 x 31 cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

257 cm

h.

1500

shell,

Museo Nacional de

Antropolgia, INAH, Mexico City

54-55

Coatlicue

Detail of cat. no.

Aztec, ca.

500

Stone, turquoise, and pigment, 115 x 40 x 35

82-83
Atlantean figure
Toltec, ca.

City

10-8534

(detail)

900-1200

Stone, 76 x 36 x 25

cm

Eagle

Museo Nacional de

Antropolgia, INAH, Mexico City 10-116774

Aztec, ca.

500

Stone, 41 x 20

cm

Museo Regional de

130-31

Moon

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Puebla,

INAH 10-203440

Xiuhtecuhtli (detail)

Aztec, ca. 1469-81

Stone and pigment. 36.5

Museo

del

23 x 20

cm

Templo Mayor, INAH, Mexico

Coyote
City

10-162940

Aztec, ca.

1500

Stone, 38 x 17 x 13

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

166-67

City 10-47

Detail of cat. no. 113

220-21
jf

Seated monkey

an eagle wa'

Stone,

3fc

Aztec, ca.

1200-1521

Volcanic stone, 36.4 x 22.9 x 25.4

500

cm
jnal de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico City 10-94

Museum

of Art,

Rhode

cm

Island School of Design, Providence,

Mary

Jackson Fund 43.545

248-249
Polychrome plate
Cholollan, ca. 1325-1521

308-09

Fired clay

and pigment, diam. 22.3 cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

332-33

City 10-17353

Serpent

1500

152-53

Stone, 31 x 82 x 80

Nacional de Antropologia, INAH,

N'L

10-220933

B.

18

Polychrome goblet

Macehual

Cholollan, ca.
Fired clay

1325-1521

Aztec, ca.

and pigment, 12

x 15.2

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-223731

19

Dog

Hunchback
1

500

Aztec, ca.

Stone, 47.5 x 20 x 29

Museo Regional de

cm

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Aztec, ca.

500

Stone, 63 x 20

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

INAH 10-203439

City 10-97

20

10
Grasshopper

Man

Aztec, ca. 1500

Aztec, ca.

Carnelian, 19.5 x 16 x 47

cm

holding a cacao pod

1440-1521

Stone and pigment, 36.2

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-220929

Brooklyn

Museum, New

cm

x 17.8 x 19.1

York,

Museum

Collection Fund 40.16

21

11

Mask

Reclining jaguar
Aztec, ca.

Eastern Nahua-Mixtec, ca. 1500

1440-1521

Brooklyn Museum,

New

Wood

cm

Stone, 12.7 x 27.9 x 14.6

York, Carll H. de Silver

Fund 38.45

with traces of gesso, gold

Princeton University Art

leaf,

Museum,

and hematite, 20.5

Gift of Mrs. Gerard

B.

x 20.2

Female anthropomorphic sculpture

Aztec, ca.

1500

1500

Aztec, ca.

Stone, 31 x 44 x 24

cm

Stone,

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-220932

146x40x25 cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-81543

23

13
Sculpture of a king

Male anthropomorphic sculpture

Huaxtec, 13th or 14th century

Aztec, ca.

Stone, 165.6 x 37.5 x 19.1

Brooklyn Museum,

New

cm

1500

cm

Stone, 55 x 20 x 15

York, Frank

L Babbott Fund 39.371

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

14

24

Female anthropomorphic sculpture

Anthropomorphic figure

Aztec, ca.

1200-1521

Huaxtec,

Stone and trace pigment, 54 x 34

American Museum of Natural

22

History,

cm
New

York 30.1/1201

ca.

City 10-1121

1500

Fired clay,

24

American

Museum

22

16

cm

of Natural History,

New

York 30.2/4200

25

15
Macehual
Aztec, ca.

Fertility

1500

goddess

Aztec-Matlatzinca, ca. 1500

Stone, 80 x 28 x 19

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Wood and
City

10-220926

16

shell,

40

15

x 10

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City 10-74751

26

man

Aztec, ca.

Anthropomorphic mask
1

500

Stone, 48 x 23

Aztec-Gulf Coast,

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-220145

17

27
Xantil

Diorite,

85

37

cm
History,

New

York 30/11847

Mixtec, ca. 1250-1521

500
x

1450-1521

American Museum of Natural

Chalchiuhtlicue
Aztec, ca.

ca.

Stone, 17 x 18.5x9.3

25

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Fired clay,

City

10-82215

40

28

18

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

cm

Lambert y 1 9 70- 1 1

22

12
Serpent

Old

10-620964

500

Stone, 33 x 17 x 12

Puebla,

City

10-13518

38

28
'opo'morL

Jaguar

ture

Teotihuacan, ea. 100-600

Tarascan, ca. 1500

Stone, 56.5

22.5 x 18.5

onyx, 19.9 x 13.5 x 15

Tecalli

Natural History,

New

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

York 30/2461

City

10-78331

39

29
Male anthropomorphic sculpture
:,

ca.

800

Penate
Teotihuacan, ca. 100-600

B.C.

Greenstone and cinnabar, 52

Museo Regional de

Puebla,

29 cm

Greenstone, 48 x 12 x 8

40

30
Mask
Olmec,

cm

Fundacion Cultural Televisa, Mexico City REG 21 PJ 43

INAH 10-203321

Fragment of
ca.

1150-550

Jadeite with black inclusions, 21.6 x 19.4

Museum

mural painting

Teotihuacan, ca. 100-600

B.C.

cm

of Fine Arts, Boston, Gift of Landon

Stucco and pigment, 77


Clay 1991.968

T.

162.5 x 8

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-357205

41

31

Goddess

Plaque with an image of a goddess with a reptile-eye glyph

figure (Chalchiuhtlicue)

Teotihuacan, ca. 250-700

Teotihuacan, ca. 250-650


Volcanic stone with traces of pigment, 92.1 x 40.6 x 41.3
Philadelphia

Museum

cm

of Art, The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection

Pale green, translucent onyx, 29.4 x 16.5 x 3.5

The

Field

Museum

cm

of Natural History, Chicago 23913

1950-134-282

42
32

Cuirass

Anthropomorphic mask

Toltec, ca.

Teotihuacan, ca. 450

Spondylus

Stone, turquoise, obsidian, and shell, 21.5 x 20

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

900-1200
shell,

mother of

Museo Regional de Hidalgo


10-9630

pearl,

"Ex

and

snail shells,

Convento de San

37

x 110 x 3

cm

Francisco," INAH,

10-568994 0/2

43

33
Face panel

Disk

Teotihuacan, ca. 1-800

Toltec, ca.

Granite, 20.3 x 10.2 x 25.4

Philadelphia

Museum

cm

Wood,

of Art, The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection

900-1200

turquoise, shell, coral,

and

resin,

diam. 35

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

cm

City

10-564025

1950-134-947

44
34

Chacmool

Jaguar architectural element

Toltec, ca.

Teotihuacan, ca. 400

Stone, 85 x 120

Stone, stucco, and pigment, 96.5 x 97.5 x 74.5

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

1100

x54 cm

Museo Arqueologico de

Tula "Jorge R. Acosta,"

INAH 10-215198

10-626269 0/10

45
35

Coyolxauhqui

Poly

Aztec, ca.

;jse

jacan, ca.

450

.tucco,

and pigment,

Museo Nacional de

Diorite,
h.

15 cm, diam. 16.5

cm

1500

80

85

68

Museo Nacional de

cm

Antropologia, INAH, Mexico City 10-220918

Antropologia, INAH, Mexico City 10-79930

46
36

Huehueteotl
Aztec, ca.

400

1486-1502

Stone, 60 x 57.3 x 56
'del

cm

Templo Mayor, INAH, Mexico

City

10-212978

1626

4/
nOOl

17

ca.

1500

cm
de Antropologia, INAH,
.'562

N'

10-10941

Pachuca

58

48

Model

Eagle cuauhxicalli

1502-20

Aztec, ca.

Stone, 76 x 82 x 139

Museo

cm

Templo Mayor, INAH, Mexico

del

City

10-252747

Aztec, ca.

1500

Fired clay

and pigment, 32

cm
City

10-223673

City

10-496915

59

49

Model

Snail shell

Aztec, ca.

Cholollan, ca. 1500

500

cm
Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Stone, stucco, and pigment, 105 x 75

Fired clay

City

10-213080

and pigment, 39

24

x 15.5

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

60

50
Tlaloc casket (tepetlacalli)

Model

Aztec, ca. 1469-81

Cholollan, ca.

Stone, 69 x 58 x 38

Museo

x 16.5 x 19.5

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

cm

Fired clay

Templo Mayor, INAH, Mexico

del

City

10-168850 0/2

1500

and pigment, 28

Museo Regional de

Puebla,

x 14.5

cm

INAH 10-496914

61

51

Red god offering

Sad Indian
Aztec, ca.

500

Aztec, ca. 1500:

Stone, 102 x 60 x 57

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-81660

Red god, Xochipilli-Mauilxochitl


Stone, 97.2 x 35.5 x 34.5

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

52

City 10-

222236

Mictlantecuhtli urn
Aztec, ca.

Drum

500

Alabaster, 16.5 x

cm

11

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-168816

cm, diam. 9

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-50694

City

10-992

City

10-220132

City

10-3845

City

10-3846

Sound stone

53
Omexicahuaztli
Aztec, ca.

Fired clay, 6 x 11.3 x 10

1250-1521

Stone and stucco, 10

Museo

vessel

Fired clay, h. 12.5

del

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico


x

30 cm

Templo Mayor, INAH, Mexico

City

10-251274

Turtle

Stone, 8 x 10 x 14

54

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Funerary urn
Aztec, ca. 1470
Fired clay, h. 53

Museo

del

Teponaztli

cm, diam. 17

cm

Fired clay, 12.5 x 8 x 17

Templo Mayor, INAH, Mexico

City

10-168823 0/2

55

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico


Teponaztli

10.8x8 x 17.2 cm
Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Tlaloc pot

Fired clay,

Aztec, ca.

1440-69

Fired clay,

35

Museo

Templo Mayor, INAH, Mexico

del

35

x 31.5

cm
City

10-220302

Omexicahuaztli
Fired clay, 5.7 x

56

16

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City 10-981

Pectoral with a nocturnal butterfly

Aztec, ca.

1500

Sound stone

Greenstone, diam. 13.5

cm

Fired clay, 7.5 x 10.2 x 11.5

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico


57

10-162943

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City 10-10790

Sound stone

Model

Fired clay, 5.5 x 9.7 x 11

Cholollan, ca.
Fired clay

City

1500

and pigment, 39.5

Museo Regional de

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico


Puebla,

23

City

10-3836

City

10-3842

cm

INAH 10-496916

Teponaztli
Fired clay, 12.5 x 8 x 17

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Sound stone

Flute

clay, 6.8

x 11.6 x 9.6

cm
City 10-991

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Drum

4x 29.6cm

Stone, 8.1 x

City 10-41701

cm

Fired clay, 6.1 x 16.2

City

10-223800

x 5 x 31.5

cm

h.

17.5 cm, diam. 7.5

10-79900

City

10-563530

City

10-50698

City

10-10630

City

10-3837

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico


vessel

Fired clay, h. 12.2 cm, diam. 12.2

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-41700

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico


Rattle

vessel

cm, diam.

Fired clay, h. 13

11.7

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

cm

Fired clay, 3.5 x 12.3

City

10-220151

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico


Sound stone

Teponaztli
Fired clay, 12 x

20

x 12

cm

Fired clay, 7 x 10 x 12

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-3847

6.6x9

x 12

cm

Fired clay, 6 x 10 x 14

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-3839

Stone, 9.5 x 35.5

cm

Fired clay, 6.9 x 5 x 12

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-41699

cm

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Fired clay, 5.4 x 4.6 x 12.4

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-41837

City

10-3844

City

10-2423

City

10-3838

City

10-980

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico


Sound stone

Teponaztli
Fired clay, 11.6 x 16.9 x 8.5

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Fired clay, 7.5 x 9.6 x 11

City

10-2424

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico


Ornexicahuaztli

Teponaztli

cm

Fired clay, 5.6 x 16

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-41932

cm

Museo Nacional de

vessel

Fired clay, h. 11.3

Antropologia, INAH, Mexico City 10-41839

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Drum

Teponaztli

Ston-

City 10-3841

Teponaztli

Teponaztli

Stone, 10 x 19

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico


Teponaztli

Xicahuaztli

Stone, 10 x 19

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico


Sound stone

Sound stone

cm, diam.

11

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City 10-50711

Ornexicahuaztli

Turtle shell
',

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Fired clay, 5.7 x 16.4

City

10-333158

Tepc

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-2428

Tepor

m
Mu

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Drum

Xicahuaztli

Fired clay,

City

vessel

Stone,

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Drum

10-333157

Drumstick

Ornexicahuaztli

11

City

Fired clay, h. 17.3 cm, diam. 18.4

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Stone,

cm

Fired clay, 5.1 x 21.3

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

al

de Antropologia, INAH,

Fired clay, h. 11, diam. 8.5

1843

Drun

cm

>pologia,

INAH, Mexico City 10-996

Turtle
clay, 5.5 x 6.4

Antropologia, INAH,

I444C

>

11

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-2425

70

Rattle
Fired clay, 3 x 14.5

cm

Xiuhcoatl

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-15726

Aztec, ca.

1500

Gold, 16 x

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

62

City

10-594810

City

10-3302

City

10-3322

Commemorative stone plaque of the Templo Mayor


Aztec, ca. 1487

Xiuhcoatl

Greenstone, 92 x 62 x 30

cm

Aztec, ca.

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-220919

1500

Gold, 16.5 x

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico


63
Eagle warrior
Aztec, ca.

71

1440-69

Fired clay, stucco,

Museo

Coyolxauhqui

and

paint,

170 x 118 x 55

Templo Mayor, INAH, Mexico

del

City

cm

Aztec, ca.

10-220366

1250-1521

cm

Gold, 5 x 4 x 1.5

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

64
Mictlantecuhtli

72

Aztec, ca. 1480

Butterfly nose

Fired clay, stucco,

Museo

and

paint,

176

80

50 cm

Templo Mayor, INAH, Mexico

del

City

Aztec, ca.

10-264984

ornament

1500

Gold, 7.5 x 7.7

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-220922

65
Anthropomorphic mask

73

Teotihuacan, ca. 300-600

Skull

Greenstone,

Museo

shell, obsidian,

and

coral, 21 x 20.5 x

Templo Mayor, INAH, Mexico

del

City

14

cm

mask

Aztec, ca.

Human

10-220037

Museo
Ear

1250-1521

skull, silex, shell,

del

and

pyrite,

23

x 12 x 17

cm

Templo Mayor, INAH, Mexico City 10-220253

ornaments

Teotihuacan,

ca.

300-600

Greenstone, diam. 6

Museo

cm

Knife
Aztec, ca. 1469-81

each

Templo Mayor, INAH, Mexico

del

City

10-220032 0/2

Flint,

15 x 5.5 x 1.3

Museo

del

cm

Templo Mayor, INAH, Mexico

City

10-263616

City

10-168803

66
74

Scepter
Aztec, ca.

1325-1418

Obsidian, 9.4 x 1.9 x

Museo

.9

Anthropomorphic mask

cm

Olmec,

Templo Mayor, INAH, Mexico

del

City

10-263826

ca.

1100-600

Greenstone, 10.2

Museo

del

B.C.

8.6x3.1 cm

Templo Mayor, INAH, Mexico

Scepter
Aztec, ca.

1325-1521

Obsidian, 9.2 x 1.8 x

Museo

75
1

cm

Ballgame offering

Templo Mayor, INAH, Mexico

del

City

10-265172

Aztec, ca.

1250-1521:

67

Miniature huehuetl

Scepter shaped as a serpent

Greenstone, 2 x 3

Aztec, ca.

1325-1481

Green obsidian, head: 2.3 x

Museo

1.3 x 6.7

cm;

Templo Mayor, INAH, Mexico

del

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico


rattle: 2.5 x 1.5 x 7.3

City

City

10-222322

City

10-222323

City

10-222325

City

10-222318

cm

10-262756 0/2

Miniature huehuetl effigy of Macuilxochitl

Greenstone,

68

h.

10 cm, diam. 5

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Anthropomorphic eccentric
Aztec, ca.

500

Obsidian, 47.5 x 22.5 x 10

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-393945

Pendant shaped as

Greenstone,

cm

11 x

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

69

Miniature drumstick

Polychrome incense burner

Greenstone, 7 x

Aztec, ca.

1250-1521

Fired clay

and pigment, 22 x 63 cm

Museo de

las

Culturas de Oaxaca, INAH 10-104216

ballgame court

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Minia

83

shell

cm

Greenstone, 4.5 x 3

Atlantean figure (center)

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-222320

Aztec, ca.

1500

cm

Stone, 119 x 48 x 34.5

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Miniature huehuetl

City

10-48555

City

10-9774

City

10-81769

cm

Greenstone, 2.5 x 4 x 2

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-222321

84
Atlantean figure (west)

Miniature teponaztli

Aztec, ca.

Greenstone, 2.5 x 6.5 x 3

Museo Nacional de
Symbolic

cm

500

Antropologia, INAH, Mexico City 10-222317

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

85

ball

Obsidian, diam. 11.5

cm

Atlantean figure (south)

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-222327

Aztec, ca.

500

Stone, 119 x 38 x 34

Symbolic

cm

Stone, 120 x 41 x 39

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

ball

Alabaster, diam.

11

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-222326

86
Tizapan casket

76

Aztec, ca.

String of beads

Stone, stucco, pigment, and jade, 19.5 x 20 x 20

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-28018 0/2

City

10-594419

1325-1521

Aztec, ca.

Gold and

Museo

3.9 x 1.5

silver,

del

500

cm

Templo Mayor, INAH, Mexico City 10-252891 0/26

Maize goddess figure


Aztec, ca.

1250-1521

cm

77

Greenstone, 8 x 4 x 4

Cihuacoatl plaque

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Aztec, ca.

1200-1521

Stone, 61 x 44.5 x 15

cm

87

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-81787

Tlaltecuhtli

Aztec, ca.

1200-1521

78

Stone, 62 x 61.5 x 54

Relief of the five ages

Museo

Aztec, ca.

Gray

cm

Templo Mayor, INAH, Mexico

City

10-262523

1400-1521

cm

basalt, 54.6 x 45.7 x 25.6

Peabody Museum of Natural

YPM

del

88

History, Yale University,

New Haven

ANT.19231

Fragment of anthropomorphic brazier


Aztec, ca. 1300
Fired clay

Museo

79

and pigment, 18

22

9 cm

Universitario de Ciencias y Arte,

UNAM, Mexico

City

08-741814

Altar of the sacred tree

Aztec, ca.

89

1300

Stone, 58 x 72 x 67

cm

Life-death figure

Museo Nacional de

Antropologia, INAH, Mexico City 10-81641

Aztec, ca.

1440-1521

Stone, 26.7 x 14 x 15.6

80

Brooklyn Museum,

Calendar stone (temalac.;

Foundation 64.50

Aztec, ca.

New

cm
York, Purchased with funds given by The Henfield

1300-1500
49.5 cm, diam. 83.8

Greenstone,

h.

Philadelphia

Museum

cm

90

of Art, The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection

1950

Duality
Aztec, ca. 1500

Greenstone, 9.5 x 8 x 9

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

81

City

10-9683

City

10-13570

Atlantean figure (east)

91

cm
Nacional de A'

Solar disk with calendar date


.

i,

INAH, Mexico City 10-i

ca.

1500

cm, diam. 46 cm
Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Stone,

Atla

'th)

cm
i,

INAH, Ml

1768

h. 11

92

102

Ehecatl

Xololtl

Aztec, ca.

500

1500

Aztec, ca.

Stone and obsidian, 48

18 x 23

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City 10-48

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

93

103

Seated XipeTotec

Quetzalcoatl

Aztec-Matlatzinca,
Stone,

1250-1521

ca.

Aztec, ca.

cm

41

h.

cm

Stone, 48 x 59 x 70

del Estado "Dr.

Roman

Pina Chan," Teotenango

A-51956

94

104
Chalchiuhtlicue mask

500

Aztec, ca.

Fired clay

and pigment,

h.

25 cm, diam. 48.5

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Diorite,

City

10-594908

95

105
Tlaloc

900-1521

Aztec, ca.

Aztec, ca.

cm

Gold, 3.2 x 2.5 x 1.8

Museum

National

Washington,

D.C.

City

10-15717

City

10-222273

City

10-392922

cm

x 10

500

Stone, 101 x 39 x 35.5

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution,

10-81678

500

33 x 17.5

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Xipe Totec ring

City

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

XipeTotec container
Aztec, ca.

10-116545

500

Stone, 28 x 45 x 45

Museo Arqueologico

City

20/6218

106

96

Pumpkin

Figure of Xipe Totec


Aztec, ca.

Aztec, ca.

500

Diorite,

cm

Fired clay, 15.5 x 5 x 3

500

16

17 x 36

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-333856
107

97

Agriculture goddess

Figure of XipeTotec
Aztec, ca.

Aztec, ca.

500

Fired clay, 12 x 5.5 x 8

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

500

Stone, 70 x 24 x 21

cm

Fundacion Cultural

Televisa,

Mexico City REG 21

PJ 4

10-116778 0/2

108

98

Teomama

Tezcatlipoca effigy pot

Aztec, ca.

Cholollan, ca. 1500

Stone and stucco, 72

Fired clay

and pigment, 14.5

x 17.5 x

17

cm

109

Plaque of Tezcatlipoca

Tlaltelcuhtli

500

Aztec, ca.

Museo Arqueologico

cm
Roman

Pina Chan", Teotenango

100
Ehecatl

37 cm
"Ex

Convento de San Francisco," INAH, Pachuca

A-66602

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-81265

City

10-81570

City

10-77820

110

monkey

Aztec, ca.

Cihuateteo

500

Aztec, ca.

Stone and pigment, 60 x 37 x 33

cm

500

Stone, 62 x 31 x 43

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-116784

101

111
Skull goblet

Aztec, ca.
h.

American

1200-1521
3.5 cm, diam. 18.2

Museum

cm

of Natural History,

New

York 30/8003

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Ehecatl insect

Stone,

1500

Stone, 93 x 57 x 34

del Estado "Dr.

22

10-214568

PJ 71

99

Stone, 63 x 53.5 x 16

Museo Regional de Hidalgo

Fundacion Cultural Televisa, Mexico City REG 21

Aztec, ca.

500

500

Aztec, ca.

Fired clay

and pigment,

h.

30 cm, diam.

12.5

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

121

'500

jlpilli
.

cm

Aztec, ca.

10-3344

500

cm

Stone, 38.3 x 30 x 22.3

Fundacion Cultural Televisa. Mexico City REG 21 PJ 9

112

122
Figure of a warrior

500
;

cm

Aztec, after 1325

.AH, Mexico City 10-222116 0/2

Cast gold-silver-copper

The Cleveland

Museum

cm

alloy, 11.2 x 6.1

of Art. Leonard C. Hanna,

Jr.,

Fund 1984.37

113

123
ca.

1500

Funerary casket
5

ato,

cm

Aztec, ca.

INAH, Tepotzotlan 10- 1 33646

500

Stone, 22 x 24 x 24

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-223670 0/2

City

10-594485

City

10-392909

114

124
ca.

1500

80

Xiuhtecuhtli pendant
x

28

Aztec, ca.

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-81578

500

Greenstone, 7.5

x 4.5 x 3.5

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico


115

ca

125

(tepetlaca

1500

Head of a warrior

Aztec, ca.

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-466061

500

cm X 18.8 cm
Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico
Fired clay, 19.5 x 15.3

116

126

'500

Jaguar pectoral
diam. 26

Museo Nacional de

cm

Mixtec, ca.

Antropologia, INAH, Mexico City 10-220917

Wood,

1200-1500

stone, and shell, 7.6 x 17.1 x 3.2

Museum,

Saint Louis Art

Gift of

Morton

cm
D.

May 163:1979

11/

127

jgle

Xiuhtecuhtli
Aztec, ca.

223606

1250-1521

Greenstone, 59

Museo

del

x 41 x

35 cm

Templo Mayor. INAH, Mexico

City

10-264985

118

128
Ear

ornaments

Aztec-Mixtec,

5th- 16th century

each
i

C .Rockefeller Memorial
ij.200a,b

Collect

119

129

N
a,

INAH

III

ihtli

'

'.
I

140

131
Ring with serpents

900-1521

Aztec, ca.

Gold,

h.

2.2 cm, diam. 1.8

Museum

National

Flower goblet

in filigree

Washington,

cm

of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution,

Aztec, ca.

1500

Fired clay

and pigment,

h.

28.5 cm, diam. 18

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-116786

City

10-116504

City

10-1155

16/3447

D.C.

141

Polychrome plate

132
Xiuhtecuhtli pendant
Mixtec, ca.

500

Gold, 6 x 4 x 1.5

Museo de

las

cm

Aztec, ca.

1250-1500

Fired clay

and pigment, diam. 22 cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Culturas de Oaxaca, INAH 10-105429

142

(not

in

the exhibition)

133

Altar with

images of

String of snail-shaped beads

Aztec, ca.

1250-1521

Aztec-Mixtec, ca. 1300-1521

Stone, 65 x 160 x 118

Cast gold, 8 x 3 x 2.5

cm

procession of warriors

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Dumbarton Oaks Research


Washington,

Library

and Collection, Harvard

University,

143

D.C. PC.B.104

Serpent warrior

134

Matlatzinca, ca. 1500

Lip-plug

in

the shape of a serpent with

tongue out

Gold, 6.8 x 8.2 x 5.3

Museum

Washington,

D.C.

of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution,

Estado

"Dr.

Roman

Piha Chan," Teotenango

A-52207

144
Cihuateteo

18/756

Aztec, ca.

500

Stone, 112 x 54 x 53

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

ornaments

City 10-9781

1500

Mixtec, ca.
Gold,

del

cm

135
Ear

cm

Stone, 52.5 x 29 x 19

Museo Arqueologico

900-1521

Aztec, ca.

National

its

cm, diam. 3.9

h. 1.3

Museo de

las

cm each

145

Culturas de Oaxaca, INAH 10-105428 0/2

Quadrangular brazier
Matlatzinca, ca. 1200-1521

136

Fired clay, 15 x 31

Pendant with the head of a cox-cox


Mixtec, ca.

1200-1521

Gold, 1.5 x

1.3x2 cm

American

Museum

cm

Museo Arqueologico

bird

del

Estado

"Dr.

Roman

Piha Chan," Teotenango

146

of Natural History,

New

York 30/10741

Tlaloc ceremonial vessel

Aztec, ca.

1500

137

Fired clay

and pigment, 112

Ahuitzotl plaque

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Aztec, ca.

53

x 51 x

cm
City

10-575578

City

10-583437

City

10-571544

City

10-571285

500

cm
Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

147

Stone, 73.5 x 72 x 24

City

10-81550

Xilonen ceremonial vessel

500

Aztec, ca.

138

Fired clay

and pigment, 99

Tripod plate

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Aztec, ca.

1500

Fired clay

and pigment,

h.

7 cm, diam. 32

cm

60

49 cm

148

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-580947

Chicomecoatl ceremonial vessel


Aztec, ca.

1500

139

Fired clay

and pigment, 106

Coyote warriors goblet

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

72 x 51

cm

500

Aztec, ca.

Fired clay

and pigment,

h.

15.5 cm, diam. 15

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

149
City

10-116788

Nappatecuhtli ceremonial vessel

500

Aztec, ca.

Fired clay

and pigment, 121

66

48 cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

A-51999

160

150

Cast gold

the form of a crested bird's head

in

Mixtec-Zapotec,

1500

ca.

a.

20 cm

1450

ca.

Cast gold, 6 x 3.6

cm
Museum, Gift of the Hans A. Widenmann,
Widenmann Foundation y1972-37

Princeton University Art

INAH 10-203061

1918, and Dorothy

151
161

Gold sheet shaped as a feather

1500

ca.

23.5 x 20

>

Mixtec, ca. 1200-1521

cm

Museo Naoonal de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City 10-78081

cm

Gold, 35.1 x 8

Museo de

las

Culturas de Oaxaca, INAH 10-105724

152

162

ome bowl

Head band

1200-1521

ca.
r

9.8 cm, diam. 17.8

Mixtec, ca. 1200-1521

cm

Musco Naoonal de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-393491

Gold,

h.

5 cm, diam. 19.5

Museo de

las

cm

Culturas de Oaxaca, INAH 10-105723

153

163

applied figure
eca, ca.

ii

Ehecatl bell pendant

1500

Ceramic with black and red

1918, and the

slip, h.

19.4 cm, diam. at rim 10.2

Mixtec, ca. 1200-1521

cm

Museum, Gift of the Hans A Widenmann,


Dorothy Widenmann Foundation y199327
.

Art

Class of

Gold, 5 x 4 x 2

cm

American Museum of Natural

154

164

Censer

Butterfly nose

Coatlalpaneca, ca. 1250-1500

Mixtec, ca. 1200-1521

jnd pigment, 6

;acion Cultural Televisa,

7 x 46.6

Mexico

cm

City

New

York 30.3/2304

ornament

Gold, 4.5 x 6.5 x 0.5

REG

History,

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

21 PJ 106

City

10-3312

City

10-3317

City

10-4594

City

10-79148

165

155

Shield pectoral

otec
ilpaneca, ca. 1250-1521
.

Mixtec, ca.

cm

900-1200

Gold and turquoise, 8 x 8.4 x 0.6

de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico City 10-5651

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico


166

156

Disk

sectoral

Mixtec, ca. 1325-1521

200-1521

Gold and turquoise, diam. 20.8

Mus'

iS

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

de Oaxaca, INAH 10-106163

167

157

Effigy vessel

'500

ca.

1250-1521

Fired clay, h. 29.4

'6360

158

cm, diam. 25

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico


168
Polychrome tripod plate
1500
ilay

and pigment,

Museo Nacional de

h.

13.5 cm,

cm

Antropologia, INAH, Mexico City 10-79133

Class of

178

169
Vessel

in

Goddess with descending god headdress

the form of an eagle

Huaxtec,

Eastern Nahua, ca. 1450

Ceramic with brown,

red,

and ochre

w. 21.5 cm, diam. at rim 10.5

Princeton University Art

slips

on cream ground,

h.

20.9 cm,

cm

1250-1521

ca.

Stone, 133 x 58.5 x 25

cm

Museo Municipal Arqueologico de Tuxpan REG.4373 N.76

Museum, Bequest

of Gilbert

McClintoch,

S.

179

By exchange y1990-13

Warriors
Tarascan, ca. 1250-1521

170
Temalacatl
Mixtec, ca.

Fired clay,

Stone, diam. 86.5

Museo de

las

26

x 21 x 13

cm

Museo Regional Michoacano

1250-1521

"Dr.

Nicolas Calderon," INAH, Morelia 10-224210

cm
180

Culturas de Oaxaca, INAH 10-105130

Copper disk
Tarascan, ca. 1250-1521

171

god Xiuhtecuhtli

Xantil, figure representing the

in

Copper, diam. 19.5

seated position

47

Fired clay,

National

x 18 x

Museum

Washington,

D.C.

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Mixtec, ca. 1000-1521

City

10-396909

26 cm

of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution,

181

22/1603

Disk

Tarascan, ca. 1250-1521

172

Silver,

Plaque with
Mixtec, ca.

Wood,

diam. 18.5

cm

Museo Regional de

scenes

Guadalajara, INAH 10-304232

1325-1521

shell,

Museo de

ritual

and turquoise

las

inlay,

18 x 42

cm

182

Culturas de Oaxaca, INAH 10-362584

Coyote
Tarascan, ca. 1250-1521

cm

173

Stone, 52 x 22 x 18

Chicomecoatl plaque

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Aztec, ca.

City

10-168261

City

10-396927

1500

Stone, 107 x 40.5 x 9.5

cm

183

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-613348

Feather
Tarascan, ca. 1250-1521

24x6.5 cm
Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

174

Gold,

Anthropomorphic
Huaxtec,

ca.

effigy vessel

1250-1521

Fired clay, h. 18.5

cm, diam. 25.5

cm

184

Museo Municipal Arqueologico de Tuxpan REG 432

PJ

Throne

in

the shape of a coyote

Tarascan, ca. 1250-1521

70x48x 112.5cm
Museo Regional Michoacano

175

Stone,

Polychrome vessel
Totonaca,

ca.

Fired clay, h.

"Dr.

Nicolas Calderon," INAH, Morelia 10-83992

600-900
16 cm, diam. 19

cm

185

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-78683

Chacmool
Tarascan, ca. 1250-1521

176

Stone, 84 x

Head from figure of


Aztec, ca.

150x48 cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

a deity (Macuilxochitl)

City

10-1609

City

10-76294

City

10-44633

1440-1521

Buff orange pottery, 27.9 x 21.3


Yale University Art Gallery,

New

cm

186

Haven, Bequest from the Estate of

Polychrome pot with handle


Tarascan, ca. 1250-1521

Alice M. Kaplan 2001.83.1

Fired clay, 8.5 x 16.8

177

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

Life-death figure (apotheosis)

Huaxtec,

ca.

900-1250

cm
Museum, New York, Henry L Batterman Fund and

187

Stone, 158 x 67 x 22.9

Brooklyn

Benson Fund 37.2897PA

Polychrome vessel with spout


the Frank

Sherman

Tarascan, ca. 1250-1521


Fired clay, 17.1 x 13.2 x 8.5

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

IP

^k

*\
,

.->
.

,->^
*i. vu.
*%>

I
I

188

197

Polychrome vessel

Teponaztli

Tarascan, ca. 1250-1521

20

Fired clay,

x 15.4

Colonial, ca.

Wood and

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-76010

1521-1600

canine molars, 22 x 25 x 88

189

198

Coyote sculpture

Mirror or portable altar

Tarascan, ca. 1200-1521

Stone, 43.5 x 17 x 14

Colonial, ca.

cm

Wood,

American Museum of Natural

History,

New

York 30/2455

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

10-220924

1521-30

obsidian, paint,

and

Dumbarton Oaks Research


Washington,

City

gilding, 31.5 x 28.5 x 2.8

Library

cm

and Collection, Harvard

D.C. PC.B.78

190
Techcatl

in

199

the shape of an animal

Tarascan, ca. 1200-1521

Lienzo de Quetzpalan

Volcanic stone, 67 x 29 x 44

American

Museum

cm

Colonial-Puebla, late 16th century

of Natural History,

New

York 30.3/2561

Cotton and pigment, 154

Fundacion Cultural
191

Chacmool
Tarascan, ca. 1200-1521

Stone, 27 x 35.5 x 17

American

Museum

cm

of Natural History,

New

York 30/6156

192
Atrium cross
Colonial, ca.

1600

Stone, 156 x 91 x 36

cm

Museo Regional deTlaxcala, INAH 10-341001


193
Chalice

lid

Colonial, ca.

1540

Feathers and bark, diam. 28

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

City

10-220923

City

10-81584

194
Ceremonial tripod plate
Aztec-Colonial, ca. 1530
Fired clay, h. 10

cm, diam. 23.5

cm

Museo Nacional de Antropologia, INAH, Mexico

195
Pendant

in

the shape of a shield

Aztec-Mixtec,
Gold,

silver,

Museo

ca.

1500

and copper, 10.5

x 8.5

cm

Baluarte de Santiago, INAH, Veracruz 10-213084

196
Bracelet

Aztec-Mixtec, ca. 1500


Gold,

silver,

Museo

and copper,

h.

2.8 cm, diam. 8

cm

Baluarte de Santiago, INAH, Veracruz 10-213110

Bracelet

Aztec-Mixtec, ca. 1500


Gold,

silver,

Museo

and copper,

h.

3 cm, diam. 8.2

cm

Baluarte de Santiago, INAH, Veracruz 10-213111

Televisa,

183 x 53

cm

Mexico City REG

21 PJ

403

University,

Bibliography

r
:

ai

de

las Indias. Seville,

Bray,

con cuatro

jS v sus relaciones
j

590.

sitios

costa de Guatemala." Arqueologia

Warwick. Everyday

Life

New

of the Aztecs.

York and London, 1968.

Brumfiel, Elizabeth M. "Huitzilopochtli's Conquest: Aztec Ideology

in

the

Archaeological Record." Cambridge Archaeological Journal 8 (1998), pp. 3-14.

-36.

Carrasco, David. City of Sacrifice. The Aztec Empire


jose.

Miguel Leon-Portilla, and Eduardo Matos Moctezuma.

and

the Role of Violence in

Civilizations. Boston, 1999.

Azteca Mexico, las culturas del Mexico antiguo. Madrid, 1992.


Carrasco Pizana, Pedro. LosOtomies. Mexico
lo de.

Obras historicos 1600-1640. 2

vols.

Mexico

City,

1979.

City.

Caso, Alfonso. The Aztecs, People of the Sun. Norman, Oklahoma, 1970.

jdo Tezozomoc. Fernando. Cronica Mexicayotl. Mexico

Anales de

Tlaltelolco.

Unos anales

historicos

de

la

1975.

City,

nacion Mexicana. Mexico

City,

El

pueblo del

sol.

2nd

ed. Popular Collection 104.

Castillo, Cristobal del. Historia

de

la

Mexico

City,

197

venida de los mexicanos y otros pueblos.

Translated by Federico Navarrete. Mexico City, 1991.

1980.

Han

Clothing before Cortes. Norman, Oklahoma, 1981.

Chimalpahin, Domingo. Las ocho relaciones y


Translated by Rafael Tena. Mexico

Maarten Jansen, and

ind,
ria

de

los

Luis

City,

memorial deColhuacon,

Clendinnen, Inga. Aztecs: An Interpretation.

New

1.

York, 1991.

Women

in

Pre-Columbian America.

New

H.,

et

al.

"High-precision trace-element characterization of major

Mesoamerican obsidian sources and further analyses of

York, 1973.

artifacts

Lorenzo Tenochtitlan, Mexico." Latin American Antiquity 2


Bantel, Lmda. The Alice M.

Kaplan Collection.

New

Codex Azcatitlan.

mito mexicano de

las edades.

(1)

from San

(1991), pp. 69-91.

York, 1981.

Baquedano, Elizabeth. Aztec Sculpture. London, 1984.

El

vol.

1996.

Cobean, Robert
Jinand.

el

1998.

Reyes Garcia. Religion, costumbres

antiguos Mexicanos. Libro explicativo del llamado Codice

VaticanoA Mexico

City,

Mexico

Paris,

City,

Barlow, Robert H. "La Cronica X: Versiones coloniales de

Codex Duron. Mexico

1998.

la

2 vols. Introduction by Robert

historia

de los mexica

tenochca." Revista Mexicana de estudios ontropologicos (1945), vol.

7,

Barlow and Michel Graulich.

1995.

City,

Codex Fejervary-Moyer.

1990.

Mexico City and Graz, 1994.

Facsimile.

nos. 1-3,

Codex Tro-Cortesionus (Codex Madrid), Museo de America Madrid.

pp 65-87.

Facsimile.

Introduction by Ferdinand Anders. Graz, 1967.


)n del

imperio de los Culhua Mexico. Edited by Jesus Monjaras

Codex Vatican

'

of the Empire of the Culhua Mexico, reprint ed.

New

York, 1978.

1996.

A. Facsimile. Graz,

Codice Chimalpopoco. Anales de Cuauhtitlan y Leyenda de los

Primo Feliciano Velasquez. Mexico


lo

Tepaneca."

In Tlatelolco.

Fuentes e

City,

Olmec and

Their Neighbors.

Washington,

DC,

1981.

Codice Ramirez.
City,

Codex Mendc

by

historia. 2 vols.

Codice Mendocino o Coleccion de Mendoza. Mexico

The

soles. Translated

1992.

In

City,

1979.

Fernando Alvarado Tezozomoc, Cronica Mexicana. Mexico

1980.

Codice

Tira

Dinorah Ln

de

la

Peregrinacion or Codice Boturini. Facsimile. Introduction by

Manuel Herman. Mexico

City,

1991.

'J6.

Codice Xv

by Charles

E.

Dibble.

Me xii

1951.

'

n,

Discovering the Olmec

and

md
discoveries

An and Archaeology.

Edited by Henry
)94.

B.

and

Nicholson

Corona Nunez,

Jose. Mitologia Tarasca.

Mexico

Fuente, Beatriz de

1957.

City,

la

Cortes, Hernan. Cartas de Relacion.

Mexico

Covarrubias, Miguel. Indian Art of Mexico

1983.

City,

and

City,

Central America.

New

la. "El

deSan Lorenzo

la historia

correspondiente a

la

Memoriasde

Real de Madrid. Mexico

1999, pp. 79-100.

europeos

de

la

Garcia Cook, Angel. "Las Fases Texcalac y Tlaxcala o Posclasico de Tlaxcala."

In

York, 1957.

"El

arte prehispanico visto por los

Universidad de Mexico,
Cyphers, Ann. Escultura olmeca

arte prehispanico: un siglo de historia." In

Academia Mexicana de

vol.

29 (1983),

del siglo XIX." Revista

pp. 2-7.

Tenochtitlan. Mexico City, 2004.


.

Diaz del Castillo, Bernal. Historia verdodera de la conquista de la

Nueva Espana.

"La crftica y

arte prehispanico." In Las

el

1950-1975. Mexico

City,

humanidades en Mexico,

1978, pp. 93-101.

2 vols. Edited by Miguel Leon-Portilla. Madrid, 1984.


.

Dioses del Mexico Antiguo. Exh. cat. Antiguo Colegio de San lldefonso, Mexico
City,

Peldahos en

la

conciencia. Rostros en la pldstica prehispanico. Art

Collection 38. Mexico City, 1985.

1995.

Doutrelaine, M. Le Colonel. "La Pierre deTlanepantla."

Commission Scientifique du Mexique, tome

3. Paris,

In

Archives de

Antologiade

la

D. E.

and Florencia

1.

Mexico

City,

1996, pp. 311-20.

1867, pp. 111-120.

Gendrop,

Dumond,

Tlaxcala, vol.

Miiller. "Classic to Postclassic in

Paul. Arte

prehispanico en Mesoamerica. Mexico

City,

1979.

Highland Central

Mexico." Science, vol. 175, pp. 1208-15.

Gerhard, Peter. Geografia historica de

la

Nueva Espana 1519-

1821.

Mexico

City,

1986.

Duran, Diego. Book of the Gods and Rites and the Ancient Calendar. Translated

and edited by Fernando Horcasitas and Doris Heyden. Norman, Oklahoma, 1971.

Gibson, Charles. Los Aztecs bajo

el

dominio espahol, 1519-1810. Mexico

City,

1967.
.

Historia de las Indias de

Mexico

City,

Nueva Espana

e Islas

de Tierra Firme. 2

vols.

Gonzalez Torres,

1995.

Mesoamerican
Early, D.

T.

and John

Middle America. Metropolitan

F.

Scott, eds. Before Cortes: Sculpture of

Museum

of Art,

New

Azteken und ihre Vorlaufer. 2

und Untergang des Alten Mexiko: Die

vols. Exh. cat.

New

York and Oxford,

Graulich, Michel. Ritos aztecas:las fiestas de las veintenas. Mexico City, 1999.

Studies

in

C.

"The Olmec Paintings of Oxtotitlan Cave, Guerrero, Mexico."

Pre-Columbian Art and Archaeology

6.

Washington,

D.C.,

In

1970.

Roemer- und Pelizaeus-Museum,

Hildesheim, 1986.

Ekholm, Gordon. Ancient Mexico and Central America, Companion Book to the
Hall of Mexico

Oxford Encyclopedia of

Edited by David Carrasco.

York, 1970.

Grove, David

Eggebrecht, Eva and Arne, eds. Glanz

2.

2001, pp. 21-23.

"Ancient American Goldsmiths." Natural History (October 1956).

Easby, Elizabeth Kennedy,

Yolotl. "Huitzilopochtli." In

Cultures, vol.

and Central America. American Museum of Natural

History.

"Olmec Altars and Myths." Archaeology 26 (1973),

Gruzinski, Serge. Painting the Conquest: The

New

Renaissance.

in Pre-

Washington,

pp.

128-35.

Mexican Indians and the European

1992.

Paris,

York, 1970.

Handbook of the Robert Woods


Emmerich, Andre. Sweat of the Sun and Tears of the Moon; Gold and Silver

Columbian

Art. Seattle,

D.C.,

Bliss Collection

of Pre-Columbian

1965.
Hassig, Ross. Aztec Warfare: Imperial Expansion

Evans, Susan

T.

Art.

1963.

"Aztec Royal Pleasure Parks: Conspicuous Consumption and Elite

Status Rivalry." Studies in the History of Gardens

and

Political Control.

Norman,

Oklahoma, 1988.

and Designed Landscapes 20

(2000), pp. 206-28.

Hernandez, Gilda. "Iconografia de

las

Copas Policromas Cholultecas."

Arqueologia, no. 13-14 (1995).


Evans, Susan Toby,

and David L Webster,

Central America: An Encyclopedia.

New

eds.

Archaeology of Ancient Mexico and

York, 2001.

Hers, Marie-Areti. "Chicomoztoc.


vol. 10.

Fernandez, Justino. Coatlicue. Estetica del arte indigena antiguo. Mexico

Estetica del arte mexicano. Mexico City, 1972.

Revisado."

Heyden, Doris. "Las Cuevas de Teotihuacan."

Flores Villatono, Maria Dolores. "Escultura Antropomorfa,


In

Un Mito

In

Arqueologia Mexicana,,

2002.

Los toltecas en tierras chichimecas. Mexico

Mexico

"Mascara Antropomorfa."

City,

City,

1954.

Mexico

City,

In

1989.

City,

Arqueologia Mexicana,

Chac Mool" and

Arte Precolombino de Mexico. Milan, 1990.

"Historia de los

Mexicanos por sus pinturas."

In

Teogonia e historia de los

mexicanos. Tres opusculos del siglo XVI. Edited by Angel Ma. Garibay
Fox,

John Gerard. "Playing with Power: Ballcourts and

Mesoamerica." Current Anthropology 37

(3)

vol. 6.

1998.

Political Ritual in

Southern

City,

1965.

(June 1996), pp. 483-509.


.

Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca.

Copenhagen, 1942.

K.

Mexico

jve underneath the Pyramid of the Sun


'

Teo'

American Antiquity,

Lothrop,

in

S. K.

Robert Woods

Unknown Mexico; a

Lumholtz, Carl.
'icano, vol.

1,

tome

Arte prehispanica. Mexico

3,

City,

1982.

of the western Sierra Madre;

tribes

among
.

Columbus 3rd

'fdieval

American Art. Masterpieces of the

ed. 2 vols.

New

Bliss Collection:

Pre-Columbian

New

the Tarascos of Michoacan.

off, Paul,

the tierra caliente of Tepic

New

Manrique, Leonardo, and Noemi

Luis

the

and Jalisco; and

York, 1902.

World before

York, 1969.

Una Odena Giiemes, and

among

record of five years' exploration

in

Castillo, eds.

Homenaje

Reyes Garcia. Historia Tolteca-

Mexico

Historia.

City,

Doctor Ignacio Bernal,

al

Scientific Collection 333, History Series, Instituto Nacional

Chichimeca. Mexico

London, 1957.

Art.

2 (April 1975), pp. 131-47.

vol. 40, no.

de Antropologia e

1997.

1989.

City,

Manuscrit

Mexico

oerg, Walter. Las antiguas culturas mexicanas.

City,

Tovar. Origines et

Manzanilla, Linda.

Mitos y leyendas de los Aztecas, Incas, Mayas y Muiscas. Mexico

Kubler, George. Aesthetic Recognition

of Ancient Amerindian Art

croyances des Indiens du Mexique. Graz, 1972.

1961.

City,

1971.

Oztoyahuolco. 2

New Haven and

Mexico

residencial teotihuacano en

1993.

City,

"Gobierno corporativo en Teotihuacan: una revision del concepto

aplicado a

London, 1991.

Anatomia de un conjunto

vols.

la

gran urbe prehispanica." Anales de antropologia,

vol.

'palacio'

35 (2002),

pp.

157-90
The Art

and Architecture of Ancient America. Harmondsworth, 1962.


.

_.

in

"The Cycle of

Life

and Death

Ancient American and European

and London, 1985,

in

Metropolitan Aztec Sculpture."

Art. Edited

by

Thomas

F.

In

Studies

"Teotihuacan: Urban Archetype, Cosmic Model."

in Early

Urban

Miguel.

In

Emergence and Change

York, 1997, pp. 109-31.

Manzanilla, Linda, Claudia Lopez, and AnnCorinne Freter. "Dating Results from

De Teotihuacan a

pretaciones historical Mexico

New

New Haven

Reese.

pp. 219-24.

Excavations
a,

Societies.

City,

los Aztecas.

Antologia de fuentes e inter-

in

Quarry Tunnels behind the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan."

Ancient Mesoamerica,

vol. 7, no.

(Fall

1996), pp. 245-66.

1971.

Manzanilla, Linda, and Leonardo Lopez Lujan. "Exploraciones en un posible pala-

La Filosofia Ndhuatl estudiada en sus Fuentes. Mexico

City,

cio de Teotihuacan:

1983.

Proyecto Xalla (2000-2001)." Mexicon23,

el

vol. 13, no.

(June 2001), pp. 58-61.


..

"Mitos de los origenes en Mesoamerica."

Mexico

City,

In

Arqueologia Mexicana,

vol. 10.

2002.

Levenson, Jay

A.,

ed. Circa 1492: Art in the

Gallery of Art. Washington,

DC,

Age of Exploration.

Exh. cat. National

eds. Historia antiguo

de Mexico. 3

vols.

Mexico

Marquina, Ignacio. Arquitectura prehispanica. 2

City,

1994.

Mexico

vols.

1951.

City,

1991.

Mateos Higuera, Salvador. Los Dioses creadores. Enciclopedia grafica del Mexico
Lind,

Michael

D.

"Cholula and Mixteca Polychromes:

Regional Sub-styles."

In

Mixteca-Puebla: Discoveries and Research

Mesoamencan Art and Archaeology.


-

Two Mixteca-Puebla

Edited by Henry

B.

antiguo, vol.

2.

Mexico

City,

1993.

in

Nicholson and Eloise

es Keber. Culver City, California, 1994, pp. 79-100.

Matos Moctezuma, Eduardo. "Los mexica y llegaron


el

mundo de

las colecciones

de

arte, vol. 2,

los espanoles." In

Mesoamerica. Mexico

City,

Mexico en
1994, pp.

179-243.

after the Conquest: A Social

Nahuas

and

Cultural History of

the Indians of Central Mexico, Sixteenth through Eighteenth Centuries. Stanford,

"Las seis Coyolxauhqui: variaciones sobre un

mismo

tema." Estudios de

Cutura Nahuatl 21 (1991), pp. 15-29.

Lombardo de

Ruiz,

Soma,

et

al.

Arte precolombmo de Mexico. Milan and Madrid,

_.

El

Templo Mayor: Excavaciones y estudios. Mexico

Matos Moctezuma, Eduardo, and

>iumanoe

ideal

84.

1982.

City,

Felipe Solis Olguin. Aztecs. London, 2002.

nnccpcionesdc
."j, Eduardo, et

huacan Mi

al.

Dioses del Mexico antiguo.

G. "Cholula (Puebla, Mexico)." In

1995.

Archaeology of An.

i:An Encyclopedia. Edited by Susan Toby Evans and

New

York, 2001, pp. 138-42.

ixpai

'

li

Mi

iiueologicas M<

de rialnepantla
1911

la

arquitectura de

967,

and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and

Mary, and Karl Taube. The Gods

Miller,

Maya: An

the

of Mesoamerican Religion. London, 1993.

Illustrated Dictionary

Millon, Rene. Urbanization at Teotihuacan, Mexico, Part

The Teotihuacan Map.

America: An Encyclopedia. Edited by Susan Toby Evans and David L Webster.

New

York, 2001.

Pohl,

John M.D., and Bruce

E.

Byland. "The Mixteca-Puebla Style and Early

Postclassic Socio-Political Interaction." In Mixteca-Puebla: Discoveries

Austin, 1973.

Research
Muller, Florencia. La alfareria

Muhoz Camargo,

de Cholula. Serie Arqueologia. Mexico

Diego. Historia de Tlaxcala. Edited by

City,

1978.

German Vazquez

and

in

Mesoamerican Art and Archaeology. Edited by Henry

Quinones Keber. Culver

Eloise

James

Porter,

B.

and

Nicholson

1994, pp. 189-200.

City, California,

"Olmec Colossal Heads as Recarved Thrones:

Revolution and Recarving." RES: Anthropology

Chamorro. Madrid, 2003.

B.

'Mutilation,'

and Aesthetics

(1989), pp. 17-18,

23-29.
Navarrete Linares, Federico. "La migracion mexica: iinvencion o historia?"

Codices y documentos sobre Mexico. Scientific Collection 409. Mexico


pp.

In

City,

2000,

Porter, Muriel.

New

The Aztec, Maya, and their Predecessors.

York, 1972.

303-22.

Prakolumbische Kunstous Mexiko und Mittelamerika. Exh.


"Vivir

Mexico

City,

en

universo de los Nahuas."

el

In

Arqueologia Mexicana,

vol. 10.

cat.

Haus der Kunst,

Munich, 1958.

2002.

Precolumbian Art
Neff, Hector, et

al.

"Neutron Activation Analysis of Late Postclassic Polychrome

Pottery from Central Mexico."

Mixteca-Puebla: Discoveries and Research

In

Mesoamerican Art and Archaeology. Edited by Henry


Quinones Keber. Culver

City, California,

B.

Quinones Keber,
the

and Iconography

New

York: Selections

from Private Collections.

New

York,

in

Nicholson and Eloise

1994, pp. 117-42.

Nicholson, Henry B, ed. The Origins of Religious Art

in

1969.

in Preclassic

Mesoamerica. Los Angeles, 1967.

Reilly,

Kent,

F.

Rulership

in

III.

Representing Ritual: Performance, Text and Image

Eloise, ed.

WorkofSahagun.
"The

Olmec

in

Boulder, Colorado, 2002.

Shaman

Art."

A Study

Transformation Pose:

in

of the

Theme

Record of The Art Museum, Princeton University 48

of

(2)

(1989), pp. 4-21.

Nicholson, Henry

B.,

Puebla: Discoveries

and

Eloise

Quinones Keber. "Introduction."

and Research

in

In

Mixteca-

Mesoamerican Art and Archaeology. Edited

by Nicholson and Quinones Keber. Culver

City, California,

Relacion de Michoacdn. Michoacan, 2000.

1994.

Relaciones geogrdficas del Siglo XVI: Mexico,


,

of Aztec Mexico: Treasures of Tenochtitlan. Exh.

eds. Art

cat.

vols. 6-8.

Mexico

City,

1986.

National

Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1983.

Rice, Maurice.

Ancient American

Art,

500 BC-AD

1500, The Catalog of an

Exhibition of the Art of the Pre-European Americas. Exh. cat. Santa Barbara

Noguera, Eduardo. La ceramica arqueologica de Cholula. Mexico

Olivier,

City,

Museum

1954.

Guilhem. Mockeries and Metamorphoses of an Aztec God: Tezcatlipoca,

the "Lord of the

Smoking

of Art, California, 1942.

Ricoeur, Paul.

Tiempo y narracion,

Saenz Gonzalez, Olga,

2003.

Mexico
Pailles,

vol. 3, El

tiempo narrado. Mexico, 1996.

/W/Vror/'Translated by Michel Besson. Boulder, Colorado,

City,

ed.

Mexico en

el

mundo de

las colecciones

de

arte. 2 vols.

1994.

Maricruz. "Proyecto arqueologico Las Bocas, Puebla." Report filed to the

Coordinacion Nacional de Arqueologia, INAH, 1998.

Sahagun, Bernardino

de. Historia

general de las cosas de Nueva Espaha. 4 vols.

Sepan Cuantos Collection 300. Mexico

New

Parsons, Lee. Pre-Columbian Art.

Pasztory, Esther. Aztec Art.

Norman, Oklahoma, 1983.

and Juan Manuel. Xochimilco

oyer.

Mexico

City,

and Iron-Ore Mirror Exchange

Mesoamerica, with Comments on Other Commodities."

Mesoamerican

Village. Edited

by

K. V.

Flannery.

New

In

in

E.

Dibble and Arthur

J.

0.

3 vols.

Anderson. Salt Lake

1950-81.

2002.
Sanders, William T, Jeffrey

Pires-Ferreira, Jane. "Shell

1969.

Florentine Codex. General History of the Things of New Spain.

Translated and edited by Charles


City,

Perez, Zevallos,

City,

York, 1980.

Formative

R.

Parsons, and Robert

S.

Ecological Processes in the Evolution of Civilization.

The Early

Santley. The Basin of Mexico:

New

York and San Francisco,

1979.

York, 1976, pp. 306-11.


Saville,

Plunket, Patricia. "Cholula y su ceramica posclasica: Algunas perspectives."

Marshall H. The Goldsmith's Art in Ancient Mexico.

New

York, 1920.

In

Arqueologia, no. 13-14 (1995).

Schonfeld, Wendy. DieAzteken

und

ihre Vorloufer

Glanz und Untergang desAlten

Mexico. 2 vols. Exh. cat. Roemer- und Pelizaeus-Museum, Hildesheim, 1986.


Plunket, Patricia,

and Gabriela Urunuela. "Preclassic Household Patterns

Preserved under Volcanic Ash at Tetimpa, Puebla, Mexico." Latin American


Antiquity, vol.

9,

no. 4 (1998), pp.

287-309.

Serra Puche, Mari Carmen. "Objetos de Obsidiana y otros cristales en

antiguo."

In Cristales

Puche and
.

"Puebla-Tlaxcala Region."

In

Archaeology of Ancient Mexico and Central

y obsidiana prehispdnicos. Edited by Mari

Felipe Solis Olguin.

Mexico

City,

1994, pp. 73-216.

el

Carmen

Mexico
Serra

Tovar,

2004.

Juan de. The Tovar Calendar: An Illustrated Mexican Manuscript,

Edited by George Kubler and Charles Gibson.

New

c.

1585.

Haven, 1951.

Mural of the Chimales and the Codex


Discoveries

and Research

in

Mesoamericon Art and

Townsend, Richard

F.

The Aztecs.

New

York and London, 1992.

Nicholson and Eloise Quinones Keber. Culver


Vaillant, George.

394, pp. 2

Michael

"Aztec City Planning."

E.

In

Encyclopaedia of the History of Non-

Viesca, Carlos.

Mexico

yaence, Technology, and Medicine. Revised Internet ed. Edited by

City,

The Aztecs of Mexico.

Ticiotl,

New

York, 1941

conceptos medicos de los antiguos Mexicanos,

vol.

1.

1997.

Von Winning, Hasso. Pre-Columbian Art of Mexico and Central America. New
2nd

t Aztecs.

York, 1968.

ed. Oxford, 2003.

e Provinces of the Aztec Empire." Scientific American 277

Westheim,

(3)

Mexico

(1997), pp. 56-63.

_.

"Mixteca-Puebla Style."

In

Archaeology of Ancient Mexico and Central

Paul. Ideas

City,

fundamentals

del arte prehispanico en Mexico. 3rd ed.

1986.

Obras maestras del Mexico antiguo. 3rd ed. Mexico

City,

1990.

America: An Encyclopedia. Edited by Susan Toby Evans and David L Webster.


Escultura y ceramica del Mexico antiguo. 2nd ed. Mexico

..001.

and Frances

F.

White, Andrew Dickson. Pre-Columbian Art of Latin America. Ithaca,

Berdan, eds. The Postclassic Mesoamericon

had

E.,

Jennifer Wharton, and Jan Marie Olson. "Aztec Feasts, Rituals,

Uses of Ceramic Vessels

Political

Archaeology and
by Tamara Bray.

Politics

New

of Food and Feasting

York, 2003, pp.

in

Commercial Economy."

in Early

States

and

In

The

Whittington,

Ballgame.

..

City,

Research

1998.

7.

Mexico

City,

2000,

E.

"Una cueva ceremonial en Teotihuacan." Unpublished master's

thesis, Escuela

El

Wolf, Eric

In

Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, 1985.

Mexico antiguo. Barcelona, 1969.

Universo de los Aztecas. Mexico

nW

City,

1982.

"Monumental sculpture of southern Veracruz and Tabasco."

Handbook of Middle American

"El

Indians, vol.

3.

Austin, 1965, pp. 716-38.

Policromo Laca de Cholula, Puebla."


>n

In

Mixteca-Puebla:

Mesoamericon Art and Archaeology. Edited by Henry


1

'

02.

and Death: The Mesoamer can

ii

45-52.

ientopreh

F.

Heizer. "Sources of

Facility, vol. 1. Berkeley,

R.,

Rocks Used

in

Olmec

Contributions of the University of California Archaeological

ed. The Valley

1965, pp. 1-39.

of Mexico: Studies of Pre-Hispanic Ecology and

Society. Albuquerque, 1976.

Soustelle, Jacques. El arte del

In

Mexico

"La Piedra del Sol." In Arqueologia Mexicana, vol.

ico Saenz.

York,

York, 2001.

Williams, Howell, and Robert

32-39.

degree

New

Empires. Edited

235-68.

Solis Olguin, Felipe. La Cultura del Maiz.

Michael, ed. The Sport of Life

E.

New

Monuments."

pp.

1991.

1966.

World. Salt Lake City, 2003.

and Markets:

City,

Photo Credits

By page number

5: American Museum of Natural

History,

photo by Craig Chesek; 12-13, 18-19,

54-55, 130-31, 166-67, 220-21, 248-49, 332-33, 352-53, 366-67, 368: pho-

tography by Michel Zabe and Enrique Macias originally published

Academy

(London: Royal

of Arts, 2002) copyright

in

Aztecs

Royal Academy of

Arts,

London; 24-25: Brooklyn Museum; 36-37, 82-83: photos by Michel Zabe and
Enrique Macias.

By catalogue number
1-4,

9-10,

7,

12,

15-19, 22-23, 25, 29, 32, 34-37, 44-68, 70, 72, 74-77, 79,

81-86, 88, 90-92, 94, 96-98, 100, 102-104, 106, 109, 111-17, 119, 121, 123-24,
130, 132, 135, 137-41, 143-44, 146-51, 157, 159, 168, 173, 175, 192-95, 197:

photography by Michel Zabe and Enrique Macias originally published


(London: Royal

London;
53, 61,

5:

Academy

Museum

of Art,

of Arts, 2002) copyright

Rhode

in

Aztecs

Royal Academy of

Island School of Design; 6,

65-66, 69-71, 73, 75, 87, 93, 99, 105, 107-108,

8,

Arts,

27, 38-40, 42-43,

110, 120, 125, 127, 129,

145, 152, 154-56, 158, 161-62, 164-67, 170, 172, 174, 178-88, 196, 199: photos

by Michel Zabe and Enrique Macias;


26, 28, 101, 136, 163,

by Bruce M. White; 30:

Museum

respectively; 41:

2004, Museum
Field

Art,

14, 24,

University,

photos

Wood, 1991, 2002, 1995, 2002,

Museum, negative #A114179c, photo by Diane

Museum

of Natural History, Yale University,

131, 134, 171: courtesy National


Institution,

Museum;

of Natural History, photos by

of Fine Arts, Boston; 31, 33, 80, 118:

of Art, photos by Graydon

The

White; 78: Peabody

20, 89, 177: Brooklyn

Museum

2004, Trustees of Princeton

Craig Chesek; 21, 153, 160, 169:

Philadelphia

11, 13,

189-91 American

Museum

photo by NMAI Photo Services

A.

95,

of the American Indian, Smithsonian


staff; 122:

Museum

Museum of
Museum of Art,

The Cleveland

2002; 126: Saint Louis Art Museum; 128: The Metropolitan

photograph 2002 The Metropolitan

New Haven;

of Art; 133, 198: Dumbarton Oaks,

Washington, D.C, Pre-Columbian Collection; 176: Yale University Art

Gallery.