Daily Life of the Aztecs (The Greenwood Press Daily Life Through History Series)


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The domestication of several agricultural plants began before b. During this period, ancient Mesoamericans came to rely upon three important crops: corn, squash, and beans. This important group of vegetables, when consumed together, provided native Mesoamericans with the proper combination of proteins necessary for a complete diet. But for several millennia prior to the emergence of the Aztecs, the central crop of Mesoamerica was as it continues to be corn—white, black, red, and yellow maize.

The most productive strands take six months to mature, though some types can take as little as four months. These different varieties of corn provided protein and calories and were transformed into the widely useful corn tortillas as well as tamales filled with beans, chilies, and sometimes meats. Corn was also turned into atole, a kind of soup drink. The problem facing the Aztecs was that maize, originally developed at altitudes lower than the basin, had little resistance to frost.

This meant that a late rainy season or early frosts could disrupt the growing season and cause havoc with the economic well-being of the Aztecs. The Aztecs also inherited the growing of beans, tomatoes, squash, and avocados, as well as the cultivation of nopal and 12 Daily Life of the Aztecs maguey plants, the latter of which could be used as rope, nets, footwear, sewing needles, and even paper.

While the Aztecs were highly successful at cultivating all these plants, the surviving records tell us of devastating droughts and famines in the s during the reign of the first Motecuhzoma Motecuhzoma Ilhuicamina. In one report, some Aztecs sold themselves to the Totonacs for cobs of maize for a young woman and for a working male. During these periods some families had to sell their children into servitude or periods of slavery, later to buy them back when abundance returned.

In times of regular harvests, the agricultural system was a model of order and productivity. As one scholar notes: Irrigation was fairly widespread in the Valley and the neighboring upland regions. In other regions, especially in the arid lands around the Rio Balsas in western Mexico, it was impossible to raise a harvest at all without irrigation, and the inhabitants were obliged to dig canals or to sow their maize on land which flooded each year. Raised fields, local canals, aqueducts, and even household gardening were all widely used, as recent archaeological research has taught us.

Along with agricultural produce, the Aztec diet included dogs, turkey, deer, fish, rats, iguanas, and numerous types of snakes for which they were well known. Finding Out: The Sources of Our Knowledge Some years ago, Life magazine published an issue about the 25 most important events in the history of mankind. We know that the discovery of the New World and the encounters with Caribbean and Central American peoples, especially the great Maya, Inca, and Aztec civilizations, shocked European scientists, scholars, rulers, and citizens, who were forced to realize that their maps of the world, theological teachings, geographical knowledge, and political powers were limited instruments of understanding and domination.


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As eyewitnesses from Europe first reported, there were many human-made pyramids and monumental stone and stuccoed ceremonial centers on top of and along the sides of the Mesoamerican geographical pyramid. Every Aztec community had a ceremonial center made up of a sacred shrine, a governmental house, and a tianquiztli, or marketplace.

This ceremonial center oriented daily life and allowed the people to come in contact with each other and the ideas and policies of their leaders, and to communicate through rituals with their gods and goddesses. Unfortunately, all of these ceremonial centers, especially the most important pyramids and temples, were attacked and at least partially torn down by the invading Spaniards.

In fact, many sections of the capital city, which covered 10 square miles, were smashed to bits and used as the base for the building of the new Spanish capital during the 16th century. Given this record of destruction and partial recovery, how do we find out about the daily life of Aztec families, individuals, towns, and cities? Where do we begin, and how did these 14 Daily Life of the Aztecs materials become available given the conquest, disease, and social catastrophes of the 16th century?

This range of evidence forms an ensemble or collection of different types of evidence. We have an ensemble of surviving painted books, countless ruins yielding rich ritual offerings, sculpture, and written accounts by Aztecs, Spaniards, and mestizos, or people of mixed Indian and European ancestry, who described the myths, histories, calendars, medicines, wars, gods, and trading patterns of daily life. Let us turn to four major types of evidence—archaeological, pictorial, written, and ethnohistorical—and see how they are available to us.

Archaeology: Digging the Aztec Goddess In the early morning hours of February 21, , electrical workers who were laying down lines behind the National Cathedral in Mexico City uncovered the edges of a huge circular stone with unusual carvings on it. Thinking that their discovery would interrupt their work and perhaps suspend their pay, they decided to keep the stone a secret.

But an anonymous phone call to the National Institute of Anthropology and History reported the discovery, and archaeologists rushed to the site. They were amazed to find themselves gazing at the largest and most significant single piece of sculpture uncovered in the Americas since the Aztec Calendar Stone was excavated in ! Scientists who knew Aztec mythology well soon realized that the stone, 11 feet in diameter, depicted the carved image of the moon goddess, who had been dismembered by the sun god in a celestial war during the creation of the Aztec world.

She wore an elaborate headdress of eagle and turkey feathers, had two-headed serpents on each of her dismembered arms and legs, and bled jeweled or precious blood. This discovery led to the excavation of the entire area, and the Great Temple of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan came to light during the next 15 years. More than buried offerings to the gods, often in walled containers, were excavated, yielding more than 8, ritual objects.

Mexican archaeology is considered one of the most productive scientific research traditions in the world today. Throughout the 20th century, Mexican archaeologists and some foreign teams have steadily dug into the foundations of Mexico City and other Cemanahuac 15 important sites in and beyond the Basin of Mexico, uncovering ceremonial centers, pyramids, temples, pieces of sculpture, ritual burials, and human and animal remains. These discoveries have taken place in the center and on the edges of the great capital, and in the valleys and mountain areas of the basin, and they have continually revised our view of Aztec life.

For instance, some equally important archaeological work on earlier cultures that were important to the Aztecs has taken place at sites such as Teotihuacan, a city to the northeast of Mexico City that flourished from 1 to c. Tula was the center of the Great Tollan, the imperial kingdom of the Toltecs, to whom the Aztecs traced their heritage and right to rulership.

These and other archaeological excavations ultimately cast some light on the Aztecs because the rulers, from Acamapichtli, who reigned from to , through Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin, whose reign started in and who was in power when the Spaniards arrived, constantly looked to their ancestral cultures for legitimacy and inspiration.

In fact, the excavations in downtown Mexico City show that the Aztecs were archaeologists themselves! They walked more than 30 miles to the great pyramids of Teotihuacan centuries after the great city had fallen into disrepair, dug up sacred objects, and transported them to their capital, where they reburied the objects as offerings to their gods in their own sacred precincts at the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan. Later in this book we will see images and discuss the meaning of effigy vessels, ritual masks, sacrificial knives, jade beads, marine animals and seashells, human sacrifices, and sculptures of underworld gods found in these offertory caches.

The study of this temple and other archaeological finds will serve in part as a focusing lens for our understanding of the daily life of the Aztecs. We shall see how the Great Temple was the site of mythic events, human sacrifices, architectural innovations, and political decisions, and the place where the Aztecs made part of their last stand against the Spaniards before the city fell. It is sad to know that, of the hundreds of pictorial manuscripts extant in Mexico in carrying knowledge and symbols of traditions reaching back more than 2, years, only 16 remain today.

These pictorials, or storybooks, used a picture-writing system that served to communicate literal and metaphoric messages about all aspects of life. When these books were destroyed, the time-honored legacies of education and knowledge concerning medicine, astronomy, history, nature, and the cosmos were seriously damaged.


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A perforated mirror, a mirror pierced on both sides. His are the red and black ink, his are the illustrated manuscripts, he studies the illustrated manuscripts. Some images of, for example, animals, plants, mountains, dances, battles, or sacrifices, were pictographs because they represented those persons, places, and things themselves.

Other images were ideographs, or symbols of objects that stood for ideas associated with the image. For instance, in the first case, an image of a flower represented a flower, but as an ideograph, a flower could mean a poem or sacrificial blood, depending on the context. The image of a bundle of reeds likely signified a bundle of reeds as a pictograph, but a tied bundle of reeds appearing as an ideograph could refer to a year cycle of ritual completion in the Aztec calendar.

We will come across and examine a number of these images in our study. While only a few of the surviving pictorial storybooks come from Aztec communities, many of the other manuscripts share the same symbol system with the Aztecs and can be used to study domestic life, the education of teenagers, courtship rules, time reckoning, the gods, genealogies, and other crucial aspects of life. And we are very fortunate that native peoples continued to produce these manuscripts after the conquest. Among the most relevant pictorials for Ruler examines a pictorial screenfold manuscript while two individuals paint other manuscripts below him.

The first two are remarkable for their calendrical and ritual information, while the Mendoza gives us rich historical information about Mexica warfare, kingship, economics, parenting, and the life cycle of the people. Also, picture writing in the native style appears on many surviving archaeological objects and structures, so that comparisons and contrasts can be made between the images carved in stone and those painted on the screenfolds. Even today we can be astonished by the sudden reappearance of a colonial painting in the Aztec style that contains important symbols and other information about the ritual life and worldview of pre-Hispanic peoples.

Recently the beautiful Mapa de Cuauhtinchan No. We will see parts of this story and imagery later in the book. Research into American Indian cultures can be an invigorating and enlarging experience. The history of knowledge as presented by and about the native peoples of Mexico needs to be told in scholarly books, novels, films, poems, and plays in order to approach the profundity, drama, and various kinds of wisdom developed by the Aztecs and their neighbors. Throughout the 16th century, the descendants of the Aztecs, as well as Europeans and mestizos, produced accounts written in Nahuatl the native language spoken by many of the Indians of Central Mexico , Spanish, and even French about the cosmovision and ceremonial centers of the various Aztec communities.

This document was modeled on time-honored European encyclopedias that organized knowledge in terms of 1 the gods and theology, 2 humans and society, and 3 the natural world. He was a very learned man with special abilities in language, and he planned to 1 learn as much as possible about the Indian religions, 2 create a Nahuatl vocabulary to assist in the effective preaching of the Holy Gospel, and 3 create a documentary record of native culture so that it could be understood and transformed. How did he go about his work?

This college, like the earlier calmecac the most rigorous of the various pre-Hispanic Aztec schools , was designed to train native boys in the new educational traditions brought from Spain. And we began to teach them to read, write, and sing. And, as they did well in all this, we then endeavored to put them to the study of grammar. For this training a college was formed in the city of Mexico, in the Santiago Tlatelolco section, in which were selected from all the neighboring villages and from all the provinces the most capable boys, best able to read and write.

They slept and ate at the same college. We know from surviving traditions that native youth were instructed by preceptors who used large and beautiful books with pictures and symbols in them. The key method of transmitting knowledge during the pre-Hispanic period, however, was the oral description or recitation of the knowledge on the pages. Of particular importance are passages about the correct education of children and teenagers.

You are my blood, my color, my image. Listen, much do I want you to understand that you are noble. See that you are very precious, even while you are still only a little lady. You are a precious stone, you are a turquoise. Aztecs Today: Healing Plants Contrary to popular belief, there are many communities in and around the Basin of Mexico where some of the ideas and practices from pre-Hispanic times are still carried on. There are more than a million Nahuatl-speaking people living in Mexico today and many are knowledgeable about native ways of cooking, healing, praying, planting, growing, speaking, weaving, drawing, and telling stories.

Some of these people have migrated into the United States, bringing their knowledge of native languages and cultural practices. It is true that the Spanish culture and the many innovations made by Mexicans in the areas of culture and technology influence the lives and thoughts of these people, but important patterns of pre-Hispanic life continue and are mixed in with contemporary Mexican life. A number of anthropologists and other kinds of contemporary fieldworkers are in touch with some of these ongoing traditions.

One example is the husband-and-wife team of Robert Bye and Edelmira Linares, who have dedicated their lives to studying the cultivation and usage of a broad range of plants, fruits, and flowers by contemporary indigenous and mestizo peoples. This research has involved intensive fieldwork conducted in and around the Basin of Mexico with shamans, healers, growers, and their families in an attempt to discover some of the continuities and changes in their medicinal practices from Aztec times to the present.

We will make reference to some of these studies throughout the book. Besides the work of ethnobotanists like Bye and Linares, there are new studies of archaeological sites, calendars, mythology, dream life, clothes, market systems, and public ceremonies that help us reflect back on the daily routines, beliefs, and ritual actions that animated the many native communities in and around the lake cultures of Central Mexico. Mysterious Origins versus Research Where did the peoples and cultures who engendered the Aztecs originate? We know that the Mexica groups who became known as the Aztecs migrated into the Basin of Mexico in the 13th and 22 Daily Life of the Aztecs 14th centuries from the north, but where did their ancestors originally come from?

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Daily Life of the Aztecs: People of the Sun and Earth by Davíd Carrasco

This question has challenged scholars and laypersons alike from the earliest contacts with indigenous American peoples up until today. Who were they? Whence came they? One line of thought has emphasized the similarities between Aztec and Maya architecture and the temples and buildings in Egypt. It was once argued that Egypt was the original homeland of American Indian civilizations because of the similarities in pyramid structures, calendars, forms of writings, and some of the symbolism attributed to the gods.

Closer inspection reveals striking differences between the uses and meanings of Egyptian pyramids and the pyramid temples of Mesoamerica. The Egyptian pyramids were basically tombs for the pharaohs and their families.

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While they are magnificent to look at and are monumental in the extreme, they were ritually important as interior architecture and not basically stages for ongoing public rituals, though rituals were held at their bases. In the Aztec world of temples and pyramids, the emphasis was on ongoing exterior performances of myths, rituals, calendrical cycles, and imperial displays in a continuing cycle of ceremonies. As recent archaeological work over the last 30 years has shown, however, it is true that the Aztecs also buried precious ritual objects, animals, and the remains of very important people within some of their pyramid-temples, but the differences in architectural form and ritual usage suggest independent invention, and not cultural diffusion from Egypt.

Another view, expressed as early as by the German explorer Alexander von Humboldt, was that Asian peoples had migrated to the New World in ancient times, disseminating ideas, symbols, and ritual practices to the ancestors of the Aztecs and Toltecs. In the 20th century, the idea of trans-Pacific contacts was explored by the anthropologist-adventurer Thor Heyerdahl, who constructed a huge raft called the Kon-Tiki and sailed across a large section of the Pacific Ocean to the Americas. He hoped to prove that it was possible for ancient seafarers to have made the journey and to have stimulated the development of civilization in the Americas.

Courtesy of Scott Sessions 24 Daily Life of the Aztecs Heyerdahl attempted to show that Mediterranean peoples could have made the journey to the Americas by sailing across the Atlantic, although his Egyptian-style reed boat, named the Ra, was actually designed and constructed by natives from the Lake Titicaca area of South America. Still others have suggested that members of ancient Chinese and South Asian communities migrated down the west coast of the Americas, bringing elements of civilization that served as the basis for the ceremonial centers, calendars, and rituals of the Aztecs and the Maya.

Some scholars have argued that Asian cultures strongly influenced the Costa Rican area of Mesoamerica, bringing the Buddhist artistic and theological tradition to the New World 3, years ago. Taking a cultural diffusionist approach, these interpretations argue that the great cultural centers of the Americas were developed by migrating peoples who left centers of culture in the Old World and transplanted the roots of civilization monumental architecture, writing, calendars, and extensive market systems on American soil.

The problem with this notion is that not a single object from Asia or the Mediterranean has ever been found in any archaeological site in the New World! Sometimes, the problem of the origins of the Aztecs and their precursors has produced fantastic ideas. In the 19th century, American and European anthropologists debated whether the lost continent of Atlantis in the Atlantic or Mu in the Pacific could have been the original home of ancient American civilizations.

Again, the problem with this explanation is simple. Where is the material evidence? Lack of evidence occasionally leads to invention of evidence. It can often be fascinating to make comparisons, and in fact it appears that humans do it naturally without even intending to look for similarities and differences. While these different types of comparisons and speculations are fun to make and should be left open for future researchers, we must be very cautious about notions of cultural diffusion.

The implication of some diffusionist interpretations is that native Americans were not capable of achieving extraordinary levels of cultural creativity on their own, but needed the stimulus and cultural remnants of superior foreigners to reach impressive levels of civilization. The idea here is sometimes, but not always, that Old World cultures were superior, more highly civilized, and more deserving of our attention and admiration.

This is an utterly false and ethnocentric view of history and culture. It has been clearly proved that New World cultures, including the Mesoamerican civilizations that gave rise to the Aztecs and the Maya, developed primarily as a result of cultural creativity indigenous to the Americas. This is not to deny that impressive similarities between the Old and the New Worlds exist. But such similarities are no more impressive than the remarkable differences, innovations, and diversities among the cultural productions of Asia, the Mediterranean, Africa, and the Americas, and within the Americas as well.

And if such contact did in fact take place, it may just as well have traveled in the opposite direction, that is, from the Americas to the rest of the world. Why not consider the kinds of reciprocal stimulations moving in all directions? Regardless of these very slim possibilities of cultural diffusion, what is clear is that the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica were more than capable of developing their own cultural traditions based on their work, imaginations, and interactions with their social and natural environment.

These cultural processes were 26 Daily Life of the Aztecs concentrated and crystallized in the numerous ceremonial centers, city-states, and day-to-day patterns of human beings. As we shall see, this creativity was particularly evident in the Aztec world. A Diversity of Peoples One of the most important points to make about the ecological and social background of Aztec life is that Mesoamerica was a diverse space and time.

We should know something of this diversity. Just as we know that there were 13 colonies and a number of languages spoken within them prior to the eventual rise of English as the chief language of discourse and the formation of the United States, it is important to know that there were several hundred ethnic groups among the natives of Mesoamerica who spoke many different languages. As we shall see, in Aztec times, their Nahuatl language became the most important to know in central Mesoamerica, but many other languages were spoken and sung by millions of people.

Even though this book focuses specifically on the Mexica, or Aztecs of the 14th through 16th centuries, they were not the only—or even the most powerful or impressive—cultural group in Mesoamerican history. But they did inherit and integrate many cultural elements from their precursors, and it is important for us to review the diversity of cultural history before turning to the lives of the Aztecs.

Remembering our pyramid image, we can say that the Aztecs, who were latecomers to the Basin of Mexico, lived at the top of the historical pyramid and claimed to be supported by great civilizations of the past. Archaeological evidence makes clear that human populations from northeast Asia groups of Mongoloid peoples entered the New World as early as 25, b. They were hunters and gatherers who slowly migrated southward and eastward into the areas of present-day Canada and the United States.

It appears that these peoples reached the Basin of Mexico by 20, b. They carried an elaborate hunting culture into the Americas, which included shamanism, artistic expressions, and ritual relationships with animals and their spirits. Surprisingly, various human physical types speaking more than languages migrated into North America and Mesoamerica, and on into South America.

Cemanahuac 27 As these peoples struggled to find stable places in the environment, they encountered a marvelous geography of contrasts and wonders, highlands and lowlands, and a wide variety of ecosystems. After crossing the deserts and canyons of northern Mexico, these human groups found various mountain ranges, periodically volcanic, and high valleys and plateaus where major cultural centers developed at different periods in history.

Archaeologists have identified three major stages of historical development for Mesoamerican peoples, called the Formative Period b. Each of these stages was organized, in part, by complex settlements that had major and minor civic-ceremonial centers consisting of ritual spaces, elite compounds, and eventually sizable marketplaces where the shared worldview, religion, and mythology were expressed in architecture, sculpture, painting, and ritual performances.

Even in the Formative Period, certain ceremonial centers, especially among the Olmec peoples of the Gulf Coast, reached monumental proportions. The Aztecs appeared in the last stages of the Postclassic Period, but it is important to know something of their precursors. Sacred Plants The most creative cultural event that slowly brought about major changes in the social and imaginative world was the control of food energy contained in plants.

The development of agriculture was the fundamental change that led to the rise of village cultures, ceremonial centers, and social differentiation.

Daily Life of the Aztecs, 2nd Edition

We know from the art of this period and the poetry of later peoples that plants and the lush cycle of plant life gave human beings a new attitude toward the idea of creativity—both the creativity of their gods and human creativity. These changes took place between b. As we shall see when discussing Aztec religion and the cults of the rain and corn gods and goddesses, all these plants and their seeds were believed to contain sacred powers and came to play crucial roles in the myths, rituals, calendars, costumes, and performances in Aztec life.

They went in procession, to present them to the goddess Chicomecoatl, and they returned them once more to their house[s] as blessed thing[s] and from there they took the seed to plant next year. And also they put it [away] as the heart of the grain bins, because it was blessed. The name Olmec means people from the land of the rubber trees and was used by an indigenous group living in this area at the time of the conquest.

It is not known what the ancient peoples of this area called themselves. The Olmecs are outstanding because of their style of art and architecture. Called the Mother Culture of Mesoamerican civilizations because their images of gods and religious forces were spread throughout an extensive geographical area and elaborated by many later peoples, the Olmecs reshaped the earth and natural objects as ways to communicate with their gods and their own people. They especially used jade, basalt, clay, and the earth itself in the forms of caves and hills.

Artificial mountains were created at the site of La Venta to represent an earth pyramid. Caves and cliffs were the settings for elaborate paintings and carvings of humananimal-spirit relations. The Olmecs had ritual calendars and ritual burials, and their ceremonial centers were decorated with fantastic mixtures of animal and human forms, including human-jaguar, jaguar-bird, bird-jaguar-crocodile, and crocodile-human combinations.

These expressions represent a profound belief in the spirit world. One of the most fascinating elements of the Olmec peoples appeared in the excavation of San Lorenzo. Colossal stone heads carved with human faces, each wearing helmet-like headgear, were found at different parts of the site. These heads, some nine feet in height and weighing up to 40 tons, were carved on huge rocks quarried from the Tuxtla Mountains, more than 45 miles from the site. Their transportation to San Lorenzo over land and water, as well as their artistic sophistication, shows a complex level of social order and a deep commitment to religious symbols.

Perhaps these heads represent dead warriors or portraits of rulers who were believed to Cemanahuac 29 One of many giant stone heads carved by Olmec sculptors at ceremonial centers on the Gulf Coast. Anthony Aveni, an archaeoastronomer from Colgate University, has written several excellent books on the ancient skywatchers of Mexico showing the long and complex tradition of stargazing, astronomical calculation, and ceremonial buildings oriented toward celestial passages of the sun, Venus, and the Pleiades.

For instance, at the magnificent site of Teotihuacan and others in the Basin of Mexico, Aveni and his colleagues have shown conclusively that a number of the buildings were constructed to face specific astronomical events occurring along the horizon, probably as a means of calculating the passage of the year from the dry to the wet season.

Teotihuacan is particularly important because the Aztecs believed that it was the site of the creation of the Fifth Sun, or the universe in which they dwelled. The Aztec myth of creation tells how this Fifth Sun emerged out of the sacrifices of gods 30 Daily Life of the Aztecs at Teotihuacan, thereby providing humans with an ordered and reliable universe. The great stairway of the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan faces a westerly point on the horizon where the Pleiades, called Tianquiztli, or Marketplace, by the Aztecs, set directly in front of it at an important time of the year.

In Aztec times, events such as solstices, equinoxes, and Venus cycles played a very important role in daily life. The Maya achieved real advances in their mathematically ingenious calendar, lavishly decorated ceremonial centers, and cult of rulers, and especially in their writing system, which told of their complex mythology, the underworld, and cosmic rebirth. One of the most challenging mysteries for students to consider seriously is the collapse of large parts of Maya culture and in the Zapotec culture in Oaxaca during the short period from to c.

It appears that an escalation of monumental building programs that put undue labor and resource demands on the populace plus a pervasive series of crises, including hurricanes, rebellions, famines, and warfare, coincided during this period and brought the great achievements of the Classic Maya centers to a standstill, although new Postclassic Maya sites would subsequently emerge.

Well before the florescence of the Classic centers, the Maya developed, among other things, the fabulous Long Count calendar. Having understood the concept of zero, they combined a number of calendars, including the tzolkin a day count possibly related to the period of human gestation , the haab a day count related to the solar cycle , and the Calendar Round a year cycle in which the tzolkin and haab counts came together , within the Long Count a linear calendar associated with ancestor worship, dynastic lineages, and long-term prophesies to map out and relate to the prodigious natural and cultural rhythms of their world.

This calendrical system enabled Maya priests to compute dates in colossal cycles going back to at least nine million years b. At the present time there is worldwide interest in what might happen on December 21, , as shown by films, books, television specials, and magazines that speak of some kind of universal or cosmic shift in our lives at that time. But anyone who knows the shape and meaning of Mesoamerican timekeeping understands why the Maya believed that this date will be followed by a new cosmic cycle that will both repeat the meaningful patterns of the past and reveal new mysteries in the heavens and on earth.

Mesoamerican calendars were cyclical and included periods of darkness, danger, and liminality, always followed by the regeneration of time and the cosmos. The Maya believed, not in a catastrophic end of the universe in , but in cosmic renewal and the rebirth of time. Teotihuacan: City of the Gods When the excavators of the Great Aztec Temple in present-day Mexico City penetrated the interior of an adjacent building, which they called the Eagle Warrior Precinct, they were thrilled to find materials and artistic styles dating back to the Toltec empire — c.

For instance, they found several fine vases that had been excavated by the Aztecs themselves from the ruins of Teotihuacan, the City of the Gods, which had fallen into decline during the seventh and eighth centuries. Seven or eight centuries later, the Aztecs looked back to Teotihuacan as the place of origin of the era or universe in which they lived. Teotihuacan, popularly known today as the Pyramids, is located 30 miles northeast of Mexico City, and the name means the Place Where One Becomes Deified. Teotihuacan is the most visited archaeological site in the Americas.

Visitors today can see not only that it contained monumental architecture, including the so-called Pyramids of the Sun and of the Moon and the great Street of the Dead, but that the entire city was designed as a gigantic image of the cosmos. It was an architectural and ritual microcosm, a small but by human standards, colossal image of the great cosmos created by the gods. At its peak, around c. Its influence also extended through time, reaching into the minds of the Aztecs and other communities of the 16th century.

Thus, they went to the ruins, dug up valuable and beautiful objects, and deposited them in the sacred burials at their greatest sacred shrine, which they called Coatepec Serpent Mountain.

Cemanahuac 33 Teotihuacan had its beginnings in a cave. Throughout Mesoamerican history, caves were valued as the place of origin of ancestral peoples remember, the Aztecs claimed that they came from Chicomoztoc, the Place of Seven Caves. Caves were also considered passageways to the underworld, and rituals performed in caves could symbolically transport human beings into the realms of the world below. The cave beneath the Pyramid of the Sun was decorated and artificially reshaped into the form of a four-petaled flower. The entire inhabited space of the city was laid out by its planners and architects as a four-part metropolis imitating the structure of the cosmos.

This view of the Street of the Dead and the Pyramid of the Sun in the distance is taken from the monumental Pyramid of the Moon. Note the elegant order of the ceremonial buildings. The art of the city shows that during its rise and florescence b. It is important to remember that we must rely mainly on the archaeological art and architecture part of the ensemble in our studies of Teotihuacan.

Very limited oral and written traditions directly related to Teotihuacan exist, yet we can see that the people were mighty warriors with profound religious convictions devoted to gods and goddesses of rain, corn, knowledge, celestial bodies, and rulers. It is clear that the Aztecs looked to Teotihuacan as their place of origin. Their Fifth Sun, the Aztec era in which the great city of Tenochtitlan was founded and flourished, was created in a sacrificial fire at the beginning of time. The sun was born on the eastern horizon and, after wobbling in the sky for a period of time prior to more sacrifices, it ascended the sky and began its long pattern of passages through the heavens and the underworld.

An intensive excavation recently carried out at the Pyramid of the Moon, which is located at the northern end of the Street of the Dead, has revealed a series of mortuary chambers containing the remains of more than a dozen sacrificial victims accompanied by a large variety of offerings and the remains of various animals of symbolic importance as well as highly controversial Maya-style greenstone objects.

The humans had their hands bound behind their backs and many were decapitated. In some cases the bodies were richly ornamented with greenstone ear spools and beads, a necklace made of imitation human jaws, and other items indicating high political rank. Among the animals found were numerous canine wolf or coyote and feline puma or jaguar skeletons, 13 complete bird remains probably eagles , and several rattlesnakes, as well as 18 decapitated animal heads.

Archaeologists believe these animals Cemanahuac 35 to be symbols of warriors and it is remarkable that a number of the animals were also bound, like the humans, when they were ritually killed.

5 HORRIFYING Realities Of Daily Life In Historical Times

Other objects found included obsidian sculptures of humans, knives, projectile points, shell pendants, beads, and ceramic containers. What is also significant about this recent excavation in the Pyramid of the Moon is a group of ritual jades that come from Maya city-states far to the south of Teotihuacan. This city was a great political and symbolic center for many of its contemporary cultures in Mesoamerica. When the Aztecs migrated into the Basin of Mexico under the inspiration of their patron god Huitzilopochtli, they found a Lake Culture where many towns and city-states were constantly trading, fighting, and negotiating with one another.

There were a number of competing ethnic groups, including the Acolhua, who occupied the eastern region of the Basin; the Tepanecs, who controlled the western region; the Culhua, who resided in the Iztapalapa peninsula; the Xochimilca and Chalca, who controlled the extreme southern area; and the Otomies, who lived in the northern sections. But the older tradition 9th to 11th centuries from which all of these groups claimed descent and legitimacy was that of the Toltecs, who had been great artists and political leaders of the honored past and, according to legend though not supported by the archaeological or historical record , the inventors of astronomy, the calendar, legal systems, featherwork, and all other important arts.

At the center of the legends and myths about Tollan lived the great priest-king, Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl Our Young Prince, the Feathered Serpent , who was the devotee and representative of the god Quetzalcoatl. Once the Aztecs learned the traditions of the Lake Culture, they too came to sing the Toltec songs, imitate Toltec art styles, and claim to be direct descendants of the wise and mighty artists and politicians who had easy access to the gods.

Among the important discoveries at the Aztec Eagle Warrior Precinct in Tenochtitlan were benches 36 Daily Life of the Aztecs decorated with colorful friezes of warrior processions that imitated very closely the warrior friezes of the Toltec ruins of Tollan. In a sense the Toltecs marched on into the minds and art of the Aztecs centuries after they had disappeared. The priest-ruler, Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, was driven from his throne; new, more aggressive factions took control; and migrations and invasions of northern warrior-farmers swept into Tollan to stimulate massive changes.

The general order of society achieved by the Toltecs for a century and a half collapsed, and the center of authority and culture shifted southward into the center of the Basin of Mexico. There, remnants of the Toltec culture and descendants of the Toltec aristocracy set up new ceremonial centers and established small, struggling citystates.

It was in this shifting political and cultural setting that the ancestors of the Aztecs migrated into this basin during the 12th and 13th centuries. Step into the lives of the colonists, and get the scoop on clothes, homes, and daily life in colonial America. The De-Stress Diva's Guide to Life When you feel stressed out, you don't have the time or energy to completely overhaul every aspect of your life. You need help for what's bothering you right now—and you need it right away!

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The authors creatively place soil at the center of the discourse on sustainability education and learning gardens design and pedagogy. Seven attributes from the metaphor of living soil are presented as a guide The Aztecs organized their society as a microcosm of the cosmos that intricately linked all aspects of their daily lives to the natural and supernatural world.

Carrasco explores the details of the Aztecs' lives and provides an in-depth look at all of these connections to help the reader comprehend the complexity of this ancient culture: The Aztec calendar, Aztec religion and myths, Aztec marketplace, Aztec art and architecture, Aztec war, and autosacrifice and sacrifice are just some topics among the vast number that are colorfully presented.

Actual Aztec poems and riddles scattered throughout the text, provide an even deeper understanding of their world view. Carrasco also examines the Aztecs' violent encounter with Europeans and illustrates the long-term significance of colonialism and Aztec culture reflected in modern-day Mexican and Mexican American imaginations. Get A Copy. Published July 28th by Greenwood first published More Details Original Title.

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More filters. Sort order. Item Title: Carrasco, D. Daily life of the Aztecs 2nd ed. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood. Professional Review: MacMillan, K. School Library Journal, 58 2 , Relevance and Relationship: This book would be appropriate for the collection analyzed during my field experience because the collection is lacking in Central Mexican resources. Purpose: The purpose of this reference is to provide students an authoritative information source for research and inquiry about the Aztecs.

Appropriate for grades 9 and up.

Daily Life of the Aztecs (The Greenwood Press Daily Life Through History Series) Daily Life of the Aztecs (The Greenwood Press Daily Life Through History Series)
Daily Life of the Aztecs (The Greenwood Press Daily Life Through History Series) Daily Life of the Aztecs (The Greenwood Press Daily Life Through History Series)
Daily Life of the Aztecs (The Greenwood Press Daily Life Through History Series) Daily Life of the Aztecs (The Greenwood Press Daily Life Through History Series)
Daily Life of the Aztecs (The Greenwood Press Daily Life Through History Series) Daily Life of the Aztecs (The Greenwood Press Daily Life Through History Series)
Daily Life of the Aztecs (The Greenwood Press Daily Life Through History Series) Daily Life of the Aztecs (The Greenwood Press Daily Life Through History Series)

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