Aztec History PPT
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The Aztecs The Chichimec Period Cultural Innovations Social/Political Structure
The Chichimec Period The Aztec originated from somewhere in north or northwest Mexico. At that time the Aztecs (who referred to themselves as the Mexica or Tenochca) were a small, nomadic, Nahuatl-speaking aggregation of tribal peoples living on the margins of civilized Mesoamerica. Sometime in the 12th century they embarked on a period of wandering and in the 13th century settled in the central basin of México.
The Chichimec Period The Aztecs finally found refuge on small islands in Lake Texcoco where, in 1325, they founded the town of TENOCHTITLAN (modern-day Mexico City). Other Chichimecs followed who were more civilized but stole women and practiced sacrifice. – brought knowledge of the Maya calender system, cultivated crops with irrigation, constructed with stone.
Aztec Origin Myth Little is known of the earliest Aztecs, they did not keep a written record. Their history was passed on by word of mouth from one generation to the next. Legend has it that they came from an Island called Aztlan, meaning White Place - Place of Herons. There is one codex, the Tira de la Peregrinacion, commonly called the Migration Scrolls. The scrolls have the Aztecs leaving Aztlan, which was described as an island in a lake with Chicomoztoc depicted as seven temples in the center of the island.
Aztec Origin Myth The Aztecs believed Huitzilopochtli their war god was their protector, now had them search for their promised land. The Aztecs straggled into the Valley of Mexico, led by their chieftain Tenoch. They were a poor, ragged people who survived on vermin, snakes, and stolen food. They were hated and rejected by all the surrounding inhabitants of the valley, for their barbarous and uncultured habits. Huitzilopochtli told Tenoch to lead his people to a place of refuge on a swampy island in Lake Texcoco. When they reached their destination, they were to look for an eagle perched on a cactus, growing from a rock or cave surrounded by water. At that location, they were to build their city and honor Huitzilopochtli with human sacrifices. The city they built was called Tenochtitlán, the city of Tenoch.
What is the meaning of the word Aztlan? Aztlan is the mythical place of origin of the Aztec peoples. In their language (Nahuatl), the roots of Aztlan are the two words: aztatl tlan(tli) meaning "heron" and "place of," respectively. 'Tlantli' proper means tooth, and as a characteristic of a good tooth is that it is firmly rooted in place, and does not move, the prefix of this word is commonly used in Nahuatl to denote settlements, or place names, e.g. Mazatlan (place of deer), Papalotlan (place of butterflies) or Tepoztlan (place of metal). The Nahuatl language is often said to include three levels of meaning for its words or expressions: literal, syncretic and connotative. The connotative meaning of Aztlan, due to the plumage of herons, is "Place of Whiteness." The mythical descriptions of Aztlan would have it to be an island. You would replace -tlan with -tecatl to identify a resident or person from the given place. So, for the examples above, we have that people from Mazatlan would be Mazatecatl, someone from Tepoztlan a Tepoztecatl, and someone from Aztlan an Aztecatl.
Mixeca/Aztec Technically squatted in the area of Tenochtitlan and were known as the Mixeca but today Aztecs is more common. The Aztecs remain the most extensively documented of all Amerindian civilizations at the time of European contact in the 16th century. Spanish friars, soldiers, and historians and scholars of Indian or mixed descent left invaluable records of all aspects of life. These ethnohistoric sources, linked to modern archaeological inquiries and studies of ethnologists, linguists, historians, and art historians, portray the formation and flourishing of a complex imperial state.
Basin of Mexico Chain of interconnected lakes, 3-6, but the Aztecs talked about three-Chalco, Texcoco, and Xaltocan. – Lake Texcoco deepest and water flowed from it to other lakes the Basin is about 3,000 sq miles and about 15% of that is covered by water.
Population estimates at around A.D.1519 are between 1 to 1.2 million.
How were they all fed? Used the Chinampas (floating gardens) for agriculture. – 25,000 acres of chinampas at the time of contact. – gardens never actually floated, but were created by making use of the vegetaion in the swamps. – Floating water plants were used to build up gardens and then were dragged onto shore for chinampas. – They became anchored to the native cypress. – Lake mud was piled on and canals were built.
Chinampas However, although chinampas were very productive, the number of people living in the area at the time of contact could not keep up with subsistence and surplus food demands. These marsh plots also brought in birds and fish that could be gathered while they were working.
Ancient Aztecs tending to chinampas http://www.rose-hulman.edu/~delacova/aztec-society.htm
Cultural Innovations: Trade, Economics, Market System Part of inter-related regions which consisted of Morelos to the south, Puebla to the east, Mezquital to the north, and Toluca to the west. – although many crops the same, some areas had their specialty crops. – tropical fruits, cotton, cacao from Morelos, beans from Puebla. – flowers were also a big part of the economy because one of the great pleasures was of the smelling of flowers.
Aztec Market (Tlateloco) Market days were held once each five days, four times each month. Sometimes daily in larger towns. – reflected community craft specializations as well as imported goods. – also slaves were traded, and dogs for food (400 on a slow day).
Bernal Diaz de Castillo says that he didn’t even have time to list how many things were offered one day at the market of Tlateloco. – commodities and goods exchanged by barter.
Cultural Innovations Writing – Nahuatl language spoken at conquest, living language today. – Many codices and glyphs to describe lifeways of Aztecs, as well as Spanish accounts.
Several Significant Codices: – Codex Borbonicus – Florentine Codex – Codex Mendoza
A scene from the Codex Borbonicus, which shows the gods Tlachitonátiuh and Xolotl, while on the right are the 8 to 13 days of the sixteenth series of the ritual series.
Human sacrifice http://www.rose-hulman.edu/~delacova/florentinecodex.htm
Cultural Innovations Art – Stone carving to communicate ideas. – Free-standing figures of Aztec deities. – Aztec Calender stone. – Atlantean figures and chocmools
Metallurgy – acquired from Maya. – Mostly gold, silver.
Obsidian vessel carved in the shape of a monkey
Polychrome terracota plaque with molded and apliquéd sculpture of a human face
Stone box with representations of corn cobs
Necklaces found in the Great Temple at Tenochtitlan http://www.rose-hulman.edu/~delacova/aztec-jewelry.htm
Social Structure Basic unit of social organization – calpulli (clan) – not all lineages within the clan were equal.
Membership by birth. – families traced their descent through fathers, which is a lineage, and these lineages make up a calpulli. – marry within the calpulli. – one lineage provides leader of that calpule.
Four principle social categories: Pipiltin– ruler of the city state and his relatives. – only ones to own their own land
Macehualtin-commoner clan. – serfs who worked others land.
Pochtea-merchant clan. – owned communal land.
Tlacotin-slaves. – no land, no rights. – reversible status.
Political Organization Divine King or ruler of Aztec Each city (other than Tenochtitlan) ruled by a pettyking selected from the pipiltin. Dual leadership-military and religious – supreme leader chosen from special lineage, with brother succeeding brother. – court which ruled over military, justice, treasury, and commerce. Moctezuma II http://www.rosehulman.edu/~delacova/florentin e-codex.htm