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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. Aztec Empire Tenochtitlan 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. Chinampas 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 Codex Borbonicus 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. http://www.rose-hulman.edu/~delacova/aztecs4.htm Florentine Codex Human sacrifice http://www.rose-hulman.edu/~delacova/florentinecodex.htm Codex Mendoza Tribute http://www.rose-hulman.edu/~delacova/codex-mendoza.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. Art 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 http://www.mesoweb.com/features/jpl/99.html Jewelry Necklaces found in the Great Temple at Tenochtitlan http://www.rose-hulman.edu/~delacova/aztec-jewelry.htm Masks http://www.rose-hulman.edu/~delacova/aztec-masks.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 Judicial branch Both pipitlin and commoners chosen. higher and lower courts. – commoners went to lower court (tecalli). – higher court for upper class (tlacxitlan). Prisoners kept in wooden cages, sentencing could be death, mutilation or slavery. * Even elite tried-the sister of Motecuhzoma II was tried by her husband for extramarital affairs and she and her lovers were put to death. Rulers: Post 14th C 1Acamapichtli A.D.1376-1391 -married Ilancueil (“Toltec Princess”) 2Huitzilihuitl 1391-1415 3Chimalpopocoa 1415-1426 4Itzcoatl 1426-1440 5Moctezuma I 1440-1469 Atotozli = Tezozomoc 6Axayacatl 1469-1481 7Tizoc 1481-1486 8Ahuizotl 1486-1502 10Cuitlahuac1520 9Moctezuma II 1502-1520 11Cuauhtemoc 1520-1525 Acamapichtli 1372-1391 Aztec dynasty emerges ca. 1371 name means "handful of reeds" was son of Mexica noble and Culhua woman dynasty from which he came had links to Acolhua provided link to Toltec past: wife was of Culhua nobility conquests of Xochimilco and Cuernavaca beginning of conflict with Chalco building up city and constructing houses, chinampas, and canals died ca. 1391, after reign of ca. 19 years Huitzilihuitl 1391-1415 "Humming Bird's Feather" – first wife was from Tacuba – second wife was a Tepanec princess, granddaughter of Tezozomoc from Azcapotzalco resulted in favorable treatment from Tezozomoc after birth of son Chimalpopoca, delegation came from Azcapotzalco – third wife a: mother of Tlacaelel – fourth wife was from Cuernavaca mother of Moctezuma Ilhuicamina – died ca. 1415 Chimalpopoca 1415-1426 "Smoking Shield" – half Tepanec – oversaw war with Texcoco – in Texcoco, authority was challenged by Ixtlilxochitl – asserted right to be called "Lord of the Chichimecs" Itzcoatl 1426-1440 Chimalpopoca succeeded by uncle Itzcoatl (Obsidian Serpent) Itzcoatl acceded in 1426 at the age of 46 – – – – – may have had Chimalpopoca killed chief advisor was nephew Tlacaelel, son of Huitzilihuitl younger brother of Moctezuma I assumed title of Cihuacoatl (Woman Snake) chief reformer of Aztec state destroyed pre-Aztec books and records promoted view of Aztecs as heirs to Toltec tradition reign characterized by troubles with Tepanecs latter demanded signs of submission war broke out between Mexica and Tepanecs upon death of Itzcoatl Motecuhzoma Ilhuicamina 1440-1468 "Heaven Shooter“ began construction of Templo Mayor at Tenochtitlan first conquest was with region of Chalca Empire expansion – campaign towards Oaxaca begun in 1458 – pretense was killing of merchants – conquered kingdom of Atonal A catastrophic famine of 1450-1451 occurred and the practice of human sacrifice was propelled into a high gear in ever increasing numbers. People sold themselves for a few ears of corn to keep from starving. – drive to Gulf Coast fertile Tototac lands sought as protection against famine Tlaxcalans neglected to come to assistance of Gulf Coast peoples common people denounced their rulers Huaxtecs conquered next AXAYACATL 1469-1481 Water Mask, Face of Water, Son of Moctezuma I. At 19 years of age this leader was installed as the Great Speaker of the Aztec faith and army. He proved himself a great warrior and military strategist and expanded the Aztec empire. His most famous military campaign was in subduing a rebellion from close neighbor and sister city next to Tenochtitlan, Tlatelolco in 1473. One of the most colorful stories in Aztec history has Axayacatl in hand to hand combat atop the great pyramid with the leader of Tlatelolco, Moquihuix, with the latter being thrown down the steps of the temple. Conquered Tlatelolco(*38) on trumped up phony charges and successfully substituted a strong military central control in the region. Axayacatl lost a leg in one of his many battles. As a result of Axayacatl and his concentration of cementing his power base he was able to extend total dominance over the Valley of Mexico for the Aztec Empire. TIZOC 1481-1486 “He Has Bled People, Jewell of the Sun”, was the brother of Axayacatl. Tizoc's name glyph depicted a pierced leg with cactus spines, indicating his great devotion to self sacrifice. Was proven a bad military leader and was removed from office by poison. The empire actually began to shrink under this ruler as his lack of administration skills allowed almost constant rebellion. Was called "Bloodstained Leg". Though his armies were successful, over one hundred thousand prisoners taken, he was considered a coward. AHUITZOTL 1486-1502 “Water Dog, Otter”. Was the third son of Moctezuma I. Said to be rough and fearless, he lived and slept with his army, one of the greatest warrior kings. – Greatly expanded the Aztec tribute empire during his reign. Conquered the valley of Oaxaca and the Pacific coast to Guatemala. Imposed strong bureaucratic control over the Aztec empire. The great temple of Tenochtitlan, dedicated in 1487 with the sacrifice of 20,000 victims occurred during his reign. – Construction of an aqueduct to bring fresh water to the capital was begun. Great uncle to Moctezuma II. Ahuitzotl is reported to have died after striking his head while escaping rising waters in his garden area as a result of a dike breaking. Physicians removed parts of his smashed skull and the king died probably foam a subdural MOCTEZUMA II 1502-1520 “Our Angry Looking God, He Who Frowned Like A Lord” Axayacatl's eldest son was the leading candidate for ascending to the throne, however, he was considered too flamboyant and Moctezuma was chosen. Moctezuma assumed the throne on May 24, 1503. The Aztec people reached their finest hour under his reign. Was the son of Axayacatl (Ruler 6). Originally trained to be a high priest, but proved himself valiantly on the field of battle. Very much a philosopher king. During the reign of this leader the Mexica were able to sustain several major military campaigns at one time which greatly added to the power base of the empire. Killed while a captive of Cortes. Moctezuma II Moctezuma II: Feathered Headress Moctezuma II and Cortes His priestly training, particularly in the old Toltec traditions, was his downfall as he believed the return of Quetzalcoatl to be incarnated in Cortes, it paralyzed him and his vast armies until it was too late for the Aztecs. He believed it was his destiny to preside over the Aztecs while a total destruction of the Mexica civilization occurred. Moctezuma was considered a skilled statesman and many references by the Conquistadors to their admiration for him. While a captive of Cortes he lost his stature among the general population of Tenochtitlan and was hit in the head by a stone thrown by his former subjects and died while a captive of Cortes CUITLAHUAC 1520 Brief interim ruler between Motecuhzoma II and Cuauhtemoc. Was the lord of Ixtapapapa. Died of the smallpox brought to Mexico by a soldier with Narvaez. Was nephew to Moctezuma II. CUAUHTEMOC 1520-1521 “DESCENDING EAGLE”, also known as "Prince Falling Eagle". Defended Tenochtitlan against Cortes to the last man. Was captured and eventually hung by Colonial troops. Cuauhtemoc was a skilled military leader. Another nephew of Motecuhzoma and was 18 years old at the time he was chosen to be the Aztec leader. Was immediately wed to one of Moctezuma's daughters, Tecuichpo, who would later become a Christian and have four Spanish husbands. He was a symbol of valor to the Mexica and represented their spirit of nationalism and pride. Cuauhtemoc's reign, although short, was eventful and envied much respect from the Spanish Conquistadors and Cortes in particular.