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					  Aztec Civilization
Mexica Culture in Central Mexico
     Today’s Killer Itinerary!!
 Location
 Environment
 Who are the Mexica?
 How do they earn that dolla’ ?
 Social Organization
 Politics!!
 Supernatural (ooo…)
 The Modern Mexica
 Empire spanned across almost the entirety
  of Central Mexico at its height
 Center of power at Tenochtitlan (Island)
    – Founded in 1325
    – Outskirts of modern day Mexico City
   Came to arrive at this location through the
    guidance of Huitzilopochtli
    – Eagle atop a cactus
 ~10 square Kilometers
 Located on an island in Lake Texcoco in
  the Valley of Mexico
    – Brackish- High degree of salt in the water
 Connected to the shore by moveable
 Also possessed two aqueducts used for
  transporting water
 Highly organized and planned
 Divided into 4 campan (zones)
 These were then divided into 20 calpullis
 The entire city was crossed by 3 large
  streets, which like the bridges, were also
 Population: ~200,000
   Around the area of Tenochtitlan specifically
    – Primarily marsh lands
    – Excellent for chinampas agriculture
    – Major problem with the site is a lack of construction
   Problems:
    – Mainly the threat of floods, which could devastate
      entire city
    – Size of island limits the population and makes
      expansion a problem
   Advantages:
    – Isolated from the mainland to a degree
    – Excellent for defense
    – Also great for controlling the flow of goods and
      people into the city
   Small and little known group that migrated
    into the Valley of Mexico during the 12th
    and 13th centuries
    – Very slow migration over the course of some
      200 years

   Left their original home north of the Valley
    of Mexico for unknown reasons
   The record of early Mexica history is
    contained within a much later codex
    – Tira de la Peregrinacion
    – Also called the Migration Scrolls
   However, the actual events that caused
    the Mexica to move and the true account
    of events is likely lost.
    – No formal written record
    – Oral history passed from generation to
               Triple Alliance
   Composed of 3 City-States
    – Tenochtitlan
    – Texcoco
    – Tlacopan
 All in and around the Valley of Mexico
 Founded in 1428
 Economic relationship primarily
 As with many other great civilizations the
  Aztec Empire was centered around
  agricultural production
 Specifically maize (corn)
    – Many different kinds of maize were grown
    – Environmentally dependent
   Beans, squash and Chiles also grown
   Main type of production are the
    – Ideal because much of the valley was covered
      in shallow lakes during this time period
    – Also described as Floating Gardens
    – This type of production allowed the Mexica to
      inject some stability into their lives
        Chinampas agriculture is relatively stable and
        Excellent for a flourishing state
   Terraced agriculture also used in areas
    where irrigation and water supply was a
    – Section of leveled land in a hilly or
      mountainous area that is used for farming
    – Excellent for saving irrigation water
    – Used by many cultures throughout the world
      to this day
 Some stability was also obtained by
  expanding the Empire into different
  ecological zones
 This allowed for greater production as well
  as for greater diversity
 If you have several different modes of
  production in several different climates,
  then output will (ideally) remain relatively
 Important for a growing society
    The Importance of Specialization
 Why does this matter?
 Signal of a more ‘advanced’ culture
 Allows individuals in the population to
  become exceedingly good at one
  particular task
    – Leads to more complexity and sophistication
   Can also lead to the establishment of a
    class system based upon the importance
    of a particular trade
                It’s IMPORTANT!!

   What do we mean specifically when we say
            people were specialized?

   Lets talk about some specific specialties and
    why they were important to Mexica society!
 Given the location of Tenochtitlan and the
  scarcity of stone, these workers were
  highly valued for their skills
 Necessary for the construction of large
  monumental structures that had important
  ritual and political uses, particularly for the
  upper class.
 Varies from extremely fine and artistic
  wares to poor quality cloth worn only by
 Important for ritualistic purposes but also
  has many more practical applications
 Practiced by high status noble women as
  well as lower class females
 Sometimes boys may weave, but it is rare
 Extremely important in both a ritual and economic
 Feathers played an important part in many
 High status individuals often wore elaborate
  headdresses and clothing made from various types of
    – More elaborate=Higher status
   Also used as currency in markets
    – In some cases quills (the hollow core of a feather) would be
      filled with fine gold dust and used in trade.
 A very important, and within the ancient
  world, a very scientific discipline
 A practiced metallurgist (or the patron of
  one) could become an extremely high
  status individual
 Skill that was highly regarded by the
  upper classes
 Metals (gold in particular) were regarded
  as stations of the highest status and were
  prized possessions with very important
  ritualistic meanings
 An important and highly regarded class within
  Mexica society
 Provided many with the opportunity to move
  rapidly up through classes by virtue of their
  skills and bravery alone
 Important social tool for maintaining stability
  both at home and for acquiring new resources
  from outside the Empire
          Terminology Break!!

   Ascribed Status
    – Your social position at birth (that is to say
      your parents position) determines what you
      may or may not do in a particular society
    – Creates sharp divisions between classes that
      often persist for extremely long periods of
          Terminology Break!!
   Achieved Status
    – Increasing ones social status through skill and
      through accomplishments that prove your
      superior ability in some specialized area

    – Allows lower class individuals to ascend
      through the social hierarchy of the Mexica
      despite having been born into a lower class
 Place where people could gossip and
  exchange news and information
 The state of the local economy and
  environment is reflected in the goods
  present at the market at any given time
 Both high status luxury items and common
  every day necessities available
       So who lords over who?
 Class Structures are highly stratified
 Tlatoani
    – Mexica Rulers
    – They existed at the very top of the ladder
    – Each ruled over their own territory
    – The degree and scope of their power was
      dependent upon how large their territory was
      and what resources they controlled
 Also called Pillis
 At one time in order to be considered a
  member of the upper class nobility you
  had to be related (in some way) to the
  original ruler of the Mexica
 Created problems because these lineages
  could be fudged or otherwise tampered
    – Resulted in a large number of people trying to
      become Tlatoani of the various provinces
 First Tlatoani of the Mexica in 1382
 Founder of the Imperial lineage
 Name means: Handful of Reeds
 Expanded and improved upon
 Used diplomacy to strengthen his empire
 After Acamapichtli’s death his son was to
  be his successor
    – Ascribed Status!
   Just below the Tlatoani in the class

            Typically military leaders

        Could also function as judges
 “Big Household”
 Large units within Mexica cities that were
  based upon kinship
 Could also be based upon a common trade or
 Each calpulli had a miniature hierarchy and its
  own leader
 Also contained its own infrastructure
    – School and temple
       Each calpulli worshipped a different god in their
        individual temples
       Based upon their trade or family history
 Marriage arranged by family
 Kinship and inheritance are the primary
 Consent not necessarily required by either
 Marriage only after the age of 20
 Education and schooling had to have been
  completed first as well
 The actual ceremony takes place at sunset
  and during the night and entails:
 The bride being washed with soap and
 Hair decorated with red flowers
 Face painted with red and yellow dye
 Head covered with a cloth (huipilli)
 Exchange of incense burners between the
  bride and groom
   Then entered into their new home

   Older women (cihuatlanque) would tie their
    blouses together

   And BAM!

   They are announced to be man and wife and a
    feast takes place!
           More Terminology!!

   Endogamous
    – Marrying only within a specific social group
    – Important role in social stratification
    – Tightly controls lineages

    – *This type of marriage was practiced among
      the Mexica, in general*
           More Terminology!!

   Exogamous
    – Marrying outside of your specific group
    – Marriage to other family members or othe
      specific groups may be forbidden as well
    – Helps build alliances between groups
    – Increases genetic diversity
                Legal System
 There were very strict ideals of how
  individuals of each class were expected to
  behave at specific times
 Very harsh and quick legal system
 Offenses punished with:
    – First a verbal warning
    – Second: Slavery, stoning, or hanging
   These were punishments for offenses
    ranging from adultery to homicide
          Government!! SPICY!!
 Tlatoani could either be relatively independent
  or could be subservient to different degrees to
  rulers of the Triple Alliance
 The Tlatoani served in many different capacities:
    – Ritual, economic, warfare, judicial, ‘taking care of the
   Advised by a Council of Four older relatives
    – Also choose successors
    – Keeping it all in the family!
   When a new ruler was selected there
    would be:
    – Public presentation of the new guy
    – Ritual offering of incense
    – A fast undertaken by the new ruler and his
    – Offering of their blood to Huitzilopochtli
    – Then the new ruler left to go grab some
      captives in battle
    – Brought them back and sacrificed them
 What is it good for?
 Maintaining social control and stability among
  the Mexica
 Huge part of Mexica culture
    – Boys are soldiers from birth
    – Warriors are glorified in every aspect of the society
 Helped expand territory
 Also helped to gather captives for rituals
 Ritual warfare also practiced
      Sacrifice and Cannibalism
 Mmm…tasty!
 Human sacrifice an important aspect of
  Mexica culture
 Necessary to keep the world up and
 Body of the sacrificial victim may be
  stewed and then consumed
    – Consuming the victim makes the consumer
 Other reasons:
 May have been a food supply solution
 During times of famine or a lack of
  abundance cannibalism may have been
  used as a protein supplement
 Certain parts may have been doled out to
  certain members of society
 Population control a likely scenario as well
              Important Gods
   Huitzilopochtli
    – Associated with the South
    – God of war and the sun
    – Deity most associated with Tenochtitlan
    – Sacrificed captives to him so that he could
      keep the world alive
    – Represented as a hummingbird in Mexica
              Important Gods
   Quetzalcoatl
    – Feathered Serpent
    – Associated with the planet Venus in the night
    – God of the Sky and also one of several gods
      associated with the Mexica creation
    – Most associated with Mexica Preists
    – Not associated with sacrifice as much as
                      The End
   The conquest of the Mexica by the Spaniards
   Many omens foretold this would happen
   All out warfare began in 1519 with Cortés
    marching on Tenochtitlan
    – Most powerful city at the time
 More sophisticated technology and tactics
  ensured that the Mexica lost, but only after a
  good long fight
 Spread of disease, new crops and livestock
  decimated both the population and the
 Over time the two cultures interbreed and began
  to commingle
             Modern Problems
 Struggle for identity between the Native cultures
  and the Colonial cultures that have dominated
  them for so long
 Some believe that Mexico should return to its
  Mexica roots
 There is more awareness today than ever before
  about the struggles of ethnic groups in Mexico
 Many different types of social and political
  reform are advocated by these groups
    – Centered around cultural recognition and
      representation in the government and economy

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