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The Aztecs. The Chichimec Period Social/Political Structure Religion Tenochtitlan. The Chichimec Period. The fall of Tula From A.D. 1200 to A.D. 1370 the Basin of Mexico was occupied by various central Mexican peoples.

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the aztecs

The Aztecs

The Chichimec Period

Social/Political Structure



the chichimec period
The Chichimec Period
  • The fall of Tula
    • From A.D. 1200 to A.D. 1370 the Basin of Mexico was occupied by various central Mexican peoples.
    • Chichimec people settled in the area from the North and gradually overcame the people living there at that time.
    • primarily due to Xolotl, who ruled a somewhat barbaric horde.
  • Other Chichimecs followed (Tamimes) who were more civilized but stole women and practiced sacrifice.
    • brought knowledge of the maya calender system.
    • cultivated crops with irrigation
    • constructed with stone.
  • Technically squatted in the area of Tenochtitlan and were know ans the Mixeca but today Aztecs is more common.
emergence as political power
Emergence as Political Power
  • They were a miserable band, despised by all, driven from one location to another around the lake shore.
  • Between A.D. 1250 and A.D. 1298 they served as vassels for the Tepanecs, but finally moved to a swampy island on the lake.
  • The tribal war god, Huitzilopochtli, led them and had them build their temples which they nourished with human sacrifices.
  • Probably just managed to out compete the adjacent groups and grow in power.
basin of mexico
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
How were they all fed?
  • Many famines brought on by natural disasters, plagues of locusts, droughts, storms, and floods.
  • 1450 and 1454 bad drought and people sold themselves into slavery.
    • **Not all fed all of the time.
  • Subsistence level existence for the masses who substituted with wild foods to a large extent.
  • 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.
  • However, although they 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.
cultural innovations
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.
  • 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.
    • Pochteca were a group of merchants (caste).
    • commodities and goods exchanged by barter.
cultural innovations1
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.
  • Art
    • Stone carving to communicate ideas.
    • Free-standing figures of Aztec deities.
    • Aztec Calender stone.
    • Atlantean figures and chocmools
  • Metallurgy
    • acqured from Maya.
    • Mostly gold, silver.
social structure
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
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
Political Organization
  • Each city (other than Tenochtitlan) ruled by a petty-king 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.
  • 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.

1Acamapichtli A.D.1376-1396

-married Ilancueil (Toltec Princess)

2Huitzilihuitl 1397-1417

3Chimalpopocoa 1417-1428 4Itzcoatl 1428-1440

5Moctezuma 1440-1469

Atotozli = Tezozomoc

6Axayacatl 1469-1481 7Tizoc 1481-1486 8Ahuizotl 1486-1502

10Cuitlahuac1520 9Moctezuma II 1502-1520

11Cuauhtemoc 1520-1525

  • Worlds
    • Four worlds before the present, each called a sun, each had different types of inhabitants.
    • Each had perished through its own imperfections
  • The fifth sun or world in which people now lived would also perish through a series of devastating earthquakes.
    • It was not know when this would occur.
    • but it would occur at the end of one of the 52 year cycles.
  • Aztec calender stone depicts four suns with the present sun at the center.
  • Organized by fundamental characters, cult themes, and clusters.
  • Most Important:
    • Tlaloque-Main rain god
      • Also lesser rain gods, tlaloque, resided in mts. and produced rain clouds.
      • Mount Tlaloc, is aligned with the location of the Tlaloc shrine on top of the great temple at Tenochtitlan.
    • Hutizilopochtli-War God, god of the Mixeca-became very important-sun.
  • Multiple aspects of most gods.
  • Creator deities come in pairs and in both sexes.
  • Most gods have four of five aspects that are related to the four directions and the zenith (fifth).
  • directions were associated with different colors.
  • White god of the east (Quetzacoatl)
  • Red god of the west (Xipe)
basic ritual pattern ceremonies
Basic ritual pattern-Ceremonies
  • Mainly elitist in organization, involved members of the stae-supported church or upper class.
    • usually preceded by fasting and other abstentions.
    • offerings, processions, deity impersonations, dancing and singing, mick combats and human sacrifice.
  • followed by feasts.
  • Calendrical and non-calendrical.
    • 365-day ceremonies were fixed, occurred during each of the 18 months.
    • 260-day ceremonies had movable feasts which rotated in relation to the 365-day year. i.e. Christian easter.
    • noncalendircal were tied to life cycle, crises, homecoming, domestic rituals, curing, etc.
  • Ceremonies held in temples, several aspects similar to Christianity,
    • such as confession of sins,
    • sacred dough which was made in the image of a god and eaten,
    • -similarity of the mother of the gods, Coatlicue, and the Virgin Mary were noted.
  • Also many personal gods to different jobs, tlaloc to farmers, Yacateuctli to merchants.
  • Aztec Empire
    • held in loose control physically, but control held by intimidation and overwhelming power.
    • made an overwhelming force, as it did for the British in India, where no immense standing armies or garrisons needed.
  • Armies (main army numbered nearly 500,000)
    • all males were militarily trained, in schools.
    • further training was under a more experienced warrior.
    • social prestige and advancement for both commoner and noble available in military.
    • more likely, that a noble would gain more prestige due to better access to training.
    • military societies graded according to caste.
    • rank determined by kinship, social status, military achievement, and personality.
    • fluid and volatile organizations.
  • Declarations of war kept inside society to gain surprise.
    • intelligence was also a factor, spies, merchants and diplomats acted to aid in war.
    • relay stations 2 and a half miles apart relayed information.
    • supply lines and armories provided food and weapons.
tenochtitlan aztec capital
Tenochtitlan: Aztec Capital
  • Artificially created island with Tlatelolco (Market)
    • Built up by chinampa construction and use of small islets and landfills.
    • The main city was only the largest of at least ninteeen island communities in Lake Texcoco.
    • Measured at least 5.4 sq miles
    • High-density urban development limited to the main island.
  • System of measurement
    • Complex, but consistent and practical.
      • omitl (bone)=1.8 feet.
      • maitl (hand)=5.4 feet
  • Heart of island consisted of two ceremonial precincts and the market of Tlatelolco.
    • series of adjacent plazas arranged around major buildings.
    • including temples, administrative structures, palaces.
    • Lists for the center include
      • 25 pyramid temples
      • 9 priests quarters
      • 7 skull racks
      • 2 ball courts
      • arsenals, shops, etc.
sacred central square
Sacred Central Square
  • Secular and Religious focus
    • planned from arrival of Mixecas and based on astronomical principles.
  • Great Temple (Temple Mayor)
    • aligned with the rising of the sun at the equinox.
    • twin pyramid with two staircases.
    • two temples or shrines at top, one to Huitzilopochtli and one to Tlaloc.
    • skewed seven degrees east of true north I order to accommodate such observations.
    • also aligned with Mt. Tlaloc and another sacred mountain.
    • placed where a priest saw an eagle eating a snake on top of a cactus.
  • Temples placed to right and left of great temple-Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc.
    • from there extended the four major avenues running east-west and north-south.
    • divide city into four quarters each marked by a major temple.
  • Layout
    • avenues laid out on 400 maitl (2160 foot) and cross streets spaced at 400 omitls (720 feet).
    • earliest temple dates to 1428, with construction and refurbishment continuing all the time.