Art in the Aztec Empire

Emily Umberger

in The Oxford Handbook of Mesoamerican Archaeology

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780195390933
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Art in the Aztec Empire

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  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology by Region
  • History of Art



Archaeological remains testify to the spread of goods and ideas over broad areas of Mesoamerica at different times throughout its prehispanic history. However, most material expansions are unaccompanied by texts, so it is difficult to identify which resulted from empires, and which from other types of interaction, like trade, gift giving, and emulation. In contrast, the Aztec Empire, which dominated central Mexico during its final pre-conquest years, is known to us mostly through documents written during and after its overthrow by Spaniards in 1521. Ironically, the material remains do not match the expectations raised by the documents. More relics have been excavated and studied in the last few decades than previously, but relatively few scholars have yet engaged with their evidence. This article shows how the imagery of sculptures can supplement and refine our notions of Aztec strategies.

Keywords: Mesoamerica; archaeology; relics; sculptures; imagery; Aztec strategies

Article.  4264 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Archaeology by Region ; History of Art

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