The Pre-Columbian City


in Mexico City through History and Culture

Published by British Academy

Published in print May 2009 | ISBN: 9780197264461
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734625 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Occasional Papers

The Pre-Columbian City

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This chapter attempts to visualize how Tenochtitlan may have looked and functioned before the Spanish invasion. This usually assumed barbaric society with a culture of sacrificing thousand of captives for the blood-thirsty Aztecs was truly a civilized city by any criteria used to define civilizations such as the existence of bureaucracy, sophisticated agricultural technology, ceremonials and monumental architecture. Aztec Tenochtitlan was built and has been civilized more than 2,000 years ago. This ancient Mexican city started in the year Two Reed, it proliferated into stone-built city larger than Europe and had functions and bureaucracy similar to that of the sixteenth century Madrid. In terms of agriculture, the Aztec city has sophisticated agricultural technology—the chinampas which provided for the Aztecs and which provided insight into the chinampa ownership history of this ancient civilization. Complex architectural buildings also graced the Aztec civilization before the invasion of the Spaniards. Palaces, temples and avenues were dominant in this old Mexican civilization. These buildings were characterized by their complex decorations of serpents, murals and sculpture celebrating the state, its rulers, its gods and their conquests.

Keywords: Tenochtitlan; Aztecs; existence of bureaucracy; agricultural technology; architecture; Aztec Tenochtitlan; year Two Reed; Aztec city; chinampas; Aztec civilization

Chapter.  6027 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Society and Culture

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