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The GazetteUnearthing the tricks of the Aztecs

A boozy writer that crossed out the adjective


The excavation that the Aztec spirituality center, the Templo Mayor, by archaeologist Eduardo Matos Moctezuma noted otherwise unknowable information around the religious beliefs and society of the post-classical Mesoamerican empire.

Courtesy of Templo Mayor-INAH

In interview, excavator who uncovered old site outlines what has actually been learned; he'll speak in ~ April 10

Prominent Mexican archaeologist Eduardo Matos Moctezuma ~ above April 10 will provide the first lecture ~ above campus in the series that bear his name and honors his contributions to archaeology. The location is “Eduardo Matos Moctezuma Discovers Himself: Excavations that the an excellent Aztec Temple,” and also the publicly talk will take ar at 6 p.m. At the geology Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford St.

Matos Moctezuma directed the excavation the the key Aztec site well-known as Templo market in the so late ’70s. His job-related unveiled major aspects the Aztec religion, life, and culture to the world.

The five-year Eduardo Matos Moctezuma Lecture collection is a collaboration among the David Rockefeller center for Latin American Studies, the Moses Mesoamerican Archive, and great School.

Below is one interview v Matos Moctezuma, very first published in the Gazette critical year, in which he talked about the Aztecs and also his breakthrough work. The interview is interpreted from the initial Spanish.


Eduardo Matos Moctezuma

GAZETTe: All old cultures have creation myths. What to be the Aztecs’?

MATOS MOCTEZUMA: They believed they came from a place dubbed Aztlan, hence the name Aztecs. Some specialists think Aztlan is a myth since it has yet to be discovered. According to the myth, castle left Aztlan guided by one of their gods until they arrived in the Texcoco Lake, in what’s currently Mexico City, where they established Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire, in the year 1325.

GAZETTe: But how did the Aztec empire really originate? 

MATOS MOCTEZUMA: Mexico is a country with one ancient background that goes back 20,000 years. Prior to the Aztecs, there to be the cultures of Teotihuacan, Monte Alban, Palenque, and Tajin. However the Aztecs, additionally called Mexicas, emerged in the 14th century once they freed themselves from their former masters, the Azcapotzalcos, after developing an alliance through the Texcocos and Tacubas. They began a large expansion throughout what is now Mexico and Mesoamerica through wars. It is claimed that once the Spaniards arrived in the early 16th century, the Aztecs ruled over 370 little city-states the paid tribute in products to Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire.

GAZETTe: The Aztec culture has been described as fierce and bloodthirsty. What to be the Aztecs yes, really like?

MATOS MOCTEZUMA: The Aztec was fundamentally a culture based top top war and also agriculture. Their two many important divine beings were Huitzilopochtli, the god of war, and Tlaloc, the god the rain. The duality of battle and farming was an essential for the Aztec economy. The Aztecs broadened their realm through army conquest and sustained it through tributes applied on the conquered regions. Every 80 days, the brand-new subjects the the Aztecs had to pay tributes to Tenochtitlan. Together for the Aztec society, that was really complex. It was socially divided in between the nobility and the populace. The nobles had the ruler, the priests, and the military, all of whom had actually privileges and didn’t salary taxes. The poorer people had to work as painters, poets, sculptors, peasants, doctors, or architects. Lock attended colleges to find out their trades and also received armed forces training come be prepared for wars. They also attended colleges to learn around religion, music, and also their language, the Nahuatl, which we know due to the fact that they left codices v pictograms and also texts the told their history. As soon as the Spaniards came, Tenochtitlan had about 200,000 people. That was one of the world’s largest cities in the 16th century. The Aztecs were among the world’s biggest civilizations.

GAZETTe: How execute you to compare the Aztecs come other an excellent ancient civilizations, such as the Mayas, the Incas, the Chinese, or the Egyptians?

MATOS MOCTEZUMA:According to experts, there space six large regions in the people that space the cradles of civilization. Those areas are Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, the Indus Valley, Mesoamerica, and the Andes, whereby people occurred civilizations independently, boasting huge cities and solid states. In Mesoamerica, it was the Aztecs and also the Mayas but additionally the Zapotecas, Mixtecas, Toltecas, etc., and also in the Andes, the Incas, but also the Moche, Chimu, Chavin, and also others. The Aztec was a solid state due to its armed forces power, that is religion, and its tribute system. They arisen their own calendar of 18 months of 20 days each, built large cities and substantial pyramids and temples, and developed a agriculture system called chinampas the they provided to grow plants on shallow lake beds. They prospered maize, beans, tomatoes, pumpkins, chilis, etc. The Aztecs’ contribute to the modern-day world are extensive, from farming products come farming methods to stunning art and also architecture.

GAZETTe: stop talk about the Aztec religion. Much has actually been said around the role of person sacrifice amongst Aztecs. What is the truth around human sacrifices?

MATOS MOCTEZUMA: The Aztec religion was mostly polytheist. Lock had various gods, male and female. The sunlight god was Tonatiuh. There were countless deities, and they to be revered in monthly festivities with rich offerings. There is this black color legend that just the Aztecs used human being sacrifices in their religious rituals, when there is proof that they existed in numerous other old cultures the were mostly agricultural societies. In the Aztecs’ case, human being sacrifices were meant to please the sunlight god so that he could continue providing them through light, warmth, and life. They believed that without human being sacrifices, the sun could stop and also everything was going to die. For this reason the sun had to it is in fed so that it could continue with its movement, so the there would be day and also night. Yet not every rituals demanded human being sacrifices. In general, those that were sacrificed were servants or prisoners of war.

GAZETTe: What factors added to the autumn of the Aztec empire?

MATOS MOCTEZUMA: before the come of the Spaniards, there to be nine emperors, and during the war of conquest, 2 more. Throughout the last 18 year of the Aztec empire, the leader was Moctezuma II. In those years, the empire ongoing its growth through war, however exacting tribute from their subjects developed discontent among them. There were tiny rebellions, but the Aztecs, who had actually the military power, constantly won. When the Spaniards landed in 1519 in what is now Veracruz, the local world there, the Totonacas, complained come conquistador Hernan Cortes the they were subjugated by Moctezuma, the señor of Tenochtitlan. As soon as Cortes heard this, the promised that they would certainly be freed from paying tribute if they come to be their allies to overthrow Moctezuma. Through their help, Cortes gained an ext allies amongst other disgruntled groups in the region, and also he planned the breakthrough towards Tenochtitlan. Over there is a myth around the concern of exactly how 800 Spaniards defeated a whole empire. Well, that wasn’t only 800 Spaniards. Lock were sustained by hundreds of indigenous world who wanted to remove Aztec rule. As soon as the occupation happened, once Tenochtitlan was around to fall, surrounding by land and sea, those groups of local opponents of the Aztecs play a fundamental role in the loss of the Aztec empire. Also, the Aztecs supplied a tactic the worked against them. Unequal the Spaniards who came to kill, the Aztecs wanted to take detainees of battle for human sacrifices. The Aztecs caught Cortes, and also they didn’t kill him because they to be going to sacrifice him. But his comrades conserved him. Moctezuma to be taken prisoner and also was killed by the Spaniards.

GAZETTE: room you a descendant the Moctezuma, the Aztec emperor?

MATOS MOCTEZUMA: There space not too numerous who have actually that last name in Mexico. According to my mom, we space descendants the Moctezuma. However I am not sure, and also I don’t treatment too much around it.

GAZETTe: You spent 40 years, a big part of your career together an archaeologist, excavating the continues to be of the Templo Mayor. What was the definition of the Templo mayor for the Aztecs?

MATOS MOCTEZUMA: The Templo market was the center of the ancient Aztec empire, the most sacred location for the Aztecs. In 2014, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the exploration of the Templo Mayor. In 1914, Manuel Gamio discovered remains that led him to think that the site was the Templo Mayor, which until then we had only heard about. However the site was in the center of the city; it was actually underneath Mexico City. Years went by, and also in 1978 electrical workers who were excavating underground uncovered a huge sculpture, i beg your pardon turned out to be a monolith illustrating an Aztec goddess, which resulted in the exploration of the Templo Mayor. The same year, the Templo Mayor job was founded, with me together the director, and under my helm and with a multidisciplinary team, we began excavations and also were may be to uncover a large part that the remains of the religious heart that the Aztecs. Excavations room still acquisition place, and, as in the past, we’re excavating the ritual heart that the Aztec empire, i beg your pardon we had actually only heard the before. After us dug increase the remains of the temple, us were able to find out the role of the Templo mayor in Aztecs’ life and the an effective symbolism it organized in the empire.

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GAZETTe: What is left come learn about the Aztecs?

MATOS MOCTEZUMA: We’ve simply scratched the surface ar of Tenochtitlan, the capital, however we still need to know exactly how it was organized, the society hierarchies, and the means it functioned. Due to the fact that it’s under the city, over there is a lot tho to it is in learned.