Class Notes 9/4

In today’s class, we focused primarily on Mesoamerica, the Aztecs, the Mayan people, and the question of gender in engraved stone tablets. For clarification, professor Holt explained how the Mayan empire peaked from 250-900 A.D. and then collapsed in the 900s. The Aztecs were people from Atzlan, which made up what is now the central and southwestern United States. The Mexica, or Aztecs, were the powerful ethnic group in Mesoamerica at the time when the Europeans entered the picture. We also talked about Tenochtitlan, which Schwartz and Seijas called a “world-class metropolis” (5). Near the end of the class, Katrina gave a presentation on the book Gender and Power in Prehispanic Mesoamerica. She touched on how the author emphasized features in Mesoamerican artwork to enhance her argument. The author argued that European interpretations of these artifacts were incorrect and that the images were far more complicated and had a lot to do with the position of women in society. How did the Spanish conquistadors view Tenochtitlan when they first discovered it? What role did women play in society judging by their presentation on Aztec stone carvings? Was Tenochtitlan the economic center of Mesoamerica? The readings, for the most part, described the complexities of Mesoamerica society in depth. However, I found the statistics to be a bit offputting. In LA&P, Tenochtitlan had a population of 150,000. But in Victors and Vanquished, the population was estimated at 300,000. Which one was accurate I am not sure. Does this possibly refer to 150,000 people living within the city limits, or does it include the surrounding area as well?

Note from KH: There is often a considerable range in calculating historical population figures.  It makes sense if you think about what kinds of governments would value detailed records of individual residents (versus tracking community contributions to the empire, or other things) and also what kinds of surviving evidence we’re drawing on for understanding Tenochtitlan in 1519.  Scientists use different methods for these calculations when we can’t rely on an accurate, detailed population count.  Science magazine has a brief article here about statistical models archeologists can use to estimate population.

Something we talked about at the end of class was The Aztec Stone of The Five Eras. This stone tablet illustrates how advanced Aztec society was, especially regarding astronomy, their interpretations of time, seasonal changes, and their subjecthood to deities. On page 25 and 26, the author refers to the way the stone tablet “points to Tenochtitlan as the spatial center of authority,” and how the Aztecs were intuned with environmental calamities and prosperity. At the center of the turmoil and prosperity was the metropolis, Tenochtitlan.

Nahuatl- the ancient language spoken by the Nahua people in Mexico and El Salvador

Nahua- the largest ethnic group that speaks Nahuatl

Tenochtitlan- the jungle metropolis in Mexico that had a population between 150,000-300,000 inhabitants

Trade within Tenochtitlan:
Garraty, Christopher P. “Market Development, and Pottery Exchange Under Aztec and Spanish Rule in Cerro Portezuelo.” Ancient Mesoamerica 24, no. 1 (2013): 151–76.
More Aztec Art:
Umberger, Emily. “Antiques, Revivals, and References to the Past in Aztec Art.” RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, no. 13 (1987): 62–105.
Mesoamerican Astronomy
Smith, Michael E. “Can We Read Cosmology in Ancient Maya City Plans? Comment on Ashmore and Sabloff.” Latin American Antiquity 14, no. 2 (2003): 221–28.
Exam Questions:
How did language affect the ways Mesoamerican people interacted with one another?
How can Tenochtitlan be compared to other Mesoamerican or South American cities that existed in the same period?
How did the arrival of the Spanish affect the Aztec citizens living in Tenochtitlan and the surrounding areas?