Visual Archaeology Interpretation



Nezahualpilli, Painting by Christiane Clados, Rendering of Tenochtitlan

“And such were the marvels we saw that we knew not what to say, or whether to believe what was before our eyes, for on the one hand were great cities on the land, and on the lake many more, and we saw canoes everywhere and along the causeway were many bridges at regular intervals, and before us stood the great city of Mexico.”

Bernal Díaz del Castillo, 8 November 1519

Tenochtitlan “The Place of the Prickly Pear Cactus”, an area which today is covered by downtown Mexico City, was a well-organized island city which stood in the shallow Texcoco Lake linked to the mainland by 4 large causeways. With a total area of about 20 square miles and at least 300,000 inhabitants, five times the size of the contemporary London of Henry VIII.

Tenochtitlan was not only one of the most extensive cities of the world, but with its public toilets, aqueducts and schools it also was one of the most modern ones. The Aztec kings dwelt in magnificent palaces, some three-storied and with flower-filled gardens, fountains, zoos and dwelt complexes for dwarfs and hunchbacks. In richly decorated temples Aztec priests worshipped their gods with human sacrifice.

Images From Aztec Manuscripts, Newberry Library, Chicago

From 1464 to 1505 Nezahualpilli--The Lord of Fasting--ruled the city of Texcoco, which also had a very large population. He was a poet and philosopher. In 1454 his father ordered to construct the gardens of Tetzcotzingo, an artificial terraced hill that served as summer residence for the kings of Texcoco and also for cultivation of medical plants. The gardens were a masterpiece of Aztec garden architecture and dedicated to the gods of rain, water and earth. Stairways, pools and colorful relief’s were cut/carved in natural stone. All kinds of plants were growing on the terraces, which were decorated with stone sculptures portraying different animals of the country. The gardens were supplied with freshwater by an aqueduct. Through waterspouts the water fell down onto fields of flowers.

Internet Links

Great Tenochtitlan History for Kids

The Aztecs

Ancient Scripts

The Organization of the Aztec Empire

National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City

Tempus Fugit: Time Flies

Warriors of the Gods: Rise and Demise of the Aztec Empire: Lesson Plan (PDF File)




The Aztec Empire: Warriors of the Gods

























Copyright ©2004 Linda Kreft