lunedì 13 febbraio 2012


City-building and architecture

The capital city of the Aztec empire was Tenochtitlan, now the site of modern-day Mexico City. Built on a series of islets in Lake Texcoco, the city plan was based on a symmetrical layout that was divided into four city sections called campans. The city was interlaced with canals which were useful for transportation.
Tenochtitlan was built according to a fixed plan and centered on the ritual precinct, where the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan rose 50 m (164.04 ft) above the city. Houses were made of wood and loam, roofs were made of reed, although pyramids, temples and palaces were generally made of stone.
Around the island, chinampa beds were used to grow foods as well as, over time, to increase the size of the island. Chinampas, misnamed "floating gardens", were long raised plant beds set upon the shallow lake bottom. They were a very efficient agricultural system and could provide up to seven crops a year. On the basis of current chinampa yields, it has been estimated that 1 hectare of chinampa would feed 20 individuals and 9,000 hectares of chinampas could feed 180,000.
Anthropologist Eduardo Noguera estimates the population at 200,000 based in the house count and merging the population of Tlatelolco (once an independent city, but later became a suburb of Tenochtitlan). If one includes the surrounding islets and shores surrounding Lake Texcoco, estimates range from 300,000 to 700,000 inhabitants.

Tenochtitlan (Classical Nahuatl: Tenōchtitlān (sometimes also known as Mexico Tenochtitlan or Tenochtitlan Mexico) was a Nahua altepetl (city-state) located on an island in Lake Texcoco, in the Valley of Mexico. Founded in 1325, it became the capital of the abounding Aztec Empire in the 15th century, until captured by the Spanish in 1521. When paired with Mexico the name is a reference to Mexica, the people of the surrounding Aztec heartland. It subsequently became a cabecera of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, and today the ruins of Tenochtitlan are located in the central part of Mexico City.
Its name comes from Nahuatl tetl ("rock") and nochtli = ("prickly pear") and means "Among the prickly pears [growing among] rocks". Tenochtitlan was one of two Mexican altepetl, the other being Tlatelolco.
The city was divided into four zones or campan, each campan was divided on 20 districts (calpullis, Nahuatl calpōlli), and each calpulli was crossed by streets or tlaxilcalli. There were three main streets that crossed the city, each leading to one of the three causeways to the mainland; Bernal Díaz del Castillo reported that they were wide enough for ten horses. The calpulliswere divided by channels used for transportation, with wood bridges that were removed at night.

In the center of the city were the public buildings, temples and schools. Inside a walled square, 300 meters to a side, was the ceremonial center. There were about 45 public buildings including: the Templo Mayor, the temple of Quetzalcoatl, the tlachtli (ball game court), the tzompantli or rack of skulls, the temple of the sun, the platforms for the gladiatorial sacrifice, and some minor temples. Outside was the palace of Moctezuma with 100 rooms, each one with its own bath, for the lords and ambassadors of allies and conquered people. Also located nearby was the cuicalli or house of the songs, and the calmecac.
The city had a great symmetry. All constructions had to be approved by the calmimilocatl, a functionary in charge of the city planning.

Aztec warfare

Aztec warfare concerns the aspects associated with the militaristic conventions, forces, weaponry and strategic expansions conducted by the Late Postclassic Aztec civilizations of Mesoamerica, including particularly the military historyof the Aztec Triple Alliance involving the city-states of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, Tlacopan and other allied polities of the central Mexican region.
The Aztec armed forces were typically composed of a large number of commoners (yāōquīzqueh) who possessed only basic military training, and a smaller but still considerable number of professional warriors belonging to the nobility (pīpiltin) and who were organized into warrior societies and ranked according to their achievements. The Aztec state was centered around political expansion and dominance of and exaction of tribute from other city states, and warfare was the basic dynamic force in Aztec politics. Aztec society was also centered around warfare: every Aztec male received basic military training from an early age and the only possibility of upwards social mobility for commoners (mācehualtin) was through military achievement — especially the taking of captives (māltin). The sacrifice of war captives was an important part of many of the Aztec religious festivals. Warfare was thus the main driving force of both the Aztec economy and religion.

Stratification and ranks

The commoners composed the bulk of the army, the lowest were porters (tlamemeh) who carried weapons and supplies, next came the youths of the telpochcalli led by their sergeants (thetēlpochyahqueh) Next were the commoners yaoquizqueh. And finally there were commoners who had taken captives, the so-called tlamanih.
Ranking above these came the nobles of the "warrior societies". These were ranked according to the number of captives they had taken in previous battles; the number of captives determined which of the different suits of honor (called tlahuiztli) they were allowed to wear. These tlahuiztli became gradually more spectacular as the ranks progressed, allowing the most excellent warriors who had taken many captives to stand out on the battlefield. The higher ranked warriors were also called "Pipiltin".

Commoners excelling in warfare could be promoted to the noble class and could enter some of the warrior societies (at least the Eagles and Jaguars). Sons of nobles trained at the Calmecac however were expected to enter into one of the societies as they progressed through the ranks. Warriors could shift from one society and into another when they became sufficiently proficient; exactly how this happened is uncertain. Each society had different styles of dress and equipment as well as styles of body paint and adornments.

Eagle and Jaguar warriors

Those Aztec warriors who demonstrated the most bravery and who fought well became either jaguar or eagle warriors. Of all of the Aztec warriors, they were the most feared. Both the jaguar and eagle Aztec warriors wore distinguishing helmets and uniforms. The jaguars were identifiable by the jaguar skins they wore over their entire body, with only their faces showing from within the jaguar head. The eagle Aztec warriors, on the other hand, wore feathered helmets including an open beak.


Ranged weapons

Tlahuitolli: A bow.
Atlatl: The Aztec dart thrower was a weapon used to hurl small darts called "tlacochtli" with greater force and from greater range than they could be thrown by hand. Murals at Teotihuacan show warriors using this effective weapon and it is characteristic of the Mesoamerican cultures of central Mexico. The atlatl could also throw spears as its name implies "spear thrower".
Mitl: Arrow.
Micomitl: Aztec arrow quiver.
Yaomitl: War arrows with barbed obsidian, chert, flint, or bone points.
Tematlatl: A sling made from maguey fiber. The Aztecs used oval shaped rocks or hand molded clay balls filled with obsidian flakes or pebbles as projectiles for this weapon.
Tlacalhuazcuahuitl: A blowgun consisting of a hollow reed using poison darts for ammunition. This was used primarily for hunting rather than warfare.

Melee weapons

Macuahuitl: "Hungry-wood", essentially a wooden sword with sharp obsidian blades embedded into its sides. This was the standard armament of the elite cadres. Also known in Spanish by the Taino word "macana". A blow from such a weapon was reputedly capable of decapitating a horse.
Tepoztopilli: Wooden spear with sharp obsidian blades in the top.
Quauhololli: A mace like weapon, the handle was made out of wood topped with a wooden, rock, or copper ball at the end.
Huitzauhqui: A wooden club, somewhat resembling a baseball bat. This weapon was used as a melee weapon just as it was made, but other designs were studded with flint or obsidian cutting elements on its sides.
Tepoztli: Basically an ax, comparable to a tomahawk, the head of which was made of either stone or copper and had a two side design, one side had a sharp bladed edge while the other one a hammer like protrusion.
Tecpatl: A dagger with a double sided blade made out of flint or obsidian with an elaborate stone or wooden handle, seven to nine inches overall in length. Although this would have been an effective side arm, this weapon was more commonly used in Aztec sacrifice ceremonies which may point to this weapon being wielded mostly by Aztec warrior priests.
Tripatlzachital: A copper club used only by the Aztecs. This was new to the world and worked very effectively on enemies
Bernal Diaz also refers to a lengthy scythe-like weapon - apparently so large that a number of warriors had to operate it. This was embedded with obsidian blades for up to 3 meters, and used to slice through ranks.


Chimalli: Shields made with different materials such as the wooden shield "cuauhchimalli" or maize cane "otlachimalli". There were also ornamental shields decorated with motifs made in featherwork, these were called māhuizzoh chimalli.
Ichcahuipilli: Quilted cotton armor which was soaked in salt water brine and then hung to dry in shade so that the salt would crystalize inside of it. One or two fingers thick, this material was resistant to obsidian swords and atlatl darts.
Ehuatl: The tunic that some noble warriors wore over their cotton armour or tlahuiztli.
Tlahuiztli: The distinctively decorated suits of prestigious warriors and members of warrior societies. These suits served as a way to identify warriors according to their achievements in battle as well as rank, alliance, and social status like priesthood. Usually made of a single piece of material with an opening in the back they covered most of the body and extremities, and offered added protection to the wearer. Made with elements of animal hide, leather, and cotton these suits also included protection for the head in the form of hats or helmets made out of wood with bone elements, most noteworthy example of these are the helmets worn by Jaguar and Eagle knights.

Pamitl: The identifying emblems that officers and famous warriors wore on their backs. Like the Japanese uma-jirushi, these were frequently unique to their wearers, and were not necessarily shaped like flags.