Wings outspread, jagged talons projecting front and back from his knees, his face emerging from an eagle’s beak, this is an eagle warrior. Templo Mayor Museum, INAH. National Council for Culture and Arts – INAH.
Around 1325 CE, southward migrating Mexicas or “Aztecs” came upon an island in Lake Texcoco, located in the highlands of Central Mexico. On this spot, they consecrated a temple and founded their capital city — the legendary Tenochtitlán — from which they initiated a wave of imperial conquests throughout Mesoamerica. Aztec civilization flourished for nearly two hundred years before falling to the might of the Spanish, led by Hernán Cortés (1485-1547 CE), in 1521 CE. Despite their remarkable innovations in engineering, agriculture, and architecture, many remember the Aztecs solely for their bloody rituals of human sacrifice.
This summer, Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Museum in Montréal, Canada presents a major international exhibition, The Aztecs, People of the Sun, which offers glimpses into the lost world of a culture that reigned over much of what is present-day Mexico. In this interview, James Blake of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) speaks to Ms. Christine Dufresne, Project Manager at Pointe-à-Callière, about the exhibition and the finer points of Aztec civilization.
At the time of the Spanish conquest of Mexico (1519-1521 CE), two empires dominated the political and cultural landscape of Mesoamerica: the Aztec Empire and the relatively unknown Tarascan State. The Tarascans were the archenemies of the Aztecs, carving an empire of their own in the contemporary Mexican states of Michoacán, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Querétaro, Colima, and Jalisco. At the center of the Tarascan State was the splendid capital city of Tzintzuntzan–“the place of the hummingbirds”–located alongside Lake Pátzcuaro. From this religious and administrative center, the Tarascan cazonci or “king” ruled a multiethnic empire of 72,500 square kilometers (45,000 square miles), matching the Aztecs in might and power.
In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Dr. Claudia Espejel Carbajal — professor of History at El Colegio de Michoacán (COLMICH) — an expert on Tarascan ethnohistory and archaeology.