The ‘Eagle Warrior’ from the Mexica (Aztec) Templo Mayor

The sculpture was recovered at the House of the Eagles, the meeting place of eagle and jaguar warriors. Introduction Eagle Warrior is a life-sized ceramic sculpture made by Mexica (sometimes called Aztec) artists that shows a warrior dressed in an eagle costume. Made of terracotta, a type of earthenware known for its reddish color, the[…]

An Brief Overview of Mexica (Aztec) History

The Mexica were a migrant people from the desert north who arrived in Mesoamerica in the 1300s. By the British Museum Introduction During the twelfth century C.E. the Aztec (or Mexica*) were a small and obscure tribe searching for a new homeland. Eventually they settled in the Valley of Mexico and founded their capital, Tenochtitlan, in 1345.[…]

Exploring Ancient Mosaics

We can see how the world once was and glimpse now lost landscapes, flora and fauna. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Mosaics, where designs and images are created using small pieces (tesserae) of stone or other materials, have been used to decorate floors, walls, ceilings, and precious objects since before written records began. Like pottery, mosaics have[…]

Inca Mummies

Incan mummies (mallki) which escaped looters have, in most cases, been excellently preserved. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Inca civilization of Peru, as with many other ancient Andean cultures, mummified many of their dead and buried them with valuable materials such as precious metal jewellery, fine pottery, and sumptuous textiles. Important mummies could also be[…]

The Ancient Megalithic Funerary Art of San Agustín, Colombia

These burial places formed the centers of small-scale chiefdoms and shared a set of sculptural motifs and styles. By Benjamin OswaldHistorian Introduction Beginning approximately 2000 years ago, in a rugged stretch of southwestern Colombia where the Andes split into multiple ranges and the mighty Magdalena River is born, a people created a collection of magnificent[…]

A Rock, a Human, a Tree: All Were Persons to the Classic Maya

While the social category of ‘persons’ is found in multiple cultural contexts, who or what is recognized as a person can differ. For the Maya of the Classic period, who lived in southern Mexico and Central America between 250 and 900 CE, the category of ‘persons’ was not coincident with human beings, as it is[…]

The Role of Smallpox in the Spanish Conquest of the Aztecs 500 Years Ago

Hernán Cortés owed his conquest of the Aztecs to his expedition’s unknown, unseen secret weapon: the smallpox virus. Disease epidemics can set the course of human history. Recent outbreaks in the U.S. have drawn attention to the dangers of measles. The Democratic Republic of Congo is fighting a deadly outbreak of Ebola that has killed hundreds. Epidemics are[…]

Astronomy in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica

The observation of the sky was of considerable importance to the Maya, Aztecs and other prehisanic peoles of Mesoamerica. Overview The observation of the sky was of considerable importance to the Maya, Aztecs and other prehispanic peoles of Mesoamerica. Their familiarity with the regularities of the apparent motion of the Sun, the Moon and bright[…]

Ancient Cosmologies: Understanding Ancient Skywatchers, Mayas, and their Worldviews

Since the beginning of humankind, the fascination with the celestial vault has been regarded as an important element in human life, their future, and history. Overview Ancient and pre-modern worldviews of the cosmos originated in practical lifeworld structures and experiences and therefore cannot be analyzed in the same manner as modern cosmologies are. Being embedded[…]

Women’s Voices in a Male World: Actions, Bodies, and Spaces among the Ancient Maya

A greater focus on female activities such as food processing and weaving can provide valuable information on macro-scale social dynamics. Abstract Feminist archaeology has prompted scholars to reconsider gender roles in ancient Mesoamerica.Current research, however, tends to focus on elite women, classes and sites. Although I do not ignore the potential of these sources, in[…]

Investigations into Ancient Maya Domestic and Ritual Activities

Gaining an understanding of the particular social processes involved in the transitional Terminal Classic period in this area of the Maya world. Introduction A fifth season of excavations was conducted between June and September 2005 at the ancient Maya site of Pook’s Hill, Belize (Helmke 2006a). The excavations were conducted as part of the Belize[…]

How Climate Change Put a Damper on the Maya Civilization

Thousands of years before their collapse, severely soggy conditions lasting for many centuries likely inhibited the civilization’s development. By Olivia Trani More than 4,000 years ago, when the Great Pyramid of Giza and Stonehenge were being built, the Maya civilisation emerged in Central America. The indigenous group prospered for thousands of years until its fall[…]

The Grolier Codex: What the Oldest Manuscript to Survive Spanish Conquest Reveals

Extensive trade networks connected the Maya to the rest of Mesoamerica, producing the dynamic landscapes and bustling ports reported in early Spanish accounts. The Maya were, at their height, one of the world’s great civilisations. In the “classic” period, from AD 250–900, Maya cities with monumental architecture and huge populations spread across a large area[…]

The Maya Civilization: What’s Geography Got to Do With It?

The Maya Civilisation can be traced as far back as 2000 BCE. Introduction Geology is not just about looking at rocks. From finding oil and gas and tackling climate change to manufacturing, archaeology or geopolitics, geoscientists appear in most spheres of today’s world and economy, albeit often behind the scenes. In a new series of[…]

The Teotihuacan Anomaly: The Historical Trajectory of Urban Design in Ancient Central Mexico

The ancient Mexican city of Teotihuacan had the most aberrant design of any city in ancient Mesoamerica. Abstract The ancient Mexican city of Teotihuacan had the most aberrant design of any city in ancient Mesoamerica. I examine similarities and differences between the design of Teotihuacan and other Mesoamerican cities. During the Preclassic period, a set[…]

Mesoamerican Architecture from the Ancient to Medieval Worlds

Mesoamerican architecture is the set of architectural traditions produced by pre-Columbian cultures and civilizations of Mesoamerica. Introduction Mesoamerican architecture is the set of architectural traditions produced by pre-Columbian cultures and civilizations of Mesoamerica, traditions which are best known in the form of public, ceremonial and urban monumental buildings and structures. The distinctive features of Mesoamerican architecture encompass a number of different[…]

The Fourth Skull: A Tale of Authenticity and Fraud

This is a story of four different skulls that reached three of the world’s largest museums under less than transparent circumstances. By Dr. Jane MacLaren Walsh and Dr. David HuntWalsh: Anthropologist Emeritus, Smithsonian Institution Museum of Natural HistoryHunt: Professional Lecturer in Anthropology, George Washington University Introduction This is a story of four different skulls that[…]

Emperors, Gods, and Foreign Invaders of the Aztec Empire

Moctezuma I expanded the Aztec Empire beyond the Valley of Mexico by constantly waging war. Introduction As the city of Tenochtitlán grew, the Aztec fought for dominance over other city-states in the area. In 1428 CE, Tenochtitlán formed a Triple Alliance with the cities of Texcoco and Tlacopan in the Valley of Mexico.These three cities[…]

Tenochtitlán: Aztec City on the Water’s Edge

The Aztec empire existed more than 500 years after the Maya abandoned their great inland city-states. Introduction Did you know that the modern capital of Mexico, Mexico City, was built on top of another city? If you visit Mexico City today, you can see archaeologists at work.They are busy uncovering the ancient city of Tenochtitlán.[…]