October 26, 2012

Tula

The Tovar Codex, attributed to the 16th-century Mexican Jesuit Juan de Tovar, contains detailed information about the rites and ceremonies of the Aztecs (also known as Mexica). The codex is illustrated with 51 full-page paintings in watercolor. Strongly influenced by pre-contact pictographic manuscripts, the paintings are of exceptional artistic quality. The manuscript is divided into three sections. The first section is a history of the travels of the Aztecs prior to the arrival of the Spanish. The second section is an illustrated history of the Aztecs. The third section contains the Tovar calendar, which records a continuous Aztec calendar with months, weeks, days, dominical letters, and church festivals of a Christian 365-day year. In this illustration, from the second section, Coatepec, the Toltec city in Tula, is represented by a hill with a serpent or snake on it. Water leaping with fish flows from the hill. On the right is Tenoch (known from his glyph of a flowering cactus), the legendary hero who founded Tenochtitlan. On the left is Tochtzin (known from his glyph of a rabbit) from Calpan (known from the glyph of a house with a flag). The two rulers sit on basketwork thrones. The Toltec civilization was already in decline by the 12th century and was routed in mid-century by the Aztecs, who had left Aztlán and migrated to Tula. At Coatepec, meaning “hill of the serpent,” the Aztecs perfected certain technological skills and, at the suggestion of their god, Huitzilopochtli (the god of the sun and war), created the lake shown here.

Chapultepec Hill

The Tovar Codex, attributed to the 16th-century Mexican Jesuit Juan de Tovar, contains detailed information about the rites and ceremonies of the Aztecs (also known as Mexica). The codex is illustrated with 51 full-page paintings in watercolor. Strongly influenced by pre-contact pictographic manuscripts, the paintings are of exceptional artistic quality. The manuscript is divided into three sections. The first section is a history of the travels of the Aztecs prior to the arrival of the Spanish. The second section, an illustrated history of the Aztecs, forms the main body of the manuscript. The third section contains the Tovar calendar. This illustration, from the second section, depicts the Cerro de Chapultépec (Hill of the Grasshoppers). An emperor on a throne sits before the hill, which is represented with a winding road and a spring. Military features shown include soldiers with war clubs and shields from three armies, feathered headdresses, and jaguar skin. Huitziláihuitl (or Huitzilihuitl, reigned 1395–1417), the Aztec emperor recognizable by his symbol of the hummingbird with white feathers, sits on his throne at right. Above him are four figures representing the four ancestral tribes of the Aztecs. Three armies converge to annihilate them, the Tepanec of Azcapotzalco, the Chalco (who captured and killed Huitziláihuitl), and the Xochimilca. The chief of one army wears the jaguar skin of a warrior caste and carries a shield with the symbol of the Mitla (the center of Zapotec ceremonies).

The Battle of Azcapotzalco

The Tovar Codex, attributed to the 16th-century Mexican Jesuit Juan de Tovar, contains detailed information about the rites and ceremonies of the Aztecs (also known as Mexica). The codex is illustrated with 51 full-page paintings in watercolor. Strongly influenced by pre-contact pictographic manuscripts, the paintings are of exceptional artistic quality. The manuscript is divided into three sections. The first section is a history of the travels of the Aztecs prior to the arrival of the Spanish. The second section, an illustrated history of the Aztecs, forms the main body of the manuscript. The third section contains the Tovar calendar. This illustration, from the second section, depicts the Battle of Azcapotzalco. Two groups of soldiers are shown fighting with war clubs and shields in the foreground of the image. At the far left is a jaguar warrior, one of the elite soldiers of the Aztec, with the glyph of a flowering cactus above him. Next to him is a figure representing Axayácatl (known from the glyph for water and hill above him). At the right is a figure in a conical hat and another jaguar warrior. Behind the soldiers is a dwelling with three women who make a sign of mercy with their hands. Another woman stands ready to defend them. At right an infant is being sacrificed by a priest at a temple while two victims lie dead on the ground. Azcapotzalco, capital city of Tecpanec on Lake Texcoco, was the site of a battle in 1430 between Itzcóatl, the fourth Aztec emperor (reigned 1427–40, allied with Netzahualcoyotl, a Texcocan lord) and Maxtla (son of a Tepanec lord to whom the Aztec had been subservient), who had had the previous emperor assassinated. Upon the defeat of Maxtla, the three cities of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan formed the new Aztec empire of the Triple Alliance.

The Temple to the Aztec God Huitzilopochtli

The Tovar Codex, attributed to the 16th-century Mexican Jesuit Juan de Tovar, contains detailed information about the rites and ceremonies of the Aztecs (also known as Mexica). The codex is illustrated with 51 full-page paintings in watercolor. Strongly influenced by pre-contact pictographic manuscripts, the paintings are of exceptional artistic quality. The manuscript is divided into three sections. The first section is a history of the travels of the Aztecs prior to the arrival of the Spanish. The second section, an illustrated history of the Aztecs, forms the main body of the manuscript. The third section contains the Tovar calendar. This illustration, from the second section, shows (at left) a temple or pyramid surmounted by the images of two gods flanked by native Mexicans. On the temple is an image of Huitzilopochtli on the right, and an image of Tlaloc holding a turquoise serpent is on the left. The temple is surrounded by a wall of serpents swallowing one another's heads. At right is a tzompantli (Aztec skull rack). Huitzilopochtli, whose name means "Blue hummingbird on the left," was the Aztec god of the sun and war. The xiuhcoatl (turquoise or fire serpent) was his mystical weapon. Tlaloc, the god of rain and agriculture, was of pre-Aztec, or Toltec, origin. A coatepantli (wall made of sculpted serpents) often surrounds Aztec temples. The tzompantli would hold the skulls of sacrificial victims. The great temple at Tenochtitlan was surmounted by two sanctuaries—the one on the left dedicated to Tlaloc, the one on the right to Huitzilopochtli.

The Aztec God Tezcatlipoca and His Temple

The Tovar Codex, attributed to the 16th-century Mexican Jesuit Juan de Tovar, contains detailed information about the rites and ceremonies of the Aztecs (also known as Mexica). The codex is illustrated with 51 full-page paintings in watercolor. Strongly influenced by pre-contact pictographic manuscripts, the paintings are of exceptional artistic quality. The manuscript is divided into three sections. The first section is a history of the travels of the Aztecs prior to the arrival of the Spanish. The second section, an illustrated history of the Aztecs, forms the main body of the manuscript. The third section contains the Tovar calendar. This illustration, from the second section, shows Tezcatlipoca seated on a basketwork throne in his temple. He holds a shield with the five directions of space and three arrows, as well as a spear. He wears a red cloak covered with skulls and bones and his hair contains white feathers. Tezcatlipoca (Smoking Mirror) was an omnipresent and omnipotent god, the god of the night sky and memory. Here he carries the same shield as Huitzilopochtli, the god of the sun and war. The volutes on his temple represent butterflies or fallen soldiers. White feathers were placed in the hair of sacrificial victims.

Aztec Priests Sacrificing to the Gods by Burning Incense and Offering Blood

The Tovar Codex, attributed to the 16th-century Mexican Jesuit Juan de Tovar, contains detailed information about the rites and ceremonies of the Aztecs (also known as Mexica). The codex is illustrated with 51 full-page paintings in watercolor. Strongly influenced by pre-contact pictographic manuscripts, the paintings are of exceptional artistic quality. The manuscript is divided into three sections. The first section is a history of the travels of the Aztecs prior to the arrival of the Spanish. The second section, an illustrated history of the Aztecs, forms the main body of the manuscript. The third section contains the Tovar calendar. This illustration, from the second section, shows two priests whose bodies are colored blue making offerings to the gods. One holds an incense burner and a bag while the other pierces himself with a cactus spine. In the center is a braided vessel with three cactus spines covered in blood that will be offered to the gods. The priests, called tlamacazqui (keepers of the gods), recognizable by their long hair held back by three rings, burn copal (or copalli, a dried resin made from various trees) and offer blood to the gods by mutilating themselves with cactus spines.