General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 20 Nov 2017/5 Eagle
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Professor Patrick Lesbre

Question for July 2013

Which was the second biggest town/city in Aztec times? Asked by Longshaw Primary School. Chosen and answered by Professor Patrick Lesbre.

Pic 1: Map of ‘The Valley of Tenochtitlan as seen by Cortez’ published in 1869 by George F. Cram in Illinois
Pic 1: Map of ‘The Valley of Tenochtitlan as seen by Cortez’ published in 1869 by George F. Cram in Illinois (Click on image to enlarge)

The second biggest town in Aztec times was Texcoco, one of the three capitals of the empire with Tenochtitlan and Tlacopan (all three in the Central Valley of Mexico). When Cortes and other Spaniards first saw it they said that it was same size or bigger than Tenochtitlan (but they included the cities of Huexotla and Coatlichan, very near). Texcoco was built on the mainland, so it had extensive lands and that could explain the first impression given to the Spaniards. Texcoco had “400” palaces which in Nahuatl means ‘countless’. The Great Temple was higher than the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan. But this answer is based on colonial texts, not on archaeology: maybe the city of Coixtlahuaca in the Mixteca was bigger, but it was a long way away and none of the Spanish compared it with Mexico.

Pic 2: Map of Aztec territorial expansion, showing Tzintzuntzan and Tenochtitlan
Pic 2: Map of Aztec territorial expansion, showing Tzintzuntzan and Tenochtitlan (Click on image to enlarge)

Professor Bernard Ortiz de Montellano adds:-
”Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire, was in a class by itself. It had 225,000 people crowded into an island so that the population density was 157.4 persons/hectare. The second largest city was the Tarascan city of Tzintzuntzan in West Mexico. It had a population of 30,000 and the population was spread out at 44.5 person/hectare. The second biggest town in Central Mexico was Texcoco on the shores of Lake Texcoco. It had a population of 24,100 and a population density of 53.6 persons/hectare.”

Picture sources:-
• Map of Lake Texcoco: scanned from private collection
• Map of Aztec expansion, from Wikipedia.

Professor Patrick Lesbre has answered 2 questions altogether:

What animals did they sacrifice? Do people still sacrifice animals in Mexico today?

Which was the second biggest town/city in Aztec times?

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