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How was the Aztec army provisioned and how did they treat wounds?

ORIGINAL QUESTION received from - and thanks to - Alfonso Gómez López: ¿Cual era la logística de aprovisionamiento y preparación de la comida para alimentar al ejército, así como la atención médica a los heridos durante sus campañas? (‘How did the Mexica army provision itself with supplies and food, and how did they attend to wounds sustained in battle?’) (Answered/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Pic 1: Montage of multiple Aztec young porters/novice soldiers; Codex Mendoza fol 63r (detail)
Pic 1: Montage of multiple Aztec young porters/novice soldiers; Codex Mendoza fol 63r (detail) (Click on image to enlarge)

Once again, we rely on the expertise of Professor John Pohl (on our Panel of Experts) for providing superb information on this topic*. Under ‘Logistics’ he writes:-
’The problem of a large [Aztec] army being located at a [long] distance from sources of supply was solved by imposing extensive tribute requirements. Among these was tribute to be massed and reserved specifically for the army of the Triple Alliance should it be required en route. Here we see the importance of officially declaring specific territories to be conquered. Generally a declaration of intent was given to the communities which lay along the invasion route two days before the army would arrive. With that notice came a demand for stockpiled tribute. Refusal to deliver was seen as rebellion, and no individual community could summon and retrain enough manpower within the time of notice to confront the onslaught of an army which could exceed 200,000 men.’

Pic 2: Porters were literally the backbone of both Aztec and Maya armies...
Pic 2: Porters were literally the backbone of both Aztec and Maya armies... (Click on image to enlarge)

In such a huge army, we know that as many as 100,000 would have been employed as porters or tlamemehque, each carrying as much as 50 pounds of supplies and equipment. These were young cadet soldiers who doubled as porters. One such youth is depicted in the Codex Mendoza (see pic 1).
In terms of foodstuffs, these came from two sources: the roadside stockpiles assembled as tribute and the contributions from each soldier’s individual family and local community. The Mexica war (dry) season began in November, falling conveniently just after the harvest the month before. Large quantities of (toasted) tortillas, beans, chillies, and dried meat (venison, turkey, peccary...) - as well as small quantities of dried cacao paste - were packed into baskets to provide the army with good basic rations.

Pic 3: Treating a head wound, Florentine Codex Book X
Pic 3: Treating a head wound, Florentine Codex Book X (Click on image to enlarge)

In terms of medical attention, the best evidence comes directly from the Florentine Codex, which has a whole chapter (no. 28 in Book X) dedicated to the cure of ailments and wounds.
Referring to a head wound (highly common in battle), it says (pic 3) -
First the blood is quickly washed away with hot urine. And when it has been washed, then hot maguey sap is squeezed thereon. When it has been squeezed out on the place where the head is wounded, then once again maguey sap, to which are added [the herb] called matlalxiuitl and lampblack with salt stirred in, is placed on it. And when [this] has been placed on, then it is quickly wrapped in order that the air will not enter there, and so it heals...

Pic 4: Treating a broken leg, Florentine Codex Book X
Pic 4: Treating a broken leg, Florentine Codex Book X (Click on image to enlarge)

Referring to the breaking of bones (pic 4), the Codex says
Acocotli root is added to nopal root, [and] they are ground. They are placed there where the leg is broken. And when they are placed on, then [the leg] is wrapped with a cloth bandage. And on four sides splints are pressed, tightly bound, tied with cords. And when it has been tied with cords, then the blood comes out where it is swollen... And after twenty days it is untied. When it has been untied, then a poultice** of liquidambar, to which a powdered maguey [root] and lime have been added, is applied. And when the poultice has been applied, then when his leg [is] strong, when it becomes whole, a hot bath is taken...
They knew their stuff! In fact, it’s commonly believed that Aztec treatments of war wounds were more effective than Spanish ones at the time.

*Info and further reading: Aztec Warrior AD 1325-1521: Weapons, Armor, Tactics by John Pohl, Osprey Publishing, 2001; Aztec, Mixtec and Zapotec Armies by John Pohl, Osprey Publishing, 1991.
Quotes from Florentine Codex, Book X - The People (translated and edited by Charles E. Dibble and Arthur J.O. Anderson), Part XI, School of American Research and University of Utah, New Mexico, 1963, pp. 161-2.

Images:-
• Pic 1: Image from the Codex Mendoza (original in the Bodleian Library, Oxford) scanned from our own copy of the James Cooper Clark 1938 facsimile edition, London
• Pic 2: Image bottom left from the Florentine Codex (original in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence) scanned from our own copy of the Club Internacional del Libro 3-volume facsimile edition, Madrid, 1994; image top - illustration drawn for Mexicolore by Steve Radzi; image bottom right - illustration drawn for Mexicolore by Felipe Dávalos
• Pix 3 & 4: see pic 2 for details (Florentine Codex).

‘How big was the Aztec army?’

‘Did the Aztecs have hospitals?’

** Learn what a poultice is (Wikipedia)

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