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Other examples of Aztec temples

ORIGINAL QUESTION received from - and thanks to - Fay Estenza: What are some examples of Aztec temples besides the Templo Mayor? Thanks! (Answered by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

The pyramid at Tenayuca
The pyramid at Tenayuca (Click on image to enlarge)

Largely ‘thanks’ to the widespread destruction wrought by the Spanish invaders, particularly in Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City), only a small number of excavated Mexica (Aztec) temple-pyramids remain to this day - all easily visited, but a tiny fraction of the hundreds that must have dotted the landscape of the Aztec empire which at its height extended from the Basin of Mexico to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and encompassed over 400 cities and towns, an area of more than 77,000 square miles.

The pyramid at Santa Cecilia Acatitlan
The pyramid at Santa Cecilia Acatitlan (Click on image to enlarge)

The excellent Handbook of Life in the Aztec World by our Panel of Experts member Professor Manuel Aguilar-Moreno lists the following as ‘the more important cities of the Aztec world, where archaeological remains can be visited’:-
• Tenayuca
• Santa Cecilia Acatitlan
• Teopanzolco
• Huexotla
• Tlatelolco
• Tetzcotzinco
• Tepoztlan
• Calixtlahuaca
• Coatetelco
• Malinalco.

View of the Tlatelolco archeological zone from the entrance at the southwest corner
View of the Tlatelolco archeological zone from the entrance at the southwest corner (Click on image to enlarge)

NOTES on some of the temple-pyramids listed here:-
• Some scholars believe the Templo Mayor of Tenochtitlan was modelled on the great temple at Tenayuca
• The dual pyramid-temple of Santa Cecilia Acatitlan has twin temples dedicated to Tlaloc (rain god) facing North and Huitzilopochtli (war god) facing South, just like the Templo Mayor of Tenochtitlan
Huexotla was a military city defended by a great wall some 650 metres long - only part of it remains
Tlatelolco and Tenochtitlan were rival cities (Tlatelolco was founded 12 years after Tenochtitlan by a group of dissident Aztecs) until the former was attacked and defeated by the latter during the reign of Axayatl; Tlatelolco is famous today for the Plaza of the Three Cultures: the base being Aztec, on top a colonial Spanish church, and the surrounding buildings being modern Mexican structures.

The ‘bath of the king’ at Tetzcotzinco
The ‘bath of the king’ at Tetzcotzinco (Click on image to enlarge)

Tetzcotzinco (also known as Tetzcotzingo) was an important and sacred Aztec site perched on a hill; created and designed by the ruler of Texcoco, Nezahualcóyotl in the 15th century. The hydraulic works - that include the famous ‘king’s bath’ fed by an aqueduct that carried fresh water from five miles away - are considered today ‘one of the major engineering accomplishments of pre-Columbian times’ (Aguilar-Moreno)
Tepoztlan’s famous temple-pyramid stands on one of the peaks of the Sierra de Tepoztlan, overlooking the pre-Columbian town of Tepoztlan. The small temple was dedicated to Tepoztecatl, the Aztec god of the alcoholic drink pulque. Every year in December a festival takes place dedicated to the cultural hero Tepoztecatl - people still climb the mountain to make offerings to him.

The Aztec pyramid known as ‘El Tepozteco’, Tepoztlan
The Aztec pyramid known as ‘El Tepozteco’, Tepoztlan (Click on image to enlarge)

Calixtlahuaca was known originally as Matlatzinco. This urban settlement was a powerful capital whose kings controlled a large territory in the Toluca Valley. One of its most notable structures is the circular stone temple dedicated to the wind god Ehécatl. In 2002 Dr. Michael E. Smith (member of our Panel of Experts) began a major research project at Calixtlahuaca. In 2007 a series of houses and terraces were excavated, revealing the form of life of the inhabitants of Calixtlahuaca for the first time
Malinalco, an Aztec fortress city and headquarters of the Aztec eagle and jaguar warrior orders, is well known for its rock-cut temples, especially the House of Eagles, carved out of the mountainside (shown in the picture below). It’s also famous for its well preserved wooden Aztec vertical war drum (huehuetl), beautifully carved with symbols of war and sacrifice and now in the Toluca City Museum (follow link below to learn more about the drum).

Temple of Ehecatl at Calixtlahuaca
Temple of Ehecatl at Calixtlahuaca (Click on image to enlarge)

Picture sources:-
• Tenayuca pyramid by Eliane Ceccon (Wikimedia Commons)
• Santa Cecilia Acatitlan pyramid by Maunus (Wikimedia Commons)
• Tlatelolco by Thelmadatter (Wikimedia Commons)
• Tetzcotzinco from
• El Tepozteco by Asedzie (Wikimedia Commons)
• Temple of Ehecátl, Calixtlahuaca by Arian Zwegers (Wikimedia Commons)
• House of Eagles, Malinalco by Maunus (Wikimedia Commons).

The House of Eagles, Malinalco
The House of Eagles, Malinalco (Click on image to enlarge)
Aztec War Drum from Malinalco

More about Tlatelolco...

Learn more about the Aztec pleasure gardens at Tetzcotzinco...

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