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Insights: Aztecs

Insights: Aztecs

Fiona Macdonald, Quarto Book published by Oxford University Press 1992

Comprehensive, well informed, well illustrated source book, full of good information

Attractive use of page flaps revealing more illustrations and facts beneath

There are indeed an unusual number of ‘insights’ given into Aztec society that are relatively rare in pupil-based books on the Aztecs: references to contrasts and contradictions, benign, gentle gods and goddesses (such as Xilonen, goddess of tender maize), an attempt to understand human sacrifices through our own eyes, the strength of the link between human and celestial worlds in Aztec beliefs, etc.

There are a number of minor errors and omissions: the Aztecs settled in Lake Texcoco in 1325, not 1345 (p11). The codex image on p18 shows a jaguar knight capturing an enemy, not killing him. An important - though omitted - part of the steam bath (p23) is the slapping of the body (by a woman trained in the art) with bundles of large leaves to help expel impurities from the skin. The girl shown (p25, from the Codex Mendoza) sweeping the house floor is doing it at night (an important part of the punishment). The classic image of human sacrifice (p43) is from the Codex Maglabecchiano, not the Codex Mendoza. The height of the main temple was around 45m, not 90m (p45). Curiously no illustration is included alongside the description (p49) of the Volador ceremony. And four lines at the end on the Aztec legacy in Mexico today is quite inadequate.