General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 9 Dec 2019/13 Lizard
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Article suitable for older students

Dr. Anastasia Kalyuta

Question for December 2019

Were important people carried, or did they walk? Asked by Applecroft Primary School. Chosen and answered by Dr. Anastasia Kalyuta.

The meeting of Cortés and Moctezuma, Kislak ‘Conquest of Mexico’ painting no. 3, oil on canvas, late 17th century
The meeting of Cortés and Moctezuma, Kislak ‘Conquest of Mexico’ painting no. 3, oil on canvas, late 17th century (Click on image to enlarge)

Before and after the Conquest very Important people should be carried in litters on ceremonial ocasions for two main reasons: a) they had too strong tonalli - the vital force or “soul” (although this term isn’t totally adequate) to touch the rude soil with their feet without serious consequences to the Universe or part of it (in the Nahua worldview the earth was also considered an animated being that feels, acts and can react); b) it was improper for persons of rank to walk as commoners or merchants especially if they went to meet a special guest, for example the envoy of an enemy state. Therefore they were carried in richly decorated palanquins like Motecuhzoma and his “darling” nephew Cacama the ruler of Texcoco during their meetings with Cortés in November 1519 (Diaz del Castillo states that 8 persons, rulers of city-states subordinate to Texcoco carried Cacama’s litter, splendidly decorated with green feathers, silver and precious stones). Morever, even descending from their litters Aztec rulers were led by their courtiers (usually the closest blood relatives) and pieces of cloth were spread in their way to prevent any contact of the royal feet with soil - as you can see in this picture.

Picture source:-
Jay I. Kislak Collection Rare Book and Special Collections Division (26.1) - from Wikimedia Commons.

Dr. Anastasia Kalyuta has answered 4 questions altogether:

If someone tried to commit suicide, would they have been punished?

Did the Aztecs invent anything that we still use today?

What would have happened if you were an orphan: how would you have been brought up and educated?

Were important people carried, or did they walk?

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