General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 1 Mar 2021/6 Grass
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Our friend Dr. Matthew McDavitt recently drew our attention to the oldest ‘book for youngsters’ on the Aztecs published in English, ‘The Sun Kingdom of the Aztecs’ by Victor W. von Hagen (first published in the USA in 1958, and in the UK in 1960). Von Hagen tells the story of the Aztecs through the eyes of a 14-year-old Aztec youth, Speaking Eagle. The book is richly illustrated with simple b/w line drawings by the renowned Mexican artist and ethnologist Alberto Beltrán. Enjoy using these brief excerpts adapted from the book in your topic work...

‘It was at the clan school that Speaking Eagle learned the history of his people...’
‘It was at the clan school that Speaking Eagle learned the history of his people...’ (Click on image to enlarge)

Speaking Eagle belonged to the Yopica clan, as did all the other boys who attended this clan school... There were twenty such clans in Tenochtitlan, each with its own district, its own school, and its own temple...
The clan owned land which it loaned to each member. On this each man grew the crops which fed his family... The clan, advised by its old men, who were elected by vote, ran the district. The old men also operated the clan school. It was there that Speaking Eagle, like the rest of the boys, learned the history of his people...

‘The boys rushed forward to see the war-history pictures...’
‘The boys rushed forward to see the war-history pictures...’ (Click on image to enlarge)

The old men read about it from books. The pages were folded and made of amatl, a paper which was made by beating the soft inner bark of the wild fig tree until it had the feel of thick cloth. Speaking Eagle knew this because his father had often been on journeys to the warmer lands south of Tenochtitlan and had seen how it was done. The thick paper was whitened with a gum, heated, and pressed with hot stone irons. On this, men who understood the mysteries of writing painted symbols of houses, turkeys, deer, smoke, or obsidian knives and formed them into ‘speaking pictures’...

‘The oldest school book on the Aztecs?’

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