The Aztec Civilization: The Truth About The Aztecs

The Aztec Civilization: The Truth About The Aztecs.

The Aztec Civilization: The Truth About The Aztecs

One of the largest and most comprehensive exhibitions ever dedicated to Central American cultures has been on display at the Royal Academy of Arts in London since last month. Entitled "The Aztecs", it describes through about 380 exhibits the life and historical course of that amazing people, who is 200 years - from 1325 to 1521 - created one of the most imposing civilizations in the world. The exhibition "Ancient and Modern Mexico", which was organized in London in 1824, is recognized by experts as the first in the world on the subject of pre-Columbian America. It included stone statues of the water goddess Xiukoatl, the fire snake, busts of the god Ketsalkoatl and other rare pieces that are now part of the British Museum treasure. Organized by William Bullock, Collector and pioneer in the field of the art market, the exhibition in the so-called Egyptian Hall of the museum, a few meters away from the current headquarters of the Royal Academy, was a great commercial and cultural success. "The apparent wealth of the Spanish colonies in America aroused great curiosity in England," says Adrian Locke, a Latin American art expert.

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Two centuries later, the Royal Academy is reviving interest in Central America's last pre-Columbian empire with a huge exhibition of works in stone, wood, feathers, precious stones, and metals, including pieces that have never been exhibited in Europe. The Academy Hall contains finds and images from recent excavations at the Templo Mayor of Tenochtitlan, the ancient Aztec capital, where the altars are dedicated to Tlaloc, god of water and fertility, and Huichilopostli were rebuilt. Of sun and war.

This is one of the most ambitious ventures undertaken by the Royal Academy, which operates as a private organization and seeks to regain the leading position it once held thanks to William Bullock. "It is the largest exhibition dedicated to the Aztecs. A unique opportunity that will not be presented again for the next thirty or even more years ", says Adrian Lock, who has curated the exhibition together with Professor Eduardo Matos Moktezoume, archaeologist of Templo Mayor, and Felipe Solis Olgin, its director National Museum of Anthropology of Mexico City.

Survival of a lost culture.

"We claim for the Aztecs the role they deserve in world history. People tend to believe that this civilization died with the arrival of Hernan Cortes and the Conquistadors, but its traditions, language, crafts, and legends survive. "The roots of modern Mexico are discovered in the encounter with pre-Columbian civilizations, which in the 16th century were ignored," Locke observes.

The attempt to re-attribute their history to the Aztecs goes through a review of the history of the conquistadors. "The black legend of the Aztecs was created by the Spaniards. It was convenient for them to describe the barbaric aspects of this civilization, referring to the hundreds of thousands of human sacrifices, in order to justify the conquest of Mexico on religious terms. "But there are no archaeological finds to substantiate some kind of genocide." So far, excavations at Templo Mayor have uncovered the bones of about fifty people sacrificed to the gods. "The Aztecs have identified with human sacrifice and violence. It is a misconception. We show another image: the image of an advanced and organized society.

Wonderful architecture.

The Aztec Civilization: The Truth About The Aztecs

There was no European city in 1520 comparable in size and population to Tenochtitlan. "Architecturally it was a wonderful city: stone buildings, clean streets and plenty of water flowing in its canals, neighborhoods organized in craftsmen and artists' guilds, as well as a sacred central space. Europe, however, always claims the artistic superiority of its cultures. It is unfair because the quality of Aztec works, especially those made of stone, gold, and feathers, is amazing. The history of art was built on the rules of the classicism of Greece and Rome and everything else is considered regional. "Native American cultures are valued only from an ethnographic point of view and are not part of the official history of art."

Adrian Lock argues that the Aztecs were not a violent, warlike people, but a politically perceptive people. "They wrote their history, attributing to themselves some mythological origin and tracing a long journey in search of the sacred land starting from their cradle in Aztlan, a city that was never discovered. It is difficult to know where the myth ends and where the story begins. However, at that time there was a power vacuum in central Mexico and, with a mythology borrowing elements from previous civilizations, the Aztecs were able to spread and support their influence, sovereignty, and empire.

Locke considers the collection of codes exhibited in London among the most important objects of the exhibition. Exhibits such as the Duran Code, borrowed from the National Library of Madrid, and the Florentine Code, among others, are on display together for the first time. Among the sculptures that travel for the first time in Europe, the terracotta statues of the god of death stand out. Other important works of stone, clay, feathers, jasper, and turquoise, which the Spanish conquerors ignored for the sake of the then most valuable gold objects, illuminate this review of Aztec art, which the Royal Academy intends to send to other European capitals.

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