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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the largest Indian tribe in Mexico. Population, approximately 800,000 (1969 estimate). Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, belongs to the large Uto-Aztecan group of languages.

In the 12th century the Aztecs, who had come from the north, invaded the Valley of Mexico and settled there; in the 14th century they founded the settlement of Tenochtitlán (modern Mexico City). In 1427 the Aztecs, in an alliance with the city-states of Texcoco and Tlacopan, conquered the population of the entire valley and of central Mexico as well. Between 1519 and 1521 the Aztecs were conquered by the Spaniards. Until the time of their appearance in the Valley of Mexico, a tribal system prevailed among the Aztecs. As a result of socioeconomic stratification in the 15th century, an early class state developed; slavery, trade, and well-developed crafts existed. The basic agricultural crops were maize, beans, cotton, cacao, tobacco, and tomatoes. The Aztecs had no domesticated animals except dogs.

The rich culture of the Aztecs was based on the traditions of the previous inhabitants of Mexico—the Toltecs, Zapotecs, and Mixtecs. Medicine and astronomy were the most highly developed sciences. The Aztecs had hieroglyphic writing, a solar calendar, and well-developed art. Teno-chtitlán, the capital of the Aztecs, which was constructed on an island in the middle of Lake Texcoco, had a regular plan and was laced with canals. Among the Aztec buildings which have been preserved are tetrahedral stone pyramids and temples in strictly geometrical shape (with the remains of reliefs and paintings). In addition to the formidable grandeur and ponderousness of the statues of gods made out of basalt and andesite, Aztec sculpture includes heads of warriors portraying cruel and grim wrath and expressive figurines of animals. Plumed ornaments, polychromatic ceramics, stone and shell mosaics, obsidian vases, and pieces of jewelry were skillfully executed. Most of the Aztecs are now agricultural and industrial workers in Mexico, although a small number of them have preserved their old economic way of life.


Narody Ameriki, vol. 2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1959.
Vaillant, G. Istoriia atstekov. Moscow, 1949.(Translated from English.)
Covarrubias, M. Indian Art of México and Central America. New York, 1957.
Caso, A. The Aztecs. Norman, Oklahoma, 1959.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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