This two-day symposium presents new discoveries about the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan and examines its consolidation as an imperial center across time.
The island city of Tenochtitlan, with the sacred precinct at its ceremonial core, was the largest urban center in the Americas in 1500. It enjoyed a meteoric rise to power: beginning sometime in the thirteenth century, its leaders transformed it into the political and economic center of an empire and positioned it as the spiritual epicenter of the Mexica world. Even after Mexica rulership was decapitated following the invasion and siege of 1519–1521, the city, rechristened Mexico City, remained an imperial capital.
The commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the fall of Tenochtitlan offers the opportunity to look anew at the reasons for the city’s rapid consolidation and enduring status as an imperial capital. How were interactions between human actors, architectural settings, and ritual programs harnessed to support the political and religious centrality of this urban center? When we extend the examination of these interactions beyond the horizon set by the destruction of Tenochtitlan's ceremonial core in the 1520s, what elements of this imperial system endure? And what, in turn, does this perdurance reveal of the system itself?
Nearly forty years after our groundbreaking “The Aztec Templo Mayor” symposium of 1983, this symposium features a new generation of international scholars, many of them trained by participants in the 1983 meeting. It draws on ongoing work by the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia’s Templo Mayor Project and Urban Archaeology Program, which have established, among other new data, the nucleus of the architectural setting of the ceremonial core. Speakers highlight recent discoveries brought to light by archeological and archival research; discuss excavations of offerings, burials, and skull racks as the physical residue of ephemeral performances; and examine sculptures, manuscripts, ritual objects, and luxury items as indices of artistic production and imperial ideologies. Tracing continuities across time allows us to underscore the features that fostered Tenochtitlan's rapid rise as an imperial center and their utility after the regime change.