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Aztec City-State Capitals (Ancient Cities of the New World)by Michael E. Smith
Synopses & Reviews
The Aztecs ruled much of Mexico from the thirteenth century until the Spanish conquest in 1521. Outside of the imperial capital of Tenochtitlan, various urban centers ruled the numerous city-states that covered the central Mexican landscape.
Aztec City-State Capitals is the first work to focus attention outside Tenochtitlan, revealing these dozens of smaller cities to have been the central hubs of political, economic, and religious life, integral to the grand infrastructure of the Aztec empire.
Focusing on building styles, urban townscapes, layouts, and designs, Michael Smith combines two archaeological approaches: monumental (excavations of pyramids, palaces, and public buildings) and social (excavations of houses, workshops, and fields). As a result, he is able to integrate the urban-built environment and the lives of the Aztec peoples as reconstructed from excavations.
Smith demonstrates the ways in which these city-state capitals were different from Tenochtitlan and convincingly argues that urban design is the direct result of decisions made by political leaders to legitimize their own power and political roles in the states of the Aztec empire.
Book News Annotation:
Outside of Tenochtitlan, the cities of the Aztec empire are little known, even to specialists. Smith (anthropology, Arizona State University) has made a study of the other Aztec towns. He draws on both archeological finds and written records to create a picture of the towns, their purpose and function. The definition of a city is in its use, not its size. Smith believes that the Aztec cities were political, administrative, religious and trading centers. Each chapter focuses on an aspect of the town. Public buildings indicate the administrative and religious uses. Middens near private buildings give clues to the daily life of the inhabitants. Smith contends that the smaller cities are not just mini versions of Tenochtitlan, but each created to meet the needs of the local people. He also warns that the looting of sites makes it necessary that archeological work be done as soon as possible. There are many line drawings of artifacts and photographs of the sites. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
About the Author
Michael E. Smith, professor of anthropology at Arizona State University, has spent more than twenty years in the field, excavating sites throughout Mexico. He is the author of The Aztecs and coauthor of The Postclassic Mesoamerican World.
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