and, another book ...
was more like it ... it really bugged me that I got "stuck" the past couple of weeks with very little reading getting done, and I was able to knock down this book in just a couple of days! Part of this might be due to my being fairly familiar with much of the subject matter ... I had a lot of "been there!" moments going through the various archaeological sites in this book from my many trips to Mexico back in the 80's and 90's.
Another title from the Time-Life "Lost Civilizations" series, Aztecs: Reign of Blood and Splendor
is an interesting over-view of the Aztecs, and their regional predecessors. One thing that this book did was put a focus on the chronological context for much of the cultures in central Mexico ... despite how many times I've been there, I've always "filed" these sites in time slots much earlier than they actually arose. After all, it's not been quite 500 years since the Spanish took Tenochtitlan and destroyed the Aztec empire ... and the "mythic era" of Teotihuacan was somewhere around 100 CE, which was the same era as Trajan was emperor of Rome, 12 rulers past Caesar ... which in the western
cultural time-line is, if not "yesterday", at least in a very easily conceptualized period. Somehow the vast metropolis of the Aztec capitol always seemed a more distant thing.
Like the Celtic book that I reviewed a day or so ago, this is heavily illustrated, bringing together materials from dozens of museums, etc., which certainly helps "bring home" the elements of the culture. Of course, most of the materials have had to come from archaeological kismet, as nearly all of the documentation from the Aztecs was destroyed in a campaign of cultural obliteration by the Catholic Church, and very nearly all gold, silver, and gemwork was purloined by the Spanish. Fortunately, in recent decades many significant finds have been made from the old Aztec capitol that escaped the monks and soldiers.
Frankly, there is a lot of unsettling material in here ... the Aztecs were "not nice people" by our own cultural standards, working in a mythos that demanded almost constant human sacrifice, which drove a culture that was militarized in such a way to provide a never-ending stream of captives to kill ... and the writers don't spare their readers much in terms of graphic descriptions. Again, I'd "been aware" of much of the material here, but it was quite an eye-opener to see it all presented as it was, and most of it was placed within a more in-depth cultural context than I'd seen it before.
Like the rest of the series, Aztecs: Reign of Blood and Splendor
is out-of-print now, but you can get a "like new" copy from the Amazon new/used vendors for as little as a penny ... so if you'd like to take an unblinking look at the Aztec culture, you could pick this up for next to nothing! If I didn't have it already, I'd jump on that.