This life-sized ceramic eagle sculpture stood at the entrance to the House of Eagles, next to the Templo Mayor.
It may be an “eagle warrior,” or it may represent the soul of a dead warrior escorting the sun through the morning sky. It may also be a personification of the sun itself.
© Michel Zabé / AZA. Reproduction authorized by the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia
To be exposed to the grandiosity of this empire is an unforgettable experience. So rich, it's vestiges are numerous and extraordinary works of arts to view from October 31,2008 through April 19, 2009
The Field Museum’s newest exhibition, The Aztec World, gives visitors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore the otherworldly grandeur and sophistication of one of history’s great civilizations. The Field has gathered nearly 300 artifacts including monumental works in stone, colorful ceramics, and intricate jewelry made of precious metals. Many of these treasures will be displayed for the first time outside Mexico. The artifacts come from Mexico City’s National Museum of Anthropology, the Templo Mayor Museum, The Field Museum, and other distinguished museums in the United States and Mexico.
The Aztec World will be shown exclusively at The Field Museum—it will not travel to other venues.
Witness the compelling story of how, in just 200 years (between 1325 and 1521) the Aztecs grew from a nomadic group to one of the most powerful and influential societies ever developed, leaving behind a powerful legacy. Discover how an empire that began in the middle of a lake became the center of the Mesoamerican world. With spectacular artifacts and works of art assembled together for the first time, the exhibition provides a look into the remarkable rise and fall of the Aztecs.
A Problem-Solving People
According to legend, the Aztecs originally emerged from the earth through seven caves (Chicomostoc) and established their homeland at Aztlan (Place of the Cranes). They departed Aztlan following the instructions of their god Hummingbird on the Left (Huitzilopochtli) who told them they were not to stop until they saw an eagle perched atop a cactus. Over the next century, they migrated hundreds of miles southward, finally encountering the eagle on an island in Lake Texcoco in 1325. And that is where this exhibition begins – an imposing stone eagle-shaped cuauhxicalli, or offering vessel, welcomes visitors into The Aztec World.
Surrounded by volcanic peaks, Lake Texcoco was a scenic setting, but much was required to make it habitable. The Aztecs drained marshes, laid out canals, built causeways and expanded their islands by sinking timbers in the water. Eventually, the great city of Tenochtitlan arose – a marvel of engineering. At its height the city had 200,000 inhabitants and contained 60,000 buildings. It was so fabulous, a Spanish soldier later wrote: “Great towers and temples…seemed to rise out of the water…never before did man see, hear, or dream of anything equal to the spectacle.”