Friday, February 8, 2013

Origins of the Aztec Indians

Origins of the Aztec Indians


THE FINDING OF THE SITE FOR THE PREHISTORIC CITY OF MEXICO BY THE FIRST AZTECS.


But whence came these men? That, indeed, who shall say? Whence came the strange civilisation of the American races—Maya, Toltec, Aztec, Inca? To Mexico and Yucatan and Guatemala, to Quito and Peru, whence came the peoples who built stone temples, pyramids, halls, tombs, inscribed hieroglyphics, and wrought cunning arts, such as by their ruins, relics, and traditions arouse our admiration even to-day. History does not say, yet what glimmerings of history and legend there are serve to take us farther back in time, although scarcely to a fixed starting-point, for the thread of the tale of wanderings and developments of these people of Mexico—a thread which seems traceable among the ruined structures of Anahuac.
The first glimmerings of this history-legend refer to an unknown country "in the north." About the middle of the third century of the Christian era there proceeded thence the people known as the Mayas, who traversed Mexico and arrived in Yucatan; and they are the reputed originators of the singular and beautiful temples encountered there, and the teachers of the stone-shaping art whose results arouse the admiration of the arch├Žologist and traveller of to-day, in that part of Mexico. The descendants of the Mayas are among the most intelligent of the native tribes inhabiting the Republic, doubtless due to the influence of the polity and work of their ancestors. Time went on. About the middle of the sixth century A.D. another people came "out of the north"—the famous Toltecs, and in their southward migration they founded successive cities, ultimately remaining at Tollan, or Tula, and to them are attributed the remarkable pyramids of Teotihuacan, Cholula, and other structures. Tula is some fifty miles to the north of the modern city of Mexico, and it formed the centre of the powerful empire and civilisation of this cultured people. Eleven monarchs reigned, but the Toltec Empire was overthrown; the people dispersed, and they mysteriously disappeared at the beginning of the twelfth century A.D., after some 450 years of existence. None of these dates, however, can be looked upon as really belonging to the realm of exact history.
Aztecs, the founders of Tenochtitlan by the lake-shore, on the spot indicated by their oracle. They had come "from the north," one of seven tribes or families, all of which spoke the Nahuatl or Mexican tongue. This unknown country, called Astlan, or "the land of the herons," was the home of these seven tribes—the Mexicas, or Aztecs, the Tlascalans, Xochimilcas, Tepanecas, Colhuas, Chalcas and Tlahincas—and has been varyingly assigned a locality in California, and in Sinaloa. Why the Aztecs left their northern home is not known, even in legend, but they were instigated to their wanderings, tradition says, by their fabled war-god, Huitzilopochtli, or Mexitl, from whom came the name "Mexica" or "Azteca," by which these people called themselves. From the beginning of the tenth to the beginning of the thirteenth century A.D. this tribe journeyed and sojourned on its southward way, from valley to valley, from lake to lake, from Chapala to Patzcuaro, and thence to Tula, the old Toltec capital. Once more dispersed, they wandered on, and, guided by their oracle, reached their final resting-place at Tenochtitlan. This name, by which they designated their capital, was derived either from that of Tenoch, their venerated high priest, or from the Aztec words meaning "stone-serpent," in reference to the emblem they had followed.