Aztec Political Structure

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What was the level of political complexity of the culture? What portions of the archaeological record is used to support this conclusion?

Political complexity is when a society has institutionalized decision-making structures. The Aztec empire had a hierarchical government and were made up of a number of city-states. City-states are a city that becomes an independent state or country. A large city that ruled the area existed at the center of each city-state. The city-states were known as altepetl which also means water-mountain and each altepetl was led by a supreme leader and supreme judge and administrator. The supreme leader was known as tlatoani and the supreme judge and administrator were known as cihuacoatl. The emperor, Huey tlatoani served as the supreme leader of the capital city of Tenochtitlan. The ultimate owner of all land in the city-state was the tlatoani and received tribute, oversaw markets and temples, led the military, and resolved judicial disputes. The lineage groups in which the Aztecs had been organized in their ancestral homeland and during their long migration to the Valley of Mexico were called capulli.

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The supreme leaders were required to be of noble blood and of royal lineage. Once a supreme leader was chosen, they were required to serve the city-state for life. Second in command was the cihuacoatl and served as the supreme judge for the court system. The cihuacoatl also chose all lower court judges, and took care of financial affairs of the altepetl. Four nobles who were related to the family of the previous leader were chosen to elect new emperors. The new emperors were chosen from the brothers or sons of the previous leader. The requirements to be the new emperor consisted of being nobles, over the age of 30, educated, and had to have experience of the military. The emperor was believed to be a descendent of God and had absolute power.

Evidence of this political structure comes from the Codex Mendoza. The Codex Mendoza provides images of conquests, daily life, and the tributes paid to central empire. The image below from The Codex Mendoza and it depicts The Palace of Montecuhzoma. The emperor sitting at the top of the palace and the judicial council is in the chamber on the lower right. The four nobles are represented at the bottom of the picture.

Is there evidence of the gendered division of labor? If so, what components of the archaeological record are interpreted as supporting this conclusion?

Gender division of labor is how work is divided between men and women by what is suitable for a male and what is suitable for a woman. Both men and women could hold administrative roles in the market. Women also worked as midwives and priestesses and archeological artifacts show that women raised the girls, and men raised the boys. The statue of Aztec earth goddess Cihuacoatl, shows that women were depicted as goddesses in sculptures and artwork. Archeological evidence such as spindle whorls found in homes where women and girls lived showed roles of women and girls as spinners and weavers. Women and men were considered equally important to the Aztec community and artwork has shown women as administrators that controlled assets and wealth. The military was one area that was closed off to women and women were not permitted to be warriors. Images in the Aztec codices show sculptures and images of women as weavers.

Is there evidence of craft specialization in this culture? Describe the evidence used to support that conclusion.

Craft specialization is the making of crafts by specific people in the community.

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