The line drawings appearing in this curriculum unit are the work of Noemia R. Barroqueiro and are in the public domain. They may be copied and used freely in and outside the classroom.
Figure One through Figure Four: The journey to the Promised Land, the chronicle of the Aztec travels from their island in Aztlan, the traditional Aztec tribal homeland, to the shores of Lake Tetzcoco as it is recorded on a 15-foot-long strip of fig-bark paper called the Codex Boturini.
Figure One shows a temple pyramid surrounded by six dwellings where two founding members occupy the temple courtyarda man with his mantle drawn about him and a priestess named Chimalma (Shee-mahl-mah), Reposing Shield, kneeling behind him. The journey to the Promised Land starts with a paddle across the lake in year 1 Flint or 1116 AD, as depicted by the square-framed glyph above the footprints which track the migration to Chapultepec. First stop is a visit the god Huitzilopochtli, Hummingbird Left, who lives inside Colhuacan (Kol-wah-kahn),Curved Mountain. Huitzilopochtli, with his head peering out of a hummingbird’s beak, urges them to move on, as indicated by the squiggles above his head.
Figure Two shows the full migration to Chapultepec by eight tribes, each tribe identified by a male figure with a tribal glyph leaving a house. The first tribe on top of the picture was known as the Matlatzinca (Mah-tlaht-zeen-ka), People of the Net. Leading the trek are four Teomama (Teh-oh-mah-mah), god bearers, carrying the deities on their backs. Tezcacoatl (Tehz-kah-koh-ah-tl), Mirror Snake, leads the procession by carrying the effigy of Huitzilopochtli, and Chimalma brings up the rear.
Figure Three shows that in their travels the migrants came upon a land of great beauty and fruitfulness highlighted by the anthropomorphized tree. There they built an altar to Huitzilopochtli and celebrated with a feast. As they were eating, misfortune strikes and the three splits in half, a bad omen representing the legendary loss of paradise. Huitzilopochtli urges the tearful Aztecs to continue their journey leaving the other tribes behihd.
Figure Four shows that the Aztec followed Huitzilopochtli’s advice. They continued their journey led by the Teomama, pausing time to time along their way to hunt, rest, sacrifice victims captured in squirmishes. The complete Boturini codex shows twenty-two successive stopovers along the way to the shores of Lake Tezcoco and final settlement at Chapultepec, the grasshopper hill.
Figure Five adorns the frontispiece of the Codex Mendoza. It depicts the rise of Tenochtitlan, with the founding fathers paying homage to the city’s eagle-crowned emblem above the Aztec heraldic shield. The blue diagonal bands represent the canals that divided the city into quadrants. The bottom panel celebrates the Aztec victories over rival city-states, Colhuacan and Tenayuca.
Figure Six is a line drawing of the Piedra del Sol or the Sun Stone, also known as the Aztec Calendar. It is an intricately carved circular stone 4-feet thick, measuring 12 feet in diameter, and weighing more than 24 tons. It represents the cosmic universe of the Aztecs, a road map to their destiny. At the time of the Spanish conquest, the Aztecs believed they were living in the fifth and final era, which the gods had created in 986 AD and would end by earthquake on the ritual date “4-movement”. Thanks to Cortés, the end of their world came much sooner, in 1591.