|1. Plaza at Dos Pilas, Maya city|
1. The Basic Mesoamerican Urban Plan
|4. Teotihuacan (1950s)|
|6. Downtown Tula|
4. Aztec City-State Capitals: Keeping the Toltec Ideals Alive
|9. Coatetelco, ballcourt|
After the fall of Tula, the Aztecs arrived on the scene. The Early Aztec period (AD 1100-1300) was a dynamic time of population growth and the expansion of city-states across the landscape. Kings established dynasties, and they claimed descent from the Toltec kings as the basis of their legitimacy. To the Aztecs, the Toltecs were the wise, great, and wonderful ancestors. So it is hardly surprising that these petty kings, who ruled small city-states, copied their cities after Tula as one way of claiming Toltec descent. Compare the plan of Coatetelco (fig. 8) to that of Tula: they are almost identical (except that Tula is much larger than Coatetelco!). The architecture and layout of these Aztec city-state capitals were political statements by the Aztec kings, proclaiming not only their power and glory, but their links to the Toltec past (this is one of the main arguments of my book, Aztec City-State Capitals).
5. Tenochtitlan, the Imperial Capital: Back to Teotihuacan and the Toltecs
This story has several lessons. First, looking at ancient city plans can be very informative. They give us insights into political and social processes from hundred, or even thousands of years ago. Second, urbanism and planning were highly dynamic processes. There was no "standard" pattern of central Mexican capital city. City plans, forms, and significance changed over time, and careful analysis, city-by-city and period-by-period, is needed to tease out these changes. Third, even though we cannot name the planners and architects responsible for these cities, we can reconstruct something of their context and aspirations. Many of their urban creations lasted for centuries (in some cases, far longer than most modern cities have survived so far), and left impressive marks on the landscape.
Read about these ancient cities and visit their ruins in Mexico. They are an important part of the Wide Urban World.
Andrews, George F.
1975 Maya Cities: Placemaking and Urbanization. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.
Calnek, Edward E.
2003 Tenochtitlan-Tlatelolco: The Natural History of a City / Tenochtitlan-Tlatelolco: La Historia Natural de una Ciudad. In El urbanismo en mesoamérica / Urbanism in Mesoamerica, edited by William T. Sanders, Alba Guadalupe Mastache, and Robert H. Cobean, pp. 149-202. Proyecto Urbanismo dn Mesoamérica / The Mesoamerican Urbanism Project, vol. 1. Pennsylvania State University and Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, University Park and Mexico City.
Cowgill, George L.
1997 State and Society at Teotihuacan, Mexico. Annual Review of Anthropology 26:129-161.
Diehl, Richard A.
1983 Tula: The Toltec Capital of Ancient Mexico. Thames and Hudson, New York.
Smith, Michael E.
2007 Form and Meaning in the Earliest Cities: A New Approach to Ancient Urban Planning. Journal of Planning History 6(1):3-47.
Smith, Michael E.
2008 Aztec City-State Capitals. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.