Echoes of the Past in Mexico

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Take a virtual reality tour of one of history's most intriguing ancient civilizations. The magic of the great temples and gigantic stepped pyramids of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the ancient Aztecs, is unearthed beneath Mexico City.
How the Aztecs Expanded Their Empire
By the time of European contact, the Aztec empire was the most extensive in Mesoamerican history. Study the Aztecs' methodical approach to conquest and the structure of their empire, which was more like Alexander the Great's than imperial Rome's.
Mesoamerican Religion
Delve into Mesoamerican religion, tracing the evolution of gods and religious practices from the Olmecs to the Maya and finally to the Aztecs, who are featured in the next section of the course. Learn the names, roles, and origins of the principal deities.
The Toltecs - Role Models or Myth?
The Aztecs claimed that their civilization descended from the mighty Toltecs. But were the Toltecs as magnificent as the Aztecs believed? Join the hunt for this elusive empire, which was headquartered at the modest town of Tula and spread influential ideas such as the legend of Quetzalcoatl.
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Part of the Series: The Big History of Civilizations
The unique geography of Mesoamerica - the long isthmus that runs from the present-day Panama Canal through Mexico - has driven the region's history over the millennia. Review the geologic formations and plate tectonics that created Mesoamerica, and then turn to its many cultures, including the Olmecs, the Mayans, and…
Independent Tarascans - Desert Warriors
Second only to the Aztecs in the extent of their realm were the neighboring Tarascans. Compare their empire and culture to Aztec civilization, and sift through conflicting clues that point to the origin of the Tarascans, who considered themselves newcomers to Mesoamerica.
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Drawing on contemporary accounts by Spanish soldiers, priests, and literate Aztecs, enter the daily life of a typical Aztec, discovering the culture's social organization, marriage customs, public festivals, and shockingly commonplace rituals of human sacrifice.
Aztec Origins - Arrival and Rise of the Mexica
How did a vagabond group of wanderers become the most powerful civilization in North America? Survey the history of the Aztecs, looking behind their idealized self-image to discover their likely beginnings and the secret of their political, economic, and military success.
Paquime - Northernmost Mesoamerican City?
On the frontier between Mesoamerica and the American Southwest stands a mysterious ruin: Paquime, also called Casas Grandes. Was it connected with the Pueblo culture to the north, or with the Aztecs and Tarascans to the south? Dr. Barnhart offers a fascinating hypothesis.
The Aztec Capital of Tenochtitlan
See the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan through the eyes of a visitor during the height of Aztec power, when the city's quality of life was unrivaled virtually anywhere in the world. Modern Mexico City, which is built atop Tenochtitlan, preserves isolated ruins of this grandeur.
Monte Alban and Zapotec Rule over Oaxaca
Journey to Oaxaca to explore Monte Alban, one of the most beautiful ruins in all of Mesoamerica. Chart the city plan, monuments, and art of this hilltop center of Zapotec civilization, which dominated the Valley of Oaxaca for over a thousand years.
Pre-Columbian Art in Mexico
In this film Octavio Paz speaks of his childhood in Mixoac, once an independent town, now a suburb of Mexico City, from whence he made visits to an Aztec shrine nearby. For him the site was 'a kind of doorway that led to another part of Mexican tradition that I…