An Ancient Civilization Revisited: The Aztec World at The Field Museum

One of the most basic lessons of history is that empires, no matter how great, never last forever. They rise and fall like the tide, never able to maintain their power for more than a few hundred years. The Aztecs knew this to be true, and while their empire did not survive in the same way that, say,  the British did, they left behind a legacy that continues to astound well into the 21st century.   Now, everyone has a chance to see this wonderful civilization first hand at The Field Museum’s new exclusive exhibit, The Aztec World.

Nahui Ollin perform at the opening of the exhibit

Beginning its stay at the museum with an energetic and colorful performance by the dance troupe, Nahui Ollin, The Aztec World opened its doors, offering guests a deep look at a civilization that helped form the roots of modern-day Mexico.

Sponsored by Exelon Corporation, The Aztec World is a collaboration between The Field Museum and Mexico’s CONACULTA-INAH (Mexico’s National Council of Culture and Art and their National Institute of Anthropology and History), exhibiting hundreds of extremely rare pieces of ancient Aztec culture, some of which are being displayed for the first time outside of Mexico, offering a once-in-a-lifetime comprehensive look at this ancient culture.              

“Four years in the making...” says John McCarter, President and CEO of The Field Museum, “...this exhibit portrays the grandeur and complexity of the Aztec civilization.”

Just as it was a beginning for the Aztecs long ago, an eagle marks the start of the exhibit

The exhibit is set up to mimic the journey from the outside of the great Aztec city, Tenochtitlan - including Lake Texacoco and the surrounding farms- to its innermost parts. Along the way, visitors learn about every aspect of the Aztec civilization, beginning with agriculture and moving to the upper-class and religious aspects of their culture.

A woman studies a goal stone from what was the Aztec's precursor to today's soccer

Giving an eye-opening look at this once thriving culture, The Aztec World explains to visitors the details of every aspect of Aztec life. It shows the ingenuity of the Aztec people, including their use of advanced agricultural techniques to work with the limited amount of farmable land; their engineering skills, which included the idea of plumbing and what is described as an “economically correct” sewage system (recycling human waste into fertilizer); and even their economy.

As part if its in-depth study of the Aztec civilization, The Aztec World also covers, in great detail, the religious aspect of the culture, including the infamous practice of human sacrifice.  The curators did an excellent job of explaining the facts and dispelling many of the myths that the entertainment industry has helped to create.

A display of sacrificial stones

Among the many things visitors will learn at The Aztec World exhibition is the fact that the Aztec culture was a vibrant and beautiful one that was rich in so many ways. One leaves the exhibit with a better sense of one’s own culture having just witnessed the rise and fall of another entire culture in the span of an hour. After becoming intimately acquainted with the Aztec culture, seeing it torn down by the Spanish and reborn as a juxtaposition of the two, it forces the exhibit goer to realize that despite the current global climate, our civilization will continue on.

As Alfonso de Maria y Campos, Director General of INAH put it, “the Aztecs knew they weren’t invincible.” And, as he continued to say, it puts our current global situation into perspective.

How true. The Aztecs knew that despite the breadth of their empire, it would one day have to end. But, they also knew that it would live on in one way or another. In spite of its quick downfall at the hands of the Spanish (and what is thought to be a large number of rebellious Aztecs), it has persevered for centuries into the modern day, having been combined with the European culture of their conquerors, and with aspects still visible in the modern Mexican culture.

A statue believed to represent the spirit of a dead warrior

The Aztec culture survived, in a way, a far worse fate than what we are currently facing in the world today. And, if they did, so can we.

The Aztec World is exclusively at The Field Museum at 1400 S, Lake Shore Dr. October 31 though April 19, 2009. For more information on this, or any of the other wonderful exhibits The Field Museum has to offer, please visit or call (312)922-9410.

Top of Page
Join Splash Magazines

Feature Article

Tempflow™ and Tempur-Pedic® Reviews - What 35 Hours of Research Uncovered

Want Your Business to Male a Splash
<!-- #wrapper -->