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Mexico by Michael D. Coe
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This splendidly illustrated book covers the history of Mexico from the earliest hunters through the fall of the Aztec empire. Coe and Koontz show how the defining elements of Mesoamerican culture were first established by the Olmecs, then elaborated by the successive civilizations of the Toltecs and the Aztecs. Those elements included urban centers; monumental sculpture; worship of a core group of gods (Rain God, Sun God, Moon God, and Maize God); the cultivation of maize, squash, amaranth, and chili peppers; human sacrifice, etc.

Among the many interesting sections of the book, the discussion of the development of maize cultivation in the “Early Hunter” phase of Mexican culture (prior to 1800 BC) is valuable, as is the discussion of the rise of the Toltecs. The Aztecs get the most space in this volume, as their warrior culture is the best documented and in many respects marks the culmination of Mexican cultural trends. See also the chronological table on p. 244. ( )
  barlow304 | Aug 16, 2013 |
Michael Coe and his book on "Mexico" in the Ancient Peoples and Places series I must admit was boring the first half, it improved dramatically in the second half when it began talking about the Formative Period. The main civilizations of the middle and southern Mexican regions were in order, the Olmec, Monte Alban I, Izapan these falling in the Formative Period roughly 1500 BC to 300 AD. Then came the Classical Period 300-900 AD and the civilization of the Teotihuacan, the classic Veracruz civilization, and classic Monte Alban. This was the Mexican golden age. Art and Science reached their highest refinement and literacy was widespread. Then came the Post-Classic Period and the rise of the early Militarists, a period divided into early and late and spanning the years 900-1524 AD. You have the Toltecs, the Zapotecs, the Mixtecs, and finally the Aztecs. Quite frankly I found the post-classical period the most interesting by far and the Aztecs at the top of that pile. Here is a group of people who from the deserts in the North enter into the historical picture as vagrants despised by all the civilized peoples of Mexico. The people of Colhuacan finally allowed them to work their lands as serfs and even allowed their chief to marry a Colhuacan princess, whom they sacrificed instead. So for this act they were driven out of the land. From there they wandered the land living a hand to mouth existence, until they came to a great lake and they seen an eagle on a cactus holding a snake in its mouth. This was a fulfillment of one of their prophecies and there they bult their city. They prospered as mercenaries in the armies of the Tepanec Kingdom of Atzcapotzalco ruled by Tezozomoc. Tezozomoc gave the Aztecs their first king, Acamapichtli (1367-87). Itzcoatl the fourth king went to war and overthrew their overlord, the Tepanecs, thereby becoming the greatest state in Mexico. From there the kings' who followed continued the expansion of the empire until the ill-fated Moctezuma II.
The Aztecs created an incredible empire and the economy ran on mainly barter items. There was no money. Cocoa beans, quills with gold dust, and manufactured items pretty much was the coin of the day. Furthermore tribute was the grease which kept the wheels of empire wet. From Maize, beans, sage seed, and grain amaranth, cotton cloaks and war constumes, amber and feather headdresses, such was the tribute which flowed into the capital and outwards once again to pay and supply soldiers. The Spanish were intrigued with the exactness of the system, no doubt wondering how to use it for themselves LOL!
Although not much of the poetry or songs were presented in the book there were a few short pieces included. Who can deny the sweetness of the following pieces........
The battlefield is the place:
where one toasts the divine liquor in war,
where are stained red the divine eagles,
where the tigers howl,
where all kinds of precious stones rain from ornaments,
where brave headdresses rich with fine plumes,
where princes are smashed to bits.
----- and -----
There is nothing like death in war,
nothing like the flowery death
so precious to Him who gives life:
far off I see it: my heart yearns for it!
---- then on attributed to a King Nezahualcoyotl of Texcoco
Even jade is shattered,
Even gold is crushed,
Even quetzal plumes are torn ......
One does not live forever on this earth:
We endure only for an instant!
Wow, such finality in thought and such passion for the joys of battle and death! Makes me want to find some translations of Nahuatl songs that still exist and revel in their thoughts about life and death, devotion and sacrifice. Lofty topics indeed!
Well that is a decent overview of that period, of course the Spanish came and wiped the Aztecs out. Now I know there are alot of people who want to blame the "white man" for destroying Indian civilization but to tell the truth, the Indians were quite capable, and did repeatedly, wipe out civilization after civilization on their own. The Spanish were simply another link in the chain of conquests which had been going on in this area for 2000 years or more. So to hell with the naysayers and whiners for the Aztecs themselves understood full well that the fruits of victory go to the strongest. Only this time it wasn't them. ( )
  Loptsson | Jun 23, 2009 |
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Sur la terre du Mexique se succèdent depuis les origines les plus lointaines jusqu'à la conquête espagnole un foisonnement de civilisations originales : les Olmèques, les Toltèques et les Aztèques... Ce livre décrit toutes les cultures qui se sont développées dans ce creuset bouillonnant où les peuples, les langages et les dieux se sont mêlés en une prodigieuse synthèse.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 050028346X, Paperback)

Michael D. Coe's Mexico has long been recognized as the most readable and authoritative introduction to the region's ancient civilizations. This companion to his bestselling The Maya has now been completely revised and expanded for the fifth edition by Professor Coe and Rex Koontz. A new chapter covers the Classic period collapse and its aftermath, including the exploration of newly discovered cities. The history of the northern frontier of ancient Mexico receives a completely new treatment, with revised accounts of shaft tombs, the turquoise trade and ancient Mexico's relation with what is now the southwest United States. The artistry of the Toltec is revealed through a recently discovered shell and turquoise warrior costume, and what we know of the enigmatic relationship between Toltec Tula and Chichen Itza is brought up to date. New interpretations of the symbolism of Teotihuacan and information on the great Mexican capital's relationship with the Maya are included, and there is additional material on Aztec village life on the eve of the Conquest. A section on touring Mexico has also been added, which will be this book even more valuable as a companion on any visit to the rich archaeological wonders of Mexico.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:01:03 -0400)

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"Michael D. Coe's Mexico has long been recognized as the most readable and authoritative introduction to the region's ancient civilizations. Now this companion volume to Professor Coe's bestselling The Maya has been completely revised and expanded for the fourth edition. Enlarged sections are included on early village life and the rise of Olmec civilization. Extraordinary recent discoveries - such as the stela from La Mojarra inscribed in the mysterious Isthmian script or the mass sacrifice of 200 victims at Teotihuacan - receive full coverage. A new chapter on Aztec life and society has also been added, based on fresh readings of the ethnohistorical sources." "Despite the cataclysm of the Spanish Conquest and ensuing epidemics, the native peoples of Mexico survived through the Colonial period. Describing their heroic struggle in a new Epilogue, the author makes clear just how much the character of modern Mexico derives from its Pre-Columbian past."--book jacket.… (more)

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