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General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 24 Jul 2014/12 Flower
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Resplendent Quetzal photo by Steve Bird

Aztec Flora and Fauna

According to Alejandro de Avila (Flora: The Aztec Herbal), Mexico boasts one of the richest and most complex floras on the planet, with an estimated total of between 23,000 and 30,000 species.
We’re delighted to launch these pages in collaboration with Renee McGarry, doctoral candidate in art history at the City University of New York Graduate Center. Her dissertation, Exotic Contact: Flora and Fauna in Mexica (Aztec) Visual Culture, considers how plants and animals are represented in Aztec sculpture and painted books.

Photo of a Resplendent Quetzal courtesy of Steve Bird/Birdseekers.

IntroductionPlants and animals had a strong cosmomagical

meaning in the lives of the Mexica/Aztecs

The Jaguar in MexicoFrom Olmec to Aztec, the jaguar

prowls the art of most ancient Mexican civilisations

EagleFor the Aztecs the eagle hunts like a sunbeam,

and leads the sun across the sky...

CactusCacti have been a source of food

and medicine for millennia

DogThe career of dog breeder must have

been a lucrative one in pre-Hispanic Mexico

GrasshopperGrasshoppers

had a Jekyll & Hyde nature - so very Aztec!

The Astonishing AxayacatlThe astonishing Axayacatl

nourished the growing Aztec empire

QuetzalRare, stunningly beautiful, elusive, an artist’s dream

- is the quetzal the ultimate symbol of beauty?

MolluscsMolluscs were both useful

and symbolic in the Mexica empire

Frogs and toadsWhile frogs helped feed the Aztecs,

toads helped feed their religion...