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General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 16 Jan 2017/9 Deer
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‘The Aztecs - Young Researcher’

Reviews

These are critical reviews of commercially published teaching resources on the Aztecs, all currently available in the UK. As this section grows, we hope it will play a valuable role in pointing teachers to the pitfalls (and strong points) to be found in some of the many, often beautifully produced, books and other media now commonly found in school libraries. Please note, these are very much our own personal opinions. We take pride in the fact that we are 100% independent!

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‘Young Researcher - The Aztecs’
‘Young Researcher - The Aztecs’

Learn from a mistake! In Jacqueline Dineen’s book (p8), in a section on ‘History in pictures and words’ there’s an example of an ‘Aztec glyph’ (top of this page). She writes ‘The glyphs are more like a code than the sort of writing we know. The scribes thought of pictures which described what they were trying to say. This glyph for the wind comes from the Codex Mendoza. It shows the Fire Serpent marrying a flower’.

Marriage scene from the Codex Selden
Marriage scene from the Codex Selden (Click on image to enlarge)

As we put in our review (right), this scene ISN’T from the Codex Mendoza (it’s from the Codex Selden), ISN’T of wind, and DOESN’T show Fire Serpent or a flower! Instead it shows the marriage between bridegroom 6 Reed ‘Jaguar-Sun’ on the right and bride 5 Movement ‘Ornament-Incense’ on the left.

6 Reed ‘Jaguar-Sun’
6 Reed ‘Jaguar-Sun’ (Click on image to enlarge)

Rather than dwell on the mistake, let’s use it as an example of how ancient Mexicans depicted people’s names and nicknames. The groom’s name is 6 Reed (combination of number and sign) and his ‘nickname’ is Jaguar-Sun (jaguar on his back, sun underneath)

5 Movement ‘Ornament-Incense’
5 Movement ‘Ornament-Incense’ (Click on image to enlarge)

The bride’s name is 5 Movement (one dot is only half visible; notice how the name is attached to the figure by a thread); her ‘nickname’ is Ornament-Incense (in front of her). She sits on a stool and both are presented on a reed mat (petate).

If this book is in your library, why not see if the children can work out how the naming process works? You can compare the fate signs with our downloadable versions (follow link below). Remember drawing styles varied from artist to artist and region to region.

‘A Deadly Ceremony’?
‘A Deadly Ceremony’?

Ask your class to interpret this picture! John Clare’s attractively presented book ‘Early Civilizations - Aztec Life’ is full of what we would call anti-Aztec bias (of the Angry Aztecs type...) On p22 Clare captions the picture ‘A Deadly Ceremony... In this Aztec painting the captives were forced to dance all night, and were burned at the stake the next morning.’

Captive warriors or dancing youths?
Captive warriors or dancing youths? (Click on image to enlarge)

In fact the illustration is of the festival of the 10th solar month depicted in the Codex Borbonicus, and the ‘captives’ are Aztec teachers and youths from the telpochcalli school holding hands while dancing round the high pole topped with paper banners and prizes made of dough that the youths had to try and snatch! Click on the image to enlarge, and judge for yourselves... Captive warriors or dancing youths?!

‘Aztec Life’ by John Clare
‘Aztec Life’ by John Clare

Try to draw attention in the classroom to this sort of example of bias that is common in school books on the Aztecs.

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