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Whatever effect you aim to achieve with your planting scheme, the colour wheel should always be your first port of call. In one account of the journey from Aztlan, Huitzilopochtli , the tutelary deity of the Mexica tribe, tells his followers on the journey that "now, no longer is your name Azteca, you are now Mexitin [Mexica]".
Sometimes the term also includes the inhabitants of Tenochtitlan's two principal allied city-states, the Acolhuas of Texcoco and the Tepanecs of Tlacopan , who together with the Mexica formed the Aztec Triple Alliance that controlled what is often known as the "Aztec Empire.
Barlow who preferred the term "Culhua-Mexica",   and by Pedro Carrasco who prefers the term "Tenochca empire. In other contexts, Aztec may refer to all the various city states and their peoples, who shared large parts of their ethnic history and cultural traits with the Mexica, Acolhua and Tepanecs, and who often also used the Nahuatl language as a lingua franca.
An example is Jerome A. Offner's Law and Politics in Aztec Texcoco. When used to describe ethnic groups , the term "Aztec" refers to several Nahuatl-speaking peoples of central Mexico in the postclassic period of Mesoamerican chronology, especially the Mexica, the ethnic group that had a leading role in establishing the hegemonic empire based at Tenochtitlan.
The term extends to further ethnic groups associated with the Aztec empire, such as the Acolhua, the Tepanec and others that were incorporated into the empire.
In older usage the term was commonly used about modern Nahuatl-speaking ethnic groups, as Nahuatl was previously referred to as the "Aztec language".
In recent usage, these ethnic groups are referred to as the Nahua peoples. To the Aztecs themselves the word "aztec" was not an endonym for any particular ethnic group.
Rather, it was an umbrella term used to refer to several ethnic groups, not all of them Nahuatl-speaking, that claimed heritage from the mythic place of origin, Aztlan.
Alexander von Humboldt originated the modern usage of "Aztec" in , as a collective term applied to all the people linked by trade, custom, religion, and language to the Mexica state and the Triple Alliance.
In , with the publication of the work of William H. Prescott on the history of the conquest of Mexico, the term was adopted by most of the world, including 19th-century Mexican scholars who saw it as a way to distinguish present-day Mexicans from pre-conquest Mexicans.
This usage has been the subject of debate in more recent years, but the term "Aztec" is still more common. Knowledge of Aztec society rests on several different sources: The many archeological remains of everything from temple pyramids to thatched huts, can be used to understand many of the aspects of what the Aztec world was like.
However, archeologists often must rely on knowledge from other sources to interpret the historical context of artifacts.
There are many written texts by the indigenous people and Spaniards of the early colonial period that contain invaluable information about precolonial Aztec history.
These texts provide insight into the political histories of various Aztec city-states, and their ruling lineages. Such histories were produced as well in pictorial codices.
Some of these manuscripts were entirely pictorial, often with glyphs. In the postconquest era many other texts were written in Latin script by either literate Aztecs or by Spanish friars who interviewed the native people about their customs and stories.
An important pictorial and alphabetic text produced in the early sixteenth century was Codex Mendoza , named after the first viceroy of Mexico and perhaps commissioned by him, to inform the Spanish crown about the political and economic structure of the Aztec empire.
These annals used pictorial histories and were subsequently transformed into alphabetic annals in Latin script.
Spanish friars also produced documentation in chronicles and other types of accounts. Of key importance is Toribio de Benavente Motolinia , one of the first twelve Franciscans arriving in Mexico in Scholarly study of Aztec civilization is most often based on scientific and multidisciplinary methodologies, combining archeological knowledge with ethnohistorical and ethnographic information.
It is a matter of debate whether the enormous city of Teotihuacan was inhabited by speakers of Nahuatl, or whether Nahuas had not yet arrived in central Mexico in the classic period.
It is generally agreed that the Nahua peoples were not indigenous to the highlands of central Mexico, but that they gradually migrated into the region from somewhere in northwestern Mexico.
At the fall of Teotihuacan in the 6th century CE, a number of city states rose to power in central Mexico, some of them, including Cholula and Xochicalco, probably inhabited by Nahuatl speakers.
As the former nomadic hunter-gatherer peoples mixed with the complex civilizations of Mesoamerica, adopting religious and cultural practices, the foundation for later Aztec culture was laid.
After CE, during the postclassic period, a number of sites almost certainly inhabited by Nahuatl speakers became powerful. Among them the site of Tula, Hidalgo , and also city states such as Tenayuca , and Colhuacan in the valley of Mexico and Cuauhnahuac in Morelos.
In the ethnohistorical sources from the colonial period, the Mexica themselves describe their arrival in the Valley of Mexico.
The ethnonym Aztec Nahuatl Aztecah means "people from Aztlan ", Aztlan being a mythical place of origin toward the north. Hence the term applied to all those peoples who claimed to carry the heritage from this mythical place.
The migration stories of the Mexica tribe tell how they traveled with other tribes, including the Tlaxcalteca , Tepaneca and Acolhua , but that eventually their tribal deity Huitzilopochtli told them to split from the other Aztec tribes and take on the name "Mexica".
The most powerful were Colhuacan to the south and Azcapotzalco to the west. The Tepanecs of Azcapotzalco soon expelled the Mexica from Chapultepec.
In , Colhuacan ruler Cocoxtli gave them permission to settle in the empty barrens of Tizapan, where they were eventually assimilated into Culhuacan culture.
After living in Colhuacan, the Mexica were again expelled and were forced to move. According to Aztec legend, in , the Mexica were shown a vision of an eagle perched on a prickly pear cactus , eating a snake.
The vision indicated the location where they were to build their settlement. The year of foundation is usually given as In the Mexica royal dynasty was founded when Acamapichtli , son of a Mexica father and a Colhua mother, was elected as the first Huey Tlatoani of Tenochtitlan.
In the first 50 years after the founding of the Mexica dynasty, the Mexica were a tributary of Azcapotzalco, which had become a major regional power under the ruler Tezozomoc.
The Mexica supplied the Tepaneca with warriors for their successful conquest campaigns in the region and received part of the tribute from the conquered city states.
In this way, the political standing and economy of Tenochtitlan gradually grew. In , at Acamapichtli's death, his son Huitzilihhuitl lit.
Chimalpopoca lit. In , Azcapotzalco initiated a war against the Acolhua of Texcoco and killed their ruler Ixtlilxochitl.
Even though Ixtlilxochitl was married to Chimalpopoca's daughter, the Mexica ruler continued to support Tezozomoc.
Tezozomoc died in , and his sons began a struggle for rulership of Azcapotzalco. During this struggle for power, Chimalpopoca died, probably killed by Tezozomoc's son Maxtla who saw him as a competitor.
The Mexica were now in open war with Azcapotzalco and Itzcoatl petitioned for an alliance with Nezahualcoyotl , son of the slain Texcocan ruler Ixtlilxochitl against Maxtla.
Itzcoatl also allied with Maxtla's brother Totoquihuaztli ruler of the Tepanec city of Tlacopan.
The Triple Alliance of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and Tlacopan besieged Azcapotzalco, and in they destroyed the city and sacrificed Maxtla. Through this victory Tenochtitlan became the dominant city state in the Valley of Mexico, and the alliance between the three city-states provided the basis on which the Aztec Empire was built.
Itzcoatl proceeded by securing a power basis for Tenochtitlan, by conquering the city-states on the southern lake — including Culhuacan , Xochimilco , Cuitlahuac and Mizquic.
These states had an economy based on highly productive chinampa agriculture, cultivating human-made extensions of rich soil in the shallow lake Xochimilco.
Itzcoatl then undertook further conquests in the valley of Morelos , subjecting the city state of Cuauhnahuac today Cuernavaca. In , Motecuzoma I Ilhuicamina [nb 4] lit.
The accession of a new ruler in the dominant city state was often an occasion for subjected cities to rebel by refusing to pay tribute.
This meant that new rulers began their rule with a coronation campaign, often against rebellious tributaries, but also sometimes demonstrating their military might by making new conquests.
Motecuzoma tested the attitudes of the cities around the valley by requesting laborers for the enlargement of the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan.
Only the city of Chalco refused to provide laborers, and hostilities between Chalco and Tenochtitlan would persist until the s.
Motecuzoma therefore initiated a state of low-intensity warfare against these three cities, staging minor skirmishes called " Flower Wars " Nahuatl xochiyaoyotl against them, perhaps as a strategy of exhaustion.
Motecuzoma also consolidated the political structure of the Triple Alliance, and the internal political organization of Tenochtitlan.
His brother Tlacaelel served as his main advisor Nahuatl languages: Cihuacoatl and he is considered the architect of major political reforms in this period, consolidating the power of the noble class Nahuatl languages: pipiltin and instituting a set of legal codes, and the practice of reinstating conquered rulers in their cities bound by fealty to the Mexica tlatoani.
In , the next ruler was Axayacatl lit. Axayacatl also conquered the independent Mexica city of Tlatelolco, located on the northern part of the island where Tenochtitlan was also located.
The Tlatelolco ruler Moquihuix was married to Axayacatl's sister, and his alleged mistreatment of her was used as an excuse to incorporate Tlatelolco and its important market directly under the control of the tlatoani of Tenochtitlan.
Axayacatl then conquered areas in Central Guerrero, the Puebla Valley, on the gulf coast and against the Otomi and Matlatzinca in the Toluca valley.
The Toluca valley was a buffer zone against the powerful Tarascan state in Michoacan , against which Axayacatl turned next. In the major campaign against the Tarascans Nahuatl languages: Michhuahqueh in —79 the Aztec forces were repelled by a well organized defense.
Axayacatl was soundly defeated in a battle at Tlaximaloyan today Tajimaroa , losing most of his 32, men and only barely escaping back to Tenochtitlan with the remnants of his army.
In at Axayacatls death, his older brother Tizoc was elected ruler. Tizoc's coronation campaign against the Otomi of Metztitlan failed as he lost the major battle and only managed to secure 40 prisoners to be sacrificed for his coronation ceremony.
Having shown weakness, many of the tributary towns rebelled and consequently most of Tizoc's short reign was spent attempting to quell rebellions and maintain control of areas conquered by his predecessors.
Tizoc died suddenly in , and it has been suggested that he was poisoned by his brother and war leader Ahuitzotl who became the next tlatoani.
Tizoc is mostly known as the namesake of the Stone of Tizoc a monumental sculpture Nahuatl temalacatl , decorated with representation of Tizoc's conquests.
The next ruler was Ahuitzotl lit. His successful coronation campaign suppressed rebellions in the Toluca valley and conquered Jilotepec and several communities in the northern Valley of Mexico.
A second campaign to the gulf coast was also highly successful. He began an enlargement of the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan, inaugurating the new temple in For the inauguration ceremony the Mexica invited the rulers of all their subject cities, who participated as spectators in the ceremony in which an unprecedented number of war captives were sacrificed — some sources giving a figure of 80, prisoners sacrificed over four days.
Probably the actual figure of sacrifices was much smaller, but still numbering several thousand. Ahuitzotl also constructed monumental architecture in sites such as Calixtlahuaca, Malinalco and Tepoztlan.
After a rebellion in the towns of Alahuiztlan and Oztoticpac in Northern Guerrero he ordered the entire population executed, and repopulated with people from the valley of Mexico.
He also constructed a fortified garrison at Oztuma defending the border against the Tarascan state. Moctezuma II Xocoyotzin is known to world history as the Aztec ruler when the Spanish invaders and their indigenous allies began their conquest of the empire in a two-year-long campaign — His early rule did not hint at his future fame.
He succeeded to the rulership after the death of Ahuitzotl. Moctezuma Xocoyotzin lit. He began his rule in standard fashion, conducting a coronation campaign to demonstrate his skills as a leader.
He attacked the fortified city of Nopallan in Oaxaca and subjected the adjacent region to the empire. An effective warrior, Moctezuma maintained the pace of conquest set by his predecessor and subjected large areas in Guerrero, Oaxaca, Puebla and even far south along the Pacific and Gulf coasts, conquering the province of Xoconochco in Chiapas.
He also consolidated the class structure of Aztec society, by making it harder for commoners Nahuatl languages: macehualtin to accede to the privileged class of the pipiltin through merit in combat.
He also instituted a strict sumptuary code limiting the types of luxury goods that could be consumed by commoners.
In , Moctezuma received the first news of ships with strange warriors having landed on the Gulf Coast near Cempoallan and he dispatched messengers to greet them and find out what was happening, and he ordered his subjects in the area to keep him informed of any new arrivals.
At this point, the power balance had shifted towards the Spaniards who now held Motecuzoma as a prisoner in his own palace. As this shift in power became clear to Moctezuma's subjects, the Spaniards became increasingly unwelcome in the capital city, and in June , hostilities broke out, culminating in the massacre in the Great Temple , and a major uprising of the Mexica against the Spanish.
During the fighting, Moctezuma was killed, either by the Spaniards who killed him as they fled the city or by the Mexica themselves who considered him a traitor.
He ruled only 80 days, perhaps dying in a smallpox epidemic, although early sources do not give the cause. The Aztecs were weakened by disease, and the Spanish enlisted tens of thousands of Indian allies, especially Tlaxcalans , for the assault on Tenochtitlan.
His death marked the end of a tumultuous era in Aztec political history. The most powerful nobles were called lords Nahuatl languages: teuctin and they owned and controlled noble estates or houses, and could serve in the highest government positions or as military leaders.
Their works were an important source of income for the city. Some macehualtin were landless and worked directly for a lord Nahuatl languages: mayehqueh , whereas the majority of commoners were organized into calpollis which gave them access to land and property.
Commoners were able to obtain privileges similar to those of the nobles by demonstrating prowess in warfare. When a warrior took a captive he accrued the right to use certain emblems, weapons or garments, and as he took more captives his rank and prestige increased.
The Aztec family pattern was bilateral, counting relatives on the father's and mother's side of the family equally, and inheritance was also passed both to sons and daughters.
This meant that women could own property just as men, and that women therefore had a good deal of economic freedom from their spouses.
Nevertheless, Aztec society was highly gendered with separate gender roles for men and women. Men were expected to work outside of the house, as farmers, traders, craftsmen and warriors, whereas women were expected to take the responsibility of the domestic sphere.
Women could however also work outside of the home as small-scale merchants, doctors, priests and midwives. Warfare was highly valued and a source of high prestige, but women's work was metaphorically conceived of as equivalent to warfare, and as equally important in maintaining the equilibrium of the world and pleasing the gods.
This situation has led some scholars to describe Aztec gender ideology as an ideology not of a gender hierarchy, but of gender complementarity, with gender roles being separate but equal.
Among the nobles, marriage alliances were often used as a political strategy with lesser nobles marrying daughters from more prestigious lineages whose status was then inherited by their children.
Nobles were also often polygamous, with lords having many wives. Polygamy was not very common among the commoners and some sources describe it as being prohibited.
The names for these gender identities are deeply connected to the religious customs of the Aztecs, and as such, did play a large role in Aztec society.
Nahuas was of the Aztec and Toltec culture. Nahuas identified as Xochiquetzal; Xochiquetzal is connected with sexual desires.
Unkempt hair, and signified disarray is a sign that women are connected with sexual desires and prostitutes, this is because the Xochiquetzal looked like that on her throne.
Xochiquetzal is known as the goddess that seduces men, this deity was related to sexual desires and sexual activities. Nahus sexual and gender disorder is symbolized by head and feet turned.
Another gender identity is recognised by its Nahuatl word cuiloni. It is difficult to translate the word cuiloni as the documents from the Aztec Empire mainly are from the Spanish, who viewed homosexuality as sinful behavior, and thus wrote about these unfamiliar gender identities in a negative way, oftentimes employing discriminatory and vulgar language.
What is known for sure is that the cuiloni were biological males who acted in a submissive way both sexually and in other aspects of life. For example, religiously speaking, they were associated with being sacrificed and eaten.
It also transcended sexuality as passiveness, in general, was the main quality associated with the cuiloni. The main unit of Aztec political organization was the city state, in Nahuatl called the altepetl , meaning "water-mountain".
Each altepetl was led by a ruler, a tlatoani , with authority over a group of nobles and a population of commoners.
The altepetl included a capital which served as a religious center, the hub of distribution and organization of a local population which often lived spread out in minor settlements surrounding the capital.
Altepetl were also the main source of ethnic identity for the inhabitants, even though Altepetl were frequently composed of groups speaking different languages.
Each altepetl would see itself as standing in a political contrast to other altepetl polities, and war was waged between altepetl states. In this way Nahuatl speaking Aztecs of one Altepetl would be solidary with speakers of other languages belonging to the same altepetl, but enemies of Nahuatl speakers belonging to other competing altepetl states.
In the basin of Mexico, altepetl was composed of subdivisions called calpolli , which served as the main organizational unit for commoners.
In Tlaxcala and the Puebla valley, the altepetl was organized into teccalli units headed by a lord Nahuatl languages: tecutli , who would hold sway over a territory and distribute rights to land among the commoners.
A calpolli was at once a territorial unit where commoners organized labor and land use, since land was not in private property, and also often a kinship unit as a network of families that were related through intermarriage.
Calpolli leaders might be or become members of the nobility, in which case they could represent their calpollis interests in the altepetl government.
In the valley of Morelos, archeologist Michael E. Smith estimates that a typical altepetl had from 10, to 15, inhabitants, and covered an area between 70 and square kilometers.
In the Morelos valley, altepetl sizes were somewhat smaller. Smith argues that the altepetl was primarily a political unit, made up of the population with allegiance to a lord, rather than as a territorial unit.
He makes this distinction because in some areas minor settlements with different altepetl allegiances were interspersed. The Aztec Empire was ruled by indirect means.
Like most European empires, it was ethnically very diverse, but unlike most European empires, it was more of a system of tribute than a single system of government.
Ethnohistorian Ross Hassig has argued that Aztec empire is best understood as an informal or hegemonic empire because it did not exert supreme authority over the conquered lands; it merely expected tributes to be paid and exerted force only to the degree it was necessary to ensure the payment of tribute.
The hegemonic nature of the Aztec empire can be seen in the fact that generally local rulers were restored to their positions once their city-state was conquered, and the Aztecs did not generally interfere in local affairs as long as the tribute payments were made and the local elites participated willingly.
Such compliance was secured by establishing and maintaining a network of elites, related through intermarriage and different forms of exchange.
Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica Encyclopaedia Britannica's editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree See Article History.
Britannica Quiz. Exploring Latin American History. Was the Incan civilization located in Mexico? For whom was Bolivia named? From Belize to Gran Colombia, step back in time and journey through the empires and countries of Latin America.
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