The Aztecs founded their capital on an island surrounded by lakes in the Valley of Mexico; they called it Tenochtitlan (the place of the nopal cactus). By 1521 Tenochtitlan was one of the largest cities in the world, with a population of some 150,000.

At the heart of the city was the sacred precinct, home to the Templo Mayor, the twin pyramid dedicated to the Aztecs' patron deities, Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc. The Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés described the city to the Spanish king: "Among these temples there is one, the principal one, whose great size and magnificence no human tongue could describe." After the fall of Tenochtitlan, the city was razed, and the capital of New Spain was built atop its ruins. 

Please note: this work is not in the exhibition. 

Exhibition Home Page The Aztec Gods


Image:Twin Temple at Tenochtitlan, from Codex Aubin (Mexico, c. 1576–1608); 5 7/8 x 4 5/16 in. (15 x 11 cm). Trustees of the British Museum, London, Department of Ethnography. © The Trustees of the British Museum / Art Resource, NY.