The Aztecs
  1. Richard F. Townsend
‘A remarkably fresh and beautifully produced scholarly study … you will read it with pleasure’ – The Times Literary Supplement


'Comprehensive, exceedingly well-researched. … Highly recommended for the general reader or as the best available introduction to a complex subject’– William S. Dancey, Ohio State University


‘Essential purchase for the Mesoamerican shelf’ – Antiquity

Third Edition

From their remote origins as migrating tribes to their rise as builders of empire, the Aztecs were among the most dynamic and feared peoples of ancient Mexico. This fully revised and reorganized edition of Richard Townsend’s masterly study presents an expanded view of their history and cultural achievement and includes colour plates for the first time.

The book now begins with a vivid evocation of the coronation rites of a new emperor, conveying the richness and diversity of Aztec civilization. Greater weight than hitherto is given to the influence of preceding cultures at Teotihuacan, Xochicalco and Tula. Remarkable new discoveries are described, especially the huge 12-ton monolith of the goddess Tlaltecuhtli found in the Great Pyramid precinct. A breakthrough in hieroglyphic decipherment reveals that many phonetic elements combine with pictographic forms in Aztec script, recalling conventions of Classic Maya writing.

This edition ends with the conquest of Tenochtitlan by Spanish and Indian allies, as seen from the Aztec viewpoint, and the Conclusion points out the importance of the Aztec legacy in the formation of modern Mexico.

Richard F. Townsend is Curator of the Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas at The Art Institute of Chicago, and is a noted expert on pre-Columbian culture.