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Tenochtitlan (Mexico)

What is Tenochtitlan?


Wall of warrior skulls, Templo Mayor, Mexico City

Wall of warrior skulls, Templo Mayor, Mexico City

Kate McCarthy

Definition: The capital city of the Aztec civilization, Tenochtitlan is now the metropolis of Mexico City. The city was first founded about 1325 AD on an island in the marshy shallow Lake Texcoco, and expanded about 1377 to another island called Tlatelolco. Cortes arrived at Tenochtitlan in 1521, and found it the largest, most populous and most powerful capital in Mesoamerica, covering an area of about 12 square kilometers and with a population of between 150,000 and 225,000 people.

A Lavish City

Motecuhzoma II (aka Montezuma) was the final ruler at Tenochtitlan, and his lavish main courtyard covered an area measuring 200x200 meters. The area included a suite of rooms and an open courtyard; around the main palace complex could be found armories and sweat baths, kitchens, guest rooms, music rooms, horticultural gardens and game preserves. The remnants of these last are found in Chapultepec Park in Mexico City.


This article is a part of the About.com guide to the Aztec Empire, and the Dictionary of Archaeology.

More detail about Tenochitlan can be found in the article titled Aztec Culture: the Capital City of Tenochtitlan.

Smith, Michael E. and Lisa Montiel 2001 The archaeological study of empires and imperialism in pre-hispanic central Mexico. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 20(3):245-284.

Spitler, Susan 1997 Mythic homelands: Aztlan and Aztlan. Human Mosaic 31(2):34-45.

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