Aztecs Opens at Art and Exhibition Hall in Bonn

Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany presents “Aztecs,” on view through January 11, 2004. Templo Mayor- The Aztec’s built conception of the world. A CAD-Reconstruction. The computer reconstruction and simulation, which includes the plateau of Mexico City, the old Tenochtitlan with its ceremonial area and the Templo Mayor, is based on the current state of the rapidly developing research of the Aztec’s main edifice. This research was developed in cooperation between scientists from the Museo del Templo Mayor and the TU Darmstadt’s special CAD Architecture department. It was created upon a request from the Art and Exhibition Hall (Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle) of the Federal Republic of Germany in Bonn and will be given to the Museo del Templo Mayor after the exhibition has ended. There it will be available for visitors and also for scientists, who can continue developing the model according to constant new insights.

The advanced state of development of the Templo Mayor with all its meaning for the Aztec’s is visualised in a 20 minute simulation. Atmospheric as well as geometrical, this simulation illustrates the astronomical components of the Templo Mayor. Based on today’s research the 10 built over layers of the Templo Mayor can be shown for the first time in their individual building steps and also the possible reasons for this procedure. For the first time, with the help of computers, the most likely design of the ceremonial area of the city of Tenochtitlan can now be reconstructed from the results of the current research from excavations in the centre of Mexico City. A view that corrects previous ideas. The religious aspect of this complex edifice forms the end of the simulation. Displayed are the rituals of sacrifice in the reconstructed places of worship of the so called building stage II and the fire celebration in the ceremonial district.

The exhibits include monumental sculptures – some made of clay – portraying people, animals and gods; included are also turquoise mosaics, gold jewellery, painted ceramics and illustrated manuscripts. AZTECS is a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience the grandeur and sophistication of this great civilisation. The exhibition has been enhanced by a spectacular computer animation of the Great Temple of the Aztecs in Mexico City, especially developed for the Bonn exhibition by the Technical University Darmstadt – CAD Division of the Department of Architecture.

From Nomads to Settlers – According to ancient records, the Aztecs came from a mythical island called Aztlan, ‘the place of the white heron’. Their greatest god Huitzilopochtli, “Hummingbird of the South”, lead them in their migration to their traditional home in 1325, to Tenochtitlan (present day Mexico City). This sitefulfilled the prophecy that the Aztecs would settle on an island where they would find an “eagle poised on a cactus”. This image is to be found in many of the illustrated books of that time, and today has become immortalized as an emblem on the Mexican national flag.

Aztec Gods – The Aztecs had many gods, often represented by their animal attributes. The underworld was ruled by Mictlantecuhtli, the Lord of Death. The world above was ruled by Ometeotl, who was both male and female. Religion permeated private and public life, creating a cosmic order that even the gods had to obey. This order not only shaped Aztec life but also that of their neighbors. The divine order was sustained by making sacrifices, even human ones. As a sign of gratitude and nourishment, human blood and hearts were offered to the gods. The importance of this major ceremony, guaranteeing the continuation of the Aztec world, is mirrored in many of the objects on exhibit.

Society – At the top of the Aztec hierarchically structured society stood its kings and priests. Precious status symbols document the wealth and magnificence of court life and the status of the “eagle warriors”. Artisans and merchants also enjoyed privileges, the latter of which brought luxury articles – valuable feathers, textiles, jewels – to the capital from all of the areas within the Aztec sphere of influence. Warriors who died in battle and sacrificed prisoners, as well as women who died during childbirth, after death enjoyed the privilege of accompanying the sun on its daily travels. The majority of the population were farmers and agricultural laborers.

The Centre of the Aztec World – The Great Temple, or Templo Mayor, was the spiritual and worldly centre of the Aztec empire. The temple, the original structure dating back to 1325, towered over the city of Tenochtitlan and its population of 250.000. Two shrines topped the gigantic double pyramid – the one dedicated to their greatest god Huitzilopochtli and the other to the rain god Tlaloc. Both shrines were approached by means of a central major stairway.

Painted Books – The Aztecs produced many elaborately illustrated and painted books, so-called ‘codices’. These texts were not written in letters but in pictograms – specially trained scribes were commissioned to work on them. Using natural colours they painted on prepared animal skins or paper, made from the rind of fig trees or from cotton.

The Conquistadors – In 1521 Spanish conquistadors brutally conquered the Aztec empire in a short time. At first impressed by this bright metropolis, they soon were deeply shocked by its religious practices, in particular by its human sacrifices. With missionary zeal the conquistadors wiped out one of the most important cultures of human history, burning its libraries of ritual manuscripts and destroying the entire temple area. This exhibition was organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London. It has also been organised in cooperation with the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the Ethnological Museum, the Berlin Festspiele and the Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin. The exhibition was made possible by the generous support of the Mexican Government. We would like to thank the Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes and the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia.

Published in: on September 28, 2003 at 12:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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