Exhibit offers a look at the Aztecs

March 2, 2009 3:32:22 PM PST
The Aztec empire has moved into the Field Museum.A rare exhibit tells the story of how a group of nomads became the rulers of millions of people in just 200 years.

The Field Museum takes us on time travels with exhibit after exhibit. For Aztec World, we head back almost 800 years to what is now Mexico City. This is the story of the Aztecs, a story told through 300 artifacts.

"Fifteen different museums around Mexico loaned us their pieces for this exhibition. And there are many, many pieces in the exhibit that have never before been on display even in Mexico City," said Hilary Hansen, project manager, Field Museum.

Originally, the Aztecs were a civilization without a home. They wandered through northern Mexico before they finally built their city on manmade islands in the middle of a lake.

"They were incredibly driven," said Hansen.

And once they got settled their society took off. They were good farmers and good soldiers and builders and gifted artists. They even played a game that was a combination of basketball and soccer. Get the ball through the hoop but you better win or you lose more than your million dollar contract. The Aztecs were very bloodthirsty for men. But women were highly respected.

"Aztecs thought that childbirth was compared to combat and warfare. And women who died in childbirth were considered deified warriors," said Hansen.

The Aztecs were so advanced in so many ways. One of their specialties was human sacrifice. Fortunately that is not part of their legacy now but some of their food is.

"If you go to any Mexican restaurant in Chicago and you order a tamale, for example, you're eating food Aztecs would have been eating 500 years ago," said Hansen. "Tortillas, lots of corns, beans, chiles. That's definitely food grown by the Aztecs and eaten by the Aztecs."

But in 1519 the Spanish arrived and the Aztec empire was over - except at the Field Museum until April 19.

For more information, visit http://www.fieldmuseum.org/aztecs.