The Aztecs’ hieroglyphs were among the most sophisticated writing systems which humanity has produced, an expert has claimed.
Little was previously known about the ancient pre-Colombian civilisation’s literary achievements because its three main libraries were destroyed by Spanish invaders in 1521.
But new research by British anthropologist Gordon Whittaker, reported by the Independent, shows that the Aztecs’ system could in fact be used to communicate every syllable in their language.
This flexibility is said to have allowed the entire Aztec lexicon, including tens of thousands of complex words, to be expressed in written form.
Professor Whittaker said: ‘Sadly, many scholars over the centuries have tended to dismiss the Aztecs’ hieroglyphic system because it looked to Europeans like picture-writing.
‘In reality, it wasn’t – but many art historians and linguists have mistakenly perceived it in that way.’
The Aztecs’ hieroglyphs were among the most sophisticated writing systems which humanity has produced, an expert has claimed. Pictured: The Codez Mendoza, which was produced after the Spanish invasion in 1521
New research by British anthropologist Gordon Whittaker, reported by the Independent , shows that the Aztecs’ system could in fact be used to communicate every syllable in their language
The expert’s research is due to be published in new book Deciphering Aztec Hieroglyphs.
Previously, literature experts had reportedly dismissed the Aztecs’ literary influence because they believed their writing system was not good enough.
But Professor Whittaker’s research reveals that it was arguably extremely advanced. The expert compared its complexity to that of Japanese.
His discovery also suggests that 16th century accounts claiming the Aztecs, whose civilisation was in modern-day Mexico, had produced sophisticated works on subjects including poetry, history and law were in fact true.
The Aztec hieroglyphic system was among several developed by different civilisations in the Americas.
The oldest known one was that which was developed by the Zapotecs, who lived in what is now central Mexico. It was in use between 400 BC and 800 AD.
The new research suggests the Aztecs’ writing system rivalled those of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Pictured: Egyptian hieroglyphs
The Aztec language – Nahuatl – is still spoken by more than two million indigenous Mexicans.
The Aztecs lived in Central Mexico from the 14th to the 16th Centuries.
They were famous for their agriculture, introducing irrigation, draining swamps and creating artificial islands in lakes.
They were also known for their cannibalism and human sacrificial rituals.
Among the Aztec works which survives is the Codex Mendoza, which was produced after the Spanish invasion. It is written in Nahuatl and features a Spanish translation. It contains a history of the Aztec rulers and their conquests as well as detail of Aztec society before it was conquered
Their capital was Tenochtitlan on the shore of Lake Texcoco – the site of modern-day Mexico City.
Many of the temples and pyramids they constructed are still standing today. They include those at El Tepozteco in the Mexican state of Morelos and Acatitlan in the town of Santa Cecilia.
Among the Aztec works which survives is the Codex Mendoza, which was produced after the Spanish invasion.
It is written in Nahuatl and features a Spanish translation. It contains a history of the Aztec rulers and their conquests as well as detail of Aztec society before it was conquered.
Who were the Aztecs and what do we know about them?
The Aztecs were a migrant people from the desert north who arrived in Mesoamerica in the 1300s.
This previously nomadic tribe was not welcomed by the local inhabitants who viewed them as inferior and undeveloped.
Legend says that, as a result the Aztecs, wandered waiting for a sign to indicate where they should settle.
In 1325 AD this sign, an eagle and serpent fighting on a cactus, was seen at Lake Texcoco – prompting the Aztecs to found their capital city, Tenochtitlan.
The Aztec empire stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific and into Guatemala and Nicaragua before it was defeated by Spanish invaders. Pictured: Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortes meeting the then Aztec emperor Montezuma, in 1519
By 1430 AD the Aztecs had assimilated aspects of the surrounding tribes and developed into a structured society.
Their military became powerful and campaigns were fought and won.
The Triple Alliance was created with the lords of Texcoco – situated on the eastern shores of Lake Texococo – and Tlacopan – sometimes referred to as Tacuba, situated on the western shores of Lake Texococo – further strengthening Aztec power.
The Aztecs went to war for two main reasons; to exact tribute and to capture prisoners.
They needed prisoners because they believed that the gods must be appeased with human blood and hearts to ensure the sun rose each day.
Conquering new regions brought the opportunity to capture slaves who were an important part of Aztec society.
Prosperity and unity within the Aztec peoples brought confidence. Under a succession of rulers armies were sent further across Mexico.
By the start of the 1500s the Aztec empire stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific and into Guatemala and Nicaragua.
The arrival in 1521 AD of Hernan Cortés with Spanish soldiers brought about the end of the empire.
Cortés formed an alliance with other native tribes to invade the Aztec empire’s capital city of Tenochtitlán.
The Spanish would overpower the Aztec forces, capturing its last ruler Cuauhtémoc on August 13, 1521, thus converting Mexico into another Spanish colony.
In 1696, King Charles II issued an order that made Spanish the official language as colonisers were no longer required to learn the indigenous languages.
Mexico started its march towards independence with a series of battles that started brewing in 1810.
It gained its independence in September 1821.
Mexico was the first colony whose independence was recognised the Spaniards.
Source: Daily Mail US