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The Aztecs (Ancient Peoples and Places) [Hardcover]

Richard F. Townsend
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

22 Jun 1992 Ancient Peoples and Places (Book 107)
Recounts the Spanish conquest, describes Aztec culture and beliefs, and surveys findings from recent archaeological excavations.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson Ltd (22 Jun 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500021139
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500021132
  • Product Dimensions: 24.4 x 16.3 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 271,670 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Black-and-white and a handful of color photographs illustrate this excellent reference, thoroughly accessible to readers of all backgrounds and particularly recommended for public and college library collections. " --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent for studies 27 Jun 2007
This book has proved vital in my studies of Ancient History. I would recommend this book to those studying but also to novices as this book explains really well the history of the Aztecs.

All pictures and photos are in black and white but as this book is mainly used for study this is not a problem.

Excellent book and also very useful for those studying Anthropology.

Great value for money and highly recommended if you have an interest in this subject.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Introduction 19 Oct 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If,like me, you are curious about the Aztec world but not obsessed by it, this is probably the book for you . Unlike other,deadly dry,works on the subject ,which I have tried to read, this one takes the reader through the complex maze that is Aztec history and culture in a clear and concise way without ever being patronising. Richard Townsend is an immensely learned scholar, but he has the knack of cummunicating the structure and beliefs of this,to me at least,strange, and sometimes bizarre, society that flourished for so brief a period.Aztec cosmology and symbolism would in particular,have been a challenge to grasp if one was relying on a lesser author for guidence,but Townsend manages to convey the important concepts in a way that the general reader is able to grasp.

In addition,there is an abundance of well chosen illustrations, some in colour, which serve to clarify and enhance the text,and an impressive bibliography should you wish to further investigate the subject.

It is hard to imagine a better starting-off point for anyone wishing to explore this fascinating Civilisation.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant introduction 21 Feb 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A new revised edition of the book I read in the nineties and now with some of the many excellent illustrations in colour. I am not an expert on the field just the proverbial "general reader" with an interest in the cultures of pre-columbian America, and I liked the book very much as an overall and updated introduction to a facinatiing people with their combination of cruelty and sense of beauty.
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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Best Gets a Little Better 21 April 2000
By David Edwards - Published on Amazon.com
From the standpoint of an interested amateur, the first edition of Dr. Townsend's book "The Aztecs" was the best scholarly-but-general presentation of the Aztec civilization, culture, life, religion, art, and history available. The book was comprehensive and vastly informative but never -- thanks to excellent writing -- dull.
This new edition differs in several slight but important ways from its predecessor. Most of the first edition's numerous and helpful halftone illustrations are retained, but a few have been deleted and a few added (total of three more in the new edition). Changes in the text for the most part reflect recent archeologic and ethnohistoric findings; references are dated to 1999. The extent of changes is not, however, striking, and certainly does not render the first edition obsolete, merely out of date in some details.
As is inevitable in any text of this breadth, there are a few minor quibbles and changes that might be made in subsequent editions: for example, what stairway are those statues leaning against in Fig. 121? (answer: the Great Temple)
It remains that this is THE book to read if you are interested in the Aztecs; it forms a solid basis for all other reading in the field. Second best is Michael E. Smith's monograph with the same title, which is also recommended. Dr. Smith's work tends to emphasize the day-to-day life of the Aztec villagers and peasantry, whereas Dr. Townsend focuses more on the grand sweep of cities, nobility, and empire. I prefer the latter, but if I were teaching a course I'd assign both books.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly yet accessable 26 Aug 2009
By doc peterson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Townsend's _The Aztecs_ provides a great introduction to one of the great Mesoamerican civilizations. Opening with the Spanish arrival and eventual conquest of the Aztec empire, he then goes back to explore how the Aztecs - who were at the zenith of their power when Cortez arrived in 1519 - became such a powerful state, and how this led to their eventual demise. The complaints I have are rather nit-picky: I struggled with the Aztec names (of places, of titles, of dieties, of rulers); I also wish he had gone into more detail about social heirarchy and especially gender relations.

To be fair, the book is meant to be an introduction - and as such, it exceeds expectations. While Townsend leans a bit heavily on political history, he devotes time to urban culture of the Aztecs - the importance of Tenochtitlan as a religious as well as commercial center; and entire chapters discuss Aztec artisans and farmers, another family and education, and a fascinating chapter on Aztec religion. Still, much of the book centers on the founding, growth and expansion of the Aztec empire and the role (both culturally, politically and religiously) that warfare played in this. In fact, Townsend makes a very convincing case that "The Aztecs had mastered the arts of war but not those of government" which eventually led to its destruction at the hands of the Spaniards.

Matters of historical controversey are readily admitted (always appreciated, and too often not s forthrightly addressed in historical ntroductions), and splendidly cited using primary sources from both Aztec and Spaniard. For those seeking a great starting place in understanding Mesoamerican civilization, this is the book I would recommend.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Now in a revised and updated third edition 17 Sep 2009
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Now in a revised and updated third edition, The Aztecs is an in-depth history of this legendary civilization native to ancient Mexico. Exploring the influence of the cultures that preceded the Aztecs (Xochicalco and Tula), The Aztecs reveals breakthroughs in hieroglyphic cryptology (pictographic and phonetic elements combine in Aztec script similar to conventions in Classic Maya writing) and delves into what the latest discoveries (such as that of the twelve-ton monolith of the goddess Tlaltecuhtli) have to tell us about the Aztecs. Black-and-white and a handful of color photographs illustrate this excellent reference, thoroughly accessible to readers of all backgrounds and particularly recommended for public and college library collections.
17 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Only for Historians 4 Mar 2002
By Doreen Phillips - Published on Amazon.com
As a returning adult student I feel this book was possibly the logical choice by the instructor but not a good one. 80% of the book focuses on politics, battle and hierarchy. Very little covers the daily life and true grit of the Aztecs who were not nobles, rulers or warriors. The writing was hard to follow due to elaborate usage of names for every imaginable ruler/God and Goddess in their civilization. I feel it was very dry and all in all it was written for persons with past knowledge of the subject matter. I previewed a National Geographic book on the Aztecs in order to parlay into this dry and lavish presentation on politics and battles. Unless you have to read it I dont recommend it.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Thames and Hudson success 31 Jan 2008
By Douglas E. Libert - Published on Amazon.com
I wondered as i was reading this book how it was that the Aztecs who had historically recorded populations of 100,000 plus,never had a terrible ecological disaster as the Mayan civilization supposedly did.Surely with Aztecan confederacy type populations there must have been a high use/misuse of resources. Could it be that the Aztecs had thought out a way to avoid such disasters as faced the Mayan civilations.Probably?
One way was the setting aside of large areas of timber and etc. and designating them as sacred so people could not inhabit them without offending the Gods. This seems like an early form of todays National Parks,the Aztecs therefore early consevationists.These are some of the type interpretations a person could gather from reading Townsends' book.Tenochtitlan while no doubt an architectural splendour,would not have downgraded to any degree the vast Aztecan style ceremonial centers in the outlying and mountainous regions of the Mexican valley.You get the feeling from this book of the Aztecs as an industrious,religious,artistic type people.
No doubt however that Aztecan society was highly stratified and warfare, tied to their religion,a major force in the expansion of their empire.The Aztecan empire was still in existence when the Spanish arrived so there is some written records available.I found the descriptions and numerous pictures of the "skull racks" along with the authors familiarity with Aztec warfare and human sacrifice,morbidly fascinating.Ther are lots of pictures and maps.Another excellent Thames and Hudson book.I was wondering after reading the book and noting the similarities between these Mesoamerican Sun Kingdoms. Maybe when the Mayan civilization collapsed,the remnants moved to the Mexican valley and tried to improve on the lessons from the Yucatan Peninsula.
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