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        A Picture of Mesoamerica

        The political and religious systems of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica were complex systems. On the political side there existed local and regional leaders, judges, accountants, families of nobility, and a host of different administrators. On the religious side there were priests of different ranks, priestesses, nuns and monks associated with different religious cults, and many other religious specialists. It is important, however, to remind ourselves that as with most early civilizations, religion and politics were closely related in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. For example, the emperor of the Aztecs, or the Huey Tlatoani, was considered a representative of the gods. Officially, he was the head of the state religion. The Huey Tlatoani and the Tlatoani, or local leaders, also worked with the priests to fulfill specific ceremonial duties on a regular basis.

        This set of resources provides background information on the religion and politics of several pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures. Pay close attention to the religious and political distinctions between the various cultures.

        Terracotta Funeral Urn Depicting the Zapotec God of Maize, Pitao Cozobi, at Monte Alban Archaelogical Site, Mexico, 2nd-6th Century

        This is a sculpture of the Zapotec maize god from Tomb 104 discovered at Monte Albán.

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        Dressing the Mayan High Priest, from Reconstruction of Bonampak Frescoes at Maya Archaelogicial Site

        This fresco shows a Mayan high priest being dressed in his ceremonial attire.

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        Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacán, Mexico

        The Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacán is one of the largest pyramids in Mesoamerica.

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        Quetzalcoatl, Madrid Codex

        Quetzalcoatl, or the feathered serpent, was one of the most important gods in Mesoamerica.

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        Portrait of Montezuma II - W&N

        This is an image of the last Aztec Huey Tlatoani, Montezuma II. He was the ruling emperor of the Aztec empire at the time the Spanish arrived. These rulers were both secular and religious leaders, as they both oversaw war and taxation as well as attended to the duties of the state religion.

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