This book presents the interpretive ideas of the Mexican archaeologist who directed the Templo Mayor Project from 1978 to 1982. In just 75 pages of text, illustrated with half a dozen diagrams, Matos Moctezuma sketches the fundamental principles of Aztec cosmovision and the role played by the Templo Mayor as its primary symbol. Drawing from Aztec myths as well as artifacts and data from the excavation, the author reinforces his initial hypothesis that the fundamental force driving Aztec society consisted of the dialectic between agricultural fertility and war. This is a reflection of the primary dualism of life versus death. These two concerns are symbolized by the two shrines that were on the top of the Templo, devoted to the Aztec culture hero Huitzilopochtli (a warrior hero) and Tlaloc (the rain and fertility deity). In addition, the Templo Mayor of Tenochtitlan symbolizes the cosmic center, the navel of creation. As such, it unites the vertical and horizontal planes of Aztec cosmology and the three cosmic levels. Its architectural design and ornamental details also reflect the complexity of Aztec thought. The presentation is straightforward and directed to a general readership.
There are few details about the archaeological project itself, though 22 interesting black and white photos of the site and its artifacts follow the text. This is followed by 24 pages of Nahua poems from the work of Angel Marķa Garibay. The preface is dated 1985, and only a few of the sources are post-1985, so this translation has been long in coming. It is the second publication in the new University Press of Colorado series "Mesoamerican Worlds".
The author concludes by saying that the book argues for a hypothesis regarding the Aztec world-view that is still in progress. More detailed examination of the data retrieved from the project will augment and perhaps revise some of the ideas presented. Nevertheless, many of Matos Moctezuma's deductions are quite compelling and thought-provoking. This book, and especially its rendering into english, is valuable in that it was written by the director of the Templo Mayor Project and contributes to the growing understanding of Aztec cosmovision afforded by international scholarship.