Aztec Wonders in Chicago

Article excerpt

IN OCTOBER of this year, visitors to the Field Museum in Chicago will have the opportunity to view a never-before-seen exhibit about Mexico's ancient Aztec civilization. The new temporary exhibit, The Aztec World, includes priceless artifacts on loan from Mexico City's National Museum of Anthropology and the Templo Mayor Museum. Many of these objects have never been shown outside of Mexico and will be on display only at the Field Museum. Nearly 300 artifacts, including stone monuments, vivid ceramics, and detailed jewelry, will be used to tell the story of one of the world's most impressive empires.

The exhibit mirrors the Aztec people's transformation-between 1325 and 1521--from wandering nomads to an empire that supported 200,000 inhabitants. Museum visitors enter the exhibit at Lake Texcoco, now a small marsh outside Mexico City, where the Aztec made their first permanent settlement. Displays bring to life the Aztec farming culture, showing how they grew beans and maize, and domesticated turkeys and dogs. The exhibit highlights the creativity of these early farmers, who were able to grow crops in swampland by mounding dirt into mini-islands for farming. "We wanted to include objects that would be used by all the different kinds of people who contributed to the Aztec world: farmers, artisans, women, merchants, and war co-curator and Northwestern University anthropology professor Elizabeth Brumfiel. Further into the exhibit, visitors explore the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. A reproduction of Diego Rivera's mural "The Great City of Tenochtitlan" models the vibrant marketplace that serviced nearly 60,000 people a day. "Spanish accounts report. that the Aztec markets were larger and more diverse than the conquistadors had ever seen," says exhibit co-curator and Field Museum anthropologist Gary Feinman.

[ILLUSTRATIONS OMITTED]

One of the most impressive artifacts in the exhibit is a life-size terra cotta statue of the Eagle Man. …