Aztec Political Structure

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What was the level of political complexity of the culture? What portions of the archaeological record is used to support this conclusion?

Political complexity is when a society has institutionalized decision-making structures. The Aztec empire had a hierarchical government and were made up of a number of city-states. City-states are a city that becomes an independent state or country. A large city that ruled the area existed at the center of each city-state. The city-states were known as altepetl which also means water-mountain and each altepetl was led by a supreme leader and supreme judge and administrator. The supreme leader was known as tlatoani and the supreme judge and administrator were known as cihuacoatl. The emperor, Huey tlatoani served as the supreme leader of the capital city of Tenochtitlan. The ultimate owner of all land in the city-state was the tlatoani and received tribute, oversaw markets and temples, led the military, and resolved judicial disputes. The lineage groups in which the Aztecs had been organized in their ancestral homeland and during their long migration to the Valley of Mexico were called capulli.

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The supreme leaders were required to be of noble blood and of royal lineage. Once a supreme leader was chosen, they were required to serve the city-state for life. Second in command was the cihuacoatl and served as the supreme judge for the court system. The cihuacoatl also chose all lower court judges, and took care of financial affairs of the altepetl. Four nobles who were related to the family of the previous leader were chosen to elect new emperors. The new emperors were chosen from the brothers or sons of the previous leader.

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