The Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán (at modern Mexico City)
was founded in 1325 on a muddy island in the lake that at that time filled the
Basin of Mexico.
A second group of Aztec settled the nearby island of
Tlatelolco in 1358.
Both sites began as small collections of reed huts but, with
the growth of Aztec power, developed into cities, eventually fusing into a
by "floating gardens" - artificially created islands where produce was grown -
Tenochtitlán was joined to the mainland by three causeways.
An aqueduct supplied fresh
water from Chapultepec.
Along with the many palaces and marketplaces
of the city the Tecpan, a central plaza contained the two principal temples, built on a huge terraced
pyramid.The famous Calendar Stone of the Aztecs was
found in the Tecpan.
By 1519, the year the Spaniards arrived,
Tenochtitlán - Tlatelolco had a population of more than 200,000. It was laid out on a grid plan and covered more
than 12 km2 (4.6 mi2), much of this consisting of reclaimed swampland that formed a zone of fertile garden plots
around the edge of the city.
At the center of Tenochtitlán was a large
walled precinct, the focus of religious activity, containing the main temples (dedicated to Huitzilopochtli, Tlaloc
the Rain God, and Quetzalcóatl); also found there were schools and priests' quarters, a court for the ritual
ballgame, a wooden rack holding the skulls of sacrificial victims, and many commemorative
outside the precinct walls were the palaces of Montezuma II and earlier
A 16-km (10-mi) dike sealed off part of the lake and
controlled flooding, so that Tenochtitlán, like a Mexican Venice, stood on an
island in an artificial lagoon.
Causeways linked the island to the lakeshore, and canals
reached to all parts of the city.
1519 and 1521, Tenochtitlán was besieged several times by the Spaniards under
space for their cavalry to maneuver, the invaders pulled down most of the
city's buildings, later constructing colonial Mexico City on the same
Because of these activities and the expansion
of the modern city, few Aztec buildings can be seen today. The site of the Templo Mayor (Great Temple) was found
in 1978, however, and excavation has revealed more remains than expected.