Many of the truths behind the existence of the Aztecs have been obscured by centuries of myth making and bald-faced fantasy. However, an accurate portrait of their culture may be drawn through careful examination of the Aztec codices, an ancient series of books which have undergone considerable study and interpretation as detailed in the new documentary Aztecs: Sacrifice and Science.
The invasion of Mexico by Hernan Cortes in the early 16th century set the stage for the extinction of the Aztec people and their culture. The work of Bernardino de Sahagun, a figure acclaimed as one of history's pioneering anthropologists, has proven essential in preserving the Aztec's footprint on world history. One of the final witnesses to their way of life, de Sahagun spent many decades documenting the Aztec culture and belief system, and made substantial strides in describing their unique language for future generations of scholars.
One such scholar was Eduard Seler. Three hundred years after the drafting of de Sahagun's texts, Seler traveled with his wife Cecilia from Berlin to Mexico in search of more clues and answers. There, they called upon their keen archaeological prowess to uncover a series of Aztec sites and artifacts hidden underneath the Mexican infrastructures of the day. Most crucially, Seler successfully interpreted the Aztec calendar, which revealed deeper layers of understanding towards a long-forgotten people. Seler's work in this field continues to inform the research being performed today, as it offers a valuable testimony to the Aztec's way of life, customs of temple building, and even their penchant for the rituals of human sacrifice. But there is still much to learn. Amazingly, as the film points out, a significant portion of Seler's research materials currently remain un-examined in a Berlin museum.
Through informed narration, a wealth of illuminating images and appealing re-enactments, Aztecs: Sacrifice and Science traces the milestones that have marked the preservation of the Aztec legacy. Thanks to the groundbreaking efforts of historical figures like Bernardino de Sahagu and Eduard Seler, these discoveries and revelations continue to this day. In the process, the film reminds us that history is a living thing - elusive and captivating - and never fails to refine and redefine itself with each passing century.