Last month, I had the chance to visit a hidden gem among Madrid’s better-known museums: Museo de América (English: Museum of the Americas). Filled with thousands of pre-Columbian artifacts, treasures, and works of art, the Museo de América explores the languages, religions, and cultures of the Americas — from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego — as well as their interactions with imperial Spain.
At the time of the Spanish conquest of Mexico (1519-1521 CE), two empires dominated the political and cultural landscape of Mesoamerica: the Aztec Empire and the relatively unknown Tarascan State. The Tarascans were the archenemies of the Aztecs, carving an empire of their own in the contemporary Mexican states of Michoacán, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Querétaro, Colima, and Jalisco. At the center of the Tarascan State was the splendid capital city of Tzintzuntzan–“the place of the hummingbirds”–located alongside Lake Pátzcuaro. From this religious and administrative center, the Tarascan cazonci or “king” ruled a multiethnic empire of 72,500 square kilometers (45,000 square miles), matching the Aztecs in might and power.
In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Dr. Claudia Espejel Carbajal — professor of History at El Colegio de Michoacán (COLMICH) — an expert on Tarascan ethnohistory and archaeology.
The American Desert Southwest has some of the most impressive prehistoric ruins and artifacts in the world. Thousands of archaeological sites, spread about across the American states of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona, testify to the presence of a advanced civilization: the “Anasazi” or the Ancestral/Ancient Puebloan peoples. Long revered and venerated as the ancestors of the Hopi, Zuni, and other Puebloan dwellers, this remarkable civilization, characterized by its impressive architecture, sophisticated systems of irrigation, and understanding astronomical phenomena, flourished from c. 600-1300 CE before mysterious vanishing. In wake of their “rediscovery” by archaeologists over 100 years ago, many questions still remain as to how they were able to create a civilization in such a harsh climate and why their decline was so sudden.
In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia took the time to speak with Dr. David E. Stuart, a renown expert on the Ancient Puebloans and Professor of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico, and two of his research assistants, Ms. Jenny Lund and Ms. Christine Dubois. Probing through fact and fiction while sharing their research, these scholars reveal some curious truths about this most remarkable civilization.