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CGI reconstruction of Tenochtitlán, by Thomas Kole
CGI reconstruction of Tenochtitlán, by Thomas Kole

Breath-taking CGI Reconstruction of Aztec City of Tenochtitlán

When Cortés and his Spanish Conquistadors first laid eyes to Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Mexica (Aztec) empire in the XVIth century, they were blown away not only by its size or the fact it had been built inside a lake; but the European conquerors were also impressed by the level of order and sophistication this “New World’s Venice” —as it was later described by historians— was designed by its founders who considered their city to be at the very belly of the world, flanked by the great volcanoes Popocatépetl and Iztaccihuatl.

….We proceeded along the Causeway which is here eight paces in width and runs…straight to the City of Mexico [Tenochtitlan]….It was so crowded with people that there was hardly room for them all, some of them going to and others returning from the city, besides those who had come out to see us, so that we were hardly able to pass by the crowds of them that came; and the towers and temples were full of people as well as the canoes from all parts of the lake.

Gazing on such wonderful sights, we did not know what to say, or whether what appeared before us was real, for on one side, on the land, there were great cities, and in the lake ever so many more, and the lake itself was crowded with canoes, and in the Causeway were many bridges at intervals, and in front of us stood the great City of Mexico….

~Bernal Diaz Del Castillo, The True History of the Conquest of New Spain

502 years after Cortés managed to defeat the Aztecs (with no small help from their age-old enemies) barely anything remains standing of the original Tenochtitlán. The lake was mostly drained and the canoe channels were replaced first by cobbled roads and later by asphalt streets, as the modern City of Mexico continues to expand and grow —in a manner so careless it would probably shame our ancestors, I might add.

To any visitor arriving to Mexico City by air, trying to imagine what Tenochtitlán might have looked like five centuries ago as their plane slowly descends is quite impossible. But now thanks to digital artist Thomas Kole, who spent a year and a half painstakingly recreating the ancient lake and buildings using open-source software, we can get a glimpse of why Cortés and his men ended up slack jawed when they stared at the magnificence of the Aztec metropolis.

To see more of these gorgeous images, visit A Portrait of Tenochtitlán.

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