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Glyphs representing Texcoco, Tenochtitlan, and Tlacopan, the three primary altepetl of the Aztec Empire.

The altepetl (Classical Nahuatl: āltepētl [aːɬ.ˈté.peːtɬ]) or About this sound modern pronunciation , in pre-Columbian and Spanish conquest-era Aztec society, was the local, ethnically-based political entity, usually translated into English as "city-state".[1] The word is a combination of the Nahuatl words ātl (meaning "water") and tepētl (meaning "mountain"). A characteristic Nahua mode was to imagine the totality of the people of a region or of the world as a collection of altepetl units and to speak of them on those terms.[2] The concept is comparable to Maya cah and Mixtec ñuu.



  1. ^ Smith 1997 p. 37
  2. ^ Sousa,et al. The Story of Guadalupe, Stanford: Stanford University Press 1998, p. 36

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