Aztec Medicine, Health and Nuritition

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Author: Ortiz de Montellano, Bernard R from the library of Professor George M Foster

Year: 1990

Publisher: Rutgers University Press

Place: New Burnswick


xiv+308 pages with maps, figures, tables, bibliography and index. Octavo (9" x 6") issued in wrappers. From the library of George M Foster. First edition.

Why were a handful of Spaniards able to overthrow the Aztec Empire? The dramatic destruction of the Aztecs has prompted historians, anthropologists, demographers, and epidemiologists to look closely at the health and nutrition of the inhabitants of the Valley of Mexico. If the Aztecs were overcrowded, living at the edge of starvation, and incapable of treating disease effectively, then their decimation by the Europeans becomes much easier to understand. If the Aztecs had exhausted their food resources, then the provocative, highly publicized suggestion that ritual human sacrifices were a major protein source for the Aztec elite gains plausibility. Bernard Ortiz de Montellano argues that such hypotheses do not hold up. Rather, at the time of the Conquest, the Aztecs were a thriving, well-nourished, health people. They had a highly sophisticated and productive agricultural system, a coherent set of medical beliefs and effective health measures, and no need to rely on cannibalism for protein. In short, the swift, brutal success of the conquistadors cannot be explained by the prior ill-health or medical incompetence of their victims. To support his case, Ortiz de Montellano uses an astonishing array of evidence from anthropology, folklore, pharmacology, ethnbotany, geography, demography, linguistics, history of medicine, religious studies and psychoneuroimmunology. He presents the most comprehensive and detailed explanation of Aztec medical beliefs available in English.

George McClelland Foster, Jr born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on October 9, 1913, died on May 18, 2006, at his home in the hills above the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, where he served as a professor from 1953 to his retirement in 1979, when he became professor emeritus. His contributions to anthropological theory and practice still challenge us; in more than 300 publications, his writings encompass a wide diversity of topics, including acculturation, long-term fieldwork, peasant economies, pottery making, public health, social structure, symbolic systems, technological change, theories of illness and wellness, humoral medicine in Latin America, and worldview. The quantity, quality, and long-term value of his scholarly work led to his election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1976. Virtually all of his major publications have been reprinted and/or translated. Provenance from the executor of Foster's library laid in.


Foster's stamp on front end paper. His notes and underlining through out. Spine sunned else a very good copy.

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