Published online by Cambridge University Press: 08 October 2021
In 1856, a young Edward Burnett Tylor spent six months in Mexico investigating the Toltec civilization with antiquarian Henry Christy, and many of his later and profoundly influential notions about “culture” and “civilization” were formed there. In his report on a trip to the pyramids of Teotihuacan he notes: “As has often been remarked, such buildings as these can only be raised under peculiar social conditions. The ruler must be a despotic sovereign, and the mass of the people slaves, whose subsistence and whose lives are sacrificed without scruple to execute the fancies of the monarch, who is not so much the governor as the unrestricted owner of the country and the people. The population must be very dense, or it would not bear the loss of so large a proportion of the working class and vegetable food must be exceedingly abundant in the country, to feed them while engaged in this unprofitable labour” (Tylor, 1861: 142).