Aztec census takers counted population, accurately mapped farms
Unearthed documents from the Aztecs, such as the newly found Tepetlaoxtoc census, are significant in “show[ing] the Mesoamericans’ prowess in fields outside astronomy,” said Michael Smith, an archaeologist at Arizona State University.
This census, also known as the Codex Vergara, included a likeness of every person and detailed maps of many farms. The census was fairly accurate 85 percent of the time; the “few high guesses” could have been purposely done to avoid taxation, according to an article appearing in the Sep. 5 edition of the Washington Post.
These discoveries are rare as nearly all the libraries housing such day-to-day records were destroyed by Hernán Cortés and his men.
Although the records show that the census was used for the purpose of taxation by the Spanish, indigenous Mexicans also sometimes used records such as these to subjugate their conquered enemies, according to Smith, a professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.