Decoding Road Networks into Ancient Routes: The Case of the Aztec Empire in Mexico

  • Igor Lugo
  • Carlos Gershenson
Part of the Lecture Notes of the Institute for Computer Sciences, Social Informatics and Telecommunications Engineering book series (LNICST, volume 126)


Historical evidence in some regions of Latin America has suggested that the system of ancient routes between places could have determined the success or collapse of prehistoric societies. The identification of such routes provided essential information to understand initial conditions in the evolution of the actual road infrastructure. Looking into the increasing technology applied to generate and process geospatial information, we proposed a retrospective spatial analysis for discovering a large-scale network of ancient routes before the conquest of Aztecs by the Spanish around 1520 CE. Such a method consisted in analyzing existing road networks (highways) that connect a system of cities (continuously built-up areas) to deduce routes by using geoprocessing methods, network analysis, and historical evidence. The results of this research support the idea that the retrospective method may be applied to other cases to decipher and to understand initial conditions in the evolution of road infrastructures by combining different types of data and scientific fields.


Road networks ancient routes Aztec Empire geoprocessing methods complex network measures historical evidence 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Trombold, C.D.: Ancient Road Networks and Settlement Hierarchies in the New World (New Directions in Archaeology), 1st edn. Cambridge University Press (2011)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Burghardt, A.F.: The origins of the road and city network of Roman Pannonia. Journal of Historical Geography 5(1), 1–20 (1979)MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Strano, E., Nicosia, V., Latora, V., Porta, S., Barthélemy, M.: Elementary processes governing the evolution of road networks. Scientifics Reports 2, 296 (2012), doi:10.1038/srep00296Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Instituto Nacional de Estadistica y Geografia (INEGI), (accessed May 20, 2012)
  5. 5.
    Mundy, B.E.: Mapping the Aztec capital: the 1524 Nuremberg map of Tenochtitlan, its sources and meanings. Imago Mundy 50, 11–33 (1998)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Van Tuerenhout, D.R.: The Aztecs: New Perspective. ABC-CLIO, Inc., Santa Barbara (2005)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Filsinger, T.: Atlas y Vistas de la Cuenca, Valle, Ciudad y Centro de México a través de los Siglos XIV al XXI. CD Interactivo, Cooperativa Cruz Azul, México (2005)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Santley, R.S.: The structure of the Aztec transport network. In: Trombold, C.D. (ed.) Ancient Road Networks and Settlement Hierarchies in the New World, pp. 198–210. Cambridge University Press, UK (2011)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Rees, P.W.: Origins of Colonial Transportation in Mexico. Geographical Review 65(3), 323–334 (1975)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Solanes, M., del, C., Vela, E.: Cultura Mesoamericana. Arqueología Mexicana, Special Edition: Atlas del México Prehispánico, 64–75 (2000) Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Instituto de Geografía-UNAM, Nuevo Atlas Nacional de México (2007), (accessed May 20, 2012)
  12. 12.
    Xie, F., Levinson, D.: The weakest link: The decline of the surface transportation network. Transportation Research Part E 44, 100–113 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Xie, F., Levinson, D.: Topological evolution of surface transportation networks. Computers, Environment and Urban Systems 33, 211–223 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Barrat, A., Barthélemy, M., Pastor-Satorras, R., Vespignani, A.: The architecture of complex weighted networks. PANAS 101(11), 3747–3752 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Barthélemy, M.: Spatial Networks. Physics Reports 499, 1–101 (2011)MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Levinson, D., El-Geneidy, A.: The minimum circuity frontier and the journey to work. Regional Science and Urban Economics 39, 732–738 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© ICST Institute for Computer Science, Social Informatics and Telecommunications Engineering 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Igor Lugo
    • 1
  • Carlos Gershenson
    • 2
  1. 1.Centro Regional de Investigaciones MultidisciplinariasUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoCuernavacaMéxico
  2. 2.Instituto de Investigaciones en Matemáticas Aplicadas y en SistemasUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMéxico, D.F.México

Personalised recommendations