from a point in the north, called Aztlan, less than a thousand years ago; in other words, some four or five centuries before the overthrow of their empire by Cortez.
While historians have usually accepted this native tradition, philological evidence renders it very improbable. The Aztec language, more properly called Nahuatl, is the southernmost of a trailing chain of related dialects extending through the length of Mexico and the Great Basin region of the United States. Being at the southernmost extremity of this chain, we have every reason to believe that the Aztecs have moved southward—just as it is natural that the Hindus, who are the easternmost of the Aryans, entered India from the west, and the Celts, who are the westernmost, came into their territories from the east. But if the Aztecs had come from Sonora or adjacent parts of northern Mexico as late as four or five centuries before the discovery, their language should still be very similar to the dialects of those districts. This is not the case. Aztec and the languages of northern Mexico are related, but the relationship is undoubtedly distant. In other words, the Aztecs separated from the Indians of northern Mexico so long ago that their language became considerably changed, and there is every reason for believing that they have maintained a separate existence for very much more than 500 years, just as it is a moral certainty that the ancient people speaking Sanskrit, Greek, Latin and Gothic broke loose from one another more than five centuries before we first hear of any of them. Languages do not change over night. In other words, because Aztec is a member, but a detached and divergent member, of the great Uto-Aztekan family, it is necessary to conclude that the Aztecs came from the north indeed, but came at a very ancient period.
Cliff Dwellers and Pueblos
In New Mexico and Arizona there formerly lived the Cliff Dwellers, and have lived in historical times the Pueblo Indians, builders of large villages of stone, and constructors of irrigation ditches and other remains of a monumental character. These relics so far surpass anything else found in the United States that the superiority of the Pueblos over all their neighbors is unquestioned. This superiority has led to their being brought into connection with the Aztecs, as the nearest nation that had risen to a similar proficiency in arts and industries.
The Cliff Dwellers and the Pueblos are, however, known to be practically identical in their arts, implements, architecture and even religion—so far as idols and symbols and other visible remains can make the nature of an ancient religion evident. The two peoples are clearly only ancient and modern strata of one race. If, therefore, the ancient Cliff Dwellers were Aztecs, the Pueblos should still show in their language close kinship with the Aztecs. This is not the case, the Pueblo