any of several groups of Indians who invaded central Mexico from the north in the 12th and 13th centuries AD and ended the Toltec hegemony in the region. Their language, also called Chichimec, is of the Oto-Pamean language stock. It is uncertain to what extent these Chichimec peoples were hunters and gatherers and to what extent they were agriculturists. Quite probably, they were originally a nomadic or seminomadic nonagricultural people who gradually assimilated to farming and to other sedentary habits on the northern fringes of the centres of Mexican civilization. Eventually, they moved southward to take over these centres. Their advent has been compared to that of the barbarian penetration of western Europe in the 5th century AD, which marked the end of the declining western Roman Empire. The Aztec, or Mexica, were one of the competing Chichimec tribes.
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