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Artefacts of the Aztecs/ancient Mexicans

Here are some carefully researched and richly illustrated story features on individual artefacts that were central to Aztec life - more on their way...!

PLUS: mini-features on intriguing artefacts (mostly in museums) we think you may find interesting... AND: check out our artefact study pages, each linked to a downloadable activity sheet (see menu, right).

NEW 2014! View our entire ‘Artefacts in the Spotlight’ and ‘Artefact of the Week’ archives at a glance! Scroll down r/h menu or click links below...

‘Artefacts in the Spotlight’ Archive

‘Artefact of the Week’ Archive

Learn about Aztec furniture...

Our entry on the ‘double-headed serpent’

CoatlicueCoatlicue - the epitome

of Mexica/Aztec art...

Recently rediscovered ‘Headdress of Cuauhtémoc’Could this be the eighth known piece

of pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican featherwork?

Featherwork shieldGuess how many feathers went

into making this famous Aztec shield?

True or false, genuine or fake?Europe has many Mesoamerican objects

that were victims of ‘mistaken identity’...

XicolliThe Templo Mayor Museum has a rare example

of a Mexica priest’s waistcoat...

Aztec ‘Birthing Figure’The Dumbarton Oaks ‘Aztec’ Birthing Figure

is striking, powerful, and entirely unparalleled

Stone jaguar’s head in the heart of Mexico CityA stone Aztec jaguar head still lurks

just 7 blocks from the Zócalo...

Chocolate whiskYou will never guess what some children

think a molinillo is for...!

Pine torchAztec pine torches gave plenty of

rich aroma as well as light!

See and Be Seen: (‘Smoking’) MirrorsSee and Be Seen - the meaning of

‘smoking’ obsidian mirrors

Personified knivesThe ‘personified knives’ from Ofrenda 125

of the sacred precinct of Tenochtitlan

Ancient metate at the V&AThe V&A Museum has, stored away, a mysterious

‘monster’ metate which we’ve been allowed to see

AtlatlThe famous atlatl dart-thrower

was a truly ancient hunting weapon

The carrying frameRulers were said to carry

a heavy LOAD of responsibility...

MolcajeteThe best stone sauce bowls

take generations to ‘season’

Study the... PETATEThe reed mat ‘petate’ -

- you could bet your life on it...

Study the... DIGGING STICKSymbol of a good Aztec citizen?

The upright digging stick

Study the... HEARTHGetting to the hearth of the matter

- at the very centre of Aztec life

Aztec high-chair?Did the ancient Mexicans invent

high-chairs for meal times?

Baby basketWe share in schools the Aztecs’ joy of carrying

the most precious artefact of all - a young baby...

MaquahuitlMaquahuitl

- the Aztecs’ Broadsword

UictliThe Aztec Uictli

was in some contexts a sacred instrument

Strictly ‘tzictli’ – sticky chicle!Strictly ‘tzictli’ - sticky chicle!

Nip up a gum tree and discover the original Aztec recipe...

The Birth of the Chewing Gum Tree¡Viva el Chicozapote!

Up the Chewing Gum Tree!

Chewing Gum used for other PurposesAs well as chewing chicle latex

ancient peoples used it to seal and stick

ChimalliChimalli

Aztec shields - status symbols par excellence

TeponaztliTeponaztli

The ‘Queen’ of Aztec sacred drums ...

MetateMetate

One of the most ancient of Aztec artefacts

A family of deities?Sun moon

Venus -

The ORIGINAL U-Tube?!U-tube - a great source of music...

...for over 800 years!

Aztec microphone?An obsidian ‘microphone’

- basic kit for Aztec DJs!

‘Host’ figurinesDid these figures represent

multi-ethnic ancient Mexico?

Pre-Hispanic marbles, or jacks?Did the ancient Mexicans

play marbles, or jacks?

Artefact in the Spotlight

Huaxtec shell pendant in the British Museum

Shell pendant (Huaxtec, 900-1450 CE), 16 cms high, British Museum.

The scene inscribed into the surface of this pendant depicts an individual who is being sacrificed by decapitation. A stream of blood pours down into the upturned open jaws of the squatting earth deity. Blood sacrifice was offered to nourish the earth and to assist the growth of crops necessary to sustain human life. The pregnant was fashioned from a section of conch shell and worn suspended from the neck.

From Ancient Mexico in the British Museum by Colin McEwan, British Museum Press, 1994, p. 35.

Photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore.