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General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 16 Jan 2017/9 Deer
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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’

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

Fragment of an Aztec eagle vessel with the date 2 Reed

Fragment of an Aztec eagle vessel with the date 2 Reed, Mexica, stone, 30.5 cms x 10.8 cms., British Museum

This fragment comes from the base of a stone cuauhxicalli or ‘eagle vessel’. Only half of the solid base is intact and it bears the glyph Reed accompanied by a numeral. Despite the fragmentary state of this object there is no doubt that the original date carved was 2 Reed. Knotted ropes are common in Mexica iconography, but the inclusion of a knotted rope tied round the Reed glyph is only ever associated with the date 2 Reed, which marked celebration of the New Fire ceremony in 1507, presided over by Moctezuma II....
Eagle vessels, or cuauhxicalli were used to hold the hearts of sacrificial victims before they were burned and offered to the gods. As part of the ceremony, the new fire was lit in the heart of the sacrificed victim. It is therefore possible that this cuauhxicalli was used during that ceremony in 1507, and it may even have contained the heart of the last victim to bring light to the Mexica world.


From ‘Moctezuma: Aztec Ruler’, British Museum Catalogue, 2009, p. 175

Photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore.