The Stone of the Sun.

The one sculpture which identifies the Mexicas above all others is the Stone of the Sun, discovered in December, 1790, in the Plaza Mayor of the capital of New Spain. Because of its symbolic content, with the names of the days and the cosmogonic suns, it was incorrectly identified as the Aztec Calendar.
This is a large gladiatorial sacrificial altar, known as a temalacatl, which was not finished because of a deep crack that runs from one side to the center of the piece at the rear. Despite the fracture, it must have been used to stage the fights between warriors in the tlacaxipehualiztli ceremony.
In the design of the disk, the face of Xiuhtecuhtli - emerging from the earth hole, holding a pair of human hearts and showing his tongue transformed in a sacrificial knife - can be recognized; he is surrounded by the four suns that preceded the Fifth Sun, in turn inscribed in the sequence of the 20 day signs. framed with the figure of the Sun with its four beams symmetrically accompanied by sacrificial sharp points. The star is surrounded by two Xiuhcoatl or “Fire serpents”, which carry it across the heavens.

Courtesy of & currently located at the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, Mexico. Photo & description by Travis S.

The Stone of the Sun.

The one sculpture which identifies the Mexicas above all others is the Stone of the Sun, discovered in December, 1790, in the Plaza Mayor of the capital of New Spain. Because of its symbolic content, with the names of the days and the cosmogonic suns, it was incorrectly identified as the Aztec Calendar.

This is a large gladiatorial sacrificial altar, known as a temalacatl, which was not finished because of a deep crack that runs from one side to the center of the piece at the rear. Despite the fracture, it must have been used to stage the fights between warriors in the tlacaxipehualiztli ceremony.

In the design of the disk, the face of Xiuhtecuhtli - emerging from the earth hole, holding a pair of human hearts and showing his tongue transformed in a sacrificial knife - can be recognized; he is surrounded by the four suns that preceded the Fifth Sun, in turn inscribed in the sequence of the 20 day signs. framed with the figure of the Sun with its four beams symmetrically accompanied by sacrificial sharp points. The star is surrounded by two Xiuhcoatl or “Fire serpents”, which carry it across the heavens.

Courtesy of & currently located at the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, Mexico. Photo & description by Travis S.

Dogs represented in ancient Mexican art at the LACMA (Part 2)

The first dog is shown to be on a wheeled platform. This artefact is from Veracruz and dates to AD 450-650. The rest of the shown artefacts are from Colima and date to 200 BC- AD 500. The 2nd dog has a turtle shell on its back, and the final artwork shows dogs playing.

Courtesy of & currently located at the LACMA, California, USA, via their online collections (AC1996.146.40M.86.296.157, M.83.217.26, M.86.296.207). As you may have already noted, the LACMA houses a lot of really interesting art from ancient Mexico. Here is Part 1 of the dog representations. 

The presentation of captives to a Maya ruler. This is taking place within a palace throne room, as indicated by the curtains to the top of the panel.
This carved relief was found in the Usumacinta River Valley, Mexico. It dates to c. AD 785 (Late Classic), and is made of limestone. It was likely used as a lintel over an entrance, or as a wall panel within a Maya building.

The five figures are the Yaxchilan king, seated at top left, his sahal (a military chief) on the right, and three bound captives in the lower left. The glyphic text, which gives a date of 23 August 783, records the capture of a lord and a sacrificial bloodletting three days later under the auspices of the king. The three prisoners may be scribes; the one in front holds a “stick-bundle” associated with Maya scribes, and all three wear headdresses with hun (book) knots. All figures but the leftmost captive are identified by name.
The inscription on the throne front, of special interest, is carved with the king’s name and titles; the glyphs are inscribed in reverse order, from right to left. The name of the artist responsible for sculpting the relief appears on the vertical panel of four glyphs under the sahal’s outstretched arm. Signed works of Maya art are rare, and the signature on this relief suggests that it was considered of great value in its time.

Courtesy of & currently located at the Kimbell Art Museum, Texas, USA. Photo taken by FA2010, in the public domain. AP 1971.07.

The presentation of captives to a Maya ruler. This is taking place within a palace throne room, as indicated by the curtains to the top of the panel.

This carved relief was found in the Usumacinta River Valley, Mexico. It dates to c. AD 785 (Late Classic), and is made of limestone. It was likely used as a lintel over an entrance, or as a wall panel within a Maya building.

The five figures are the Yaxchilan king, seated at top left, his sahal (a military chief) on the right, and three bound captives in the lower left. The glyphic text, which gives a date of 23 August 783, records the capture of a lord and a sacrificial bloodletting three days later under the auspices of the king. The three prisoners may be scribes; the one in front holds a “stick-bundle” associated with Maya scribes, and all three wear headdresses with hun (book) knots. All figures but the leftmost captive are identified by name.

The inscription on the throne front, of special interest, is carved with the king’s name and titles; the glyphs are inscribed in reverse order, from right to left. The name of the artist responsible for sculpting the relief appears on the vertical panel of four glyphs under the sahal’s outstretched arm. Signed works of Maya art are rare, and the signature on this relief suggests that it was considered of great value in its time.

Courtesy of & currently located at the Kimbell Art Museum, Texas, USA. Photo taken by FA2010, in the public domainAP 1971.07.

Earflares from ancient Maya.

Earflares were used in ancient Maya to stretch and be worn in the ear of the user. Some of their designs are similar to today’s ear plugs or tunnels.

Worn by the elite, jade earflares were a mark of power and wealth. In ancient Maya, jade was the most precious of all stones. Wearing jade earflares, such as those displayed above, heightened the individual’s social prestige. Due to the lengthy amount of time taken to properly stretch the ear, they were also a sign of discipline and patience.

All of these artifacts are either from Mexico or Guatemala, and made of jadeite. The flower-shaped earflares in the first photo date to 550-850, while the other two date to 600-900. 

Artifacts shown courtesy of & currently located at the LACMA, USA, via their online collections (1, 2 & 3).

Conjoined Man and Woman (Curing Ritual Narrative), Jalisco, dates to 100 BC-AD 300, from Jalisco, Mexico.

Conjoined figures constitute an infrequent but not unknown narrative type of West Mexican tomb sculptures. […] Some double figures have been interpreted as portrayals of a marriage or otherwise affianced couple given that the man and woman touch or embrace and visually engage each other with what could be interpreted as a tender gaze of affection, as is seen in this sculpture. However, the rendering of personal affection is rare in Mesoamerican art, and the few Classic Maya examples from Jaina Island are interpreted as symbolic renderings rather than depictions of interpersonal intimacy. And although the often published “marriage couple” pairs of similar-looking male and female figures from West Mexico may imply a local tradition for ceramic portrayals of devoted couples, these pairings have no basis in archaeological reality.

[…] A closer examination of this paired figure artwork suggests an alternative interpretation as a healing ceremony by a shaman-curer and his patient. In myriad similar examples, one of the figures wears a curious panachelike or hornlike element atop his/her head, as seen here, which may identify the person as a shaman. Other conjoined figures feature one member grasping a rattle, rasp, or drum. These instruments are intimately associated with shamanic practice, and they are frequently integral to healing rituals among present-day shaman-curers in Mexico.

[…] The weight of the available evidence suggests that this exceptionally expressive and sensitive sculpture portrays a curing ceremony rather than an amorous couple. 

Courtesy & currently located at the Walters Art Museum, Balitmore, USA, via their online collections (where you can also read more about this artifact). Acession number: 2009.20.149.

A quick look at: Pulque in Mesoamerica.
“In daily life and ceremonies, pulque (a fermented cactus drink) was poured from clay pots or containers which had the image of the god with an elegant bi-conical cup. The affect of drunkenness can be seen in this anthropomorphic sculpture where the eyes are represented with red shells." (NMOA)
Used as an intoxicating ritual sacred drink, pulque was consumed by priests, scattered on the ground, and was offered to the gods to drink. It appears to have also been associated with some forms of sacrifice, a sculpture at El Tajín shows a figure conducting a bloodletting-sacrifice, and adding his blood to the pulque. The intoxication it caused helped people in experiencing an altered state of being, which was done to aid their communication with the supernatural. 
The use of pulque also appears to have been used in the Day of the Dead festivities. Bernardino de Sahagún (1499-1590), sometimes referred to as the “first anthropologist”, spent over 50 years studying Aztec beliefs, culture and history. He conducted interviews with Aztec elders and other survivors of the war against Tenochtitlan. The following section from one of his accounts:

They also used to place the image of the dead on those grass wreaths. Then at dawn they put these images in their shrines, on top of beds or reed mace, sedge, or rush. Once the images were placed there, they offered them food, tamales, and gruel, or a stew made of chicken or dog’s meat. […] And the rich sang and drank pulque in honor of these gods and their dead, while the poor offered them only food. (via: Davíd Carrasco’s Religions of Mesoamerica: Second Edition)

Artifact shown courtesy & currently located at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico. Photo taken by Travis S.

A quick look at: Pulque in Mesoamerica.

In daily life and ceremonies, pulque (a fermented cactus drink) was poured from clay pots or containers which had the image of the god with an elegant bi-conical cup. The affect of drunkenness can be seen in this anthropomorphic sculpture where the eyes are represented with red shells." (NMOA)

Used as an intoxicating ritual sacred drink, pulque was consumed by priests, scattered on the ground, and was offered to the gods to drink. It appears to have also been associated with some forms of sacrifice, a sculpture at El Tajín shows a figure conducting a bloodletting-sacrifice, and adding his blood to the pulque. The intoxication it caused helped people in experiencing an altered state of being, which was done to aid their communication with the supernatural. 

The use of pulque also appears to have been used in the Day of the Dead festivities. Bernardino de Sahagún (1499-1590), sometimes referred to as the “first anthropologist”, spent over 50 years studying Aztec beliefs, culture and history. He conducted interviews with Aztec elders and other survivors of the war against Tenochtitlan. The following section from one of his accounts:

They also used to place the image of the dead on those grass wreaths. Then at dawn they put these images in their shrines, on top of beds or reed mace, sedge, or rush. Once the images were placed there, they offered them food, tamales, and gruel, or a stew made of chicken or dog’s meat. […] And the rich sang and drank pulque in honor of these gods and their dead, while the poor offered them only food. (via: Davíd Carrasco’s Religions of Mesoamerica: Second Edition)

Artifact shown courtesy & currently located at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico. Photo taken by Travis S.

Carved bones at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico.

Bone shown in the first photo:

This bone shows fine incisions outlined in black, with the image of the god “9 Wind”, the creator of wisdom and the wind. In Mixtec mythology he is the ancestor of the rulers and gives them power and is recognized by his attributes — the cut shell and the conical hat and mouth mask.

The bones in the second photo have been made into musical instruments:

Carved in a human femur is a xylophone, ke’e, and carved in wood is a noise maker, having two parts to strike on to produce sound. The use of these instruments was only done during religious ceremonies and they were typically carving a depiction of mythological scenes and symbols.

Courtesy & currently located at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico. Photos taken by Travis S.

The Palma Sola archaeological site in Acapulco, Mexico.
These petroglyphs date from 200 BC to AD 600, and are located deep within a forest above Acapulco. The Palma Sola archaeological site is one of the 12 known petroglyphs sites in the Acapulco area. Little is known about the site, or the people who created these drawings.
The shown section from the site is called Element 2. The sign near these petroglyphs reads:

For Pre-Hispanic societies myths held the keys to the endless repetition of cycles, and whoever had command of them was able to give guidance to the community in terms of issues as important as birth, puberty, adulthood and death, as well as of all the rituals that sealed the agreement with the deities.
This petroglyph shows in three different panels the involvement of people in community celebrations in order to procure the attention and aids of the gods. People are show dancing and praying. Individuals from various kinship groups are differentiated from one another by lines that represent the link to their forefathers.

From the same sign, here’s an illustration showing the details of the petroglyphs:

Photos courtesy & taken by Kim F.

The Palma Sola archaeological site in Acapulco, Mexico.

These petroglyphs date from 200 BC to AD 600, and are located deep within a forest above Acapulco. The Palma Sola archaeological site is one of the 12 known petroglyphs sites in the Acapulco area. Little is known about the site, or the people who created these drawings.

The shown section from the site is called Element 2. The sign near these petroglyphs reads:

For Pre-Hispanic societies myths held the keys to the endless repetition of cycles, and whoever had command of them was able to give guidance to the community in terms of issues as important as birth, puberty, adulthood and death, as well as of all the rituals that sealed the agreement with the deities.

This petroglyph shows in three different panels the involvement of people in community celebrations in order to procure the attention and aids of the gods. People are show dancing and praying. Individuals from various kinship groups are differentiated from one another by lines that represent the link to their forefathers.

From the same sign, here’s an illustration showing the details of the petroglyphs:

Photos courtesy & taken by Kim F.

Maya ball court, Coba, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Major building construction seems to have occurred in Coba during the middle and late Classic period (500-900).

The Native American ball game was played with a rubber ball on a masonry court, and was widely known in Central America and Mesoamerica. Its range extended over an area of 2,500,000 square kilometers, from the U.S. Southwest into the Amazon region of South America. It was played for at least 2,000 years prior to European contact.

The object of the game, as indicated by archaeological and ethnohistoric evidence, was to score a goal by propelling the ball into the ground of the opposing team’s end of the court, or through a ring or other marker along the side of the court. As in modern soccer, players could not use their hands to propel the ball, and the game in play may have resembled soccer, with considerable action. 

[…] Scholars have frequently associated the game with human blood sacrifice. Much of our understanding of the myth and significance of the ball game comes from the account of the Third Creation in the Maya epic, the Popul Vuh, wherein both generations of Hero Twins, avatars of the Sun and Venus, are sacrificed by decapitation and then reborn. Numerous portrayals of the game show decapitation of a ballplayer, the same image emphasized in the Popul Vuh.

[…] Although the game had important ideological overtones, it was also no doubt a widespread form of more casual recreation, and the outcome of a game was the focus of considerable gambling action, with bets of all sizes and bettors of all social classes. 

-Archaeology of Ancient Mexico and Central America: An Encyclopedia (2001).

Photos courtesy & taken by Dennis Jarvis.