Wednesday, 13 December 2006

Turquoise mosaic of a double-headed serpent

This ornament was probably worn on ceremonial occasions as a pectoral (an ornament worn on the chest). It is carved in wood and covered with turquoise mosaic. The eye sockets were probably inlaid with iron pyrites and shell. Red and white shell was used to add details to the nose and mouth of both serpent heads. The mosaic work covers both sides of the serpents' heads.The serpent played a very important role in Aztec religion. It is associated with several gods such as Quetzalcoatl (Feathered Serpent), Xiuhcoatl (Fire Serpent), Mixcoatl (Cloud Serpent) or Coatlicue (She of the Serpent Skirt), the mother of the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli. The word for serpent in Nahuatl, the language spoken by the Aztecs, is coatl.The word coatl is also part of many place names, such as Coatepec ('the hill of the serpents'). Coatepec is the birthplace of the god Huitzilopochtli, the principal Aztec god, thus one of the most important places in Aztec mythology. Serpents were also used as architectural elements. For example, a wall of serpents (coatepantli) was used to mark out sacred spaces within a ceremonial area. At the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, such a wall surrounded part of the Great Temple, which was the ritual focus for the entire city.

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