General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 23 Nov 2017/8 Flint
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Aztec microphone?

Whose first thought, on seeing these unusual, shiny black cylindrical objects - made of the volcanic glass obsidian - in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, wouldn’t be ‘It’s an Aztec microphone!’? Sorry to disappoint you... (Written/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

The Aztec god Techálotl holds a rounded black object in his right hand... (folio 64)
The Aztec god Techálotl holds a rounded black object in his right hand... (folio 64) (Click on image to enlarge)

The Mexica were certainly strongly into organised music - some say that the two main jobs in an Aztec festival were: someone to organise the musicians, and someone else to organise the drink! - but this remarkably mike-looking object was not a recording instrument at all. Having said that, there are examples in the codices (look at the codex picture, from the Codex Magliabecchiano), and at least one Mexican scholar (Salvador Mateos Higuera) suggests the object being held by the god being depicted is a sonaja (Spanish for rattle or maraca), decorated with red and white strips of paper. But then obsidian isn’t a hollow substance, and the ones in the Museum look pretty solid to you and me.

It could be a staff of authority, of the kind seen in many depictions of Mexica gods. What do you think?

The god shown here, by the way, is a festive deity, related to Xochipilli, the god of music and dance. His name, Techálotl, comes from the name in Náhuatl for the odd squirrel-like creature shown above the god.

Picture sources:-
• Photos by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore
• Image from the Codex Magliabecchiano scanned from our own copy of the ADEVA 1970 facsimile edition, Graz, Austria.

Learn more about Techálotl

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Mexicolore replies: You may well be right. Have a look at the image of the club on our new feature on Aztec Weaponry (look at pic 8) -
http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/index.php?one=azt&two=aaa&id=561&typ=reg