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Altar of the warriors

Aztec stone altar of the warriors

Mexica (Aztec) ’altar of the warriors’, c. 1510, basalt, length 161 cms. (nb, shown is a detail only), National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City.

Discovered at the south-west corner of the Plaza de la Constitución, this altar belongs to the characteristic sculptural tradition of Tenochtitlan. The front has been severely damaged and the upper part bears traces of the excavations in the colonial era that destroyed almost all the original relief on this section of the monolith. After the conquest it may have been reused as a receptacle, possibly a trough. The altar is a rectangular block with an impressive procession of fourteen warriors depicted around all sides... The warriors march beneath their insignia and protective deity... The precision and quality of the carvings on this altar mark it out as one of the greatest sculptural achievements of Moctezuma II’s reign. The range of garments, insignia, headdresses and arms enable us to distinguish the various groups of warriors active in his empire.

From ‘Moctezuma: Aztec Ruler’, British Museum Catalogue, 2009, p. 196

Photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore