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Ear-spools

Aztec/Mexica greenstone ear-spools

Mexica greenstone (jadeite) ear-spools, c. 1460-1521, each approx. 8 cms in diameter, National Anthropology Museum, Mexico City.

Highly prized by the gods, greenstone was for some time a luxury article reserved exclusively for the Mexica gods and rulers. As new raw materials such as turquoise, silver and gold started to find their way into the royal coffers, greenstones began to be incorporated into the ornaments worn by nobility and warriors.
Such ornaments were not only symbols of power and wealth; they also reflected courage, honour and military prowess... These objects can therefore be described as insignia, bestowing attributes on those who wore them, clearly conveyed by the objects’ symbolism.
Moctezuma II devised a system whereby some of the spoils of war were sent to the palace workshops to be turned into emblems for distribution during the twenty-day feasts that followed a great victory. Not only did this motivate his troops and win their loyalty, it also created a hierarchy within the army... Generations of soldiers could wear their insignia to affirm their participation in famous battles and individual acts of heroism.


From ‘Moctezuma: Aztec Ruler’, British Museum Catalogue, 2009, p. 101

Photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore