General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 22 Nov 2017/7 Movement
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Gold disc

Mixtec/Zapotec gold disc

Mixtec-Zapotec tezcacuitlapilli or gold disc, c. 1300, gold, jadeite and wood, diameter 21 cms. National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City.

The goldsmithing tradition of the Oaxacan Mixtec-Zapotecs had been established for 300 years [prior to being conquered by the Mexica] and their craftsmen displayed enormous skill.
This disc, found in 1971 in Tomb 3 at Zaachila, is constructed from a sheet of embossed gold with a pair of identical scenes framed by two circular bands of encrusted jadeite, the outer ring embossed with animal heads and the inner one with a series of figures in a procession.
According to the Matrícula de Tributos codex, Oaxaca had to deliver every 80 days to Tenochtitlan 20 discs of yellow gold, although it does not mention whether these were embossed or decorated at source. It is therefore likely that Moctezuma himself decided whether to inscribe his own words or visions on such insignia, especially as he had built workshops in his palace specifically to house the most talented artists from all over the empire.


Adapted from ‘Moctezuma: Aztec Ruler’, British Museum Catalogue, 2009, p. 213.

Photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore