General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 23 Nov 2017/8 Flint
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Rattlesnake fragment

Aztec rattlesnake stone fragment

Rattlesnake fragment, Mexica, basalt, height 138 cms., National Anthropology Museum, Mexico City.

This snake’s tail, notable for the rattles it contains, is one of the few surviving ornamental fragments from the original palace built for Moctezuma II.

The carving on the snake’s enormous body is especially striking. Although it is appropriately covered with scales, set among them are six corncobs, transforming the reptile into a metaphor for the earth which generously supplies nourishment to the Mexica people. This fragment undoubtedly formed part of an image of the goddess Cihuacóatl (‘woman serpent’). This deity symbolised the female power of nature by providing life and sustenance, and closed the human cycle by playing host to the corpses of the dead.

From ‘Moctezuma: Aztec Ruler’, British Museum Catalogue, 2009, p. 75.

Photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore