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Skull goblets

Mixtec skull goblets

Mixtec skull goblets, c. 1507, ceramic and paint, 30 cms. high, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City.

These unusual ritual goblets were found as part of the large offering discovered in the former Plaza del Volador, site of a famous colonial market that was excavated between 1936 and 1937.
Their main decorative features are the hollow sculpted human skulls, resembling the real ones displayed in the tzompantli or skull racks at the Templo Mayor. The patches of blood-streaked fat covering the skulls, reflecting the practice of flaying sacrificial victims, are depicted with remarkable realism. The polychrome decoration of these goblets is typical of the so-called international style, which was popular during the reigns of the last Mexica rulers... An elegant silhouette is created by the double-cone shape, in which the bowl of the goblet is confined to the upper section. The decoration of these two vessels links them to sacrificial offerings. They were probably filled with blood which was fed to the effigies of the gods by means of popotl (straws) inserted into their mouths, simulating their absorption of the sacred liquid.

From ‘Moctezuma: Aztec Ruler’, British Museum Catalogue, 2009, p. 118.

Photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore