General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 20 Sep 2017/9 Jaguar
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Large gold ring with pre-Hispanic deity on its face

Is Tlaltecuhtli on this ring?

ORIGINAL QUESTION received from - and thanks to - Marshall Brennan: I believe I have an ancient Aztec ring that has the gods of Tlalteuctli/Quetzalcoatli on top made of gold and images of helmet soldiers on both sides also made of gold. Would you be interested to see photos of this ring and give us some idea of what it is? Thanks (Answered/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Pic 1: The ‘helmeted soldier’ outline on side of ring
Pic 1: The ‘helmeted soldier’ outline on side of ring (Click on image to enlarge)

It’s a beautiful ring, that’s for sure! Yes, it’s a deity on the top, but it’s the Huastec image of Xólotl, twin of Quetzalcóatl, a god associated with the underworld, with deformities, with the dark side of Venus, patron of twins and of the ritual ballgame. However I can understand why you see a resemblance to Tlaltecuhtli. Here’s a very revealing passage from a pioneering article written back in the ‘70s by Cecelia Klein (on our Panel of Experts) entitled ‘The Identity of the Central Deity on the Aztec Calendar Stone’, originally published in the Art Bulletin no. 58 (1976:1-12) and reproduced in The Aztec Calendar Stone edited by Khristaan D. Villela and Mary Ellen Miller (Getty Research Institute, 2010):-

Pic 2: Xólotl on Huastec relief, Tepetzintla, Veracruz, ca. 900-1521, stone,65 ins. high, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Pic 2: Xólotl on Huastec relief, Tepetzintla, Veracruz, ca. 900-1521, stone,65 ins. high, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City (Click on image to enlarge)

As was the case with all stars and planets, including the sun, Venus was believed [in ancient Mexico] to be “born” in the east as Morning Star and, as the gold Xólotl, the Evening Star, to “die” upon its descent and disappearance at the western horizon. Upon entering the body of the female earth monster Tlaltecuhtli, Venus, like the sun, assumed that goddess’s associations and insignia. Accordingly, the Evening Star of the west and the planet in inferior conjunction in the south or center of the world appear occasionally in Postclassic two-dimensional imagery in the frontal form of Tlaltecuhtli, with displayed limbs, upturned head, clawed hands and feet, round, ringed, or banded eyes, large teeth, and a protruding tongue [pic 2]. Moreover, since the Venus cycle, like the solar cycles, began at dawn in the east and concluded at or around midnight in the south or center of the world, these ‘en face’ images of the western and southern phases of the cycle must similarly refer to the conclusion of a cycle...

NOTE: We’ve scanned the image (pic 2) from the book cited, but without seeking the publisher’s permission, purely for educational purposes to answer Marshall’s question. We hope no-one will take offence!

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Here's what others have said:

Mexicolore replies: We’re here to help! Yes, feel free to add a link to us from TreasureNet. The Aztecs didn’t, to our knowledge, use European-style finger rings (though they loved jewellery in general!) so we’re certain this is a post-Conquest artefact. As for the Cortés-is-Quetzalcóatl idea, this was a notion strongly pushed AFTER the conquest by the Spanish. Read the excellent article on this point by Professor Gordon Brotherston, in our ‘Ask the Experts’ section (April 2005) - http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/aztecs/ask-experts/how-long-did-it-take-the-aztecs-to-realise-that-cortes-was-not-a-god.