General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 20 Nov 2017/5 Eagle
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Turquoise mosaic disc

ORIGINAL QUESTION received from - and thanks to - Marcelo Romero: I was just at the Museo del Templo Mayor in Mexico City. There was an item that caught my eye, unfortunately there was no info, no tags, or any description of the item. I was wondering if you can help identify the item. It’s a turquoise mosaic disc with what appears to have 7 dancers/gods/deities. If you do have info please help identify the figures. (Answered/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

The turquoise mosaic disc on display at the Templo Mayor Museum, Mexico City
The turquoise mosaic disc on display at the Templo Mayor Museum, Mexico City (Click on image to enlarge)

We know the disc you’re talking about! But we too could find next to no information on it, until, with the kind help of Templo Mayor Project Director Leonardo López Luján, we tracked down a description of it in the book Turquoise Mosaics from Mexico by Colin McEwan, Andrew Middleton, Caroline Cartwright and Rebecca Stacey (Coordinators), The British Museum Press, London, 2006. The entry (p.61) is headed ‘The Turquoise Mosaic Disc from Offering 99’ and was written by Adrián Velázquez and María Eugenia Marín. We have abridged the entry slightly as it is scholarly in style.

Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, one of the seven deities represented on the turquoise disc
Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, one of the seven deities represented on the turquoise disc (Click on image to enlarge)

[The disc] was discovered during the 1994 excavations in the precinct known as ‘The House of the Ajarajas’. The offering was buried during the last phase of the construction of the Templo Mayor (1502-20) in front of the stairway that leads up to the shrine dedicated to Huitzilopochtli... [The disc] was circular in form with an overall diameter of 28cm. A darker central area is 8.5 cm in diameter, surrounded by a narrow band (1.5 cm wide) and an outer band (8 cm wide). On this outer band seven anthropomorphic figures dressed as warriors are represented. Some of them have attributes that link them to warlike star deities such as: Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, identified by the drop-like designs on the headdresses, Huitzilopochtli, identified by the diadem with straight bars bifurcating [splitting into two parts] at the top; and Mixcoatl, identified by the net basket. It is also likely that the headdress with circular and fusiform [spindle-shaped] elements associates one of the figures with the maize god.

Mixcoatl, one of the seven deities represented on the turquoise disc
Mixcoatl, one of the seven deities represented on the turquoise disc (Click on image to enlarge)

The position of the mosaic disc at the bottom of Offering 99 links it with the night-time journey of the stars through the earth’s interior during the re-creation of the Mesoamerican underworld - one of the important functions of this journey was the underworld’s fertilization. [Additional evidence] suggests the possibility that the offering was related to the Quecholli festival in the ritual calendar dedicated to Mixcoatl. This festival... commemorates the descent of the stars into the interior of the earth.

Photos by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore.

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