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Aztec god statues in squatting position, British Museum

While Aztec women knelt, men squatted

In ancient Mexico, whilst women and goddesses knelt, men and gods squatted. In the absence of chairs as we know them commonly today, squatting was the most natural resting position and - to our surprise today - was held for hours at a time. For those of us unused to it, it’s not easy, but it’s been shown by doctors and anthropologists to be a highly practical and comfortable posture for human beings. (Written by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Pic 1: Cuauhtémoc, Florentine Codex Book 8
Pic 1: Cuauhtémoc, Florentine Codex Book 8 (Click on image to enlarge)

This gentle, passive, respectful and dignified posture was part of a whole set of customs and traditions going back centuries, which the Mexica incorporated into their formal education, encouraging young people - in particular young nobles - at all times to show dignity and respect for others. The modest squatting position, with arms crossed over the legs, somehow embodied this sense of humility. When sitting in conversation with others, young Aztecs were taught not to raise their head too high and certainly not to look into the eyes of an older, senior person present.
To squat was not just limited to ‘ordinary’ citizens. The codices show plenty of examples of rulers sitting in exactly the same way (in picture 1 you can see Cuauhtémoc [’Falling Eagle’] clearly squatting, on a traditional reed mat, and with a solid backrest).

Pic 2: Following the death of Axayacatl (L), the new ruler Tizoc starts his reign. Codex Telleriano-Remensis fol. 38v (detail)
Pic 2: Following the death of Axayacatl (L), the new ruler Tizoc starts his reign. Codex Telleriano-Remensis fol. 38v (detail) (Click on image to enlarge)

The immediate impression given by these images is that of calm and humble repose, the mind reflecting on life and its meaning. It comes as no surprise that the Mexica also depicted their male gods, carved in solid stone, sitting in identical pose. In the main picture above are the figures of Xochipilli (‘Flower Prince’), god of music and song in the foreground and of Mictlantecuhtli (‘Lord of the Land of the Dead’) in the background, in the Mexico gallery of the British Museum. This peaceful squatting position is virtually identical to that of corpses found in countless Aztec ‘death bundles’ (pic 2) - an attempt to return to the foetal position in which we humans all enter the world.

Pic 3: Assorted pre-Hispanic figures (humans and deities) in Mexican museums, all squatting
Pic 3: Assorted pre-Hispanic figures (humans and deities) in Mexican museums, all squatting (Click on image to enlarge)

Info:-
Historia de la Vida Cotidiana en México: Vol. 1 Mesoamérica y los Ambitos Indígenas de la Nueva España by Pablo Escalante Gonzalbo, Mexico City, 2004

Picture sources:-
• Main picture: photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore
• Pic 1: Image from the Florentine Codex (original in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence) scanned from our own copy of the Club Internacional del Libro 3-volume facsimile edition, Madrid, 1994
• Pic 2: Image from the Codex Telleriano-Remensis scanned from our copy of Codex Telleriano-Remensis: Ritual, Divination and History in a Pictorial Aztec Manuscript by Eloise Quiñones Keber, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1995
• Pic 3: Photos by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore.

emoticon Q. Why did the Aztecs bundle their dead corpses up in the squatting position?
A. They were going to join death squats...

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