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General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 24 Mar 2017/11 Jaguar
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Mexicolore contributor Gianluca D’Andrea

Creating a Sunstone model

Gianluca D’Andrea is a 35-year-old freelance graphic designer who lives in Cosenza, southern Italy. He has a profound love of ancient culture and art, mythology and wisdom and has long been fascinated by beautiful pieces of art that inspire such love, such as pre-Columbian masterpieces...

Pic 1: The original Aztec Sunstone, ‘in situ’ in the Mexica Hall in Mexico City’s National Museum of Anthropology
Pic 1: The original Aztec Sunstone, ‘in situ’ in the Mexica Hall in Mexico City’s National Museum of Anthropology (Click on image to enlarge)

The project was born at the beginning of 2011. It aims to recreate objects of great artistic, cultural and religious value that draw inspiration from past societies. Thanks to such recreation it is becoming possible to see these objects which so far have been on display only in museums or in the original places where they were found. The project began with Mesoamerican cultures through the reconstruction of the Aztec Sunstone.

Pic 2: The finished Sunstone!
Pic 2: The finished Sunstone! (Click on image to enlarge)

August 10, 2012.
I’m pouring synthetic plaster into a mould of silicone rubber, that will be used to produce further copies of the Stone. I have to be careful not to leave gaps, so I carefully ensure that the mixture seeps into every nook and cranny to avoid bubbles or other aesthetic faults.
When this step is completed, I wait for the plaster to harden. It should be left to stand for about six hours but, to be sure, I let it stand a little bit longer. Now I can remove it from the mould. It is ready: I finally have the first part of the Sunstone in my arms.

Pic 3: The start...
Pic 3: The start... (Click on image to enlarge)

March, 2011. “[...] sacred art no longer exists, the art that embodies the laws of Great Knowledge and influence on the lives of the masses.” This phrase of G.I. Gurdjieff led me into the research of objects to study and analyze. Such thought naturally turned into action and I decided to reproduce by hand one of these objects: the Sunstone. I chose this piece because of the hype that the [Mesoamerican] calendar has produced in the media in the last 12 months; I wanted to debunk some of the clichés stoked up by the media and I was anxious to discover exactly how it all fitted together.
I calculated it would take me about 3 or 4 months of work. During the process, I discovered that my predictions were wrong. The original monolith is 3.5 meters in diameter, whilst that of my reproduction is just 58 centimeters. That meant that some details would become really small, rendering their reproduction difficult; then I realized that the time required for the manufacturing process was in fact far longer than I’d anticipated.

Pic 4: Tonatiuh - the start
Pic 4: Tonatiuh - the start (Click on image to enlarge)

I started from the centre just because by proceeding from the inside to the outside I wouldn’t have damaged the work already done by leaning my hand or my elbows on it.
Toniatiuh, the Fifth Sun, is the first element I reproduced, within the central figure of Ollin, the second ring. I paid particular attention to the tongue, details of which are missing in the original monolith. So I studied different interpretations and hypotheses of the experts. I opted for the one that has a shaped blade form. As far as I know, my reproduction is the only one clearly opting for this shape.

Pic 5: The Five Suns
Pic 5: The Five Suns (Click on image to enlarge)

In the second ring I started to face real difficulties. Up until then, I had had just one subject to reproduce, in this (second) ring the number of different figures multiplies. Ocelotl-Tonatiuh (Jaguar Sun), Ehecatl-Tonatiuh (Wind Sun), Quiahuitl-Tonatiuh (Rain and Fire Sun), Atl-Tonatiuh (Water Sun) and Tonatiuh’s two claws, portrayed gripping two human hearts. Moreover, There are symbols that probably represent the four cardinal points: on the East there is Xiuhuitzolli, funeral ornament; on the West Chicoace Ozomatl (Seven Monkey); on the North there is Ce-tecpatl, obsidian blade, and on the South there is Ce-Quiahuitl, rain, life symbol and element which gives life to the whole creation; on the face of Tonatiuh is a ray, emanating from the first Sun, beneath him a decoration that probably is a pectoral ornament of a god. In the inner part we find the five points corresponding to the complementary days. A this point of the process I realized that it was impossible to finish my work in 3-4 months as I had previously scheduled. Since scaling down the monolith reduces the dimensions of certain details so much, the instruments I was working with were too big for such details. So I had to make my own new instrument, by filing and flattening needles and compass points.

Pic 6: the day signs
Pic 6: the day signs (Click on image to enlarge)

In the first two circles the Aztec cosmogony is represented, while in the third one the real calendrical function becomes clear: the subdivision of time into cycles. Twenty days for every month, each one represented by a different symbol. I started to realize there was a real risk that I wouldn’t complete the project, so I made myself set deadlines and stick to them. I decided to make one symbol per day. From crocodile to flower: my rhythm superimposed on the calendar.

Pic 7: Tonatiuh, completed
Pic 7: Tonatiuh, completed (Click on image to enlarge)

On to the outer part we find the sun’s rays: the main four, shaped as decorative curls; and the four medium-sized rays. A series of symbols are located between the main and the smaller rays, they repeat themselves along all the perimeter of the stone; such symbols seem to represent chains of mathematical combinations providing indications about the scan of time. As these decorations are numerous and meticulously carved, I decided to create a mould and make eight reproductions of the section. I saved a lot a time and the result was as good as I expected.

Pic 8: The Xiuhcoatls
Pic 8: The Xiuhcoatls (Click on image to enlarge)

At this stage I chose a similar solution to the one described in the previous paragraph. The two fire snakes bodies (except for their heads and tails) are shaped from two identical segments. I created the mould, smaller than the one used for the other circles; then I made 24 reproductions, 12 for each Xiucoatl. I had just tails and heads left to finish. After I was done with the plasticine work, I made a general mould made of silicone.

All material, photos and text, kindly provided by Gianluca D’Andrea.

‘The Calendar After The End?’

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