You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.
Click here to download Adobe Flash Player
General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 29 Mar 2017/3 Rain
Text Size:

Screen with scenes from the conquest of Mexico - Aztec musicians and dancers in a canoe

Click to see the latest Artefact in the Spotlight!

link of the month button
‘Call the Aztec Midwife’ - National Geographic feature

Dr. Caroline Dodds Pennock

Did they allow divorce? asked Ibstock Place School. Read what Dr. Caroline Dodds Pennock had to say.

Search the Site (type in white box):

Article suitable for older students

The book is out!
‘Turquoise Mosaics from Mexico’ has finally been published by the British Museum. Read more...
‘Turquoise Mosaics’
Aztec double-headed serpent figure, British Museum

Masters of mosaic

The team at the British Museum Department of Scientific Research is using sophisticated 21st.-century methods to discover how Aztec craftsmen could create such extraordinary pieces of art armed only with 15th.-century tools...

Right-hand head of Aztec double-headed serpent, British Museum
Right-hand head of Aztec double-headed serpent, British Museum

As the team explains: ‘We know now the full range of materials that were used and how they were worked to achieve these astonishingly close fitting mosaic designs. The research shows how these materials were selected to exploit very specific properties, or modified to improve their workability, and the mosaics are now recorded in unprecedented detail using photomicroscopy.’

‘Turquoise Mosaics from Mexico’ book cover
‘Turquoise Mosaics from Mexico’ book cover

Many of the Aztecs’ secrets are revealed in a forthcoming book ‘Turquoise Mosaics from Mexico’, by Colin McEwan, Andrew Middleton, Caroline Cartwright and Rebecca Stacey, to be published in October 2006 by the British Museum (price £12.99); here, with the team’s kind permission, we offer a tiny pre-view, to whet your appetite! the close-up images show fine details of the famous double-headed serpent (a metaphor for twins) in the Mexico Gallery of the BM.

Pic 1: fine detail of the serpent’s ‘eyebrow’
Pic 1: fine detail of the serpent’s ‘eyebrow’

Notice first (pic 1) how different colours and sizes of turquoise tesserae are used on the ‘eyebrows’. This also shows the way that relief is often used to delineate (emphasise) design on the objects.

Pic 2: deliberate snakeskin effect in the mosaic
Pic 2: deliberate snakeskin effect in the mosaic

Next (pic 2) the ‘snakeskin’ effect of the turquoise on the body.

Pic 3: round pieces of shell used in the nose
Pic 3: round pieces of shell used in the nose

Finally (pic 3) the decorative use of round pieces of shell across the nose (an unusual design because the resin adhesive is allowed to show and become part of the design itself).

Please note! These images are all Copyright The Trustees of The British Museum

Courtesy of the Werner Forman Archive
Courtesy of the Werner Forman Archive

The BM team gave a striking presentation of some of their new research work on the Tezcatlipoca skull mosaic - one of the 9 turquoise mosaics in the BM - at the recent Tezcatlipoca Symposium in London.

Visit the BM’s main website, learn more from the BM’s Scientific Research website, go to the Mexico Gallery, look for other examples of Aztec turquoise mosaic work on our website, attend the session on turquoise mosaics at the BM’s Science Day (13th. March ‘06) and look out for the book! Follow the links below...

Turquoise encrusted Aztec shield

More about how precious turquoise was for the Aztecs

The Tezcatlipoca Symposium

British Museum Science Research website

The British Museum

British Museum: Explore Highlights: Turquoise Mosaics

Feedback button