General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 19 Sep 2017/8 Reed
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Community Preview, Moctezuma exhibition British Museum

Community Preview

The Community Team at the British Museum aims to strengthen relationships with London based communities. On the weekend before ‘Moctezuma: Aztec Ruler’ opened, the BM invited a range of Mexican community groups to a free and exclusive preview of the exhibition. The BM also invited Mexicolore to run workshops during the day... (Written/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Randolph and Corrinne from De Montfort University alongside Harvinder (BM Community Team) and Graciela from Mexicolore
Randolph and Corrinne from De Montfort University alongside Harvinder (BM Community Team) and Graciela from Mexicolore (Click on image to enlarge)

We in turn were delighted to be able to invite partners from the academic world to join us in presenting a gentler, often less visible, face of the Mexica/Aztecs - to balance the male/authority/power elements so predominant in the exhibition itself. Our theme for the day: the Aztec life cycle.

Caroline discusses Mexica men’s working tools with a young volunteer
Caroline discusses Mexica men’s working tools with a young volunteer (Click on image to enlarge)

Dr. Caroline Dodds Pennock, Lecturer in Early Modern History at the School of Historical Studies, University of Leicester, gave a brief introduction about the importance of Mexica midwives and their role in childbirth, presented the rituals associated with the naming of male and female babies and indicated how an Aztec’s name and personality very much depended on the day (s)he were born.

Graciela invites a hands-on go at traditional Mexica(n) food preparation
Graciela invites a hands-on go at traditional Mexica(n) food preparation (Click on image to enlarge)

The Mexicolore team followed with a look at being a Mexica mother, caring for young children while working at the same time, at the range of foods and drinks known to and consumed by the Aztecs, and at just how some of these were prepared. Metates, molcajetes and molinillos saw plenty of action!

Herbal medicine, Aztec style!
Herbal medicine, Aztec style! (Click on image to enlarge)

Next, Corrinne Burns and Dr. Randolph Arroo, natural products researchers at the Leicester School of Pharmacy, De Montfort University, considered aspects of Mexica health - just how knowledgeable Aztec physicians were; the range of Aztec illnesses and their causes in Aztec thought; corn (maize) kernel diagnosis and incantation; typical components of Aztec medical treatments (jade stones, medicinal plants, sweeping with herbs, confession to the gods, and incense). Burning copal incense wasn’t on the cards within the BM! But participants did have a go at kernel throwing/interpreting and at sweeping a sufferer’s face with herbs...

Under Randolph’s direction, Graciela places a jade stone on the forehead of a young volunteer
Under Randolph’s direction, Graciela places a jade stone on the forehead of a young volunteer (Click on image to enlarge)

To round off each session, Mexicolore demonstrated the form of burial for a Mexica who might have died of natural causes, stressing the ancient Mesoamerican belief in the importance of duality and balance, of giving in order to receive, and in returning to the earth precious gifts of life and energy...

Graciela and Corrinne exchange thoughts on Mexica herbal medicines...
Graciela and Corrinne exchange thoughts on Mexica herbal medicines... (Click on image to enlarge)

A fun time was had by all. Factsheets on Aztec diagnosis were on display, as were samples of Aztec herbal medicines (and even perfumes!). Participants were also given the chance to look up (via the internet) their Aztec birth date.

Our grateful thanks to all concerned!

Photos by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore, Corrinne Burns and Randolph Arroo

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