General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 17 Dec 2017/6 Wind
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Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Although there was no way THE Aztec Calendar Stone was going to come to London from Mexico for the major exhibition at the Royal Academy in 2002-3, a little one (50 cms. high, though weighing 626kg) did come all the way from Philadelphia...

Pic 1: The greenstone Aztec sacrifical altar, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Pic 1: The greenstone Aztec sacrifical altar, Philadelphia Museum of Art (Click on image to enlarge)

One of the Aztec treasures at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the precious greenstone material underlines the importance of sacrifical altars such as this one in major Aztec ceremonies. Its top is engraved with the ‘4-Movement’ symbol for the present Aztec world era, surrounded by rays of the sun disc - a clear link to the giant Sunstone. Interestingly, the Registrar of the PMA recorded the collectors’ statement that the stone had been ‘[u]sed on the main altar in Mexico City and damaged by the Spaniards when rolled down the staircase’ (Aztecs, Royal Academy exhibition catalogue, p.455).

Pic 2: Reclining jaguar, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Pic 2: Reclining jaguar, Philadelphia Museum of Art (Click on image to enlarge)

Other Aztec pieces at the PMA include... this beautiful reclining jaguar made of reddish volcanic rock - very similar to the one in the Royal Academy exhibition (which was loaned by Brooklyn Museum of Art). Both are excellent examples of the power of Aztec naturalistic sculpture. The jaguar was associated with power, courage, war, danger and darkness. It’s possible that this very sculpture ‘may have adorned a military academy at which jaguar warriors were trained’ (RA catalogue, p.417).

Pic 3: Aztec Maize Goddess sculpture, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Pic 3: Aztec Maize Goddess sculpture, Philadelphia Museum of Art (Click on image to enlarge)

... and this elegant stone sculpture of Chicomecˇatl (‘7-Serpent’) - a fertility goddess responsible for maize (corn), so important to all the peoples of ancient Mesoamerica. Again similar to the sculpture in the Royal Academy exhibition (loaned by the Berlin State Museum), though not as well preserved, she wears a square headdress and female tunic.

Pictures 1, 2 & 3 courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art: The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950

Philadelphia Museum of Art
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