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Bundle of years (side view)

Aztec/Mexica bundle of years sculpture

End view of Aztec/Mexica xiuhmolipilli (‘bundle of years’) c.1507, basalt, length 61 cms., National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City.

At the end of each 52-year cycle was held the New Fire Ceremony, one of the most important Mexica rituals. The ritual, performed in a temple dedicated to the event, involved rubbing together pieces of wood on the chest of a young male sacrificial victim to create the new fire. Four bundles were then assembled, each comprising 52 rods, which were burned in a sacred fire by priests wearing the insignia of Xiuhtecuhtli [fire god]. Master sculptors preserved these bundles in stone for posterity. This example is directly linked with the ceremony that took place in 1507 during the reign of Moctezuma II, who had revised the calendar by moving the ceremony that had formerly been held on the date 1 Rabbit to the new date 2 Reed...

... this one displays the year 2 Reed on a large panel [follow link below] while its ends bear the dates 1 Flint and 1 Death, complete with an obsidian mirror, the symbol of the god Tezcatlipoca. We know that these two years correspond to the first birth of the sun and its subsequent death, so the sculpture can be interpreted as an evocation of the beginning and ending of a solar cycle.

From ‘Moctezuma: Aztec Ruler’, British Museum Catalogue, 2009, p. 173.

Photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore

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