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Fragment of a stone frieze

Fragment of an Aztec stone frieze

Fragment of a frieze, Mexica, stone, stucco and paint, length 233.5 cms., National Anthropology Museum, Mexico City.

In the 1930s the former Plaza del Volador was excavated to make way for the imposing Supreme Court of Justice on the south-west corner of the Plaza de la Constitución. The work unearthed not only pre-Hispanic platform base containing a huge offering of ceramic vessels... but also architectural remains, most of which were destroyed. The few pieces that were retrieved include slabs and fragments of friezes or ornamental borders with chalchiuhuitl (the symbol for greenstone). The former are decorated with stepped fretwork motifs (xicalcoliuhqui) in the form of large rectangles, while the latter were subsequently identified as part of a ritual banquet hall linked to a palace building...
This unusual architectural discovery is reminiscent of the images of temples and other buildings from the Mixtec region of Oaxaca recorded in pre-Hispanic codices. As this fragment corresponds to the southern part of Moctezuma II’s palace, it suggests that by the time of his reign, Mixtec-style decoration had influenced architecture in Tenochtitlan as well as gold and ceramics.

From ‘Moctezuma: Aztec Ruler’, British Museum Catalogue, 2009, p. 76.

Photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore.