General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 19 Apr 2021/3 Alligator
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Funeral casket

Aztec/Mexica funeral casket

Funeral casket, c. 1500 CE, Aztec (Mexica), stone, 22x24x24 cms., National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City.

When a Mexica ruler died, his prepared body was wrapped in blankets forming a bundle. This was adorned with a mask showing the monarch’s appearance as a young man. Ritual objects were placed around him and the body was cremated. The ashes were preserved in symbolic containers.

This lidded rectangular container carved from stone is one of the few surviving funeral caskets associated with the Mexica royal lineage. Its main distinguishing feature is the ‘xiuhuitzolli’ or ‘copilli’, the crown of the ‘tlatoani’ [ruler] of Tenochtitlan, which was made from a sheet of gold covered with turquoise mosaic. The crown thus combined two precious elements - ‘cuitlatl’ (gold) associated with the sun god Tonatiuh, and the bluish turquoise stone associated with Xiuhtecuhtli - reflecting the two patron gods of the native rulers.

The container and its cover form an almost perfect rectangular block, which is carved inside and out. The casket is decorated with quincunxes [figures-of-five], two on each side. Inside the lid is a profile portrait of the monarch, characterized by its long hair with a ‘copilli’ tied behind, turquoise or greenstone ear-spools and the glyph of the ‘tlatoani’ (‘he who speaks’).

Adapted from Moctezuma: Aztec Ruler, British Museum Catalogue, 2009, p. 70.

Photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore