General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 19 Apr 2021/3 Alligator
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Jaguar-head pendant

Aztec-Mixtec jaguar head pendant

Aztec-Mixtec jaguar-head pendant, jadeite and onyx, 4.5 cms. high, 15th-16th century, British Museum.

The soulful inset eyes of this jaguar... are cabochons [gemstones] cleverly cut from onyx (straight-layered agate) so that the red brown iris appears against the cloudy white of the layer beneath. The idea does not seem to be European. The small jaguar head, though presented to the British Museum in 1888 along with several Egyptian tools, is unquestionably Mexican and shows no evidence of recutting to insert the eyes. Mixtec lapidaries often carved the mouths of serpents in the same manner used to hollow out the jaguar’s mouth, with tubular drillwork from the front and behind the fangs. They were also interested in agate, rarely employed in earlier times, but made available through the far-flung Aztec trading network from the still rich agate deposits of Chihuahua.

From Before Cortés: Sculpture of Middle America, exhibition catalouge, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1970, p. 317.

Photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore.