General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 19 Apr 2021/3 Alligator
Text Size:

Search the Site (type in white box):

Mixtec jug with butterfly

Mixtec jug with Monarch butterfly, British Museum

Mixtec pottery jug with butterfly, c. 1500 CE, height 10.8 cms., British Museum

This small ceramic jar may have contained a precious liquid. Its style, fine production and delicate decoration on a red background indicate that it was made in Cholula or Tetzcoco. Both areas were well known for their colourful ceramics, which were used in the court of Tenochtitlan. The naturalistic iconography indicates that it was probably made not long before the Spanish Conquest. The central decorative element is a butterfly with extended wings flanked by two wreaths of flowers. Butterflies had been represented in Mesoamerican art, probably since the Preclassic times, and became a common iconographic motif in Teotihuacan. In Mexica iconography they symbolize fire, renewal and metamorphosis. They were also thought to embody the souls of warriors killed on the battlefield, accompanying the sun on its daily journey through the sky.

The butterfly looks distinctly like the famous Mexican Monarch butterfly!

Adapted from ‘Moctezuma: Aztec Ruler’, British Museum exhibition Catalogue, 2009, p. 121.

Photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore.