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Seashells pendant

Ancient Mexican seashells pendant

Seashells pendant, snail shells, unknown date and provenance, length of each shell from 4.5 to 6.7 cms., KHM-Museumsverband, Weltmuseum, Vienna.

The tip of the snail shells has been trimmed and carved for threading: three of them are larger cone snail shells. Since snails live in water, the shells were symbolically connected to the underworld and, according to the chronicler Bernardino de Sahagún, to fertility. Snail shells from both coasts found their way inland through trade and as tribute and were valuable objects due to the distance covered. Many were found in the sacrificial deposits of the Templo Mayor in Tenochtitlan. When threaded onto chains, the snail shells would jingle as they moved. Snail shells were cut to size and polished for mosaics or used to create jewellery for people and statues of gods, but also to make everyday objects such as fishhooks.

From Aztecs, eds. Doris Kurella, Martin Berger and Inés de Castro, with INAH, Mexico - catalogue for the exhibition Azteken, Linden Museum, Stuttgart, Hirmer Publishers, Germany, 2019, p. 302.

Photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore.