General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 19 Apr 2021/3 Alligator
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Turquoise mosaic helmet

Aztec turquoise mosaic helmet in the British Museum

Turquoise helmet, Mexica (Aztec), wooden with turquoise mosaic design including mother-of-pearl, Spondylus (conch) shell and malachite, width 20.5 cms., height 22 cms., British Museum, London.

This helmet is unique among the known turquoise mosaics from Mexico and it hasn’t yet been possible to recognise comparable headpieces in the codices or on sculpture, perhaps because some components of the helmet are missing. Carved from a single piece of wood, the interior was hollowed out so that it could be worn. It’s possible that the helmet was worn with the two ‘beak-like’ projections or horns at front and back, rather than on either side as it’s normally shown.
On one side of the helmet the heads of two outward-facing clawed serpents can be seen; these probably represent the Fire Serpent, Xiuhcóatl.

Adapted from Turquoise Mosaics from Mexico by Colin McEwan, Andrew Middleton, Caroline Cartwright and Rebecca Stacey, British Museum Press, 2006, pp.53-54.

Photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore.