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

Search the Site (type in white box):

Urn with image of Mictlantecuhtli

Aztec urn with an image of Mictlantecuhtli, alabaster, c. 1500 CE, height 16.5 cms, Templo Mayor Museum, Mexico City.

Mictlantecuhtli was the fearsome lord who reigned over the last level of Mictlan (‘place of the dead’). His macabre figure is the most striking aspect of such urns as this, intended to contain the ashes of captives sacrificed in Tenochtitlan. Carved from alabaster, this piece, which still contains cremated human remains, depicts the god with a cadaverous face and lavishly attired in a headdress in the shape of a sliced shell, ear ornaments, bracelets, pectorals and a garment covering part of the body like a short skirt. The ‘cactli’ (sandals) that the ruler of Mictlan wore as a sign of his high rank are still visible on the rather weathered feet. The most striking detail is the aggressive gesture of the hands, indicating that this deity tears apart the bodies of the dead as they come into his terrifying presence.

Adapted from the RA exhibition catalogue ‘Aztecs’, p. 434.

Photo by Ana Laura Landa/Mexicolore

Life-size figure of Mictlantecuhtli