General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 19 Apr 2021/3 Alligator
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Wooden ceremonial shield with inlay

Wooden Mexica (Aztec) ceremonial shield with turquoise inlay, British Museum

Mexica (Aztec) wooden ceremonial shield with turquoise inlay, 1300-1521 CE, diameter 31 cms., British Museum.

’This ceremonial shield bears a design that succinctly portrays the principal divisions of the Aztec universe. It can be looked at in both the horizontal and vertical planes. Viewed horizontally, the circular shape corresponds to the surface of the earth with a navel-like solar disk at its centre. From this extend four rays outlined in red shell dividing the world into four quarters, in each of which stands a sky-bearer. A vertical reading of the design reveals a great serpent emerging from toothed jaws to coil sinuously around a tall tree crowned by flowering branches. the ability of snakes such as constrictors to move freely between water, earth and the forest canopy probably accounts for their symbolic role in Mesoamerican mythology as a mediator between the different vertical layers of the cosmos. The tree-trunk forms a ‘world-axis’ connecting the underworld, earthly and celestial spheres.’ (From Ancient Mexico in the British Museum by Colin McEwan, BM Press, 1994, p. 76.)

Photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore