General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 18 Sep 2020/11 Rabbit
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What type of war paint did the Aztecs have?

ORIGINAL QUESTION received from - and thanks to - Gabrielle Racine: I’m wondering what kind of war paint did the aztecs have I haven’t been able to find any information on the subject. (Answer compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Four seasoned Mexica warriors, all with black body paint and brown face paint; Codex Mendoza fol. 67r (detail)
Four seasoned Mexica warriors, all with black body paint and brown face paint; Codex Mendoza fol. 67r (detail) (Click on image to enlarge)

We can do no better than to quote from Manuel Aguilar-Moreno’s superb Handbook to Life in the Aztec World, in which he has a paragraph on this very subject:-

Throughout Mesoamerica the practice of using body paint was essential in battle. The Maya, Tlaxcaltec, Huastec, and Aztec all used body paints in warfare. Among the Aztec, the application of specific face paint was an indication of martial success. When a warrior attained a captive, his face was painted yellow and red. Courageous warriors (tiyahcauhtin) painted their bodies black and painted their face with black stripes on which they sprinkled iron pyrite (apetztli). The use of body paint was also utilised by the military orders; for example, the cuauhchiqueh had half of their heads painted blue and the other half red or yellow to signify their status in the order. Face and body paints were used in much the same fashion as the insignia presented for valorous deeds.

Image scanned from our own copy of the Codex Mendoza (original in the Bodleian Library, Oxford), James Cooper Clark facsimile edition, 1938, James Waterlow & Sons, London.

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