General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 1 Mar 2021/6 Grass
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Maya teaching resource: birds to colour in

RESOURCE: Colourful birds to colour in

This little feature focuses on a group of Mesoamerican birds, ranging from the exotic to the mundane. We’re grateful to Teresa Fajardo, a Mexican artist and teacher, who prepared these materials for workshops on the Maya in support of the World Museum Liverpool’s exhibition in 2015 - we’ve adapted her materials to provide a simple teaching resource.

The parakeet
The parakeet (Click on image to enlarge)

‘The parakeet was very appreciated by Mesoamerican people. In Mexico there are two main species: orange-headed and white-headed, and their feathers were highly valued. They were captured to provide comfort for politicians and their families.’

The macaw
The macaw (Click on image to enlarge)

‘The macaw was considered the bird of the Sun because when it flies at dawn the sunlight reflected from its wings producing flashes like fireworks. This inspired the priests to incorporate this bird into the worship of the Sun.’

The eagle
The eagle (Click on image to enlarge)

‘Symbol of power, being the strongest bird of prey. It represented élite soldiers called the Warrior Eagles who were specially selected and trained. The Eagle symbol can be found in all Mesoamerican codices and the image of the Golden Eagle is embodied in the Mexican national flag.’

The woodpecker
The woodpecker (Click on image to enlarge)

‘In Mexico there are several species of woodpecker, some with red crests and others with yellow heads. Because of its beauty, it was used in feather art and represented in codices such as the Codex Zouche-Nuttall (in the British Museum).’

The dove
The dove (Click on image to enlarge)

‘The dove was a symbol of fidelity. As in many cultures doves were cared for by Mesoamerican people but also were consumed as food.’

The quail
The quail (Click on image to enlarge)

‘The quail was a bird that was easy to catch so it became destined for sacrifices to “feed” the Sun God, as a symbol of the link between the Cosmos and Earth. It was associated with myths of the creation of Gods and humans.’

The turkey
The turkey (Click on image to enlarge)

‘The turkey was considered as a bird of sacrifice. Pre-Hispanic people used its meat and feathers as they were able to domesticate it.’

The owl - this one is from the Codex Borgia
The owl - this one is from the Codex Borgia (Click on image to enlarge)

And a bonus bird! ‘Also known by the Maya as the “night eagle”, the owl was often depicted in Maya art. As they are nocturnal birds of prey, the owl was obviously associated with the night and also with darkness, the underworld and death. The owl was seen as a messenger of the underworld and even as a manifestation of the gods of death. The ancient Maya also identified the owl with fertility as well as death, e.g. the Muan Owl was a bringer of rain and maize as well as being linked to the underworld.’

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on Sep 12th 2020

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