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Turquoise mosaic of a double-headed serpent
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This ornament is an icon of Aztec art. It was probably worn on ceremonial occasions as a pectoral (chest ornament). It is carved in wood and covered with turquoise mosaic. The eye sockets were probably originally inlaid with iron pyrites and shell. Red and white shell was used to add details to the nose and mouth of both serpent heads.

The serpent played an important role in Aztec religion. The word for serpent (coatl) in Nahuatl, the language spoken by the Aztecs, appears in the names of several gods including Quetzalcoatl (Feathered Serpent), Xiuhcoatl (Fire Serpent), Mixcoatl (Cloud Serpent) and Coatlicue (She of the Serpent Skirt, the mother of the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli). Images of serpents were also used as architectural elements, for example, in the wall of serpents (coatepantli) used to mark out sacred spaces within a ceremonial area.

Turquoise mosaic of a double-headed serpent

Aztec/Mixtec, from Mexico, XV-XVI century AD.
Ht. 20,5 cm.
Purchased with the Christy Fund.

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