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Mosaic mask of Tezcatlipoca
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This mask is believed to represent Tezcatlipoca (Smoking Mirror), one of the Aztec creator gods and also the god of rulers, warriors and sorcerers. The mask is built over a human skull with a movable hinged jaw. Alternate bands of turquoise and lignite mosaic work cover the front of the skull. The eyes are made of two discs of iron pyrites set in rings made of shell. The back of the skull has been cut away and lined with leather.

Turquoise was sent as tribute to the Aztec capital from several provinces of the empire. The turquoise was sent as raw chunks or as cut and polished mosaic tiles decorating objects such as masks, shields, staffs, discs, knives and bracelets. A tribute list issued by the emperor Moctezuma II (reigned 1503-20) states that ten turquoise mosaic masks made by skilled Mixtec artisans were sent each year from a province in Oaxaca.

Mosaic mask of Tezcatlipoca


Aztec/Mixtec, from Mexico, 15th-16th century
AD Ht 19.5 cm
Christy Collection



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