Friday, April 12, 2024


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An exhibition in Mexico showcases uncommon Aztec ceremonial offerings.

On Friday, a museum exhibition in Mexico City showcased Aztec ritual offerings that were unearthed in the downtown area. This is the first time these artifacts have been displayed, providing a new understanding of pre-Hispanic art and religious customs.

The objects, made entirely from wood, consist of intricately designed masks, carved scepters thought to have been used by gods in the past, and weapons that were interred with animals dressed as both male and female deities and warriors as sacrifices.

Reuters was granted special access to the exhibit at Mexico City’s Templo Mayor Museum prior to its public opening.

The majority of the artifacts featured in the exhibit were recovered from the remains of the Aztecs’ most sacred sanctuary, which is currently situated next to the museum. A large number of these objects were discovered inside sealed stone containers, buried over 500 years ago.

“These objects are incredibly fragile and delicate,” stated Maria Barajas, the curator of the exhibit, as she stood beside a row of intricately carved masks. “A significant number of them depict warriors who perished in combat,” she explained. “One can observe their half-open eyes, and even their mouths are ajar.”

According to Ms. Barajas, wooden objects tend to decay rapidly and can only endure over time if exposed to consistent temperature and humidity levels.

To preserve the artifacts, the remaining moisture in the wood is replaced with artificial sugars to prevent them from decaying. This can take up to a year. The exhibit’s displays are also carefully regulated to control humidity levels.

Traces of original paint can still be seen on some of the artifacts, including a piece carved from copal resin that features wooden adornments painted in blue and depicting a mythical helper of the Aztec rain god Tlaloc. It holds a serpent scepter evoking the crack of lightning on one side, and a tiny water jug on the other.

“When they desired precipitation, they would shatter the jars using the scepter and water would flow out,” stated Adriana Sanroman, the curator of the exhibit and the leader of restoration for the ongoing excavations at Templo Mayor.

Ms. Sanroman also points out a set of scepters featuring miniature, lifelike hands that were believed to belong to Mictlantecuhtli, the god of death.

“This deity is often depicted in a state of partial decay, with some flesh still intact, and he is often portrayed carrying various body parts,” she explained.

The exhibit is showcasing new items as well as famous Aztec wooden pieces on loan from various museums. These include a beautifully carved drum and a life-size sculpture of the Aztec deity associated with pulque, their preferred alcoholic beverage.

Despite their reputation as fierce fighters, the Aztecs were ultimately defeated by Spanish invaders and their native allies in 1521. Today, only one authentic Aztec sword remains.

The exhibit also features a sword, which is a wooden club with a flat surface and a groove designed to hold razor-sharp obsidian, a type of volcanic glass.

Museum director Patricia Ledesma emphasized the delicate nature and rarity of the artifacts, stating that the exhibit offers a glimpse into a bygone era where wood was frequently used to create exquisite works of art.

“This enables us to comprehend the vastness of the incredible capabilities possessed by pre-Hispanic hands in working with this material.” – Reuters