Eduardo Matos Moctezuma
This chapter discusses the Mexica monumental sculptures uncovered in downtown Mexico City during the late eighteenth century, including the Coatlicue and Tlaltecuhtli sculptures, and the Sun Stone. Other important Mexica archaeological ruins of Tenochtitlan were unearthed during the nineteenth century. The discovery of a stone sculpture of the goddess Coyolxauhqui at base of the Templo Mayor in 1978 led to the excavation of the structure as part of the Proyecto Templo Mayor (Templo Mayor Project). This project has collected data on more than 40 Mexica structures in the heart of Mexico City, including numerous offerings and other important information regarding Aztec history. Some significant findings in recent years include the discovery of several important structures, including the cuauhxicalco, ballcourt, and tzompantli The recent discovery of a stone sculpture of the earth goddess Tlaltecuhtli has also provided essential data, particularly in terms of the offerings found beneath and around the sculpture.
Kevin Conti and William Walker
This chapter explores the performance of light and shadows in two ancestral Pueblo rock art sites in southeast Utah. These sites possess anthropomorphic rock faces and modified features to create both anthropomorphic and zoomorphic images that we argue derive from mythological traditions of Pueblo peoples. Specifically, light/shadow patterns at these sites produce and interact with Bear and War Twin imagery on prominent dates of the solar calendar. Traditionally such imagery would be approached through rock art studies in terms of motifs and symbolic interpretations. The celestial component would be addressed by archaeoastronomers. Using object agency theory, we seek to contextualize these data as places where people communicated with their Bear and War Twin deities.
J. D. Lewis-Williams
Archaeological remains testify to the spread of goods and ideas over broad areas of Mesoamerica at different times throughout its prehispanic history. However, most material expansions are unaccompanied by texts, so it is difficult to identify which resulted from empires, and which from other types of interaction, like trade, gift giving, and emulation. In contrast, the Aztec Empire, which dominated central Mexico during its final pre-conquest years, is known to us mostly through documents written during and after its overthrow by Spaniards in 1521. Ironically, the material remains do not match the expectations raised by the documents. More relics have been excavated and studied in the last few decades than previously, but relatively few scholars have yet engaged with their evidence. This article shows how the imagery of sculptures can supplement and refine our notions of Aztec strategies.
The Mesoamerican Classic period (ca. 250–900
Ray Hernández Durán
Following the Spanish Conquest, responses to Aztec art were varied. While architecture and many sacred sculptures were demolished and their material remains recycled into new construction, other works were either repurposed to fulfill new functions in the colonial setting or sent to Europe where they were collected and admired. Certain Aztec art forms persisted after the Conquest but with various adaptations or reformulations, as seen in manuscript production and featherwork. Other Colonial artworks, for example sculpture and wall paintings, evince the influence of indigenous esthetics, techniques, and forms, evident in sculpture and wall painting. Eventually, Aztec objects transitioned from being perceived as exotic curiosities in royal collections and world’s fairs to historical and archaeological artifacts to works of art appreciated by audiences in Mexico, as signifiers of national identity and indigenous achievement, and in museum exhibitions abroad where Aztec art often continues to be enigmatic, misunderstood, or unknown.
Aztec religion and the Central Mexican divinatory calendar were intrinsically linked. Focusing on the Aztec conception of art and artists, this chapter presents an overview of how art Aztec art (sculpture, painting, carving, weaving, etc.) and architecture served as an expression of Aztec religion, the calendar, and an overall view of the cosmos. Aztec art addressed the past, both in commemorating historic events, and in recalling and referencing the accomplishments of past cultures, collectively referred to as Toltecs. Art also celebrated past, present, and future periodicities that served as evidence of divine action in the world – particularly action on behalf of the ruling elite and, in the case of the Aztecs of Tenochtitlan, divine approbation of empire. Hence Aztec works usually combine references to what we today would consider mundane historical events and actions with images of divinities and supernatural concepts.
Cynthia L. Otis Charlton and Alejandro Pastrana
Objects of Aztec lapidary work carry great visual impact in contrast to their relatively scarce actual numbers. A combination of historical documents and modern locational techniques has enabled some insight into the movement of lapidary objects and raw material through the Aztec Empire through tribute and trade. To date, the only found and excavated Late Postclassic Aztec lapidary workshops come from Otumba in the northeast Basin of Mexico. Lapidary work itself was a highly specialized process performed by skilled artisans. Replication experimentation and the aid of such techniques as scanning electron microscopy have clarified some questions about how lapidary objects were actually produced. They have also had the unexpected benefit of revealing a change in workshop organization between the Middle and Late Postclassic Aztec lapidary production of offerings at the Templo Mayor in Tenochtitlan.
Elizabeth Hill Boone
The Aztecs recorded knowledge and wrote down the historical events of their past in painted books, now called codices, in which historical information was encoded in a pictographic writing system of figures and symbols, which were displayed along folded strips of hide and paper or across broad cotton cloths. These historical books were either organized by time, as in annals where events are painted adjacent to the year signs of a sequential count, or by geography, as in cartographic histories where events are recorded according to their location. Two broad historical themes dominate: the long migration from a place of origin or ancestral homeland (usually Aztlan) to the place where they established their capital, and the subsequent development and expansion of the polity. Guarded in royal libraries, these books affirmed the autonomy of the altepetl by recounting and preserving its history.
This chapter examines X-ray art in western Arnhem Land in northern Australia, considering how relatively contemporary artists used it to enrich the meaning of their work. After discussing early research on the meanings of X-ray and developing interpretations of art of the ancestors, the chapter explores the use of X-ray representation in rock art in western Arnhem Land, then analyzes the use of art in ceremony, focusing on Mardayin and Lorrkon, as well as the production of bark paintings made for sale through commercial outlets. It shows that understanding X-ray imagery helps to create intellectual connections between many areas of experience of the world. The chapter looks at the first creators, Yingarna and Ngalyod the rainbow serpents, and their role in promoting creative uses of X-ray infill and concludes that art helps initiates understand the powers of Djang not only as corporeal entities but also in more metaphysical terms.