Head of Xilonen, the Goddess of Young Maize

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Aztec (Mexica)
Tenochtitlan, Mexico

Head of Xilonen, the Goddess of Young Maize, 1400/1500

Basalt
32.4 x 20.3 x 12.1 cm (12 3/4 x 8 x 4 3/4 in.)
African and Amerindian Art Purchase Fund, 1986.1091

This sculptural fragment represents Xilonen, the youthful Aztec (Mexica) goddess of new maize (corn), who embodies concepts of fertility and renewal. Two large ears of maize rise from her floral headband, with long tassels flowing down her back. In July the Aztecs held a spectacular agricultural festival in Xilonen’s honor to celebrate the first fruits of the summer season. During this ritual ceremony, a young girl impersonated the goddess, dancing to bring forth an abundant harvest. The name Xilonen was Hispanicized in Mexico as elote, meaning “fresh, tender ear of corn.”

— Permanent collection label