About this artwork
Turquoise and shell mosaics were a specialty of the Mixtecs of northern Oaxaca, whose artists worked in the imperial Aztec (Mexica) capital, Tenochtitlan, after the mid-15th century. This disk commemorates historical events using calendrical and mythological imagery. In Mixtec culture, as elsewhere in ancient Mesoamerica, the history of the world was conceived in terms of cosmic cycles of creation, destruction, and re-creation. Each cycle, known as a “sun,” lasted many centuries. On a smaller scale within each cycle, time was organized into repeating 52-year periods whose end and renewal were marked by equinox sunsets and sunrises in rituals of transition.
On this disk, the sign for “year” and the date “3 Flint- Knife” (A.D. 1456) are associated with the image of the sun on the left; the date “4 House” (A.D. 1457) is linked by footsteps to the sun on the right. These dates mark the end of one 52-year cycle and the beginning of a new one. In the center, crossed darts symbolize a military alliance. Alliance members are represented by the skeletal figure at the left and the animal figure at the right. Below, a prone human form (damaged) signifies a sacrifice to confirm the association. The imagery of the disk stems from a long-established Mixtec tradition of pictorial manuscripts.
- Mosaic Disk with a Mythological and Historical Scene
- Oaxaca state (Object made in)
- Turquoise, earthenware, stucco, spondylus shell, mother of pearl, and iron pyrite, with pigment
- Diam. 30.5 cm (12 in.)
- Through prior gift of Louise A. and Ruth G. Allen, and Mrs. Daniel Catton Rich