Mosaic Disk with a Mythological and Historical Scene

A work made of turquoise, earthenware, stucco, spondylus shell, mother of pearl, and iron pyrite, with pigment.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of turquoise, earthenware, stucco, spondylus shell, mother of pearl, and iron pyrite, with pigment.

Date:

1400/1500

Artist:

Mixtec
Northern Oaxaca, Mexico

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.

On View

Arts of the Americas, Gallery 136

Artist

Mixtec

Title

Mosaic Disk with a Mythological and Historical Scene

Origin

Oaxaca state

Date

1401–1500

Medium

Turquoise, earthenware, stucco, spondylus shell, mother of pearl, and iron pyrite, with pigment

Dimensions

Diam. 30.5 cm (12 in.)

Credit Line

Through prior gift of Louise A. and Ruth G. Allen, and Mrs. Daniel Catton Rich

Reference Number

1997.57

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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