Coronation Stone of Motecuhzoma II (Stone of the Five Suns)

Large plaque of stone carved with animal and geometric hieroglyphs.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • Large plaque of stone carved with animal and geometric hieroglyphs.

Date:

1503

Artist:

Aztec (Mexica)
Tenochtitlan, Mexico

About this artwork

This stone, commemorating the beginning of the reign of Emperor Motecuhzoma II, was originally located within the ritual center of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the extensive empire conquered by the Aztecs between 1428 and 1519. The ruins of the city lie beneath downtown Mexico City. Known as the Stone of the Five Suns, this monument draws connections between Aztec history and the cosmic scheme. The quadrangular block is carved with the hieroglyphic signs of five successive cosmic eras, called “suns” in the language of the Aztecs. These eras were mythic cycles of creation and destruction that began in the time of genesis and continued with the birth of humankind and the period of Aztec rule. From “4 Jaguar-sun” in the lower-right corner, the eras proceed counterclockwise through “4 Wind-sun,” “4 Rain-sun,” and “4 Water-sun.” The X carved in the center represents “4 Movement-sun,” the sign of the present era for the Aztecs. The year “11 Reed” in the square cartouche refers to 1503, the year of Motecuhzoma’s coronation, while the day listed above it—“1 Crocodile”—corresponds to July 15, when the ceremony probably occurred. On the underside, the hieroglyphic date “1 Rabbit” denotes the beginning of things in the distant mythological past. The sculpture thus legitimizes Motecuhzoma’s rule as part of the cycle of birth, death, and renewal and presents him as heir to the world in the present era of creation.

On View

Arts of the Americas, Gallery 136

Artist

Aztec (Mexica) (Culture)

Title

Coronation Stone of Motecuhzoma II (Stone of the Five Suns), Coronation Stone of Moctezuma II ("Stone of the Five Suns"), Stone of the Five Suns

Places

(Object made in), Valley of Mexico (Object made in), Mexico (Object made in)

Date

1503

Medium

Basalt

Dimensions

55.9 × 66 × 22.9 cm (22 × 26 × 9 in.)

Credit Line

Major Acquisitions Fund

Reference Number

1990.21

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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