Lidded box, decorated with reliefs, tepetlacalli

Aztecs, Mexico
1502 - 1520
Collection Albert Hackmack, 1900
l. 33,5 cm, w. 21 cm, ht. 15 cm
Inv. Nr. B 3767


This gray-green lidded stone box from the Hackmack Collection is one of the most famous examples of Aztec stonemasonry. It is decorated on all sides with high-quality reliefs and also on the inside of the lid. These include glyphs with dates as well as representations of mythical and probably also historical figures, such as that of the last Aztec ruler Motecuhzoma II. The latter even might have commissioned this work. On the top of the box there is a descending feathered snake with two date glyphs, while on the underside one can see the monstrous earth god Tlaltecuhtli. Altogether, the representations refer to complex cosmic coherences in which the ruler plays a mediating role. The receptacles referred to in Nahuatl as tepetlacalli (“stone box”) were probably used to keep offerings, ritual utensils or the ashes of deceased rulers.