Aztec Double-Headed Serpent - Aztec/Mixtec, 15th-16th century AD, Mexico
Splendid relic of the Aztecs, who rose from squalid origins to power and riches in just 200 years, this double-headed rattlesnake serpent was used as a ceremonial chest ornament that may have been worn by a priest. It is incrusted with scales of turquoise, a stone the Aztecs imported from the outposts of their empire to adorn some of their most beautiful possessions. This piece is the work of a Mixtec jeweller, and dates from the 15th century. Mixtec craftsmanship was highly prized; an entire enclave of artisans from this culture lived in the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. In mesoamerican culture, serpents were very important religious symbols, the shedding of their skin made them a symbol of rebirth and renewal. One of the main mesoamerican deities, Quetzalcoatl, was represented as a feathered serpent.
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