Pre-Columbian, Mexico City region, Aztec, Post-classic Mexico, ca. 1300 to 1500 CE. A dramatic coiled rattlesnake, carved from black basalt, with its center hollowed out to form the bowl of a mortar. The neatly spaced scales, carefully delineated rattle, and large head of the animal are all wonderfully displayed here. The head has its mouth open, its fangs at the ready, though its coiled posture does not suggest an attack. The eyes are wide and incised, the nostrils raised. The symbolism of the snake was central to Aztec religion; the mother goddess, Coatlicue, takes her name from the Nahuatl for "snake" and "skirt" - "she who has the skirt of snakes". In numerous carvings known from Tenochtitlan and other Aztec cities, she is depicted wearing her skirt made of writhing rattlesnakes, her head formed by the heads of two serpents who face each other, wearing a necklace made of human skulls, hearts, and hands. Beyond their association with the goddess, the snake's skin shedding was seen as symbolic of the cyclical nature of life and agriculture. Size: 7.55" W x 5" H (19.2 cm x 12.7 cm)
Provenance: private southwestern Pennsyvania, USA collection
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Intact, with surface wear commensurate with age, including some weathering and pitting. Interior of mortar shows signs of having been used with some scratching/smoothing of the surface. Excellent preservation of detail and form.