Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Moctezuma : Aztec Ruler....

....British Museum, until 24th Jan 2010.
Now, I'm not usually one for ancient history, but this was really very good. I'm not ashamed to say that I only visited after an offer of a free ticket, but it is worth the entrance fee anyway. The show explores the Aztec civilization through the last elected ruler, Moctezuma II, and displays an astounding amount of objects and information from 1502 - 1520.

Mosaic mask of Tezcatlipoboca, skull of the smoking mirror, one of the four powerful Aztec creator deities. Inlaid human skull with real teeth, lined with dear skin on which the moveable jaw is hinged. The long deerskin straps would have allowed the mask to be worn during ceremonies.

It is in these objects that I am fascinated - their opulence, craft and artistry. The obsession with turquoise and shimmering shattered shell. How on earth are these preserved so well after 500 years? It baffles me.

Stone box, 1506. Belonging to Moctezuma.

It was also interesting to read that as a leader, Moctezuma managed to balance being above the people, yet also amongst them. In fact his generosity and friendship highlighted, (and subsequently taken advantage of), when the Hernando Cortes led his Spanish fleet in to Tenochtitlan. Moctezuma welcomed Cortes, offering gifts, but soon, mistrust and a savage attack saw the Spanish decimate the once great Empire.

Turquoise mosaic mask, dated 1400-1521

It is a fantastic show - and perhaps one that can be seen again in years to come, as excavations are still on going, with more and more history being found, still to be explained.

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