- Posted April 2, 2014 by
Kansas City, Missouri
The Ancient Aztec Eagle Warriors of Tenochtitlan
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I have an old artifact from Aztec culture that challenges me every time I look at it. The clay depiction of an "Eagle Warrior" is haunting in its simplicity and yet so complicated in its history.
The little figure is about 4" tall, and was a part of a larger vase or vessel at one time. The figure represents an Aztec Eagle Warrior from Tenochtitlan, an ancient civilization which geographically is now part of Mexico City. I received the little clay figure as a gift from my biological father in the 1970's. I remember touring a warehouse full of artifacts from Mexico in Houston, Texas at the time, and being told that the owner of the place had brought all of the stuff from Mexico into the US. (It was probably not entirely legal).
I was interested to know if my artifact was indeed authentic, so I took it to an expert at the San Diego Museum of Natural History. It was confirmed to be authentic, and about 1500 years old.
I was told the Eagle Warriors were a special sect of the Aztec culture. The "everyday" people of Tenochtitlan were very peaceful. The Eagle Warriors protected the populace, and were very fierce in battle. The Eagle Warriors were feared by enemies, and thus helped the people of Tenochtitlan to live a peaceful life without the threat of invasion. As protectors of the city, the Eagle Warriors enjoyed a special status above the average citizens.
The figure shows a warrior inside the costume of the open-mouthed eagle's head. Feathers are represented on each side of the of the face, and a tiny hole at the left earlobe (not shown in the photos) is where I was told a ceremonial ear piercing was attached to the figure.
The small clay image still bears the fingerprints and marks of the fingernails of it's maker as it was pressed into a mold so long ago. This is one of its most interesting characteristics. Who made it and under what circumstances was it created?.. Was is part of a religious tradition? Or was the figure just included in everyday pottery as a form of cultural tradition? I may never know the answers to these small questions. The larger outlook includes a glimpse into an ancient culture where a warrior's status and success insured the peaceful continuation of society for the everyday masses.
It's so interesting to look back into centuries past through the artifacts that remain in the present. I'm glad to have my little eagle warrior head to remind me of the Aztec culture that is now just a memory. The person that made it is long gone, and I am here in 2010, admiring the artwork, and remembering the history of a warrior long dead. Time marches on. What relics will I leave behind for others to discover 1500 years from now?I