Calcite onyx ritual container in the form of a feline

Teotihuacan culture (150 BC - AD 750)
From Mexico

This striking vessel, found at Teotihuacan in 1889, is sculpted in the form of a feline, probably a jaguar. Two cavities carved on its back indicate that it was probably used as a ritual container, perhaps a cuauhxicalli, a vessel for human hearts extracted in ritual sacrifices.

Felines are often represented at Teotihuacan in mural paintings, pottery and other media. Jaguars, in particular, were greatly revered by the people of Teotihuacan and other Mesoamerican cultures (for example, Olmec, Maya and Aztec) and were associated with rulership.

Mural paintings depicting felines have been found, mainly in apartment compounds but also in some of the buildings bordering the Street of the Dead. One such building, now called the Palace of the Jaguars and located near the Pyramid of the Moon, depicts a procession of jaguars blowing large conch shell trumpets. In many instances, felines are shown in human pose, clothing and even with human body parts. It is possible that these anthropomorphic jaguars are impersonators dressed as felines for certain ceremonies.

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More information


J.C. Berlo (ed.), Art, ideology and the city of (Washington, D.C., Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1992)

K. Berrin and E. Pasztory (eds.), Teotihuacan: art from the city (Thames and Hudson, 1993)

C. McEwan, Ancient Mexico in the British (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)

E. Pasztory, Teotihuacan: an experiment in (Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1997)


Height: 16.000 cm
Width: 31.000 cm
Length: 33.500 cm

Museum number

AOA 1926-22



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