Fragment of a stone box (tepetlacalli)

Mexica*, AD 1325-1521
From Mexico

Associated with Ahuitzotl, ruler of the Mexica capital

This fragment of a stone box is carved with various representations in relief. Tlaloc, the Mexica Rain God, is depicted in a horizontal position on the most complete side of the box. He holds a jar from which water and ears of corn flow. On the reverse of this scene there is an ahuitzotl (a mythical aquatic animal, similar to a dog), with a long coiled tail. The earth monster, Tlaltecuhtli, is carved on the bottom of the box and its reverse (inside).

This type of stone box was called tepetlacalli (stone house) in Nahuatl, the language spoken by the Mexica. There are at least thirty boxes known around the world, all carved with different scenes and motifs. Almost half of them bear a date from the native calendar. The stone boxes may have been used as containers for offerings, to hold ritual implements used in self-sacrifice to draw blood, or for the ashes of a deceased ruler or member of the nobility.

This box has been associated with Ahuitzotl, the eighth ruler (1486-1502) of the Mexica capital, Tenochtitlan, since the ahuitzotl carved on the reverse of the Tlaloc scene was also used as a sign to represent his name.

*The people and culture we know as 'Aztec' referred to themselves as the Mexica (pronounced Me-shee-ka).

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More information


L. López Luján, The offerings of the Templo Ma (University Press of Colorado, 1994)

E. Pasztory, Aztec art (New York, Abrams, 1983)

H.B. Nicholson and E. Quiñones Keber, Art of Aztec Mexico, treasures (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1983)


Height: 23.000 cm
Width: 34.000 cm
Diameter: 18.000 cm

Museum number

AOA Q82.Am860


Brasseur de Bourbourg Collection
Gift of Sir A.W. Franks


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