Jade figure of an eagle warrior

Mexica*, AD 1325-1521
From Mexico

An élite Mexica warrior

The Mexica had two prestigious orders of warriors: the jaguar and the eagle. To enter these orders warriors had to demonstrate their military prowess by taking more than four captives in battle. Both nobles and commoners received military training but it was usually members of the nobility who entered these élite orders. The main objective of Mexica warfare was to capture prisoners for sacrifice and to obtain tribute from the newly conquered lands.

During the 1980s archaeologists uncovered a building now called the House of the Eagles at the northern end of the Great Temple, the double pyramid dedicated to the Mexica gods Tlaloc and Huitzilopochtli, in Tenochtilan, the Mexica capital. Two life-size ceramic sculptures of Eagle Warriors flanked the entrance to the first room of the building. Their faces emerge from the gaping beaks of the eagle helmets; stucco feathers represent their costumes, each completed by a pair of claws inserted at knee height. These magnificent sculptures highlight the role of the élite warriors in the expansion of Mexica military control.

The eagle also played an essential role in the legendary foundation of Tenochtitlan. According to the myth, Huitzilopochtli asked the Mexica to found their city where they saw an eagle perched upon a cactus.

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

Find in the collection online

More information


M. E. Miller and K. Taube, An illustrated dictionary of t (London, Thames and Hudson, 1997)

R.F. Townsend, The Aztecs (London, Thames and Hudson, 2000)

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


Height: 14.500 cm
Width: 6.000 cm

Museum number

AOA 1856,4-22.93


Gift of Lady Webster


Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore