Jade figurine of Tlaloc
Mixtec, AD 1200-1521
This figurine was carved by Mixtec artisans and represents Tlaloc, the Rain God. Tlaloc is often depicted with 'goggle eyes' and fangs coming out of his mouth. He was an important god in the Mesoamerican pantheon, with representations found as early as the first century BC. His image can be seen on mural paintings, ceramics, stone carvings and illustrated codices. He is one of the most prominent deities at Teotihuacan (150 BC - AD 750). At Tenochtitlan, the Mexica* capital, one of the twin shrines in the Great Temple was dedicated to Tlaloc, and here many offerings were made, including jade or greenstone figurines carved in the Mixtec style.
Tlaloc was seen as having a vital role in the agricultural cycle: ensuring the timely rains and the growth of the crops. He could also provoke floods and storms. His feminine counterpart is Chalchiuhtlicue, associated with the spring water, rivers and lakes. The Tlaloques, his attendants, were each associated with a mountain, the place where storms are born. According to sixteenth-century chronicles, Mexica rulers made pilgrimages and brought offerings to images of rain gods set up on Mount Tlaloc, on the eastern side of the Valley of Mexico.
*The people and culture we know as 'Aztec' referred to themselves as the Mexica (pronounced Me-shee-ka).
K. Berrin and E. Pasztory (eds.), Teotihuacan: art from the city (Thames and Hudson, 1993)
R.F. Townsend, The Aztecs (London, Thames and Hudson, 2000)
W. Bray and L. Manzanilla (eds.), The archaeology of Mesoamerica (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)
C. McEwan, Ancient Mexico in the British (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)