Height: 32.500 cm
Width: 23.000 cm
Room 27: Mexico
Stone bust of Quetzalcoatl
Mexica*, AD 1325-1521
This sculpture represents the Mexica god Quetzalcoatl. His name in Nahuatl, the language spoken by the Mexica, means Feathered (quetzal feather) Serpent. The serpent's coils of the sculpture are covered with feathers and the face of the god (or an impersonation) emerges wearing the curved shell ear ornaments characteristic of representations of this god.
The cult of Quetzalcoatl was widespread throughout Mesoamerica, although it was known by different names at different periods. While his various aspects and origins are far from clear, Quetzalcoatl is said to have been one of the Mexica creator gods.
According to the Mexica creation myth there were four suns or worlds before the present one, each of them created and destroyed in a different way. When the fourth sun was destroyed by floods the gods decided to create a new one. To create a new race of humans, Quetzalcoatl descended to the lower levels of the Underworld. He managed to trick Mictlantecuhtli and retrieved the bones of the people of the fourth sun. With those bones and some of his blood he gave life to the humans that inhabited the present world.
*The people and culture we know as 'Aztec' referred to themselves as the Mexica (pronounced Me-shee-ka).
M. E. Miller and K. Taube, An illustrated dictionary of t (London, Thames and Hudson, 1997)
C. McEwan, Ancient Mexico in the British (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)