- Museum number
- Series: The Turquoise Mosaics
Pendant in the form of an animal head. Made of wood and covered with turquoise and malachite mosaic held in place with pine resin adhesive.The eyes are made from pyrite and white and yellow striped conch (Strombus) shell. The open mouth is encrusted with gemstones (garnet, beryl, emerald, spinel, zircon) and lined with sharks teeth, all thought to be later additions. Two areas on the top of the head are encrusted with pearls giving the impression of 'eyebrows' but are probably a later modification, perhaps concealing damage due to loss of ears (?) originally present in this location. The pearls, gemstones and teeth are all held in place with beeswax. A hanging loop made from a ring of white conch (Strombus) shell is set into the top of the head. There appears (from rediography) to be a wire concealed inside the lower jaw.
- Production date
- 1400 - 1521
Height: 10 centimetres
Width: 7.30 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Mixtec with modern modifications and additions.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1987-1994, London, Museum of Mankind (Room 1), 'Turquoise Mosaics from Mexico'
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- For further acquisition details, see King et al. 2012. pp.194-195
All that is known about the animal head pendant is that it was purchased by the BM curator and benefactor A W Franks (1826-97) q.v. in 1868 from William Adams, who had also supplied the shield (Am St.397a);, and presented by Franks to the BM. Its acquisition is recorded in the Christy Collection Register on 7 August 1868 (BM, AOA). Read (1895: 396) notes that Adams said that it came from Northern Italy.
Franks’s sketched the mosaic shield in a notebook he used in 1870 (BM, P&E, 1). In the same notebook and on the same page, is a sketch of what might be an animal head. What is, however, odd is that it has two prominent ears – the BM’s head has none and the “dragon’s head” mosaic from Schloss Ambras, now in Vienna, has only one (Heger, 1892: 381). The latter appears in inventories from the sixteenth century onwards and was identified in 1891.
See M Caygill, ‘Henry Christy, A W Franks and the British Museum’s turquoise mosaics’ in King et al (eds) Turquoise in Mexico and North America: Science, Conservation, Culture and Collections (2012)
Read, H. (1895). “On an ancient Mexican Head-piece, coated with Mosaic,” Archaeologia LIV, II: 383-98.
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
CDMS number: Am1868C5.4001 (old CDMS no.)
Miscellaneous number: Am1868C0833.7