The Sun, the Xiuhcoatl and the eagle: incense burners found at the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan

Author(s): Miguel García González

Year: 2015


In 2009 a spectacular offering containing incense burners was excavated close to the area in which the Tlaltecuhtli monolith was located. Three of these artifacts preserved complex decoration, similar to the iconography that characterizes the incense burners discovered in 1900. Two of the handles of these ritual objects represent disarticulated eagle legs, while the other symbolize the segmented body of a mythical creature, the Xiuhcoatl. The eagle was an essential animal for the Mexica: it was the representation of the Sun and their pelts were dressed by rulers and depictions of gods. It was considered the symbol of bravery and force. On the other hand, the Xiuhcoatl was Huitzilopochtli’s weapon. The body of this animal was composed of trapezoid motifs, culminating in triangular design adorned with flowers of the species Tagetes lucida. This mythical being was related to the Sun and it was considered the nagual of the gods Huitzilopochtli and Xiuhtecuhtli. Designs from this incense burner also evoke the butterfly, insect that symbolized fire, rebirth and the soul of the dead warriors. In this paper I will address the symbolism and use of these complex ritual artifacts in the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan.

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Cite this Record

The Sun, the Xiuhcoatl and the eagle: incense burners found at the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan. Miguel García González. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396542)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;