Turquoise mosaic skulls - understanding the creation of an object type

Author(s): Martin Berger

Year: 2017


In 1932, Alfonso Caso and his team found a human skull decorated with turquoise mosaic tesserae during their well-known excavation of Monte Albán’s Tumba 7. To this day, this is the only artifact of this type to have been found in a documented excavation. Nevertheless, at least twenty turquoise mosaic-decorated human skulls are currently held in museums and private collections. Many of these have been considered forgeries, others are considered authentic. Within this group, there are clear iconographic and stylistic differences, an indication that these ‘mosaic skulls’ were not all made by the same original culture, or forger. In this presentation, I will present an overview of the corpus of mosaic skulls known to date and trace their object biographies. Through this study of provenance and iconography, I will try to answer the question "Are mosaic skulls a twentieth century invention, or are they a genuine Mesoamerican artifact type?"

Cite this Record

Turquoise mosaic skulls - understanding the creation of an object type. Martin Berger. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429340)

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Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16761