If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Tlaloc vessel

Tlaloc vessel, c. 1440-70, found Templo Mayor, Tenochtitlan, ceramic (Museo del Templo Mayor, Mexico City) Speakers: Dr. Lauren Kilroy-Ewbank and Dr. Beth Harris.

Want to join the conversation?

No posts yet.

Video transcript

(piano jazz music) - [Narrator] We're in the Templo Mayor Museum here in Mexico City. The Templo Mayor refers to the main temple of the Aztec people that was located right next door and one of the two gods that were honored at that temple was Tlaloc and we're looking at a fabulous ceramic sculpture of Tlaloc's head. - [Narrator] Tlaloc was a deity associated with rain and agriculture and we we look at this pot, we see that it's painted in this beautiful turquoise blue with accents in red and yellow. And that beautiful Maya blue color is really key in its relationship to Tlaloc because it has these connotations with preciousness, with water, with vegetation. - [Narrator] And one of the ways that we can identify that this is Tlaloc in addition to the blue, which was the color that was valued across many Meso-American cultures, is those goggle eyes, those big circles for eyes. - [Narrator] And the fanged mouth too. These are the key features of Tlaloc. And as we look around the galleries that we're in right now, we can see a number of other objects displaying these goggle eyes and fangs. We can identify them as Tlaloc. - [Narrator] So Tlaloc was not just a god that was important to the Aztecs, but he was a god who was important to many Meso-American cultures. - [Narrator] He is this very ancient deity and in other cultures he had different names of course, but these goggle eyes and the fangs are pretty consistent in the iconography of cultures as diverse as say, the Maya and the Mixtec. - [Narrator] So he was part of an offering, he was found buried with many other objects. - [Narrator] So this particular vessel was found on the Tlaloc side of the Temple Mayor. It was one of many offerings that have since been found and included other types of objects like seashells, coral, the skeletons of aquatic animals, so things that we associate with bodies of water. And Tlaloc, that was his domain and so what we see here are the Aztecs bringing representative types of things back from the parts of the empire that they controlled and burring them at key points during the construction phases of their main temple. - [Narrator] It's interesting to think about the fact that the empire was founded on an island in the middle of a lake, 'cause when we look out of the window of the museum we see this vast city. This was once an island on a lake that has since been filled in but was very fertile. - [Narrator] Rain and agriculture being so key, it makes sense that he would be one of the major deities and one of two here at the Templo Mayor. We know that people were making pilgrimages or processing to say, Mount Tlaloc, which is on the edge of the lake. We know that the Aztecs were using what's called chinampa agriculture, essentially making raised beds on the edge of the lake to grow crops and provide food and so here at the Temple Mayor, if we're talking about the temple side devoted to Tlaloc, the various things that have been found affiliated with that side make it into this creation of what's called Tonacatepetl, this mountain of sustenance, which when paired with the other side devoted to the Aztec patron god of war and the sun, Huitxilopochtli, created this ultimate symbol of warfare. Water and fire when paired together meant burnt water, which was the symbol of war. - [Narrator] And which was so central a part of the culture of the Aztecs. (piano jazz music)