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we're in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City and we're looking at a monumental basalt sculpture this is just fantastic so what we're looking at is the famous katli Quay now Courtley Quay is an Aztec goddess she is that the mother of the patron deity Huitzilopochtli he's one of the principal gods of the Aztec Pantheon he's the God of War and he's also associated with the Sun but here we're seeing a monumental sculpture of this goddess and in fact we think that she was one of several monumental figures of goddesses found in the sacred precinct under what is now Mexico City the sacred precinct was located the very center of the Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlan we refer to the sacred precinct as the axis mundi this center of the world the axis point around which the entire universe revolved to the aztecs this is laden Aztec culture in just a couple of decades the Spanish will arrive and the Aztec empire will be dismantled but at this point the Aztecs ruled Mesoamerica they ruled a vast portion of Mesoamerica not the entirety but a large portion of what is today say central Mexico this is one of the most amazing sculptures to stand before and yet here we are in the Anthropology Museum and we're standing among so many incredible finely carved basalt sculptures what I always find so wonderful about her is that she's leaning forward what makes her feel even more monumental even more dangerous even more present as we stand before her so this is a really complicated figure let's start at the bottom we do see two feet but these feet have claws and they have eyes these are like monster feet there's amorphized with these talons and eyes and as we rise up we see fur or feathers and patterned areas and it's important to remember all of this would have originally been brightly painted and above that a most important component of this sculpture at least how we identify the sculpture is the skirt we have all of these amazing intertwined snakes and you can see not only the snake's heads but also their rattles these are rattlesnakes poisonous snakes they're intertwined in the most complex her name literally means sneaky skirt or snakes her skirt and for instance one of the other large female figures that we see from this precinct is known as Hearts for skirt and instead of snakes we see human hearts that skirt is bound together by this belt which has both on the front and the back a human skull and the skull is Bassem together with another two snakes and the tassels of the belt are the heads of these snakes perhaps the most terrifying part of the sculpture is just above that where we see a necklace made up of alternating hands and human hearts this necklace covers her exposed torso and we can actually see her pendulous breasts indicating that she given birth to children which is also referenced in the roll on her stomach for me I think the part that I always have found most interesting is that the fact that she's decapitated and we know that because we can see these circular forms just above the clavicle those circles are signs of preciousness which in this case is probably a reference to blood some kind of precious liquid so what we're seeing above that is not her head but instead two snakes that are winding out of her neck and come together face to face this is a convention for spurting blood and what's wonderful about this is these two snakes almost form a frontal facing snake head we see the tongues hanging down the bared teeth and this is really where Aztec sculptor for me are so impressive we not only have the scales of the snakes to find but also even the underbelly of the snake and then there are the arms these are a little bit hard to read we have her forearm up so that the back of her hand is against her shoulder it almost has this impression as if she's about to pounce and then we have snakes rising from her wrists which also indicates that she was dismembered at the wrists and that again we have maybe spurting blood from where her hands would have been but this is only the front of the sculpture and his sculpture is actually carved in the round not only on the sides but also on the back and even underneath and as we want the back what you can also see on the arms that are pulled back are like the feet monster joints these kind of zoom horrifies faces with bared teeth with the eyes and of course this wonderful snake skirt and a kind of bustle that shows the snakes woven together with their rattles as tassels and another skull fastened at the belt but what I find most fascinating is that this massive piece of stone is actually carved below as well with a shallow relief carving which we can see in reproduction on the bottom of this sculpture we have the earth Lord or salt acutely so this God the earth God would have had this sculptural relief facing him that is facing down to the earth we actually see this on a lot of Aztec sculptures where this earth Lord would have been touching the surface of the earth think about the engineering that's involved here moving a piece of basalt this large but then being able to up end it so that you can carve the bottom of it and then move it into place without destroying it is a phenomenal idea when the sculpture was found in 1790 in what was then New Spain this must have been a terrifying image that was countered to everything that the Europeans and their Christianity represented when this was dug up near the main temple of the Aztecs in what had formerly been the sacred precinct it was discovered with the famous calendar stone or more correctly the Sunstone and people were both fascinated and disturbed by this sculpture in particular because it was so different than anything that they had seen and so they reburied it because it was considered so terrifying whereas they took the other sculpture and placed it into the exterior of the cathedral I love that this was so terrifying that it had to be reburied and that it was only excavated much more recently so much of this iconography so much of the imagery that's carved onto this figure is terrifying is aggressive to our sensibilities today and it gets led so many people to emphasize the issue of human sacrifice in a stet culture human sacrifice did occur not to the extent that early colonial Spanish sources proclaim their sources that claim that 84,000 people were killed in a single day which logistical II just seems a little challenging and I think where we can see some of those potential references to sacrifice would be in things like the necklace of human hearts and hands which might be a poetic metaphor but it may also be a metaphor for sacrifice itself but in the 21st century to see a towering sculpture ten feet tall this massive stone depicting human hearts and human hands fangs and snakes it is a stunning image and I think is a true testament to the artists of mashiki culture Aztec culture this particular sculpture is very well preserved and it shows us the interest in the natural world say in snakes but combined where you have this wonderful vision of a supernatural deity you