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Coronation Stone of Motecuhzoma II (Stone of the Five Suns)

Aztec (Mexica)1503

The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago
Chicago, United States

This stone, commemorating the beginning of the reign of Emperor Motecuhzoma II, was originally located within the ritual center of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the extensive empire established by the Aztecs (Mexica) between 1428 and 1519. The ruins of Tenochtitlan lie beneath downtown Mexico City. Known as the “Stone of the Five Suns,” this monument draws connections between Aztec history and the cosmic scheme. The quadrangular block is carved with the hieroglyphic signs of five successive cosmic eras, called “suns” in the language of the Aztecs. These eras were mythic cycles of creation and destruction that began in the time of creation and continued with the birth of humankind and the period of Aztec rule. From “4 Jaguar” in the lower right corner, the eras proceed counterclockwise through “4 Wind,” “4 Rain,” and “4 Water.” The × motif carved in the center represents “4 Movement,” indicating the present era. The year “11 Reed” in the square cartouche refers to 1503, the year of Motecuhzoma’s coronation, while the day listed above it—“1 Crocodile”—corresponds to July 15, when the ceremony probably occurred. On the underside, the hieroglyphic date “1 Rabbit” denotes the beginning of things in the distant mythological past. The sculpture thus legitimizes Motecuhzoma’s rule as a part of the larger cycles of birth, death, and renewal and shows him as heir to the world in the present era.

Details

  • Title: Coronation Stone of Motecuhzoma II (Stone of the Five Suns)
  • Creator: Aztec (Mexica)
  • Date: 1503
  • Physical Dimensions: 55.9 × 66 × 22.9 cm (22 × 26 × 9 in.)
  • Type: Sculpture
  • External Link: The Art Institute of Chicago
  • Media: Basalt
  • Culture/Place: Tenochtitlan, Mexico
  • Credit Line: The Art Institute of Chicago, Major Acquisitions Fund, 1990.21
  • Artist: Aztec (Mexica)

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