Jade figure of an eagle warrior


British Museum

British Museum

The Mexica had two prestigious orders of warriors: the jaguar and the eagle. To enter these orders warriors had to demonstrate their military prowess by taking more than four captives in battle. Both nobles and commoners received military training but it was usually members of the nobility who entered these élite orders. The main objective of Mexica warfare was to capture prisoners for sacrifice and to obtain tribute from the newly conquered lands. During the 1980s archaeologists uncovered a building now called the House of the Eagles at the northern end of the Great Temple, the double pyramid dedicated to the Mexica gods Tlaloc and Huitzilopochtli, in Tenochtilan, the Mexica capital. Two life-size ceramic sculptures of Eagle Warriors flanked the entrance to the first room of the building. Their faces emerge from the gaping beaks of the eagle helmets; stucco feathers represent their costumes, each completed by a pair of claws inserted at knee height. These magnificent sculptures highlight the role of the élite warriors in the expansion of Mexica military control. The eagle also played an essential role in the legendary foundation of Tenochtitlan. According to the myth, Huitzilopochtli asked the Mexica to found their city where they saw an eagle perched upon a cactus. *The people and culture we know as 'Aztec' referred to themselves as the Mexica (pronounced Me-shee-ka).

Show lessRead more


  • Title: Jade figure of an eagle warrior
  • Date Created: 1300/1521
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 14.50cm; Width: 6.00cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Registration number: Am1856,0422.93
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Mexico
  • Period/culture: Aztec
  • Other information: Cultural rights may apply.
  • Material: jadeite
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Webster. Collected by Ashburnham, Charles