Many of the most exciting and unusual works of art are the surviving Aztec face masks. These masks represent the Aztec people and the culture. There are incredibly few masks in existence today because the majority of them were destroyed by the fall of the empire. Museums all over the world still have some of the pieces on display. You can also find a few pieces in London’s British Museum, Paris’s Museum of Man, and Chicago’s Field Museum
History of the Aztecs
During the early centuries, the Aztec civilization became prominent in what is considered to be the Mexico of today. The Mexica tribe had either conquered or had brought together many of the Native America groups that were composed to form the Aztec Empire. The Aztec civilization’s government was a formal one as was their educational system. Their society was one of the most religious and very artistic. Hernan Cortes was a Spanish Conqueror who overthrew the Aztecs in the early part of 16th century. Some of the only symbols remaining of the fallen empire are the Aztec masks.
Masks: How They Were Made
The Aztecs used many different materials to make their masks. One such material is Obsidian. Obsidian is a piece of glass that is dark that comes from lava that has been rapidly cooled. They also use stone and wood to carve their masks in. When they decorate their masks, they use gold. They also gather bits of shells and coral to insert on the mask. They mix a vegetable resin that is somewhat like glue, and they will use that to hold the pieces of gold, jewelry and other things they use for decoration on the masks. They did make a few ceramic masks. The materials were very hard to find to the ceramic masks are not quite as common.
The Aztec’s liked to use the human features when making their masks. It is made it hard for them to recreate the facial characteristics of a god. Snakes, to the Aztecs, were known as scared. One of the gods they worshiped was Quetzalcoatl. He was a serpent god. They featured snakes on the crowns and headdresses that they would wear for ceremonies. Not to mention, the features of the masks have a lot to do with what makes up Aztec style today.
The Many Functions of the Aztec Masks
The Aztecs are very artistic people and took great pride in the masks that they made. The designs were carved and decorated for ornamental purposes or to be given as a gift or offering to the gods. Dancers would wear the masks for ritual ceremonies, and the priest would adorn their faces with the masks for religious ceremonies.
The Importance of the Mask
During human sacrifices, the masks would symbolize death, and they were the main component of the Aztec religion. Some of the gods that the Aztec natives prayed to are Tlaloc (The Rain God), Huitzilopochtli, (The patron God of the Aztecs), Xipe Totec, (the Flayed Lord), and hundreds more. Masks were typically worn to represent the gods themselves during ceremonies. These days, the Aztec art is among the most interesting and well investigated. Aztec art, jewelry, and culture are featured in lots of museums, books, and films.