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PCSNY March Lecture–Lois Martin

March 10, 2016 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

The following lecture will take place at 6 pm on Thursday, March 10th in the Lecture Hall of the Institute of Fine Arts, 1 East 78th Street at Fifth Avenue. A reception with wine and cheese will follow in the Loeb Room. RSVP to info@pcsny.org

The “Coatlicues” as the Chicomecoatls: Rattlesnakes, Corn, and Aztec Science

Lois Martin
(Independent Scholar)

The Aztec stone colossus known as Coatlicue shows the headless and handless body of a standing, bare-breasted woman with a skirt of intertwined snakes and a necklace of human hearts and hands. Rattlesnakes emerge from her severed neck and wrists; these have long been interpreted as torrents of blood streaming from mortal wounds. Along with three other almost identical “sister” statues, Coatlicue has been understood as a sacrificial victim—of the sort that the Aztec state executed in gruesome public spectacles. My research re-examines Coatlicue’s snakes and finds nuanced details that faithfully reproduce the morphology and seasonal behavior of a specific type of rattlesnake with multiple associations to maize. I will argue that the monument is an Aztec version of a pan-Mesoamerican iconography linking regal authority to maize agriculture, and that the statue records sophisticated biological information gleaned from the practice of Aztec science, and not just sensational gore.

Chicomecoatl codex florentine copy


March 10, 2016
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm




NYU Institute of Fine Arts
1 E. 78th St.
New York, NY 10075 United States
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