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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 firstname.lastname@example.org
The “Coatlicues” as the Chicomecoatls: Rattlesnakes, Corn, and Aztec Science
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.