The Tizoc Stone

When one enters the Aztec exhibit at the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City there is an immediate sense of ancient power radiating from the artifacts in the room. To the left a beautiful representation of Moctezoma the Second’s plumed crown, to the right a stone sculpture of Quetzalcoatl stays resting with earthly power, and right in plain view at the back of the room on a center stage is the famous Calendar Stone like a crown jewel. There is one artifact closer to the front of the room that has just as much importance as these other masterpieces that affected the foundation of Aztec society itself before the Spanish came. This artifact is the Tizoc Stone; a three foot tall, eight foot diameter Temalácatl (round stone) covered in beautiful iconography depicting the feats of gods and a past emperor by the name of Tizoc.[1]

This stone speaks of numerous victorious campaigns lead by Lord Tizoc between his ascension to emperor in 1481 and his death in 1486. In these campaigns he captured new lands for the glory of the Aztec people, and squashed rebellions that would have squandered the honor of the kingdom. This is depicted by fourteen warriors on the side of the stone capturing gods of conquered civilizations [2].

One of these warriors is Tizoc himself, depicted with a large feathered crown and armor that is usually associated with the Warring Sun god, Huitzilopochtli. In reality, Tizoc was a horrible military ruler, which translates to him being a terrible ruler over all to the war like culture of the Aztec people. He was a terrible strategist and although he did succeed in squashing rebellions it was a long, messy process when a competent ruler would have terminated the issue with swiftness and ease. The difference between what the stone depicts and the reality of the situation is a great learning tool for historians and archaeologists alike. This is because it shows that the Aztec, like other Mesoamerican cultures, used propaganda as a means of maintaining a belief in the power of the empire.

Besides being a historical record, the stone has religious significance in the form of worshipping Huitzilopochtli. Besides the sun gods iconography on the carving of Emperor Tizoc, the top of the stone is a large sun with eight points, four of which depict the four cardinal directions, and one is used as a drain for the blood of sacrificial victims.

Sacrifice directly ties in with the worship of Huitzilopochtli, and the sacrificial ritual affiliated with the Tizoc stone is unique to the sun gods other domain of war. The victim would be the bravest warrior that the Aztecs captured on a raid. This brave warrior would then be tied to the Tizoc Stone by his ankle with rope, wearing no armor and only armed with a wooden club. He would then be attacked one at a time by fully armored Jaguar Knights wielding a macahuitl, a obsidian bladed club, and a shield. This ritual was made to be unfair for the victim to represent the struggle of battle and war [3]. The Tizoc stone opened the door for study into other potential form of ritual practiced by the Aztec.