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Obsidian mirror

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Dated: 1400-1520

Cultural Context: Aztec style. Late Post-classic

Origin: Central highlands. Mexico (North America)

Medium: Obsidian

Technique: Carved, Abraded, Polished

Dimensions: Height = 31.4 cm; Depth = 6.5 cm; Mirror: Height = 25.5 cm; Width = 21.5 cm; Thickness = 1.8 cm; Stand: Width = 21 cm

Inventory no.: 09996

Circular mirror made of obsidian. It has a curved extension with a central hole, possibly to set the piece in some kind of support.

Obsidian or volcanic glass was a particularly prized raw material in pre-Hispanic times. It was used throughout the Americas for the manufacture of utilitarian, ritual and sumptuary objects. Thus, the intense shine of its polished surface was used for example to make mirrors. These were luxury items and a clear sign of high social status. These pieces were loaded with ritual and religious connotations, and they were present from Olmec times in many formal artistic representations. By the Post-classic period, obsidian mirrors appeared as objects associated with the god Tezcatlipoca (Nahuatl for ‘smoking mirror’), identified with the royal dynasties.

This artefact was placed on a stand in the contemporary period.