While we were in the British Museum last month, we loved the Aztec sculptures found in the Ancient Americas room. (One of us also managed to set the alarm off in that room, but that is another story.) We particularly loved this serpent which is thought to have been made in Mexico by the Aztecs in the 15th century, possibly ending up in Europe after being given to the Conquistadors by Montezuma II, just before the collapse of the Aztec Empire.
It is made of carved wood and covered in small pieces of turquoise and shell which were very rare and highly prized. The eyes are missing, but were possibly precious or semi-precious stones. Serpents seem to have been important to the Aztecs and many of their Gods took the form of serpents. It is thought that this one could have been worn as a necklace in important rituals or ceremonies.
Here is how you can make one of your own:
You will need:
- some cardboard
- turquoise paper – we used a mixture of tissue paper and coloured paper
- some scraps of white, brown and red paper
- a couple of stick on gems or shiny paper
Cut out your serpent shape from the cardboard. You can use our Serpent Template to trace the shape. An adult might need to help to cut the shape out.
Next, cut out some small squares of turquoise paper and put glue onto the cardboard. You could stick the squares down individually, but it soon became clear that none of us had the patience to do this, so we just sprinkled them on like glitter. We cut some red squares and stuck them on the mouth and nose and some white teeth. For the eyes we put a circle of brown paper and stuck on a jewel.
To finish it, we covered the serpent in a coating of PVA glue to stick down all the flappy bits and give it a sheen. Once it was dry we trimmed the edges.
Finished! All ready to wear to your next Aztec ceremony.
Think you know all about the Aztecs? Take this Aztec quiz to find out.