Caroline Livingston Ms
8 November 2018
The Art of Stone
The early civilizations left many landmark footprints that have enabled archeologists and even historians to reconstruct their way of living. The most common of these discoveries to survive are landmarks made of stone. These landmarks have been seen to be decorated with engravings and even arranged in a manner to uphold a hidden meaning or purpose. The Stonehenge and Coatlicue are some of the landmarks that have been uncovered and expose historical information never known before. While the significance of Stonehenge may be more vast when compared to the sculpture of Coatlicue, both offer insight into the cultural background and methodology used for the time periods they were constructed in.
The arrangement of stones known as Stonehenge dates back to the time period of 9000 B.C.E. The landmark is located in the region of Gobekli Tepe, Turkey. The megaliths that were used in this landmark weighed up to fifty tons. The height of the stones reaches up to twenty feet. The purpose behind the construction of this Neolithic site is thought to be religious. The stones would have served as a sacred place for burials. Stonehenge is also believed to have been used as a way to track time and predict the movements of the sun and moon. There are still many stones that belong to the site that have not yet been discovered (Fiero 5-6).
The stones were brought to Gobekli Tepe through several predicted methods. The large stones were moved by a method of pulling. The original location of the stones is believed to be some twenty miles away from their current location. The location of the smaller stones, however, was much further. It is predicted that they traveled at least two hundred miles to find them. The method of transport for these stones was by water or rollers. After the stones arrived at their location in Turkey they formed them in a series of circles. The smaller stones formed an outer circle. Then, inside of this circle was another circle of larger stones. They were positioned to form four arches. The placement of these arches was based upon the location of the North Star. This helped the civilization to clock the seasons based upon rising of the sun and moon (Fiero 5-6).
The civilization known as the Aztecs was also very skilled in the artwork of stone. On a mission to conquer, they traveled to Mexico to create an empire. It was in Mexico City that the Aztecs carved a stone known as Coatlicue. The purpose behind this carving was to serve worship towards the god known as Coatlicue who was the mother of the gods. They took her features, both feline and human, and created a sculpture. Coatlicue’s head is depicted as being two snake heads emerged into one. The hands of the goddess are claws. She also wears a necklace composed of human remains, more specifically the heart, hands and skull (Fiero 258-259).
The act of carving stones and creating statues was a tradition to the Aztecs. The statue of Coatlicue, the Mother of Gods stands to be eight feet tall (Fiero 258). Coatlicue is a representation of both life and death. The justification of the goddess’ name is represented by the interwoven serpents that form her skirt (Anuel). The gory representation of bloodshed, and death was of importance to the Aztecs culture. This was because they were active participants in sacrificial rituals. Their goal in the making of the stone carvings was to create fearful depictions of their gods and goddesses. In fact, Coatlicue has been reburied multiple times after having been discovered by other civilizations because they found her alarming (De León).
One similarity that exists between Stonehenge and Coatlicue is that they are both composed of stone. In both the Neolithic and the Aztec civilizations, it is vital to note that the civilizations utilized stones to make their sculptures. This is of importance because stones were the easiest raw materials for the construction of sculptures. The stone landmarks are also similar in that they both contain engravings of human remains and snakes (Fiero 5).
Another similarity that is found between the stone landmarks is that they were used to perform religious acts. In the case of the Stonehenge, the religious acts that were performed were funeral rituals. The ground surrounding the landmark of the Stonehenge contains the remains of humans in ash form. The remains of bone fragments that were not cremated have also been found (Parker). The stone figure of Coatlicue acted as a site for sacrificial rituals. The Aztecs would worship Coatlicue’s statue by covering her in blood, jewelry and gold (Fiero 258).
However, the two landmarks differ in the size and the amount of stones that were used. The Stonehenge was created using stones that reached up to twenty feet (Fiero 6). Whereas, the stone carving of Coatlicue only reaches up to eight feet tall (Fiero 258). The Stonehenge was also created used a range of stones, but Coatlicue was constructed using one stone.
Another notable difference that exists between the two sculptures is the fact that the statue of Coatlicue had only one purpose. The statue of Coatlicue represents a deity that was worshiped by the Aztecs. The statues purpose was for religious reasons only. Whereas, the Stonehenge had several purposes. One purpose for the site was to serve as a burial ground. The Stonehenge was also utilized to track the seasons. This was beneficial because it also helped them to know when to begin agricultural production.
Like discussed in this paper, the previous civilizations had an appreciation of art in ways that can only be realized by a keen observation of the sculptures that have been discussed in the first and second primary works in this paper. For this reason, the people’s cultures in the Neolithic and the Aztec civilizations can be traced in this sculptures. One common thing between the two civilizations is that the humans in this civilizations did perform rituals which means that they must have all had an appreciation of a supreme deity.
ANUEL AGUILAR-MORENO, Ph.D. AZTEC ART – Part 1. Retrieved from:
De León, Ann. “Coatlicue or How to Write the Dismembered Body.” MLN, vol. 125 no. 2, 2010, pp. 259-286. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/mln.0.0243.
Fiero, G K. Landmarks in Humanities. 4th ed. McGraw Hill, 2013.
Parker Pearson, M. and Chamberlain, A. and Jay, M. and Marshall, P. and Pollard, J. and
Richards, C. and Thomas, J. and Tilley, C. and Welham, K. (2009) ‘Who was buried at Stonehenge?’, Antiquity., 83 (319). pp. 23-39. Retrieved from: http://dro.dur.ac.uk/5849/1/5849.pdf.