The scientific tourist #359 — Ahuizotl

This week’s sciencey image comes to you from the “Mythic Creatures” traveling exhibit — it’s a 500 year-old carving of Ahuizotl:


Ahuizotl was a mythical creature to the Aztecs of Mexico, a doglike beast that lived at the bottom of deep pools of water, and cried at night like a baby to lure people to a watery death.  It had hands and feet like a monkey, and an extra hand on the end of its long tail — all the better to grab the unwary.  After a few days, a victim’s body would float to the surface, missing only its eyes, teeth, and nails.

This particular carving was placed in the wall of an Aztec temple near Tepoztlán, Mexico in the late 15th century.  Strictly speaking it’s a pictographic symbol, representing the Aztec ruler Ahuitzotl (who took for his own a modified version of the creature’s name).  The eighth Aztec ruler, he doubled the size of the Aztec empire between 1486 and 1502 AD.

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