The Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas
IUAM Home Middle America previous next  
Collections main page back to thumbnails  
West Africa
Central Africa
The Americas
Middle America
South America

Native America


Pre-Columbian Americas
Mixtec culture, Mexico
Late Post-Classic period, 1200–1521
H. 2 1/4 in. (5.7 cm)
Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection
Indiana University Art Museum, 78.11.1

Mixtec craftsmen were known for their artistry in precious materials, including gold, which was not worked in Mexico until the Post-Classic period. This labret fit in a hole beneath the lower lip and was held in place by a flange resting against the lower gum and teeth. The depiction of the bird beak suggests that the labret may represent Quetzalcoatl, the plumed serpent and one of the most important Pre-Columbian deities, in his manifestation as the wind god, Ehecatl. The Aztecs believed that Ehecatl swept the streets before every rain.