Comparative Guts

Close this search box.

Depiction of a mortuary bundle at Teotihuacan, here adorned with human hearts and intestines.

Site: Teotihuacan
Culture: Teotihuacan
Date: Early Classic (c. AD 250-550)
Context: Tetitla, Portico 11, Mural 3
Medium: Polychromatic mural painting
Figure credit: Photograph by Christophe Helmke


Long thought to represent one of the salient female deities of the ancient pantheon of Teotihuacan, this depiction is now much better understood as a complex combination of elements of writing, juxtaposed into a glyphic compound. In fact, rather than a deity, this glyphic compound records a particular toponym—perhaps naming the very building that is adorned by this mural, as a type of charnel house. The central figure represents a mortuary bundle, which has been given a living guise, through the greenstone mask, earflares and necklaces, as well as the prominent headdress that adorn the mummy. The mortuary themes are highlighted by the two human hearts that are embedded in either end of the headdress, as is the large intestines that are draped across the headdress, and which also serves as one of the necklaces. The hands that jut out on either side appear to conduct a so-called scattering rite, an emulation of agricultural sowing, in a sign of fertility emanating from death. (CH)