Comparative Guts

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Depiction of an eagle devouring a human heart at the site of Tula

Site: Tula
Culture: Toltec
Date: Early Postclassic (c. AD 900-1200)
Context: Pyramid B
Medium: Stone relief
Figure credit: Photograph by Zeray Peter

Ornamenting the sides of the imposing Pyramid B at Tula, a wide range of felines, coyotes, and eagles are depicted devouring hearts. The eagle reproduced here, is carved in a low relief on a stone panel, and is seen clasping a stylized heart in its one claw, as it bites down with its beak. Hearts are similarly represented in central Mexican imagery, as seen in the iconography of Teotihuacan (see Figure 2), Cacaxtla (see Figure 3) and Tenochtitlan (see Figure 5). The entire iconographic program of Pyramid B concerns warfare and military orders and this panel fits squarely in those themes. These animals depicted were important totemic animals of war and warriors for the whole of central Mexico, almost serving heraldic functions in the representation of distinctive warrior orders, associated to different predatory animals. The devouring of hearts represents not just predatory acts but spell out the titles of a particular caste of warriors, who were known as the ‘devourers of hearts’. (LG)