What is Chacmool
Chacmool (also spelled chac-mool) is the term used to refer to a particular form of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican sculpture depicting a reclining figure with its head facing 90 degrees from the front, supporting itself on its elbows and supporting a bowl or a disk upon its stomach.
This is a video of a Chacmool in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico.
These figures possibly symbolised slain warriors carrying offerings to the gods.
The bowl upon the chest was used to hold sacrificial offerings, including pulque, tamales, tortillas, tobacco, turkeys, feathers and incense. In an Aztec example the receptacle is a cuauhxicalli (a stone bowl to receive sacrificed human hearts).
Variations of Chacmool
There is great variation among individual chacmools, with some possessing heads that are right-facing and others left-facing, and some with the heads facing upwards; some examples have movable heads. The figure may be lying on its back or on its side and the abdomen can be sunken below the level of the chest and knees or at the same level.
A wide variety of materials were used to sculpt chacmools, including limestone and hard metamorphic and igneous rock types. Other materials employed include ceramic and cement.
Locations and Naming
Examples of chacmool sculptures have been found widely across Mesoamerica from Michoacan in Mexico down to El Salvador.
The chacmool is distinctive statuary that has been found predominately at two Mesoamerican sites: Tula, home of the Toltec civilization near present day Mexico City, and Chichen Itza, nearly twelve hundred kilometers to the east in the northern Yucatan Peninsula deep in Maya territory.
This is a tour video of Chicken Itza. Watch the video and pay attention to the new vocabulary. Write down the new vocabulary in your notebook. Remember, Spanish is a very phonetic language, so try to write down as many new words as you can even you might not spell them correctly. We will discuss the new vocabulary later.
Chichen Itza was one of the largest Maya cities and it was likely to have been one of the mythical great cities.
The first interpretation is that the chacmool is an offering table (or tlamanalco) to receive gifts such as pulque, tamales, tortillas, tobacco, turkeys, feathers and incense.
The second is that the chacmool was a cuauhxicalli to receive blood and human hearts; this use is particularly relevant to the Aztecs, who used a cuauhxicalli bowl in place of the usual disc-altar.
It has also been suggested that chacmools were used as a techcatl, or sacrificial stone over which victims were stretched so their hearts could be cut from their chests.