Featured Sites: Quetzalcóatl - The Feathered Serpent
Archaeological Site: La Venta
Title: Villahermosa - The Ambassador Monument
Date of Photograph: 1979
Photographer: Dr. Brian Hayden
Time Period: Preclassic
Location: Mexico; Tabasco
Subject: Art Site
The feathered serpent deity is almost universal in early Mesoamerican societies and its image is found at many archaeological sites.The feathered serpent is known by many names?the Plumed Serpent, Kukulk'an, and Guk'umatz?but the most well-known manifestation of the feathered serpent isthe Aztec god, Quetzalcóatl. Quetzalcóatl is a Nahuatl name meaning 'Precious Feather Serpent".
The earliest images of the feathered serpent are attributed to the Olmec. The figures carved on Monument 19 at the Olmec site of La Venta (1200 - 400 BC) include a serpent with possible feathers on its head. The deity reached its florescence during the Classic period. At Teotihuacán in central Mexico, the Temple-Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent was constructed to honour this god, and his image is found throughout the site. The god and the image were adopted by the Aztec, Maya, Toltec and Mixtec, although each culture had its own way of depicting and worshipping the feathered serpent. In his various incarnations, the feathered serpent was worshipped as the god of wind, the god of water and the morning star god. In 1519, the Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico about the same time the Aztec had predicted the return of Quetzalcóatl. Moctezuma II, the Aztec ruler, believed that Cortés was the "reincarnation" of the Feathered Serpent. Moctezuma thought that Quetzalcóatl had returned to punish his people for misdeeds and thus he did not defend his city against the invaders.