Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Presented at Textile Society of America 11th Biennial Symposium: Textiles as Cultural Expressions, September 4-7, 2008, Honolulu, Hawai'i. Copyright © 2008 Jennifer E. Siegler


Textiles from central Mexico at the time of the Aztec empire are generally ascribed great significance due to the historical documentation of textile tribute offerings and sumptuary laws in which textiles identified social status; however, further research is warranted on the artistry of these textiles. While the climate of central Mexico is not conducive to preserving fiber materials, the rich manuscripts of this region preserve many images of textiles created during the Aztec empire. Early colonial manuscripts, many of which are copies of pre-conquest manuscripts no longer extant, preserve images of textiles from the pre-conquest period. These manuscripts provide invaluable information regarding the regional variations, creation technologies and costume elements for textiles.

The Matrícula de Tributos, Codex Mendoza, Codex Magliabechiano and the Florentine Codex will be comparatively analyzed to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the textile designs in use during the Aztec empire and provide contextual information on the function and status afforded certain textiles. The tribute records in particular are valuable for identifying regional design origins and material availability. Ethnographic sections of the manuscripts indicate the distribution and association of textiles with specific ranks of warriors and nobles. Through this manuscript comparison, I develop the argument that particular designs were autochthonous to certain regions and indicative of a specific status. Textiles with designs of diagonal bifurcations, conch shells, and jaguar pelts are the focus of this study as they are particularly revealing in terms of their origins, social significance, and the communication of broader cultural values.