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A chacmool (literally, "red" or "great jaguar paw") is a Mesoamerican human figural sculpture in a distinctive semireclining position, with legs flexed, chest raised at an incline, head looking toward the viewer, and holding a receptacle on its stomach. Twelve chacmools have been discovered at Chichén Itzá, eight are known from Tula, Hidalgo, and many others have been found at Tenochtitlán and sites in Veracruz, Tlaxcala, Michoacán, Querétaro, and Central America. They date from the Terminal Classic to Early Postclassic periods (c. 800–1521).

The chacmool generally has been considered a Toltec sculptural form, introduced at Chichén Itzá from Tula between about 900 and 1000. Some scholars question this view, however, since no pre-Toltec central Mexican prototype exists, and since a greater number come from Chichén Itzá. Mary Ellen Miller (1985) proposed that the chacmool derives from recumbent captives depicted in Classic Maya art.

The functions and cult associations of the chacmool may have varied over time. Late versions have been associated with fertility deities such as Tezcat-zoncatl, a Méxica pulque god, or the rain god Tlaloc. Earlier chacmools from Tula and Chichén Itzá lack distinctive deity associations but hold platelike receptacles for sacrificial offerings, suggesting they served as divine messengers.

See alsoTula .


Enrique Juan Palacios, "El simbolismo del chac-Mool: Su interpretación," in Revista Mexicana de Estudios Antropólógicos 4, nos. 1-2 (1940): 43-56.

César Lizardi Ramos, "El Chacmool mexicano," in Cuadernos Americanos 14 (March-April 1944): 137-148.

J. Corona Núñez, "Cual es el verdadero significado del Chac Mool?" in Tlatoani 1, nos. 5-6 (1952): 57-62.

Alfredo Cuellar, Tezcatzoncatl escultórico: El "Chac Mool" (el dios mesoamericano del vino) (1981).

Mary Ellen Miller, "A Re-Examination of the Mesoamerican Chacmool," in Art Bulletin 67, no. 1 (1985): 7-17.

Additional Bibliography

Jiménez García, Elizabeth. Iconografía de Tula: El caso de la escultura. México, D.F.: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 1998.

Macazaga Ordoño, César. Chac Mool: El señor de nuestro sustento. México, D.F.: Editorial Innovación, 1985.

Miller, Mary Ellen. Maya Art and Architecture. New York: Thames & Hudson, 1999.

                                     Jeff Karl Kowalski

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