Rain God Mask

Date: 13th–14th century

Geography: Mexico, Mesoamerica

Culture: Mixtec

Medium: Serpentine

Dimensions: H. 5 1/2 x W. 6 x D. 3 in. (14 x 15.2 x 7.6 cm)

Classification: Stone-Sculpture

Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979

Accession Number: 1979.206.1062


Many peoples in ancient Mexico made masks of different types and in a variety of materials. Some depict idealized human faces, others animals or supernatural beings. How the masks functioned is not always clear. Only a few have been discovered in archaeological contexts and life-uses are hard to make out. Face-size examples with holes for eyes and mouth were presumably worn in processions or on ceremonial occasions. Masks with no such openings may have been laid upon the dead; or they might have been tied to statuary or deity bundles, as the holes on the sides of the forehead of this mask suggest. Still others are small enough to be worn as pendants or as part of headdresses. This mask, carved from a light green serpentine, depicts the rain god Tlaloc with the characteristic ringed eyes, prominent teeth, and a mouth with an upper lip-moustache that curls on each side. He also wears a nose bar in the nasal septum.