Object of the Month

The Macuahuitl

by Amanda Mather

The MACUAHUITL is possibly the coolest thing ever. What is it you ask? It was the Mesoamerican sword/chainsaw/club of nightmares. A long wooden handle with a paddle at the end that was covered on the outside edge with super sharp square or round pieces of obsidian.

The obsidian was inserted into a slit on the outside edge of the paddle and then held firmly with adhesive. Sometimes the blades were farther apart, inflicting a chainsaw like injury. Others had them closer together creating a smooth blade sharper then any steel could be.

According to first hand Spanish by Bernal Diaz del Castillo who re-counted Cortez’s expedition into Mexico City the macuahuitl was capable of decapitating not just a human, but a horse. So yeah…think about that for a minute. But not to long cause you might want to sleep tonight.

The macuahuitl was distributed through many cultures and many parts Mesoamerica including the Aztecs, Maya, Mixtec and Toltec cultures. So what, you ask does this crazy rad weapon have to do with New Mexico or El Rancho?

Well, when Coronado came to New Mexico he brought with him 3,000 Native peoples from the Valley of Mexico. As Aztec warriors the macuahuitl would have more than likely been carried all the way up to New Mexico. We have found some archaeological evidence, in the form of very specific shaped obsidian blades, that indicate they indeed made it to our fair state.

The last authentic macuahuitl was destroyed in a museum fire in Madrid Spain in the 1880s but many reproductions have been made and some even used in experimental archaeology to see what they could cut through. Answer: a lot.

You can see a fantastic reproduction macuahuitl at Coronado Historic Site in Bernalillo, along with a great lesson and exhibit about the Native Mexicans that accompanied Coronado.

So think if you will of the macuahuitl, and how we should all get together at some point and write a really cool horror movie! The macuahuitl will of course, be the leading lady.