On January 9, 1932, archaeologist Alfonso Caso, his wife, María Lombardo and a small group of archaeologists and workers, made one of the most important discoveries of Mexican Archaeology insofar as it relates to a finding of gold in quantity and quality.
Million gold and silver kilos of were subtracted from the Cem Anáhuac during the three centuries of colony, little, very little was spared from robbery and barbarism, as the wonderful Anahuac jewelry was melted and converted into ingots to start capitalism in the very poor Europe of the 16th century.
However, the precious metal did not mean the same for the two cultures. For our old grandparents it was a philosophical symbol of purity and beauty. For Europeans, it was just material wealth. Anahuacas goldsmiths were symbolically "Toltec", artists who transformed matter and turned it into an instrument of the spirit to transcend consciousness.
The goldsmith was then an artist and life the means to get to his masterpiece, which was nothing but reaching the exciting revelation of his luminous consciousness. Then jewelry and lapidary became metaphorical symbols.
The gold and precious stones, especially jade; were, the one (gold) symbol of purity which reaches the matter and thereby evade the corruption to which matter is subjected; and the other; jade, symbolizes the stone that from the force of carving reaches to its degree of perfection and beauty.
The constant symbolism of the gemstone (chalchihuitl) as the soul of the individual. In this way man was an artist himself.
"Thus, the golden age of the Toltec was to later Nahua root and inspiration of their artistic creations. The description of what the word toltecatl meant for them, identified with what we would today call "artists", seems to be better confirmation of what was said: Toltec: artist, disciple, abundant, multiple, restless. The true artist: capable, trains, is skillful, converses with his heart, find things with his mind.
The true artist takes all out from his heart; work with delight, makes things easy, careful works as Toltec, fixes things, work skillfully, creates; fix things, makes them beautiful, makes them fit.'' Mexican Songs.
This wonderful "Toltec woirk" was learnt in the Calmecac, superior school where the secret knowledge of ancient philosophy was taught. The work was done based on "flower and song", metaphorically referring to the ancient knowledge and practices of the teachers Toltec.
"there is a sprout of precious stones,
a flourish of quetzal feathers,
are these your heart, giver of life?"
Ms. Mexican songs.
So all this hints at the deep philosophical thought of the men of ancient Mexico.
"Those who one day learnt to be gods". As we have said before, for them the value of gold, silver and jade had an esoteric meaning.
Contrary to the sense of Western culture, which during the first part of the colony was dedicated melting the wonderful philosophical symbols - spiritual representation in beautiful jewels, turning them into ingots which were sent to Spain.
"The famous Durero (Albrecht Dürer) refers, for example, in his travel diary that, while in Brussels in 1520, could see those "weird and wonderful" objects, which had been brought to the Emperor "from the new land of gold".
His reaction at seeing these creations of the old Mexico, almost a year before Mexico Tenochtitlan succumbed, is eloquent:...
And nothing I've seen throughout my life that has cheered my heart as these things. In them I found wonderfully artistic objects and I have admired subtle mills of the men in these strange lands.
Dürer spontaneously called the extraordinary artworks, something never seen, to all those present. Similar to his would also be the reaction of humanist Peter Martyr's joy, who a few years later had the opportunity to see the same objects. Wrote about them:
Certainly do not admire the gold and precious stones; what amazes me is the industry and art with which the pieces advances the matter; I have seen thousands of figures and thousand faces which I cannot describe; I think that I have not ever seen anything, that because of beauty, can attract the eyes of men." Leon Portilla. P. 155.
The cultures of the Cem Anáhuac knew metallurgy since ancient times, however Oaxacan goldsmiths and especially the Mixtec people are highlighted. Their techniques include the work of metals, both cold and hot. "Hammering" is a technique that involves hammering several gold "nuggets" to "weld them" and hammering extends the metal to make a sheet.
The "casting is another technique that was used; historian Sahagún mentions that old grandparents used crucibles of charcoal, which were destroyed by their use, reason why no traces of them are found.
The technique of "lost wax", "fake watermark" and a very special, apparently unknown to the Europeans of that time. We refer to the technique called "mise en couler" which made look like pure gold objects made from an alloy of copper, gold and silver.
Apparently, Oaxaca was the place where they drew the largest amount of gold. Although the old grandparents knew the technique of metal extraction in mines; most of the gold was mined in rivers, with the "tray" technique , that way the gold was obtained in powder, flake or crespillo in nuggets. In Oaxaca the Spanish chroniclers talk about the famous mines of la Chinantla, Tututepec, Sosola, Cuatlan, Pochutla and Tehuantepec, among others.
Physical expression of this philosophy is found in the "artists, thinkers and poets" of the old Mexico, in which gold and silver, as well as precious stones, totally had a spiritual meaning. The value representing especially gold, was by the degree of purity that matter reached.
And in the stones, by the wonderful "spiritual carve" symbol of the heart as "precious stone". Poets speak:
"as emeralds and fine feathers, your words fall"..."the jades and quetzal feathers as stones have been destroyed, my great Lords,"..."Although you were jade, although you were gold, you shall also go, to the place of the emaciated". Ms. Mexican songs.
"These craftspeople of luxury were known by the name of Toltec, since the origin of their methods and techniques are traditionally assigned to the ancient Toltec civilization, that of the King Quetzalcoatl and the wonderful city of Tula.
Quetzalcoatl "discovered wealth of emeralds, fine turquoise, gold, silver, corals, shells and (feathers of) quetzalli... and Sahagun asserts: "they called Toltec, which is just as saying polished and curious technicians.. .and all they were unique and Prime officers, because they were painters, jewelers, carpenters, masons, workers of feathers, pottery, spinners and weavers...
They found and discovered precious stones mine, in Mexico called xivitl, which are Turquoise... and the same with silver and gold mines... and the same with amber, crystal, stones called Amethyst, and Pearl and all others considered jewels." They knew many things, nothing was difficult, carved green stone (chalchiuitl), melted gold (teocuitlapitzaia)... and all of this came from Quetzalcoatl, the Arts (toltecáyotl) and knowledge."
As we have just seen, the set of these techniques was designated with the word TOLTECÁYOTL, "belonging to the Toltec". Such were the titles of nobility of these craftsmen." Jacques Soustelle. P. 76.
experienced, he knows the face of things,
creator of things as Toltec.
experienced hand, accurate looking
well testing metals, polishing them.
keeps their secrets,
melt them, burn them with coal,
shapes them to molten metal, applies sand".
Codex Matritense. Fol. 116.
In this way the meaning gold and precious stones had to the ancient inhabitants of Mexico, was totally oblivious to the Spaniards.
Even the decadent era of the Aztecs, then notes that gold wasn't very important in tributes demanded by the Aztecs to the peoples who had been subjugated by their materialistic ideology.
Unfortunately very little remains of the works in gold and silver made by the old grandparents, almost everything, made from 1519 until beginning this century, was smelted into ingots.
The testimonies of this wonderful art of Toltec origin, that today we can appreciate, come from very recent archaeological explorations; It is the case of the "treasure of the Tomb 7 of Monte Alban" which was found in the year of 1932 by archaeologist Alfonso Caso.