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Anthropology Museum

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Tuft of Moctezuma

It is a crown, one of the most unique crowns in the world. It has incrustations of pure gold and each of the feathers comes from the quetzal, a bird typical of tropical America, with a soft plumage of iridescent green and very bright.

This headdress was used by the tlatoani, or supreme rulers on special occasions, in the image of the representations of the god Quetzalcoatl. This one we observe is a replica of the same one used by Moctezuma, the emperor at the arrival of Hernán Cortés and the Spaniards. It is believed that when Moctezuma realized that the war with the Spaniards was approaching, and probably to gain time, he gave this headdress along with another 158 pieces in the form of a gift to Conquistador Hernan Cortes. Cortes sent the gifts back to his regent, Charles I of Spain who was part of the royal Habsburg family based in present day Austria; and in the ensuing 500 years, the headdress was lost, re-discovered, altered in efforts of restoration and it is currently displayed at the Weltmuseum. Much has been said that it is a unique piece, however, it is only one of the many headdresses that Moctezuma possessed.

In the twentieth century, there was a Mexican nationalist campaign for the plume to return to Mexico, even proposing a barter for the golden chariot of Emperor Maximilian of Hapsburg. However, the main reason that prevents it is that any type of transport of the plume would cause vibrations that would damage it irreversibly . It is unique because it represents one of the few pieces of feather art that have been preserved since pre-Hispanic times.

Anthropology Museum