Thieves and Artifacts

Patricia Grady Cox

January 15, 2019

feline figure

One of many large sculptures of felines. What big teeth it had!

While working on my current novel, I thought it would be interesting to have my characters raid  ancient Mexican pyramids and steal anything that looked valuable. It just so happened that the Phoenix Art Museum was having a special exhibit, TEOTIHUACAN: CITY OF WATER, CITY OF FIRE with artifacts from those ancient pyramids. Now, I would have gone anyway because “Aztec” by Gary Jennings is one of my all-time favorite books, but now I had a “writing business” reason. However, I soon realized that having my characters wandering all the way down to Mexico City just wouldn’t work with my time line.

A large sculpture, at least five feet tall, found smashed in a temple courtyard. Archaeologists believe it was once installed on the temple.

However, I really wanted to use what I had learned from the exhibit. It occurred to me that my outlaws could be smuggling these artifacts to collectors in the eastern United States. They didn’t actually do the excavating, just pay others for the stolen items and then sell them. Voila!

Porfirio Diaz, President of Mexico at the time of my story (1882), was a supporter of archaeological research of the Aztec empire. Surely any good outlaw would see the value in these ancient artifacts? And surely that would give the Federales even more reason to be after my people! Yay!

Sometimes a problem is not a problem. It’s a way to an even more interesting solution!

male figure surrounded by serpents

A male figure made of mosaic serpentine and an obsidian female figure, surrounded by eighteen obsidian lightning bolts and serpents. This could have easily been stolen by my smugglers!

crazy looking bird

This ceramic bird is my favorite. It was displayed next to a two-foot tall incense burner. In my early days, incense was used to mask the smell of marijuana smoke and, looking at this bird, I had to wonder if the artists had been indulging!

jaguarMany feline sculptures were uncovered,along with human sacrifices, near the Sun Pyramid. Large predatory felines, particularly jaguars, were associated with fire or the sun. This particular mosaic is made of volcanic stone, stucco, and pigments. It’s called the Jaguar of Xalla. I would estimate it was about four feet high and five feet wide. Love the paws and teeth!

You are invited to visit my webpage (click HERE) for more information, news on upcoming events, and book reviews and excerpts. You may click on the green button to be added to my newsletter e-mail list and receive a free downloadable PDF of my anthology RAMBLINGS, a collection of flash fiction, short stories, and essays. Thank you!












  1. Hi Patricia,    Interesting blog! I too love the odd bird sculpture. It is pretty neat that there are traveling exhibits like this. We can see in person these artifacts without leaving town. Fascinating subject. Looking forward to this book.Betty McCreary


    1. Thanks, Betty. Yes, it’s great that these exhibits come to us! The one on Titanic and the Pompeii exhibits were amazing and I’ll never forget them (interactive – a replica iceberg in one, so we could see how cold the water would have been, and a replicated volcanic eruption in the other). The Aztec one had nothing too exciting but just seeing these huge pieces (and some smaller) was awesome. Glad you enjoyed the blog!

      Liked by 1 person

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