Watch and Listen

Ritual scene depicting a volador

This object is a scale model displaying a ritual game which was very famous in pre-Columbian Mexico: the dance of the volador. Five characters are sitting at the foot of a mast, while a sixth man, wearing a pointed hat, is perched atop the mast. A small temple is depicted on a side.

Ritual scene depicting a volador
1st century BC – mid-3rd century AD
Mexico, Huastec or Totonac culture
Shaped terracotta
18.4 x 11.4 cm

Narrator: Dr Isabelle Tassignon, curator of the archaelogy and ethnology collections.

Although forbidden, this tradition still exists in Veracruz: after climbing a 30-metre pole, dancers tie their feet with ropes and launch themselves to gradually descend to the ground, upside down and turning. According to the Spanish inquisitor Torquemada, the voladores would make thirteen complete turns before reaching the ground, with their arms spread.

This traditional dance stems from a ritual devoted to the god Xipe Totec, god of renewal, nature and agriculture, so as to stimulate the fertility of soils.