Madrid, 7 (Europe Press)
A new examination has confirmed that the obsidian mirror that John Dee, a confidant of Queen Elizabeth I, used in spiritualist practices, has Aztec origins.
Professor Stuart Campbell of the University of Manchester said: “John D. is a remarkable historical figure, a Renaissance scholar, an interest in astronomy, chemistry and mathematics, and a confidant of Elizabeth I.” “Later, he engaged in divination and magic, seeking to converse with angels through the use of divination artifacts such as mirrors and crystals.”
One of these John Dee artifacts, an obsidian mirror now in the British Museum, has long been suspected of Aztec origins. However, without records of how he obtained it, it was impossible to prove it.
Now an international team of scientists, including Professor Stuart Campbell, has solved this mystery through geochemical analysis. Their research, published in the journal Antiquity, confirmed the Aztec origins of the John D. Mirror.
Their analysis involved bombarding the mirrors with X-rays, causing the objects to also emit X-rays, allowing the scientists to measure the composition of the artifact. These are unique “fingerprints” that can be compared to obsidian samples to trace the origins of the material. The team studied four objects in the British Museum: a John Dee mirror, two other Aztec mirrors, and a polished rectangular obsidian.
This method revealed that the four obsidian artifacts studied were made from Mexican obsidian mined by the Aztecs. The John Dee Mirror, along with another mirror of a similar design, originated near Pachuca. This source of obsidian was greatly exploited by the Aztecs.
For the Aztecs, obsidian also had a spiritual meaning. It can be used as part of medicinal practices, and it can act as a shield against evil spirits and capture spirits on its reflective surface.
One of the deities, Tezcatlipoca, is even called the “smoking mirror” and is often depicted with circular obsidian mirrors, as symbols of anxiety and strength.
This symbolic value may have made it attractive for Europeans to pick up and take home during the invasion of the Aztecs. The fact that mirrors were often viewed as magical artifacts in Europe may have been an additional motivation.
Professor Campbell said: “The sixteenth century was a period when new strange things were brought to Europe from the New World and opened up new and interesting possibilities in the intellectual world of the time.”
Aztec mirrors were new and exotic items that found a place in many early collections. Stories about the meaning of mirrors may have traveled with them, and it may have been what prompted John Dee to get his mirror when he found it in Europe.
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