The Penacho feather headdress allegedly worn by Aztec emperor Moctezuma II is displayed at the Museum fur Volkerkunde (Museum of Ethnology) in Vienna on November 16, 2012. (AFP/Alexander Klein)
Granting the wish of Mexico's president to have a famous Aztec-era headdress sent from Europe to Mexico for an exhibition would seriously damage the fragile pre-Hispanic artifact, the Austrian museum that houses it said on Wednesday.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador this week asked for a loan of the bejeweled, brightly-colored feather headdress so it can be shown during events to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the fall of the Aztec Empire to Spain next year.
An assessment of the relic - said to have belonged to Aztec emperor Moctezuma - had concluded it was too fragile to be moved, said Sabine Haag, head of the KHM museums' association that includes Vienna's Museum of Ethnology, which holds the headdress.
That evaluation was carried out with Mexican representatives between 2010 and 2012.
"Transportation, whether by land, sea or air, would massively damage the old Mexican feather headdress," Haag said in a statement to Reuters.
Even so, she added that the request had been forwarded to the Austrian culture ministry for further evaluation.
Nearly a meter wide and made from more than 450 elegant, brilliant green feathers, the headdress is said to have been worn by Moctezuma before he was toppled by Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes.
The headdress is believed to have arrived in Europe in the 16th century and later fell into the hands of Archduke Ferdinand of Tyrol, a member of the Habsburg family that at the time ruled Spain and Austria.
Vienna's Museum of Ethnology said it offers free entrance to all Mexican citizens to share the cultural heritage.
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