Aztec calendar

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The Aztec Sun Stone, also called the Aztec Calendar Stone, on display at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City.

The Aztec calendar is the calendar system that was used by the Aztecs as well as other Pre-Columbian peoples of central Mexico. It is one of the Mesoamerican calendars, sharing the basic structure of calendars from throughout ancient Mesoamerica.

The calendar consisted of a 365-day calendar cycle called xiuhpohualli (year count) and a 260-day ritual cycle called tonalpohualli (day count). These two cycles together formed a 52-year "century," sometimes called the "calendar round". The xiuhpohualli is considered to be the agricultural calendar, since it is based on the sun, and the tonalpohualli is considered to be the sacred calendar.

The calendric year may have begun at some point in the distant past with the first appearance of the Pleiades (Tianquiztli) asterism in the east immediately before the dawn light.[1] (See heliacal rising.) But due to the precession of the Earth's axis, it fell out of favor to a more constant reference point such as a solstice or equinox. Early Spanish chroniclers recorded it being celebrated in proximity with the Spring equinox.

Tonalpohualli[edit]

The tonalpohualli ("day count") consists of a cycle of 260 days, each day signified by a combination of a number from 1 to 13, and one of the twenty day signs. With each new day, both the number and day sign would be incremented: 1 Crocodile is followed by 2 Wind, 3 House, 4 Lizard, and so forth up to 13 Reed, after which the cycle of numbers would restart (though the twenty day signs had not yet been exhausted) resulting in 1 Jaguar, 2 Eagle, and so on, as the days immediately following 13 Reed. This cycle of number and day signs would continue similarly until the 20th week, which would start on 1 Rabbit, and end on 13 Flower. It would take a full 260 days (13×20) for the two cycles (of twenty day signs, and thirteen numbers) to realign and repeat the sequence back on 1 Crocodile.

Day signs[edit]

The set of day signs used in central Mexico is identical to that used by Mixtecs, and to a lesser degree similar to those of other Mesoamerican calendars. Each of the day signs also bears an association with one of the four cardinal directions.[verification needed]

There is some variation in the way the day signs were drawn or carved. Those here were taken from the Codex Magliabechiano.

ImageNahuatl namePronunciationEnglish translationDirection
Cipactli.jpgCipactli[siˈpaktɬi]Crocodile
Alligator
Caiman
Crocodilian Monster
East
Ehecatl2.jpgEhēcatl[eʔˈeːkatɬ]WindNorth
Calli.jpgCalli[ˈkaɬːi]HouseWest
Cuetzpalin.jpgCuetzpalin[kʷetsˈpalin̥]LizardSouth
Coatl.jpgCōātl[ˈku˕ːwaːtɬ]Serpent
Snake
East
Miquiztli.jpgMiquiztli[miˈkistɬi]DeathNorth
Mazatl.jpgMazātl[ˈmasaːtɬ]Deer
Animal
West
Tochtli.jpgTōchtli[ˈtu˕ːtʃtɬi]RabbitSouth
Atl3.jpgĀtl[ˈaːtɬ]WaterEast
Itzcuintli.jpgItzcuintli[itsˈkʷin̥tɬi]DogNorth
Ozomatli.jpgOzomatli
Ozomahtli
[u˕su˕ˈmaʔtɬi]MonkeyWest
ImageNahuatl namePronunciationEnglish translationDirection
Malinalli.jpgMalīnalli[maliːˈnaɬːi]GrassSouth
Acatl.jpgĀcatl[ˈaːkatɬ]ReedEast
Ocelotl.jpgŌcēlōtl[u˕ːˈseːlu˕ːtɬ]JaguarNorth
Cuauhtli.jpgCuāuhtli[ˈkʷaːʍtɬi]EagleWest
Cozcacuauhtli.jpgCōzcacuāuhtli[ku˕ːskaˈkʷaːʍtɬi]VultureSouth
Olin (Aztec glyph from the Codex Magliabechiano).jpgOlīn[ˈu˕liːn̥]Movement
Quake
Earthquake
East
Tecpatl.jpgTecpatl[ˈtekpatɬ]Flint
Flint Knife
North
Quiahuitl.jpgQuiyahuitl[kiˈjawitɬ]RainWest
Xochitl.jpgXōchitl[ˈʃu˕ːtʃitɬ]FlowerSouth

Wind and Rain are represented by images of their associated gods, Ehecatl and Tlaloc (respectively).

Other marks on the stone showed the current world and also the worlds before this one. Each world was called a sun, and each sun had its own species of inhabitants. The Aztecs believed that they were in the fifth sun and like all of the suns before them they would also eventually perish due to their own imperfections. Every fifty two years was marked out because they believed that fifty two years was a life cycle and at the end of any given life cycle the gods could take away all that they have and destroy the world.

Trecenas[edit]

The 260 days of the sacred calendar were grouped into twenty periods of thirteen days each. Scholars usually refer to these thirteen-day "weeks" as trecenas, using a Spanish term derived from trece "thirteen" (just as the Spanish term docena "dozen" is derived from doce "twelve"). The original Nahuatl term is not known.

Each trecena is named according to the calendar date of the first day of the thirteen days in that trecena. In addition, each of the twenty trecenas in the 260-day cycle had its own tutelary deity:

TrecenaDeity
1 CrocodileOmeteotl
1 JaguarQuetzalcoatl
1 DeerTepeyollotl
1 FlowerHuehuecoyotl
1 ReedChalchiuhtlicue
1 DeathTonatiuh
1 RainTlaloc
1 GrassMayahuel
1 SnakeXiuhtecuhtli
1 FlintMictlantecuhtli
TrecenaDeity
1 MonkeyPatecatl
1 LizardItztlacoliuhqui
1 QuakeTlazolteotl
1 DogXipe Totec
1 HouseItzpapalotl
1 VultureXolotl
1 WaterChalchiuhtotolin
1 WindChantico
1 EagleXochiquetzal
1 RabbitXiuhtecuhtli

Xiuhpohualli[edit]

Veintena (twenty); metzli (moon)[edit]

"In ancient times the year was composed of eighteen months, and thus it was observed by the native people. Since their months were made of no more than twenty days, these were all the days contained in a month, because they were not guided by the moon but by the days; therefore, the year had eighteen months. The days of the year were counted twenty by twenty." Diego Durán

Xiuhpohualli is the Aztec year (xihuitl) count (pohualli). One year consists of 360 named days and 5 nameless (nemontemi). These 'extra' days are thought to be unlucky. The year was broken into 18 periods of twenty days each, sometimes compared to the Julian month. The Aztec word for moon is metztli but whatever name that was used for these periods is unknown. Through Spanish usage, the 20 day period of the Aztec calendar has become commonly known as a veintena.

Each 20-day period started on Cipactli (Crocodile) for which a festival was held. The eighteen veintena are listed below. The dates are from early eyewitnesses. Each wrote what they saw. Bernardino de Sahagún's date precedes the observations of Diego Durán by several decades and is believed to be more recent to the surrender. Both are shown to emphasize the fact that the beginning of the Native new year became non-uniform as a result of an absence of the unifying force of Tenochtitlan after the Mexica defeat.

Duran TimeSahagun TimeFiesta NamesSymbolEnglish Translation
1. MAR 01 - MAR 201. FEB 02 - FEB 21Atlcahualo, CuauhitlehuaMetzliAtlca.jpgCeasing of Water, Rising Trees
2. MAR 21 - APR 092. FEB 22 - MAR 13TlacaxipehualiztliMetzliTlaca.jpgRites of Fertility; Xipe-Totec ("the flayed one")
3. APR 10 - APR 293. MAR 14 - APR 02TozoztontliMetzliToz.jpgSmall Perforation
4. APR 30 - MAY 194. APR 03 - APR 22Huey TozoztliMetzliToz2.jpgGreat Perforation
5. MAY 20 - JUN 085. APR 23 - MAY 12ToxcatlMeztliToxcatl.jpgDryness
6. JUN 09 - JUN 286. MAY 13 - JUN 01EtzalcualiztliMeztliEtzal.jpgEating Maize and Beans
7. JUN 29 - JULY 187. JUN 02 - JUN 21TecuilhuitontliMeztliTecu.jpgFeast for the Revered Ones
8. JULY 19 - AUG 078. JUN 22 - JUL 11Huey TecuilhuitlMeztliHTecu.jpgFeast for the Greatly Revered Ones
9. AUG 08 - AUG 279. JUL 12 - JUL 31MiccailhuitontliMeztliMicc.jpgFeast to the Revered Deceased
10. AUG 28 - SEP 1610. AUG01 - AUG 20Huey MiccailhuitontliMeztliMiccH.jpgFeast to the Greatly Revered Deceased
11. SEPT 17 - OCT 0611. AUG 21 - SEPT 09OchpaniztliMeztliOch.jpgSweeping and Cleaning
12. OCT 07 - OCT 2612. SEPT10 - SEPT 29TeotlecoMeztliTeo.jpgReturn of the Gods
13. OCT 27 - NOV 1513. SEPT 30 - OCT 19TepeilhuitlMeztliTep.jpgFeast for the Mountains
14. NOV 16 - DEC 0514. OCT 20 - NOV 8QuecholliMeztliQue.jpgPrecious Feather
15. DEC 06 - DEC 2515. NOV 09 - NOV 28PanquetzaliztliMeztliPanq.jpgRaising the Banners
16. DEC 26 - JAN 1416. NOV 29 - DEC 18AtemoztliMetzliAtem.jpgDescent of the Water
17. JAN 15 - FEB 0317. DEC 19 - JAN 07TititlMeztliTitl.jpgStretching for Growth
18. FEB 04 - FEB 2318. JAN 08 - JAN 27IzcalliMeztliIzcalli.jpgEncouragement for the Land & People
18u. FEB 24 - FEB 2818u.JAN 28 - FEB 01nemontemi (5 day period)MeztliNem.jpgEmpty days (no specific activities or holidays)

Reconstruction of the Solar Calendar[edit]

For many centuries scholars had tried to reconstruct the Calendar. The latest and more accepted version was proposed by professor Rafael Tena (INAH),[2] based on the studies of Sahagún and Alfonso Caso (UNAM). His correlation confirms that the first day of the mexica year was February 13th of the old Julian calendar or February 23 of the current Gregorian calendar.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Brad Schaefer (Yale University). Heliacal Rising: Definitions, Calculations, and Some Specific Cases (Essays from Archaeoastronomy & Ethnoastronomy News, the Quarterly Bulletin of the Center for Archaeoastronomy, Number 25.)
  2. ^ The Mexica Calendar and the Cronography, Rafael Tena. INAH-CONACULTA. 2008

References[edit]

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External links[edit]