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.

Image Nahuatl name Pronunciation English translation Direction
Cipactli.jpg Cipactli [siˈpaktɬi] Crocodile
Alligator
Caiman
Crocodilian Monster
East
Ehecatl2.jpg Ehēcatl [eʔˈeːkatɬ] Wind North
Calli.jpg Calli [ˈkaɬːi] House West
Cuetzpalin.jpg Cuetzpalin [kʷetsˈpalin̥] Lizard South
Coatl.jpg Cōātl [ˈku˕ːwaːtɬ] Serpent
Snake
East
Miquiztli.jpg Miquiztli [miˈkistɬi] Death North
Mazatl.jpg Mazātl [ˈmasaːtɬ] Deer
Animal
West
Tochtli.jpg Tōchtli [ˈtu˕ːtʃtɬi] Rabbit South
Atl3.jpg Ātl [ˈaːtɬ] Water East
Itzcuintli.jpg Itzcuintli [itsˈkʷin̥tɬi] Dog North
Ozomatli.jpg Ozomatli
Ozomahtli
[u˕su˕ˈmaʔtɬi] Monkey West
Image Nahuatl name Pronunciation English translation Direction
Malinalli.jpg Malīnalli [maliːˈnaɬːi] Grass South
Acatl.jpg Ācatl [ˈaːkatɬ] Reed East
Ocelotl.jpg Ōcēlōtl [u˕ːˈseːlu˕ːtɬ] Jaguar North
Cuauhtli.jpg Cuāuhtli [ˈkʷaːʍtɬi] Eagle West
Cozcacuauhtli.jpg Cōzcacuāuhtli [ku˕ːskaˈkʷaːʍtɬi] Vulture South
Olin (Aztec glyph from the Codex Magliabechiano).jpg Ollīn [ˈu˕ɬːiːn̥] Movement
Quake
Earthquake
East
Tecpatl.jpg Tecpatl [ˈtekpatɬ] Flint
Flint Knife
North
Quiahuitl.jpg Quiyahuitl [kiˈjawitɬ] Rain West
Xochitl.jpg Xōchitl [ˈʃu˕ːtʃitɬ] Flower South

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]

A set of thirteen numbered days is known by the Spanish term trecena (from trece "thirteen"). Each of the twenty trecenas in the 260-day cycle was associated with a particular deity:

Trecena Deity
1 Crocodile – 13 Reed Ometeotl
1 Jaguar – 13 Death Quetzalcoatl
1 Deer – 13 Rain Tepeyollotl
1 Flower – 13 Grass Huehuecoyotl
1 Reed – 13 Snake Chalchiuhtlicue
1 Death – 13 Flint Tonatiuh
1 Rain – 13 Monkey Tlaloc
1 Grass – 13 Lizard Mayahuel
1 Snake – 13 Quake Xiuhtecuhtli
1 Flint – 13 Dog Mictlantecuhtli
Trecena Deity
1 Monkey – 13 House Patecatl
1 Lizard – 13 Vulture Itztlacoliuhqui
1 Quake – 13 Water Tlazolteotl
1 Dog – 13 Wind Xipe Totec
1 House – 13 Eagle Itzpapalotl
1 Vulture – 13 Rabbit Xolotl
1 Water – 13 Crocodile Chalchiuhtotolin
1 Wind – 13 Jaguar Chantico
1 Eagle – 13 Deer Xochiquetzal
1 Rabbit – 13 Flower Xiuhtecuhtli

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 metzli 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 eye-witnesses. 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 Time Sahagun Time Fiesta Names Symbol English Translation
1. MAR 01 - MAR 20 1. FEB 02 - FEB 21 Atlcahualo, Cuauhitlehua MetzliAtlca.jpg Ceasing of Water, Rising Trees
2. MAR 21 - APR 09 2. FEB 22 - MAR 13 Tlacaxipehualiztli MetzliTlaca.jpg Rites of Fertility; Xipe-Totec
3. APR 10 - APR 29 3. MAR 14 - APR 02 Tozoztontli MetzliToz.jpg Small Perforation
4. APR 30 - MAY 19 4. APR 03 - APR 22 Huey Tozoztli MetzliToz2.jpg Great Perforation
5. MAY 20 - JUN 08 5. APR 23 - MAY 12 Toxcatl MeztliToxcatl.jpg Dryness
6. JUN 09 - JUN 28 6. MAY 13 - JUN 01 Etzalcualiztli MeztliEtzal.jpg Eating Maize and Beans
7. JUN 29 - JULY 18 7. JUN 02 - JUN 21 Tecuilhuitontli MeztliTecu.jpg Feast for the Revered Ones
8. JULY 19 - AUG 07 8. JUN 22 - JUL 11 Huey Tecuilhuitl MeztliHTecu.jpg Feast for the Greatly Revered Ones
9. AUG 08 - AUG 27 9. JUL 12 - JUL 31 Miccailhuitontli MeztliMicc.jpg Feast to the Revered Deceased
10. AUG 28 - SEP 16 10. AUG01 - AUG 20 Huey Miccailhuitontli MeztliMiccH.jpg Feast to the Greatly Revered Deceased
11. SEPT 17 - OCT 06 11. AUG 21 - SEPT 09 Ochpaniztli MeztliOch.jpg Sweeping and Cleaning
12. OCT 07 - OCT 26 12. SEPT10 - SEPT 29 Teotleco MeztliTeo.jpg Return of the Gods
13. OCT 27 - NOV 15 13. SEPT 30 - OCT 19 Tepeilhuitl MeztliTep.jpg Feast for the Mountains
14. NOV 16 - DEC 05 14. OCT 20 - NOV 8 Quecholli MeztliQue.jpg Precious Feather
15. DEC 06 - DEC 25 15. NOV 09 - NOV 28 Panquetzaliztli MeztliPanq.jpg Raising the Banners
16. DEC 26 - JAN 14 16. NOV 29 - DEC 18 Atemoztli MetzliAtem.jpg Descent of the Water
17. JAN 15 - FEB 03 17. DEC 19 - JAN 07 Tititl MeztliTitl.jpg Stretching for Growth
18. FEB 04 - FEB 23 18. JAN 08 - JAN 27 Izcalli MeztliIzcalli.jpg Encouragement for the Land & People
18u. FEB 24 - FEB 28 18u.JAN 28 - FEB 01 nemontemi (5 day period) MeztliNem.jpg Empty days (no specific activities or holidays)

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.)

References[edit]

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