Aztec calendar stone
|Discovered||17 December 1790 at El Zócalo, Mexico City|
|Present location||National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City|
The Aztec calendar stone, Mexica sun stone, Stone of the Sun (Spanish: Piedra del Sol), or Stone of the Five Eras, is a large monolithic sculpture that was excavated in the Zócalo, the main square of Mexico City, on December 17, 1790. It was discovered while Mexico City Cathedral was being repaired. The stone is approximately 12 feet (3.7 m) across and weighs approximately 24 tons.
The exact purpose and meaning of the stone is unclear. Archaeologists and historians have proposed a number of theories, however, and it seems likely that there are many aspects to the stone.
Mexican anthropologist Antonio de León y Gama (1735-1802) remarked that the Sun Stone showed that the Aztecs had knowledge of geometry to be able to carve the stone symmetrically and it showed they also had knowledge of mechanics to be able to move the stone from its quarry to its final destination.
One aspect of the stone is its religious significance. One theory is that the face at the center of the stone represents Tonatiuh, the Aztec deity of the sun. It is for this reason that the stone became known as the "sun stone". Richard Townsend proposed a different theory, claiming that the figure at the centre of the stone represents Tlaltecuhtli, the Mexica sea or earth monster who features in Mexica creation myths. Another feature of the stone relates to time, hence the name "calendar stone". Some of the circles of glyphs are the glyphs for the days of the month. Further, some of the symbols may represent the five ages that the Mexica believed the earth had passed through. Yet another characteristic of the stone may be its geographic significance. The four points may relate to the four corners of the earth or the cardinal points. The inner circles may express space as well as time. Moreover, there is the political aspect of the stone. It may have been intended to show Tenochtitlan as the centre of the world and therefore, as the centre of authority.
Despite being known as a "calendar stone," modern archaeologists such as those at the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City, at which the stone is housed, believe it is more likely to have been used primarily as a ceremonial basin or ritual altar for gladiatorial sacrifices, than as an astrological or astronomical reference.
The calendar stone image is displayed in the obverse of the "Aztec" Gold coin, which has a gold content of 15 grams (half a troy ounce) and was minted with a nominal value of 20 gold pesos. As of December of 2012 its value was almost MXP 11,000 (or about USD 865.00).
The calendar stone image also has been adopted by modern Mexican and Mexican American/Chicano culture figures, and is used in folk art and as a symbol of cultural identity.
Notes and references
- Tompkins, P. (1976). Mysteries of the Mexican pyramids. Fitzhenry & Whiteside Limited: Toronto. ISBN 0-06-014324-X
- Florescano, Enrique (2006). National Narratives in Mexico. Nancy T. Hancock (trans.), Raul Velasquez (illus.) (English-language edition of Historia de las historias de la nación mexicana, ©2002 [Mexico City:Taurus] ed.). Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-3701-0. OCLC 62857841.
- Aztec Civilization
- The Aztec Sun Stone
- K. Mills, W. B. Taylor & S. L. Graham (eds), Colonial Latin America: A Documentary History, 'The Aztec Stone of the Five Eras', p. 23
- K. Mills, W. B. Taylor & S. L. Graham (eds), Colonial Latin America: A Documentary History, 'The Aztec Stone of the Five Eras', pp. 23, 25
- K. Mills, W. B. Taylor & S. L. Graham (eds), Colonial Latin America: A Documentary History, 'The Aztec Stone of the Five Eras', pp. 25-6
- K. Mills, W. B. Taylor & S. L. Graham (eds), Colonial Latin America: A Documentary History, 'The Aztec Stone of the Five Eras'
- León y Gama, Antonio de. Descripción histórica y cronológica de las dos piedras: que con ocasión del empedrado que se está formando en la plaza Principal de México, se hallaron en ella el año de 1790. Impr. de F. de Zúñiga y Ontiveros, 1792. An expanded edition, with descriptions of additional sculptures (like the Stone of Tizoc), edited by Carlos Maria Bustamante, published in 1832. There have been a couple of facsimile editions, published in the 1980s and 1990s.
- Matos Moctezuma, Eduardo, and Felipe Solís. The Aztec Calendar and other Solar Monuments. Grupo Azabache, Mexico. 2004.
- Solis, Felipe. "La Piedra del Sol." Arqueologia Mexicana 7(41):32-39. Enero - Febrero 2000.
- Villela, Khristaan D., and Mary Ellen Miller (eds). The Aztec Calendar Stone. Getty Publications, Los Angeles. 2010. This is an anthology of significant sources about the Calendar Stone, from its discovery to the present day, many presented in English for the first time.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Aztec sun stone|
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Mysteries of the Fifth Sun: The Aztec Calendar
- The Aztec Sun Stone
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- Library of Congress digital edition of Leon y Gama's 1792 work on the Calendar Stone (72MB)