Tlaltecuhtli /t͡ɬaɬteˈkʷt͡ɬi/ is a pre-Columbian Mesoamerican deity figure, identified from sculpture and iconography dating to the Late Postclassic period of Mesoamerican chronology (ca. 1200–1519), primarily among the Mexica (Aztec) and other Nahuatl-speaking cultures. Tlaltecuhtli is also known from several post-conquest manuscripts that surveyed Mexica mythology and belief systems, such as the Histoyre du méchique compiled in the mid-16th century.
According to Alfonso Caso There were four earth gods - Tlaltecuhti who was male and three earth goddesses - Coatlique, Cihuacoatl and Tlazolteotl. In one of the Mexica creation accounts Tlaltecuhtli is described as a sea monster who dwelled in the ocean after the fourth Great Flood, an embodiment of the raging chaos before creation. Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca, in the form of serpents, tore him in half, throwing half upwards to create the sky and stars and leaving the other half to become the land of the earth. He remained alive, however, and demanded human blood.
Although the deity's name is masculine in Nahuatl, some modern scholars, notably Miller and Taube interpret some representations of Tlaltecuhtli as exhibiting female characteristics, particularly his typical pose which they interpret as the characteristic position of a woman giving birth. According to Miller and Taube p.167: "Tlaltecuhtli literally means "earth Lord," but most Aztec representations clearly depict this creature as female, and despite the male gender of the name, some sources call Tlaltecuhtli a goddess. Usually in a hocker, or birth-giving squat, with head flung backwards and her mouth of flint blades open..." Miller and Taube provide an extensive bibliography but use no footnotes so it's impossible to know what sources identify Tlaltecuhtli as a female figure. They identify their main source for Aztec mythology as the Florentine codex however Book 1 of the codex, the Gods, does not include this god. In order to be a reliable source a publication has to be a primary or secondary source. Since Miller and Taube does not refer to either of these, it does not qualify as a reliable source. So one must consider the fact that their identification of Tlaltecuhtli as female is their interpretation of the iconography. Other scholars think that this pose is him crouching under the earth, mouth open, waiting to devour the dead.
According to Alfonso Caso, in the Bodley Codex he was born in a flaming tree Caso. p. 25-26: I-III who is "Sun Ornament", but later his child is called Tlaltecutli (Earth Lord.) He became an Earth Lord when according to Miller and Taube, he was torn apart and his parts were taken to Earth.
Recently a monolith of the god was unearthed in Mexico City.
- Pasztory (1983, pp.81, 170); Miller and Taube (1993, pp.167–168).
- Caso, Alphonso (fifth printing 1978) The Aztecs: People of the Sun Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN0-8061-0414-7 pp. 52-56 OCLC 58-11603
- Campbell's rephrasing of a passage in the Histoyre du méchique (Campbell 1976, pp.224–225)
- Miller and Taube (1993, p.167)
- Sahagun, Fray Bernardino de (Book 1 The Gods translated from the Aztec into English with notes by Arthur J. O. Anderson & Charles E. Dibble second edition, revised 1981) The School of American Research and the University of Utah ISBN 978-1-60781-157-2 (Book 1) ISBN 978-1-60781-192-3 (set)
- Caso, Alphonso (fifth printing 1978) The Aztecs: People of the Sun Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-0414-7 pp. 52-56 OCLC 58-11603
- "El monolito de las Ajaracas es de Tlatecuhtli", La Jornada, November 17, 2006. (Spanish)
- Campbell, Joseph (1976). Primitive Mythology (2nd reprint edition (©1969) ed.). Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-004304-7. OCLC 2346210.
- Pasztory, Esther (1983). Aztec Art. New York: H.N. Abrams. ISBN 0-8109-0687-2. OCLC 8627850.
- Taube, Karl A. (1993). Aztec and Maya Myths (4th University of Texas printing ed.). Austin: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-78130-X. OCLC 29124568.
- Caso, Alfonso (1960). Interpretation of the Bodley Codex, 2858.Mexico, DF, Mexico: Sociedad Mexicanade Antropología. Mexico, Translated by Ruth Morales Revised by John Paddock.