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Decapitate a horse??[edit]

When was the text "(according to a Spaniard account, it easily decapitated a horse)" added? It's obvious that the blade in the picture couldn't decapitate anything.

Obsidian is glass. The edge of those blades was sharper than any metallic sword.Tmangray 19:51, 11 April 2007 (UTC)

Bernal Diaz del Castillo wrote about the Aztec maquahuitl in his narrative The Conquest of New Spain:

"While we were at grips with this great army and their dreadful broadswords [maquahuitl], many of the most powerful among the enemy seem to have decided to capture a horse. They began with a furious attack, and laid hands on a good mare well trained both for sport and battle. Her rider, Pedro de Moron, was a fine horseman; and as he charged with three other horsemen into the enemy ranks--they had been instructed to charge together for mutual support--some of them seized his lance so he could not use it, and others slashed at him with their broadswords [maquahuitl], wounding him severely. Then they slashed at his mare, cutting her head at the neck so that it only hung by the skin. The mare fell dead, and if his mounted comrades had not come to Moron's rescue, he would probably have been killed also."

Although this was written in the late 16th century when Diaz was an elderly man living in Mexico, we can consider his first hand account accurate. As you can see, the Spanish held a healthy respect for the maquahuitl and its cutting power. --SunWuKong 09:05, 2 March 2006 (UTC)

One shouldn't assume that a first hand account is 100% accurate. Many historians recognize that a lot of New World accounts by the Spanish were over-exaggerated. One reason why the Spanish would have portrayed the Mexica as more powerful than they were was to make themselves look good for conquering them. The Florentine Codex specifically states that these particular weapons were used to maim enemies in order to capture, and not kill. It is likely that Diaz over-exaggerated the power of these weapons to make himself and his fellow Spanish look better. -- (talk) 00:18, 16 February 2010 (UTC)
This is a picture from the Florentine Codex, representing a battle between mesoamerican indians. As you can see, there is some mutilated bodies, clearly raped by a slashing weapon like the maquahuitl. The aztecs were also so afficionated to cutting heads and putting them in a public place like trophy after the battles or sacrifices. --Ozomatli-Tepoztli 00:30, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

A "Deadliest Warrior" demonstration of the macuahuitl decapitating a horse analogue showed some difficulty. It took more than a few swings, and also used a sawing motion.--IViking (talk) 15:03, 7 July 2010 (UTC)

An obsidian blade is excellent at inflicting soft tissue injury, but its not intended as a dismembering weapon; its far too brittle, and the first time you hit a thick bone you'll just break the blade and probably embed it in your opponent. Don't forget that most Mesoamerican combat was specifically to procure live captives for sacrifice, and warriors were judged on how many enemy they were able to capture alive, not how many they could kill. I'd imagine the idea behind the macuahuitl was to cripple your enemy via disabling wounds to his arms and legs, then club him unconscious with the flat side of the weapon. If you amputate a limb or decapitate him, he's not going to survive to be sacrificed. Vintovka Dragunova (talk) 10:25, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

Vintovka pretty much has it. The crux is the wooden element, which (even with strong, dense tropical hardwoods) would need to be reasonably substantial in order to be suitably durable for the battlefield, so as fine and sharp as the glass edges might be this bulk would need to be forced through the wound. The extremely sharp glass blade would probably effect a soft-tissue cut to their own depth as well as any steel edge, but once the timber sub-structure came into play the cut would require huge force to continue - and probably the aid of a draw-cut to open the wound. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:21, 6 April 2013 (UTC)

I'd value the opinion of someone who has actually seen a horse decapitated (period accounts with no motivation to exaggerate) over the ideas of modern theorists. Kortoso (talk) 17:44, 25 May 2016 (UTC)


Shouldn't the word spelled macuahuitl? Or atleast state the true spelling? Myke 15:41, 13 August 2006 (UTC) DId you know that a monkey named Dairia holds the record for most popcorn curnals eaten in one minute? 1,629!

Maquahuitl is the true spelling. Macuahuitl is a common phonetic error. comment by User:Paul wilding
Both spellings are used, with the "q" spelling out-Googling the "c" spelling by about 3 - 1 when you take out the Wikipedia hits. However, I believe that Myke is saying that Macuahuitl would be a more common Nahuatl spelling since the "q" is not used in present-day Nahuatl orthography. Let me see if I can round up an expert.
And while I'm doing that, could Paul Wilding please give some sources for this recent changes. Some of them seem reasonable, but some of them (impact weapon or not?) are very fundamental changes. Thanks in advance, Madman 01:00, 31 August 2006 (UTC)
Neither spelling is more correct than the other. The choice is arbitrary. The phoneme represented by either qu or cu is a labialised velar stop [kʷ] and have traditionally never been written consistently. qu is commonly used before a and o anc cu before i and e, but some orthographies use cu for both. I would however recommend the cu spelling, because it is more consistent (the qu spelling uses qu before i and e for the sound of /k/).Maunus 07:05, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

Problems with article[edit]

OK... The writer of the article has worked purely on speculation and assumption. The writer has undoubtably never workd with obsidian, it not self sharpening. The writer has not studied pictures of Maquahuitl in codices because he's quite clearly not seen examples of ones with points. He's not aware of climate and forests in the region, or of maquahuitl grave finds because he seems to think they were made exclusively of hardwood. He's also not aware of what hardwood is, much hardwood is softer than softwood. He knows little of meso-american cultures and seems not to be a aware the maquahuitl was not an Aztec development nor exclusive to them. He also seems not to be a swordsman, as he perceives a 300 gram slashing weapon, a club.unsigned comment by User:Paul wilding

Paul, by the time you had gotten done with the article, as I mentioned on your Talk page, you had made a number of changes contrary to Wikipedia policy and norms. So, I reverted all your additions. Please, pull out your references and let's clean-up the article. I am interested in getting to the bottom of this. Madman 00:47, 2 September 2006 (UTC)
It is self sharpening in the fact that after a strike fragments will come off and the crystal that remains will be sharp. Also, these fragments were meant to cause infection in the wound.
It's hard to know exactly how Maquahuitl seems in the times of the aztecs. All we has are the pictures in the Codex's illustrations and those are very variated. Some appear to be very rudimentary while others appear to be very elaborated and polished. Besides the escriban-artist's sensibility variation, i think that all versions maybe certain, because it's not rare that they had different types of Maquahuitl depending on the cost, the maker's hability and the social status of the carrier.
About the "club subject" you must remember that they certainly used the Maquahuitl like a club (although not a deadly one) in the Garland Wars, or whenever that they wanted to take a prisoner without using the obsidian blades. Also note that Maquahuitl evolved from macanas. --Ozomatli-Tepoztli 00:30, 20 March 2007 (UTC)


I have suggested a merger with Macana. These articles seem to have very much overlapping subject matters, almost the same; in fact they both use the same illustration on the left side, like they are both referring to the same thing. The Macana article claims to be also about other similarly shaped weapons (with or without obsidian blades) used in Mesoamerica and the Carribean, but couldn't there just be a small section in a united article about that? It seems to me like both articles are mainly about the weapon in the context of their use by the Aztecs.

Hno3 20:07, 1 October 2006 (UTC)

More than likely these two pages should be merged. The name Macana is the name that the Spaniards gave to the weapon when they first encountered it. I do, however, intend to expand on this article soon and am gathering resources at the moment. Pyroxolotl 16:08, 24 October 2006 (UTC)
I am the author of macana. I would not strongly object to merging the articles. The usual explanation for the two forms is that they are two reflexes of the same root (or was it a borrowing?), Macuahuitl being Nahuatl, and Macana Taíno. Certainly the descriptions of macanas given in Decades de Orbe Novo do not mention obsidian edges. I will be very interested to hear what you can find in other period resources. --Iustinus 22:54, 24 October 2006 (UTC)

no, don't merge —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Pajfarmor (talkcontribs) 15 November 2006.

Obsidian sword vs Spanish Steel armor.[edit]

I understand obsidian is extremely sharp, but how would it fair against spanish steel armor? Would it penetrate and effectively cleave through, or would it shatter upon impact?—The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 30 November 2006.

obsidian and carbon steel are about the same hardness (5 or so on the Mohs scale), but obsidian, being glass, is brittle. it would be ground to powder long before one could apply pressure sufficient to cut through steel. (it was in fact very difficult to cut through late european plate armor even with steel swords; one needed a heavy halberd or pollaxe or somesuch.) obsidian weapons might be effective against mail, since fragments could slip through the rings; against plate they would do nothing. 20:40, 16 October 2007 (UTC)


I just went through this article and I noticed that in one part is states that the last authentic Macuahuitl was destroyed in a fire sometime in the 1800s. Later in the article it also says that no actual Macuahuitls were ever found and the existence of it was derived from purely anecdotal facts before the sixteenth century. Could someone please clarify this? Fallenangei (talk) 17:26, 21 November 2008 (UTC)

One macuahuitl was destroyed in the fire of the Real Armería de Madrid in 1884 (cf. Ross Hassig). Hassig and Cervera Obregón published that there is no known surviving examples of macuahuitl. Never the less, this document of the Moctezuma : Aztec ruler exhibition of the British Museum in 2009-2010, mentions a 120x800mm macuahuitl, found in Mexico City, excavated in the late 19th or early 20th century in course of construction of city infrastructure, lent by the Museo Nacional de Antropología de México, from the Mexican National Collections since excavation and ownered between 1933 and 1945 in Mexican National Collections... Also, Cervera Obregón published, in his article of Arqueología Mexicana n°84 and in Arms & Armour n°2 (p.137), a drawing of a macuahuitl supposed to be in the MNA collections, first published in a thesis of a mexican archaeologist named Morales and drawn by Francisco González Rul. I've asked Cervera Obregón by mail where was that artefact, and he told me that Felipe Solís (MNA director at that moment) said it was lost, but Cervera Obregón also said that he heard that someone asked to Alejandro Pastrana if he could make a reproduction of this weapon for the Moctezuma exhibition... So, the mistery goes on! El Comandante (talk) 19:47, 6 April 2013 (UTC)