General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 23 Nov 2017/8 Flint
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Xiuhmolpilli

Aztec xiuhmolpilli - ‘bundle of reeds’

Aztec ‘xiuhmolpilli’ (‘bundle of years’), c. 1500, stone, length 61 cms., National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City (this piece came to London as part of the major ‘Aztecs’ exhibition at the Royal Academy, 2002-3).

‘Among the Aztecs the most celebrated cycle of time, marked by the New Fire, consisted of 52 years, i.e. 13 times the journey of the 4 year-bearer signs - House, Rabbit, Reed, Flint. At the end of this period all fires were extinguished in houses, palaces and temples, for fear that the order established by the gods, and therefore the world as the Aztecs knew it, would collapse. During the New Fire ceremony... 52 bundles of reeds were burned and the same number bound together to form a ‘xiuhmolpilli’ (‘year bundle’). This sculpture represents one such ‘xiuhmolpilli’. The main panel contains the date ‘2-Reed’, the year in which the New Fire ceremony took place... (The last New Fire ceremony took place in 1507, 12 years before the arrival of the Spanish).’ (Adapted from the RA exhibition catalogue ‘Aztecs’, p. 441)

Photo by Ana Laura Landa/Mexicolore

Learn more about the Aztec Calendar