General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 20 Nov 2017/5 Eagle
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Dr. Alfredo López Austin

Question for June 2010

Why do the 20 day signs run ANTI-clockwise on the Sunstone? Asked by Springfield Primary School (Reading). Chosen and answered by Dr. Alfredo López Austin.

The ring of twenty signs is in the middle of the Sunstone
The ring of twenty signs is in the middle of the Sunstone

Spanish
Hay dos formas de hacer un círculo: la dextrógira (como las manecillas del reloj) y la levógira (alrevés de las manecillas del reloj). Cada cultura elige la forma predominante. Los mexicas creían que el tiempo salía por cuatro árboles cósmicos que estaban en los extremos del mundo. El primer día nacía por el Árbol del Este; el segundo día salía por el Árbol del Norte; el tercero, por el Árbol del Oeste; el cuarto, por el Árbol de Sur, el quinto volvía a salir por el Árbol del Este, y así seguían saliendo por orden levógiro. Muchas danzas repiten este tipo de circunvolución. En la Piedra del Sol se sigue este orden.

Drawing of Page 1 of the Codex Fejervary-Mayer by Louie Ewing: the East Tree is at the top
Drawing of Page 1 of the Codex Fejervary-Mayer by Louie Ewing: the East Tree is at the top (Click on image to enlarge)

English
There are two ways to form a circle: clockwise and anti-clockwise. Each culture tends to use the method that’s most familiar to them at the time. The Mexica (Aztecs) believed that time emerged from four cosmic trees, each found at one of the cardinal points of the earth (N,S,E,W). The first day was born in the direction of the East Tree; the second in the direction of the North Tree; the third, of the West Tree; the fourth, of the South Tree: the fifth emerged again from the East Tree, and so on in anti-clockwise sequence. Many (ancient) dances follow(ed) in this direction, as does the Sunstone.

(Professor Michael Coe, also on our Panel of Experts, adds: They go this way because sacred circuits in Mesoamerica are always counter-clockwise.)

Picture sources:-
• Top picture: photo by Xavier Miró/Mexicolore
• Codex picture: scanned from our copy of The Four Directions of Time: An Account of Page One of the Codex Fejervary Mayer by C.A. Burland, Museum of Navajo Ceremonial Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1950

Learn much more about the Sunstone with our interactive programme

Dr. Alfredo López Austin has answered 6 questions altogether:

Why do the 20 day signs run ANTI-clockwise on the Sunstone?

Who was the first archaeologist to find out about the Aztecs?

Why was the statue of the earth goddess re-buried?

How were the stars created?

What toys did children play with?

What’s the most interesting fact you’ve come across about the Aztecs? (3)

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