General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 20 Sep 2017/9 Jaguar
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What was the symbol for gold?

ORIGINAL QUESTION received from - and thanks to - Matt Dorado: What is the symbol for teocuitlatl? Thanks! (Answered by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Pic 1: Glyphs for gold (L) and gold bell (R), from Pasztory, p. 85 (L) and Séjourné, p.161 (R)
Pic 1: Glyphs for gold (L) and gold bell (R), from Pasztory, p. 85 (L) and Séjourné, p.161 (R) (Click on image to enlarge)

Teocuitlatl is the Náhuatl term for gold, and literally means ‘excrement of the gods’ from teotl meaning god, and cuitlatl meaning excrement. According to David Carrasco -

Gold was understood to seep out of the earth. Its first appearance was compared to diaorrhea, and so it was called either the excrement of the sun or the excrement of the gods.

Put simply, gold was the poo of the sun, and silver was the poo of the moon (deities).

Pic 2: Jade pendant with a figure of Tonatiuh, British Museum
Pic 2: Jade pendant with a figure of Tonatiuh, British Museum (Click on image to enlarge)

Perhaps because gold technology (far older in South America) was relatively new in Central Mexico before the Conquest ‘it wasn’t deemed as precious as the older treasured materials such as greenstone and quetzal feathers’ (Pasztory).

In terms of symbols, gold was more associated with fire (hence the sun), because heat was needed to melt the metal.

The glyph for gold - a cross balanced by four small rings (Pic 1) - can be seen in the jade pendant with a figure of the sun god Tonatiuh, in the British Museum collections (Pic 2), and on the cheeks of the moon goddess Coyolxauhqui (‘She with bells painted in her cheeks’) (Pic 3).

Pic 3: Gold bells in the cheeks of the Aztec/Mexica moon goddess Coyolxauhqui, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Pic 3: Gold bells in the cheeks of the Aztec/Mexica moon goddess Coyolxauhqui, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City (Click on image to enlarge)

Info from -
Daily Life of the Aztecs by Davíd Carrasco with Scott Sessions, Greenwood Press, Connecticut, 1998
Aztec Art by Esther Pasztory, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1983

Picture sources:-
• Pic 1: scanned from (L) Aztec Art by Esther Pasztory, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1983 and (R) Burning Water by Laurette Séjourné, Thames and Hudson Ltd., London, 1978
• Pic 2 © The Trustees of the British Museum
• Pic 3: photo by Ana Laura Landa/Mexicolore

Mixtec gold sun pendant

Aztec gold jewellery

Mixtec-Zapotec gold pendant

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Here's what others have said:

Mexicolore replies: Love the logo, Matt - very cool design!
Mexicolore replies: Interesting! Thanks for this, Gael. It does look smart, too; they should pay the Aztecs royalties...!