General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 24 Mar 2019/13 Lizard
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What does Temaxcalapa mean?

ORIGINAL QUESTION received from - and thanks to - Arturo Fabian Calles: I have read the section on your website on why and how towns were named by the Aztecs. Through many google searches I have found similar results but none that have expanded on the subject of place naming. My family comes from a village in Guerrero, Mexico, named Temaxcalapa. If you have any knowledge on what Temaxcalapa might mean it would certainly help me. The village is located almost near the center of the Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range and floats around 2600 ft above sea level. There is an abundance of natural springs, most around where the mountain begins to elevate sharply again. It is a very jungle like place and has a long rain season. Last year my mother found what seems to be a grave while expanding my grandmothers home. They decided not to disturb the site any more, and from the pictures I’ve seen there was a human jaw, a clay whorl, a stone celt, and what seems to be a small molcajete. It is also said that my Uncle’s house was built directly atop a buried pyramid, near the major water hole. I hope any of this helps piece together what Temaxcalapa means. (Answer compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

The Aztec place glyph for Temazcalapan in the Codex Mendoza, fol. 21r
The Aztec place glyph for Temazcalapan in the Codex Mendoza, fol. 21r (Click on image to enlarge)

Our immediate thought is that Temaxcalapa is the modern equivalent of the small tributary town of Temazcalapan, in the province of Acolhuacan, the land of the Acolhua people. It’s mentioned in the Codex Mendoza, which shows the place glyph (see pic) which translates as ‘On the Sweat Baths’. temazcal(li) is the Nahuatl word for steam or sweat bath. We know that obsidian blades were a particularly prized speciality item from the NE corner of this tributary province; however under Mexica rule it seems that the obsidian tribute from Temazcalapan and neighbouring towns changed to clothing, maize and turkeys - a flow of tribute that continued into the colonial period.

Info from The Essential Codex Mendoza by Frances F. Berdan and Patricia Rieff Anawalt (University of California Press, 1997), pp. 37-40
Image from the Codex Mendoza scanned from our own copy of the 1938 James Cooper Clark facsimile edition, London.

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