We have a lot to learn from the ancient Mexicans about time – its measurement, its management and its meaning. In the modern world we tend to relate the passing of time to movement along a straight line (look at history timelines in our classrooms!) and assume automatically that ‘latest is best’ - a computer is instantly ‘out of date’ the day after we’ve bought it. We’re only now beginning to rediscover the ‘wisdom of the ancients’ and to realise how arrogant we’ve been in ‘writing off’ - for centuries – their sophisticated knowledge of time, mathematics, astronomy, geometry and music, all of which relate to each other through rhythm patterns at the very heart of our universe. (Written/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)
|Night and day, Codex Borbonicus (Click on image to enlarge)|
Hundreds, if not thousands, of years before us, the Mesoamericans had discovered zero, measured leap years to 4 decimal points of accuracy, allowed for the influence on us not only of the sun but also of the moon and Venus (the 3 brightest bodies in the sky), clocked the motion of Venus to an accuracy of better than two hours in five centuries, played different notes simultaneously in musical performances, and even very likely calculated the Precession of the Equinoxes – a period of 26,000 years.
|‘Anniversary wheel’ no. 4 in the 18th. century Codex Veytia - Europeanised but still solidly based on pre-Columbian fate signs (Click on image to enlarge)|
Counting in 20s – presumably because we have 20 fingers and toes – they developed complex time rounds that, like wheels, are far more natural in design than our modern Western European calendar with its odd mix of 30-, 31- and 28-day months.
|One too many daysigns... (Redriff Primary School) (Click on image to enlarge)|
There’s no doubt that, as far as calendars go, the Mesoamericans could literally run rings round us ...!
The Aztec calendar features strongly in our school programmes. Good friends Steve and Michelle (and pupils) at Little Green Junior School, Croxley Green, Herts., produced this beautiful wall hanging illustrating the Aztec day signs (well, 19 of them anyway...)
|Can you spot which calendar sign is missing?! (Little Green Junior School) (Click on image to enlarge)|
Whilst in the snap above we took of the daysigns at one of our all-time favourite schools, Redriff Primary, Rotherhithe, we noticed they’d been a bit TOO keen and ended up with 21!
|Studying the Sunstone, Cranleigh, Surrey (Click on image to enlarge)|
The Aztec Sunstone/Calendar Stone continues to fascinate young and old alike. We recently snapped a group of Year 6 boys at St. Nicolas School in Cranleigh, Surrey, who spontaneously gave up their lunch break to study our large Sunstone model before we packed it away after a workshop. We were just sorry that the copy in their classroom was VERY ‘cheap-and-nasty’: follow the link below...
|A double-page sequence of 65 day signs - part of the sacred calendar in the Codex Cospi (Click on image to enlarge)|
We’re delighted to hear that our downloadable resources on the Sunstone (follow link below) are being used to good effect on the other side of the world: our good friend Eduardo Tocatzin sent us (May 2010) this photo (below) with the message ’The students and community of Wilson High School in Los Angeles CA are enjoying all that it has to offer. Thanks again.’
|Photo courtesy of Eduardo Tocatzin Sanchez (Click on image to enlarge)|
Every day our website shows (top right corner on all pages) the changing names of our days in the Aztec Calendar - using a correlation (match) calculated by the famous Mexican archaeologist Alfonso Caso; the same system is used on the Azteccalendar.com website.
Learn more of how the orbits of the earth, moon and Venus were inter-connected by reading our feature on Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli (the Morning Star) - follow link below.
Here's what others have said:
29 At 8.47am on Monday June 13 2016, natalie wrote:
this didnt really help- do u have any more info on this??
28 At 7.53pm on Wednesday May 11 2016, Eric wrote:
Any information on how to figure out my mexika name using the tonalmatl?
27 At 12.58pm on Saturday April 25 2015, Rui Fernandes wrote:
I have a doubt regarding the correlation dates for the Aztec Calendar.
It’s widely accepted that the fall of Tenochtitlan was in August 13, 1521 - which corresponds to the Julian date number 2276828 (at 12AM).
This date is correlated to the aztec date 2 Xocotlhuetzi 1 Coatl.
On the other hand, another well knowed date is refered: the entrance of Cortez in the city, in November 8, 1519.
This date corresponds to the Julian day 2276184 (12 AM).
It’s refered to the aztec date 8 Ehecatl 9 Quecholli of the year 1 Acatl.
The problem is that if we take the first correspondence, we will get for the second julian day number the date 7 Cipactli, 8 Quecholli.
It’s one day of delay.
If we take the second date as reference, the first will give us one day after the citation.
There’s always one day of difference - I think I’m not mistaken.
All the sites that do the calculations based on Alfonso Caso correlation, and in the first correlation date I’ve mentioned, cleary show the discrespancy in the calculations.
Can you please tell me if I’m missing something here?
Mexicolore replies: Thanks, Rui. I’m afraid our level of expertise doesn’t run to answering this for you. What we DO know is that this issue of correlation is a veritable nightmare! An excellent website that tries to make sense of the correlations problem is given above, recently added (2016). Recommended!
26 At 5.52pm on Thursday January 10 2013, Rick Schiller wrote:
okay i see the 18 uinal names on the center of the anniversay wheel with an outer ring of repeating four year bearers. But i cannot read the 18 names. Some one please?
25 At 5.46pm on Thursday January 10 2013, Richard Schiller wrote:
The Aztec day Xochitl was zero kin just like the Mayan day Ahau. The Aztec day Mazatl was 7 kin just like the Mayan day Manik. The Aztec day Acatl was kin 13 just like Ben. But Xochital was moved 13 days earlier on Mazatl so that 1Acatl was 1Ahau but 1Acatl becomes moved 13 days earlier to the day that was 1Mazatl and 1 Manik. In 1518AD this is 0Pop the Mayan year bearer 1Manik, no longer Aztec 1Mazatl, but now year bearer 1Xochitl on 0Pop. So for the year to be CeAcatl (1Reed) becaus ethe day is 1Acatl the Aztec new year has to be regarded as 13 days later as 1Ahau 13Pop. Thus 1Acatl formerly 1 Ben will now always be 1Ahau, and the Aztec 365-day Xiuh-Pohualli like the Mayan 365-day haab will always fall on 13Pop. I prefer the Genesis correlation of G.Aug 12 in 3114bc and so Egyptian Thoth 1 is always Pop 17 (not 18) and this means Aztec new year on Pop 13 is always Epagum 2. The G.Aug 11 epoch makes Aztec new year and Pop 13 as Epagum 1. There are correlations that debate the 360-day calendar Long Count as falling on 2,7,12,17 while others on 3,8,13,18. The Aztec new year is obviously then exactly 260 days before Cortez whether 1Acatl is Thurs Apr 21 or Good Friday Apr 22, thus debating whether the new year 1Acatl in 1518ad is July 22 or 23. I would very much like to know the Aztec equivalent to Pop and Uo etc.
24 At 8.12pm on Saturday September 29 2012, Bob Cox wrote:
The date 2 rabbit was also a symbol of drunkeness, legend says a rabbit scratching out the center of a maguey agave plant drank the fermented licor and became intoxicated, And anyone born under the sign of 2 rabbit was destined to become an alcoholic.
Alcoholism in Aztec times was severly punished.
23 At 12.37am on Friday August 17 2012, Juan Carlos D. Ruiz Duran wrote:
Encontre un buen sita de web para el Calendario de Nahuatl!
Mexicolore replies: Gracias, Juan Carlos. Ya tenemos un enlace a ellos. Hace varios añoa ya ellos nos pidieron reproducir nuestro juego de 20 signos de los días calendáricos, tan finamente dibujados para nosotros por Felipe Dávalos. Les dimos permiso, y ahí están en su sitio también...
22 At 9.51am on Tuesday June 19 2012, Cualneci wrote:
Please give me the meaning or where I can go to get information on the New year 2013, year of the Calli
Mexicolore replies: 2013, as a year in our ‘solar’ calendar, would be named, in the equivalent Aztec xihuitl Ce-Calli, or ‘1-House’. (2012 is ‘13-Flint’ and 2014 will be ‘2-Rabbit’, followed by ‘3-Reed’ in 2015). House-Rabbit-Reed-Flint was the cycle of four year signs which, accompanied by a number from 1-13, made up the very important period of 4x13=52 years, something like the Aztec equivalent of our ‘century’. You can’t read too much into one single factor such as the ‘name’ of next year (Calli or House): for ‘meaning’ you need to look at a whole range of extra elements, combining solar and lunar calendars.
21 At 2.09pm on Wednesday June 13 2012, Julio wrote:
You have pretty good information, I get here looking for images and stay for information, BUT I like to point out that I totally disagree with the term “Aztec calendar”.. the sun stone is more than that.. thanks, sorry for the grammar..
Mexicolore replies: Good point, Julio! We hadn’t realised that readers would link the page title so closely to the Sunstone, so we’ve changed the main image. We hope it improves things...
20 At 3.11pm on Thursday December 8 2011, casey wrote:
where did the third calendar(Venus)that the priests used come from?
19 At 12.58pm on Thursday December 8 2011, casey wrote:
18 At 2.39pm on Wednesday December 7 2011, casey wrote:
Hi!i would wanna know when did the aztecs find or make the calendar?
Mexicolore replies: If you mean the great Calendar Stone (‘Sunstone’) most people think it was made during the reign of the Emperor Axayácatl, and that it dates from 1479 AD/CE in our calendar; but some scholars disagree!
17 At 8.41pm on Saturday December 3 2011, leslie wrote:
do you know how to make an aztec calendar and if you do will you please include it because i would love to learn
Mexicolore replies: The short answer is No, I’m afraid! What a good idea, though, Leslie - thanks for this: we’ll try and find a good model or instructions to put on the website...
16 At 2.19pm on Thursday September 2 2010, april wrote:
aztecs are awsome
15 At 10.09pm on Wednesday March 24 2010, anon wrote:
It is important to remember that the Spaniards and literate Aztecs who chronicled the ancient civilization wrote about people in the cities. They neglected to document village life and religious traditions in smaller communities. The result is that we know little about the people who lived at the edges of the Aztec empire and even less about their gods and rituals. However, Aztec villagers must have shared many features of their culture with people in the cities, and so we can assume that the gods worshiped in the rural areas must have been similar to those worshiped in urban centers.
14 At 12.07pm on Thursday February 18 2010, Chris Post AD wrote:
I was unaware that your group provided the symbols for azteccalendar.com. THANK YOU! I used it to create a tattoo of my birthdate counts. It turned out beautifully!
13 At 7.28am on Sunday February 7 2010, Lara from st johns school in andover wrote:
you came to our school it was amazing thank you very much i have learnt alot!
12 At 8.18pm on Saturday September 26 2009, Joan Cline wrote:
How would the Nahua’s have written the day, month, and year of the first sighting of “Our Lady of Guadalupe” on December 9, 1531
Mexicolore replies: We suggest you try entering this date into the database at the website www.azteccalendar.com (we gave them permission to use our beautiful daysign glyphs). Hope this helps!
11 At 4.56am on Friday April 3 2009, cuahumazalt ramiro garcia wrote:
I am a keeper of the ancient tradition of Anahuac and the “aztec calendar”. Xiuhpohualli is a calendar based on the movements of the stars and earth. The xiuhpohualli is a very accurate calendar that for thousands of years my ancestors studied the sky and earth to form the most accurate calendar of the whole world
10 At 4.45pm on Sunday March 15 2009, Maria wrote:
Can you make any and or all the downloadable pages for teachers in Spansih?
Mexicolore replies: We’d love to do this, Maria, but it’s a huge job and we’re a very small, overworked team. Calling all bilingual friends who have a few hours spare to translate, for starters...! We’ll get there, eventually...
9 At 2.15pm on Tuesday March 10 2009, cheese wrote:
my favorite symbol is probably the dog or the alligator because thwey are very detailed. we made symbols in class! thanx for the info on this site. arsum!
8 At 6.55pm on Tuesday February 24 2009, Amy Firkins wrote:
Thanks for answering my question, now i know a lot more.
7 At 8.08pm on Thursday February 19 2009, Megan wrote:
Hi ! Who was The Aztecs first emperor? I really would love to know.
Mexicolore replies: He was called Acamapichtli. You can find out his name’s meaning and the dates he ruled in our ‘Ask the Experts’ section, in the answer for November 2004.
6 At 5.43pm on Monday February 9 2009, Bryan wrote:
BEST WEBSITE EVER!!!
5 At 5.43pm on Monday February 9 2009, luis fuentes wrote:
this is so cool bro. I never thought i would read about the great aztecs and the amazing things they pulled off they are so sick.
4 At 9.22pm on Sunday February 8 2009, TJ wrote:
When is the Aztec New Year? One might think that it was our December 21, given the significance of that date in 2012, but I’ve seen at Wikipedia that it’s claimed to be two different dates, both around the end of January, Xispas.com says the date is March 12, and at AztecCalendar.com I noticed that the Solar Year changed on October 6th, 2008 (which although seems to be a great site, I’m not now sure how much faith to place in it, since I’ve failed to notice any unnamed days of the Nemontemi which precede the new year). Since the Caso correlation works from the well-recorded date of the fall of Tenochtitlan ‘1-Coatl = August 12’ just when is it?
Mexicolore replies: This is always going to be a hard question to answer in any clear-cut way. Sahagún noted in the Florentine Codex that in the 16th century the Aztec year began on 2 February by our calendar. But remember for a start a) just how inaccurate the old Julian calendar from Europe was in those days and b) that there were even regional differences in pre-Hispanic Mexico concerning the calendar round. Traditionally (see the work of Paso y Troncoso and Seler, or look at the Codex Borbonicus) the Aztec agricultural year began with the festival of Izcalli, matching the European calendar in 1521 CE with the dates January 24 to February 12 (each festival was a 20-day ‘month’). But several scholars have shown that this starting point was not standardised even within the Basin of Mexico: Kirchhoff, for example, suggested back in 1950 that there were 13 different calendric systems in use simultaneously by 13 different ethnic groups in and around the Basin of Mexico! This meant that the year 1-Reed for the Aztecs would be 7-Reed for the Texcocanos, 3-Reed for the Matlatzinca, 12-Reed for the Colhua, etc. Correlating the calendars is a minefield...!
3 At 7.32pm on Friday January 30 2009, Amy Firkins wrote:
Hello my name is Amy, i have a question to ask you,
How tall is a real aztec calender
Mexicolore replies: We answered Amy’s question in our ‘Ask Us’ section (see left menu)
2 At 8.22pm on Friday January 2 2009, Gael Ollivier wrote:
I have read aztecs gave special “magical” properties to numbers, and so the days in the calendar would be influenced by each number’s quality. E.g. number “one” being a good omen number. Is there a chance you can tell us more about number’s particular magical sense?
Mexicolore replies: Yes, you’re right, each number had its own significance. Very briefly, the numbers 3, 7, 10-13 were generally lucky, while 4, 5, 6, 8 and 9 brought bad luck. The number 2 linked to the daysign Rabbit was particularly unfortunate. 1 was considered neutral, though it was associated with (new) beginnings and in this sense was a positive number.
1 At 8.14pm on Friday June 6 2008, Matt wrote:
Were birthdays celebrated, and if so, how were birth years measured? I’ve seen codices denote days of birth using the dot-and-glyph method to pen names (which reflects xiuhpohualli method) but also dots used to show how old a child is (which I make the modern assumption this number is measured in solar/seasonal years - I see a conflict with my assumption).
Do we know or have a reasonable assumption as to whether those year-dots are based on 260 day cycles (xiuhpohualli) or 365 day cycles (tonalpohualli)?
I’m curious what confusion this may have created because someone claiming to be "42" (xiuhpohualli) would only be 30 years old by the customary solar year measure.
Mexicolore replies: We think your confusion stems from the fact that ages of children by reference to year dots are only (to our knowledge) found in the Codex Mendoza - written AFTER the Conquest. These ages are clearly written as ‘European’/solar/tonalpohualli years. All birth ‘day’ signs/names in pre-Hispanic codices refer to the ritual 260-day xiuhpohualli calendar round. As far as we know, yearly birthday celebrations, as we know them today, were not a part of Aztec life.