General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 18 Apr 2021/2 Flower
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The side of the Aztec Calendar Stone

The ‘sky band’

The great ‘Aztec Calendar Stone’, ‘Sunstone’, ‘Stone of the Suns’ is highly iconic, the best known and most frequently depicted artefact from pre-Columbian America. The side of the Stone, though, is hardly ever seen, illustrated or photographed, let alone described. So here it is... (Written/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Pic 1: Detail of the ‘sky band’, seen horizontally
Pic 1: Detail of the ‘sky band’, seen horizontally (Click on image to enlarge)

The carved edge of the Sunstone measures almost 8 inches in width and has long been interpreted as a celestial or ‘sky band’ associated with the night. The band can be divided into two sections: viewed horizontally (Pic 1), the upper part (visible also from the front) - consisting of an extended series of dots - is generally accepted to represent stars. Separated by two lines, the lower part is believed to represent Venus. The rather complex Venus symbol alternates with sacrificial knives. These blades - tecpatl - are linked both to the planet Venus and to the rays of the sun. The whole band, according to Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, shows ‘the evening sun penetrating the underworld, night, Mictlan, the womb from which it will be born, triumphant, every morning.’

Pic 2: Detail of the night sky, Codex Borbonicus folio 16
Pic 2: Detail of the night sky, Codex Borbonicus folio 16 (Click on image to enlarge)

The Venus symbol in the sky band was described in detail by the German scholar and archaeologist Hermann Beyer back in 1921: ‘The morning star, the brightest star, was not represented simply by a white disk or by a round eye like the other stars [Pic 2], but rather by hanging stemmed eyes and flint knives that express the rays it emitted.’ Beyer was comparing a classic representation of the night sky in the Codex Borbonicus (Pic 2) with the symbols on the side of the Sunstone.

The Sunstone standing today in Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology
The Sunstone standing today in Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology (Click on image to enlarge)

The Aztec Calendar Stone, edited by Khristaan D. Villela and Mary Ellen Miller, Getty Research Institute, 2010
The Aztec Calendar and other Solar Monuments by Eduaro Matos Moctezuma and Felipe Solís, CONACULTA/INAH, Mexico City, 2004.

Image sources:-
• Photos of the Sunstone by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore
• Image from the Codex Borbonicus (original in the Bibliotheque de l’Assembée Nationale, Paris); scanned with permission from our own copy of the ADEVA facsimile edition, Graz, Austria, 1974.

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