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Aztec calendar

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Title: Aztec calendar  
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Subject: List of Tenochtitlan rulers, Ahuitzotl, Aztec, Infobox Nahua officeholder, Infobox Nahua officeholder/doc
Collection: Aztec, Aztec Calendars, Aztec Science and Technology, Obsolete Calendars
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Aztec calendar

The Aztec Sun Stone, also called the Aztec Calendar Stone, on display at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City.

The Aztec calendar is the calendar system that was used by the Aztecs as well as other Pre-Columbian peoples of central Mexico. It is one of the Mesoamerican calendars, sharing the basic structure of calendars from throughout ancient Mesoamerica.

The calendar consisted of a 365-day calendar cycle called xiuhpohualli (year count) and a 260-day ritual cycle called tonalpohualli (day count). These two cycles together formed a 52-year "century," sometimes called the "calendar round". The xiuhpohualli is considered to be the agricultural calendar, since it is based on the sun, and the tonalpohualli is considered to be the sacred calendar.


  • Tonalpohualli 1
    • Day signs 1.1
    • Trecenas 1.2
  • Xiuhpohualli 2
    • Veintena (twenty); metzli (moon) 2.1
  • Reconstruction of the Solar Calendar 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The tonalpohualli ("day count") consists of a cycle of 260 days, each day signified by a combination of a number from 1 to 13, and one of the twenty day signs. With each new day, both the number and day sign would be incremented: 1 Crocodile is followed by 2 Wind, 3 House, 4 Lizard, and so forth up to 13 Reed, after which the cycle of numbers would restart (though the twenty day signs had not yet been exhausted) resulting in 1 Jaguar, 2 Eagle, and so on, as the days immediately following 13 Reed. This cycle of number and day signs would continue similarly until the 20th week, which would start on 1 Rabbit, and end on 13 Flower. It would take a full 260 days (13×20) for the two cycles (of twenty day signs, and thirteen numbers) to realign and repeat the sequence back on 1 Crocodile.

Day signs

The set of day signs used in central Mexico is identical to that used by Mixtecs, and to a lesser degree similar to those of other Mesoamerican calendars. Each of the day signs also bears an association with one of the four cardinal directions.

There is some variation in the way the day signs were drawn or carved. Those here were taken from the Codex Magliabechiano.

Image Nahuatl name Pronunciation English translation Direction
Cipactli [siˈpaktɬi] Crocodile
Crocodilian Monster
Ehēcatl [eʔˈeːkatɬ] Wind North
Calli [ˈkaɬːi] House West
Cuetzpalin [kʷetsˈpalin̥] Lizard South
Cōātl [ˈku˕ːwaːtɬ] Serpent
Miquiztli [miˈkistɬi] Death North
Mazātl [ˈmasaːtɬ] Deer
Tōchtli [ˈtu˕ːtʃtɬi] Rabbit South
Ātl [ˈaːtɬ] Water East
Itzcuintli [itsˈkʷin̥tɬi] Dog North
[u˕su˕ˈmaʔtɬi] Monkey West
Image Nahuatl name English translation Direction
Malīnalli [maliːˈnaɬːi] Grass South
Ācatl [ˈaːkatɬ] Reed East
Ōcēlōtl [u˕ːˈseːlu˕ːtɬ] Jaguar North
Cuāuhtli [ˈkʷaːʍtɬi] Eagle West
Cōzcacuāuhtli [ku˕ːskaˈkʷaːʍtɬi] Vulture South
Olīn [ˈu˕liːn̥] Movement
Tecpatl [ˈtekpatɬ] Flint
Flint Knife
Quiyahuitl [kiˈjawitɬ] Rain West
Xōchitl [ˈʃu˕ːtʃitɬ] Flower South

Wind and Rain are represented by images of their associated gods, Ehecatl and Tlaloc (respectively).

Other marks on the stone showed the current world and also the worlds before this one. Each world was called a sun, and each sun had its own species of inhabitants. The Aztecs believed that they were in the fifth sun and like all of the suns before them they would also eventually perish due to their own imperfections. Every fifty two years was marked out because they believed that fifty two years was a life cycle and at the end of any given life cycle the gods could take away all that they have and destroy the world.


The 260 days of the sacred calendar were grouped into twenty periods of thirteen days each. Scholars usually refer to these thirteen-day "weeks" as trecenas, using a Spanish term derived from trece "thirteen" (just as the Spanish term docena "dozen" is derived from doce "twelve"). The original Nahuatl term is not known.

Each trecena is named according to the calendar date of the first day of the thirteen days in that trecena. In addition, each of the twenty trecenas in the 260-day cycle had its own tutelary deity:

Trecena Deity
1 Crocodile Ometeotl
1 Jaguar Quetzalcoatl
1 Deer Tepeyollotl
1 Flower Huehuecoyotl
1 Reed Chalchiuhtlicue
1 Death Tonatiuh
1 Rain Tlaloc
1 Grass Mayahuel
1 Snake Xiuhtecuhtli
1 Flint Mictlantecuhtli
Trecena Deity
1 Monkey Patecatl
1 Lizard Itztlacoliuhqui
1 Quake Tlazolteotl
1 Dog Xipe Totec
1 House Itzpapalotl
1 Vulture Xolotl
1 Water Chalchiuhtotolin
1 Wind Chantico
1 Eagle Xochiquetzal
1 Rabbit Xiuhtecuhtli


Veintena (twenty); metzli (moon)

"In ancient times the year was composed of eighteen months, and thus it was observed by the native people. Since their months were made of no more than twenty days, these were all the days contained in a month, because they were not guided by the moon but by the days; therefore, the year had eighteen months. The days of the year were counted twenty by twenty." Diego Durán

Xiuhpohualli is the Aztec year (xihuitl) count (pohualli). One year consists of 360 named days and 5 nameless (nemontemi). These 'extra' days are thought to be unlucky. The year was broken into 18 periods of twenty days each, sometimes compared to the Julian month. The Aztec word for moon is metztli but whatever name that was used for these periods is unknown. Through Spanish usage, the 20 day period of the Aztec calendar has become commonly known as a veintena.

Each 20-day period started on Cipactli (Crocodile) for which a festival was held. The eighteen veintena are listed below. The dates are from early eyewitnesses. Each wrote what they saw. Bernardino de Sahagún's date precedes the observations of Diego Durán by several decades and is believed to be more recent to the surrender. Both are shown to emphasize the fact that the beginning of the Native new year became non-uniform as a result of an absence of the unifying force of Tenochtitlan after the Mexica defeat.

Duran Time Sahagun Time Fiesta Names Symbol English Translation
1. MAR 01 - MAR 20 1. FEB 02 - FEB 21 Atlcahualo, Cuauhitlehua Ceasing of Water, Rising Trees
2. MAR 21 - APR 09 2. FEB 22 - MAR 13 Tlacaxipehualiztli Rites of Fertility; Xipe-Totec ("the flayed one")
3. APR 10 - APR 29 3. MAR 14 - APR 02 Tozoztontli Small Perforation
4. APR 30 - MAY 19 4. APR 03 - APR 22 Huey Tozoztli Great Perforation
5. MAY 20 - JUN 08 5. APR 23 - MAY 12 Toxcatl Dryness
6. JUN 09 - JUN 28 6. MAY 13 - JUN 01 Etzalcualiztli Eating Maize and Beans
7. JUN 29 - JULY 18 7. JUN 02 - JUN 21 Tecuilhuitontli Feast for the Revered Ones
8. JULY 19 - AUG 07 8. JUN 22 - JUL 11 Huey Tecuilhuitl Feast for the Greatly Revered Ones
9. AUG 08 - AUG 27 9. JUL 12 - JUL 31 Miccailhuitontli Feast to the Revered Deceased
10. AUG 28 - SEP 16 10. AUG01 - AUG 20 Huey Miccailhuitontli Feast to the Greatly Revered Deceased
11. SEPT 17 - OCT 06 11. AUG 21 - SEPT 09 Ochpaniztli Sweeping and Cleaning
12. OCT 07 - OCT 26 12. SEPT10 - SEPT 29 Teotleco Return of the Gods
13. OCT 27 - NOV 15 13. SEPT 30 - OCT 19 Tepeilhuitl Feast for the Mountains
14. NOV 16 - DEC 05 14. OCT 20 - NOV 8 Quecholli Precious Feather
15. DEC 06 - DEC 25 15. NOV 09 - NOV 28 Panquetzaliztli Raising the Banners
16. DEC 26 - JAN 14 16. NOV 29 - DEC 18 Atemoztli Descent of the Water
17. JAN 15 - FEB 03 17. DEC 19 - JAN 07 Tititl Stretching for Growth
18. FEB 04 - FEB 23 18. JAN 08 - JAN 27 Izcalli Encouragement for the Land & People
18u. FEB 24 - FEB 28 18u.JAN 28 - FEB 01 nemontemi (5 day period) Empty days (no specific activities or holidays)

Reconstruction of the Solar Calendar

For many centuries scholars had tried to reconstruct the Calendar. The latest and more accepted version was proposed by professor Rafael Tena (INAH),[1] based on the studies of Sahagún and Alfonso Caso (UNAM). His correlation confirms that the first day of the mexica year was February 13 of the old Julian calendar or February 23 of the current Gregorian calendar. Using the same count, it has been verified the date of the birth of Huitzilopochtli, the end of the year and a cycle or "Tie of the Years," and the New Fire Ceremony, day-sign "1 Tecpatl" of the year "2 Acatl,"[2] corresponding to the date February 22nd.

See also


  1. ^ The Mexica Calendar and the Cronography, Rafael Tena. INAH-CONACULTA. 2008
  2. ^ Crónica Mexicayotl, Fernando Alvarado Tezozomoc p 36


Aguilar-Moreno, Manuel (n.d.). "Aztec Art" ( 
Hernández de León-Portilla, Ascención (2004). "Lenguas y escrituras mesoamericanas".  
Klein, Cecelia F. (2002). "La iconografía y el arte mesoamericano" ( 
Read, Kay Almere (1998). Time and Sacrifice in the Aztec Cosmos. Bloomington:  
Townsend, Richard F. (2000). The Aztecs (2nd edition, revised ed.). London:  
Wimmer, Alexis (2006). "Dictionnaire de la langue nahuatl classique" (online version, incorporating reproductions from Dictionnaire de la langue nahuatl ou mexicaine [1885], by   (French) (Nahuatl)
Zantwijk,Rudolph van (1985). The Aztec Arrangement: The Social History of Pre-Spanish Mexico. Norman:  

External links

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