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The Aztec Calendar. Fabiola Cortes-Villena Literature and Science April 29 th , 2002 (Also available on the web at Sun Stone. Weighs 25 tons, has a diameter of just under 12 feet, and a thickness of 3 feet. Carved in 1479.

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The Aztec Calendar

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the aztec calendar
The Aztec Calendar

Fabiola Cortes-Villena

Literature and Science

April 29th, 2002

(Also available on the web at

sun stone
Sun Stone
  • Weighs 25 tons, has a diameter of just under 12 feet, and a thickness of 3 feet.
  • Carved in 1479.
  • Discovered on December 17th, 1760
    • Buried under the zocalo, or main square in Mexico city.
  • Embedded into a wall inside the metropolitan cathedral.
  • Moved to the National museum of Anthropology and History in 1885. (Montalvo)
what the sun stone represents
What the sun stone represents
  • It represents how the Aztec world began, how it would continue and when it would reach its inevitable end.
  • The Aztec were living in 5th and last creation of the world.
  • Each creation was a “sun” because movement of the sun maintained human life.
  • The four previous suns and the dates they perished surround the Sun God: Tonatiuh
aztec calendar
Aztec Calendar
  • Based on the early Maya Calendar System.
  • Apparently was developed following cues and astronomic observations.
  • Exactly how they came up with it, remains a puzzle.
maya vs aztec calendar
Maya Vs. Aztec Calendar
  • The Maya had three different calendars in their system, whereas the Aztec only adopted two of them:
    • Xiupohualli or year-count
    • Tonalpohualli or day-count
  • The Aztec had a more primitive numeric system and less precise way of recording dates:
    • Aztec event recording only included the day and name of the year. This was ambiguous because:
        • The same day can occur twice in a year
        • Years with the same name occur every 52 years
xiupohualli year count
Xiupohualli (year count)
  • Also called the solar calendar.
  • Used to determine many ceremonies and rituals linked to agricultural cycles.
  • 18 20-day months + 5-day period = 365 days (like the Maya Haab).
  • Each month had 4 5-day weeks.
tonalpohualli day count
Tonalpohualli (day count)
  • Also called the sacred calendar.
  • Used for divinatory purposes by a priest who would cast horoscopes and predict favorable and unfavorable days.
  • 20 13-day weeks = 260 days (like the Maya Tzolkin).
  • “A day (tonalli) in the Tenalpohualli consist of a number and a symbol or day sign, each daysign is dedicated to a God. The twenty days and their Gods are successively.” (The system of the Tonalpohualli)
  • Crucial to the balance of the universe.
tonalpohualli cont
Tonalpohualli (cont.)
  • According to the Aztecs, the universe is in a very delicate equilibrium:
    • The world is always on the edge of a war of gods, who are constantly competing for supreme power .
  • Gods need to have their own space, rituals, social groups, and of course their own sacrifices.
  • The Tonalpohualli tells how time is to be divided among the gods. (Voorburg)
aztec century
Aztec “Century”
  • Every 52 years both calendars meet, and a new “century” in the Aztec calendar cycle begins.
  • 12-day Celebration
    • Fasting
    • Human Sacrifices
  • The sun stone representing the Aztec calendar is perhaps the most famous symbol of Mexico, besides the flag.
  • Parts and bits of the “Sun Stone” can also be found on Mexican currency.
  • “In general, the uses and meaning of the sunstone is ignored and a completely agreed-upon interpretation has not been reached for this magnific monument.” (Mexica Sunstone)
  • The Tonalpohualli is still in use among the present-day inhabitants of native regions in Mexico. (Richards, 187)

Mexica Sunstone. 1996.

Montalvo, Fanya S. The Aztec Calendar. 1995.

Richards, E. G. Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History. Oxford University Press: New York, 1998. 186-195

The system of the Tonalpohualli.

Voorburg, René. The Aztec Calendar.