Aztec calendar

The Aztec calendar is one of many structurally identical calendars, have been developed and used in pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica. He is next to the Mayan calendar the most famous and best-researched, because it was used by the Aztecs, who dominated a large part of central Mexico at the time of the Conquest. Many Spanish writers, mostly clergymen, have left descriptions, however, are more or less defective.

  • 3.1 leap years
  • 3.2 Calendar correlation


Like other Mesoamerican calendar (apart from the Mayan calendar ) is the Aztec calendar of two with each other entangled cycles, which often so called civil year, aztec xihuitl, of unchangeable 365 days duration and a ritual calendar of likewise unchangeable 260 days duration, aztec tonalpohualli ( same day count).

The year ( xihuitl )

The Civil Aztec year consists of 18 sections ( which were mentioned in the Aztec mēztli, which also means the Moon, although no relationship to the moon, its phases and the duration of the lunation is 29.53 days ) to 20 days each. In addition, a portion of invariable 5 days length, which is inserted after section 18 and to achieve the total duration of 365 days. The sections are named, not only in different language groups but also in the Aztec language area partially different names, often related to natural phenomena during all seasons, with a shift of several months notice. The names refer to the feast, which was usually celebrated at the end of the section. The translations are not always safe.

After the last feast was followed by five days, which were called nemontemi what was seen as unfortunate or useless days on which one should abstain from important activities. Similarly, a bad fate was predicted on these days children born. After these days the new year began. The days of the portions have not been counted, and thus not used to define time points.

The ritual calendar ( tonalpohualli )

The ritual calendar is formed of two clasped each other with (combined) cycles. The first (and perhaps older ) consists of 20 characters, the names ( and pictures ) correspond to animals, plants and natural phenomena. These names are often similar in content among the various peoples of Mesoamerica in the respective languages ​​. For the Aztec calendar reveals that not all of the animals free also occurred in the habitat of the Aztecs, but were of course known. The signs were assigned to the cardinal points.

The second cycle is only as the numbers from 1 to 13, which were combined in the same manner with the first cycle that both ran independently side by side. Because 13 is a prime number was an immutable sequence of 260 day names. The sequence began with ce cipactli (CE sipactɬi, 1 Cayman ) ome ehecatl (OME e'ēcatɬ, 2 wind ), ey | calli ( calli EJ 3rd house ) until after 260 days (names) matlactli Omei xochitl ( matlactɬi ōmej ʃōtʃitɬ, 20 flower) was achieved, with all possible combinations were used up. Then the tonalpohualli ( tonalpohualli ) started all over again.

The name of the tonalpohualli days were used because of their immutable sequence to denote points in time. As always repeated the sequence of names after 260 days, the days were so named only unique within this period. The tonalpohualli were not counted. While daily market held in big cities, in Tlatelolco, this should have been in smaller places only on every fifth ( defined by the tonalpohualli ) day of the event.

A further application of tonalpohualli was the divination, the provision of suitable and unsuitable days for certain activities. To this end, tables were used in pre-Hispanic times, which were recorded in illuminated manuscripts. Most of these manuscripts are not obtained from the Aztec area, but from the probably originating from the region of Puebla codices of the Borgia Group. There the 260 days are divided into 20 sections of 13 days, each occupying a double page. These sections are usually referred to by the Spanish term trecenas (three orders of units), an Aztec expression is not known. An example see in Codex Borbonicus.

The names of days of the birth or an attendant ceremony was used in various neighboring peoples of the Aztecs as a personal name, this was among the Aztecs themselves unusual.

The tonalpohualli has an interesting property. Its duration is equal to 2/3 of a so-called eclipse half-year of 173.31 days in which to repeat the conditions for eclipses. It is not known whether this property was known to the peoples of central Mexico. However, they can hardly be unaware that eclipses ( the sun like the moon) occur only in three groups of about 18 days a tonalpohualli, so in only a fifth of his days, which is why eclipses tend to occur on the same days of tonalpohualli.

In the codices of the Borgia group, there are numerous tables in which the tonalpohualli in 4, 5, 10, 13 and 20 sub-cycles is decomposed, in turn, are subdivided into divisions of 2, 4, 5, 6 or 8 days. These departments are associated with certain deities and their aspects and activities, so that repeat themselves in a tonalpohualli according to the number of sub-cycles. How exactly this system, which also occurs in Maya manuscripts, was applied exactly, is unknown since there is no authentic interpretation.

With the tonalpohualli several small cycles were firmly linked: The sequence of nine deities, which keeps coming began with each first day of the tonalpohualli, as well as the series of 13 birds and 13 of the deities. Their function is unknown.

The annual Verknüpfunge ( Xiuhmolpilli )

The least common multiple of 260 (days of tonalpohualli ) and 365 ( day of the 'bourgeois' year ) is 18,980, equal to 52 years or 73 tonalpohualli. During this period, the combinations that arise are unique. However, they could not be used for dating single day since the days of the 18 sections of the year were not counted. Also, were not counted in the 52 years of tonalpohualli.

Nevertheless, this combination suitable for chronological purposes, if the same day of the same section, for example, the last (20th) day has always been used to identify a year in the course of Xiuhmolpilli. In this way, a unique sequence of 52 day-signs which were used as the name of the respective years. The table shows the sequence of years. After each pass of a tonalpohualli a special ceremony was held, during which the previously deleted everywhere stove fires were kindled with a fire drill and was distributed to the households. This important ceremony was held for the last time in 1507, the year 2 acatl ( traditionally started the Xiuhmolpilli with this years name because schematically correct one tochtli was avoided because of a historic famine ). Using the table can be the European year, in the fall, most of the Aztec year to each Aztec years calculate name by adding the value of the table to the Julian year 1505 and, if appropriate, subtract multiples of 52.

Research problems

The main research problem to the Aztec calendar is the existence of a circuit to compensate for the difference in length between the ( tropical ) solar year of 365.2422 days and the schematic " bourgeois " Year of the Aztec calendar of only 365 days. From the solution of this question the definition of a correlation Aztec calendar date depends on a formula that every (complete ) in an exact date ( Julian ) European calendar can be converted.

Leap years

There is some debate among experts as to whether the Aztecs used a switching mechanism or not. This is attributable to the following situation.

Soon after the Spanish conquest, the missionaries worked to the Aztec calendar with the intention to be able to recognize and tackle the running to certain days " pagan " rites. For this purpose, a parallelization of both calendar was required. Early authors say this very clearly, so Motolinia, who wrote in 1540: "This ( Indians) have already noticed and understood that their year was faulty, and when the Spaniards arrived, the calendar specialists and philosophers wanted to advise the lack of leap year, which they had not eliminate, ". In a slightly earlier text Francisco de las Navas had reported similar: "These natives were getting confused because they had not a leap year. ... Therefore, it is necessary to enable them to perform the leap year as we do and at the same time that the leap year always ... falls on the year tecpatl ... and always be the 15th day of the 3rd month with the day sign malinalli which corresponds to the 24 February ". The February 24 is the leap day of the Julian calendar. This description makes it clear that the idea of ​​a corresponding circuit was an introduction by or under the supervision of European monks. Even the best authority on the Aztec culture, the Franciscan Bernardino de Sahagún, who had completed research in 1580 his Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España after several decades, writes there for leap year: " There is another festival that every four years is celebrated ... and it is likely and there are suspicions that they performed their leap year this festival. " Sahagún are undermined in its representation of the Aztec calendar, numerous errors that limit its reliability. It also has its own calendar developed ( Kalendario mexicano, latino y castellano ), in which he 5 nemontemi distributed to the 18 fixed sections, because " with the 5 nemontemi days make the Mexicans a lot of abuse, and to eliminate this abuse, the been inserted five days in the months, so that 5 months have emerged with 21 days ".

Another circuit method has been described by the author of the late 17th century, Gemelli Carreri. " They held a feast for the 13 leap days until April 10 ," namely, after a xiuhmolpilli of 52 years. This statement was later taken over by others, so by Alexander von Humboldt, who describes the switching mechanism in his work as follows: "At the end of each 52- year cycle of 13 days were switched on. "

A circuit would have destroyed the close coupling between the 260 -day calendar and the ( unswitched ) year of 365 days in any case, to among other things, the names of the years are based. Modern attempts to resolve this contradiction, must therefore either accept a completely nameless, uncounted leap day or twice a long day. For both, there is no robust evidence.

For a circuit is the fact that there are a number of colonial time occupied in the Aztec calendar data with a clear correspondence in the Julian calendar. The data are from the June 13, 1518 and February 1, 1576 therefore extend over a period of nearly 60 years, during which several circuits according to which system would be always occurred. However, all these data can only be explained without circuit. It is also important that in the highlands of Guatemala to the present day in different ethnicities calendar in use in which the 260 -day calendar is still with the Aztec synchronous, which clearly excludes the effect of skipping days in the form of a circuit.

The idea of ​​a circuit of the Aztec calendar seems, then go back to efforts by Spanish monks and their statements describe these approaches and not prehispanic reality.

Calendar correlation

The colonial time data to historical data around the time of the Conquest allow a precise correlation between the Aztec and the European ( Julian ) calendar. Today, developed by the Mexican historian Alfono Caso calendar equation is considered as the best solution. It reads: Year 3 calli, Day 1 coatl, Day 2 of the section Xocotlhuetzi corresponds to the August 13, 1521 An alternative has previously developed Eduard Seler. It differs from the Casos in that it applies to the 3rd day of the section Xocotlhuetzi. In both cases, the daily equation shifts with each occurring in the European calendar leap year one day.

When adopting a circuit which consists Kalenderkorrelatoin permanently without shifting circuit because both calendars run in parallel. This does not apply to artificially developed by Spanish authors calendar with peculiar structure.

Related calendar

The Aztec calendar belongs to the group of late calendar in western Mesoamerica. He had (other than the late - Olmec calendar and based on it the Maya and Monte Albán Phase 1 and 2) no consecutive day count ( Long Count and therefore no " day 0 " as its simultaneous, but expressed in other languages ​​neighbors.

The best-known neighbor is the Mixtec calendar. It differs from the Aztec by naming the day signs ( in Mixtec language ), but the designs are largely identical. Furthermore, the designation of simultaneous years is lower by one unit of the coefficient. In the Mixtec calendar a special additional motif to distinguish them from day names and names in the latter years of use. The names of days of the birth were used as the sole or additional persons name.