Enrique Juan Palacios.

The stone of the sun and the first chapter of the history of Mexico online

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respectively 676, 676, 364, and 312 years, or 2,628 in all; this agrees
neither with the tetranary concept nor with the figures of Ixtlilxochitl.

As to the figure of the naolin, the arc of a circle which it embraces
represents very well the amplitude of the movement of the sun toward
both sides of the line of the equinoxes; a savant so illustrious as Sir
Norman Lockyer has declared that " the symbol figures correctly and
appropriately the annual course of the sun " (citationof Mrs. Nuttall).

b) We have said how we interpret the four great numerals of the
following zone, distinct in size and details from the fifth one placed
below the naolin. They affect the central image, clearly expressing
4 huehuetiliztli or Indian centuries. There are those who see in them
and the numeral below the five nemoteni, mistaken assumption which
does not fit well with the etymological meaning ("superfluous, extra,
useless days"). . In fact, these are Encountered, almost concealed, to
the number of four, under the claws of the snakes, in accordance with
the deprecative and superstitious idea which the Mexicans attributed
to them.

d) Concerning the dates inscribed in this zone we have no con-
tingent to bring. The thesis of Gama may be admi :ted with respect
to those whose general interpretation of the monument, we may say
in passing, is the only one among all those that have been offered that
maintains a respectable footing. Our reading of the stone is not
unreconcilable with the thesis that the reUef might serve in the manner
of a sundial, vertically placed, with the face toward the south, and
that the shadows of some gnomons have indicated the hours of the day
and the time of the spring equinox and the summer solstice. For the
great archaeologist these two dates are the Ce qui&huitl and Ome
ozomatli, which are seen below the naolin (although in truth, we do not
read Ome, two but Chicome, seven, ozomatli). The fact is easy to
prove by calculation, or experimentally by constructing a model in
plaster, arranging it in the form indicated by Gama and observing the
shadows on the corresponding days March 2 1 and June 21). Chavero


believes another thing: that the dates indicate the days on which the
sun passes by the zenith of the city (May 17 and June 26), which is
possible and can be tested by experiment; but it cannot be fitted with
the theory that the stone had to be placed horizontally. Various
modern interpreters of the stone have fallen into this error; adopting
in general the explanation of the dates proposed by Gama, they claim
that the stone had to be laid down, as Chavero affirms; without
observing that the theory of the first archaeologist requires the verti-
cal position of the monolith. Only so can the shadows be produced.

Concerning the symbol Ce tecpatl, placed in a prominent part,
near to the face of the sun, we know that it represents the beginning
of the chronology, beginning of the creation, and the first day of the
fourth age of the world, which was the present one for the constructor
race (Toltec or Aztec). For such a reason it bears the mamalhuaztli,
glyph of the new fire. The count begun with this character necessarily
concludes in ij-dcatl, the date inscribed in the frame at the top of the
monolith, at the end of 52, 104, 416, and 624, 1,040 or 1,664 years.
And all these cycles are read in the stone, but especially that of 416.
The nature of the system determines this result, in which may be
seen the capital idea of the relief, although omitting the reading of
dates alluding to concrete incidents; the present age, begun in Ce
tecpatl (for this reason the copilli, royal symbol, accompanies the
character — idea of Senor del Paso y Troncoso communicated to Sefior
Batres, although this archaeologist believed that the symbol ruled
only one tlalpilli) wiU end on the day ij-dcatl, upon the completion
of the development of the serpent of time.

We repeat that in this may be seen the culminating reading of the
rehef, and the conception harmonizes perfectly with what we know
of the cosmogony and chronology of the Toltecs, with so much the
more reason as the initial character of the computations of the Aztecs
was tochtli, and not tecpatl. The thesis that the monument expresses
the ideas and history of that people possesses without doubt extreme
substantiality. Nevertheless, it is not absurd to admit that 780
years, of the present historic epoch, the fourth in any case, had
passed at the moment of working the stone, 624 of the scales affected
by the half-circles, until the founding of Tenochtitlan, in the year
13-dcail (1323), and 156 more which we take from the dots of the edge
or cyhndrical projection. With these there is reached the year 1479
{ij-dcatl also) of Axayacatl. Because we must agree that the half-
circles and the dots were placed with some object, such a mode of


thought involves the indirect confirmation that, for whatever reason,
the system was considered as estabhshed from the beginning of the
year 700 of the vulgar era — so prominent in the chronicles — ^probable
beginning of the fourth age of the world in the beliefs of the natives;
and reveals that the Mexicans, descendants of the Toltecs, adopted
completely the culture of the people of Huemantzin, reproducing its
fundamental ideas. Speaking of the Ehecatontiuh, fourth age of the
world in his conception, Henning has said that it "is an event, if not
absolutely, at least relatively, modern" {Sttidy of the Date 4-Ahau).
It has been fancied that there are traces of the face of Tliloc in
the figure of <ec/>a/Hn the relief: it is certain that what the sign carries
is the mamalhuaztli, or the attribute of Tezcathpoca; it might indicate
that the first of the epochs was presided over by this deity, as the
Codex Fuenleal aflirms; then Ehecatonatiuh would be the historic sun,
it being conceived that some have seen in the central face that of
Quetzalcoatl, idea truly vigorous. The glyph has at the left its
guardian,' Tletl, symbol of fire, and the copilli of the kings.

There are not lacking some who think that this figure phonetically
expresses the name of Motecuhzoma or that of Chimalpopoca. The
copilli also denotes the creative goddess. Sometimes we think that it
is the name of the artificer or astronomer maker; or indeed of Cipactli,
the first light and the first day, breaking from the divine throne and
from the tlachco (ball ground) of heaven; also it might be presumed
that the character Ce tecpatl, year in which AcamapichtU, the first
monarch of Mexico, was elected, joined with the royal copilli, alludes
to the beginning of the Tenochco monarchy; but there would be much
to object to, and we strongly prefer to see in the figure the sign of
royalty, that is to say, of that which is now in force, with the guard-
ian of the first day: the idea of Senor Troncoso.

There is one fact deserving notice. Conformably with the data
of the Codex Borbonico we know that the quecholli or guardian of the
year Ce dcatl is TepeyoUotl. Ah well, the year 1519 of the vulgar era,
when the Spaniards arrived at our country, was precisely Ce dcatl.
Counting back in the tables, in accordance with the order of the
guardians indicated in the codex, it is found that the first day of the
year 700 corresponds to the character Tletl. New proof of our read-
ing of the stone.

I The author uses the word acompanado: it might be translated "companion,"
"guardian"; it is usuaUy given in English as "lord of the night"— there being
nine "lords of the night," acompanados or quecholli.


Gama states that in the day Ce tecpatl the Indians celebrated one
of their principal festivals, consecrating- it to the flint knife (tScpatl)
itself, deified under the name Teotecpatl, this being joined with the
festival of fire. This is not opposed to our reading of the monolith,
we have said that a part of the hypothesis of the savant remains

We do not believe it inopportune to reproduce here some para-
graphs from our study De SahagHn a Del Paso y Troncoso, which
condenses the principal ideas of the interpretation of Gama:

So far as concerns the figures which immediately surround the face
of the sun, he interprets them as the nahui ollin, or the four movements of
the orb between the solstices and the equinoxes (as well as of its two pas-
sages through the zenith of the city) ; the figures themselves indicating the
dates of the Aztec year in which the phenomena occur (Ce quidhuitl, Ome
ozomatli, Nahui ocSlotl, and Nahui quidhuitl) ; and particularly the symbols
inclosed in the four rectangles he interprets as the foiu" cosmogonic ages
or periods in the life of the human species. The monolith gives these
indications of the movements of the orb, the year jj-dcail, engraved in the
quadrangle at the top of the stone, because this year falls at about the
middle of the Aztec cycle of 52 years, when "there takes place with sufficient
approximation the arrival of the sun at its equinoctial, at the solstitial
points, and at the vertex or zenith of the city, the twice in the year when
it passes that point, on the dates which are indicated upon the stone, and
consequently the time fixed for celebrating their festivities." In order
that such a result should be secured, the stone must be supposed placed
vertically upon a horizontal plane (as now it is found) and with the sculp-
tured surface looking toward the south; moreover, exactly directed from
east to west. In this position the monolith registered the movements of the
sun during a portion of the year, or be it in the period during which the orb
advances from the equinoctial to one of the tropics, which assumes that
there was another similar stone (Gama believed it buried) in which should
be figured the dates of the remaining festivals, comprised during the space
of time which the sun tarried in coursing through the other part of the
ecliptic. At the same time the savant believed that the stone was a solar
timepiece, which by means of gnomons indicated the hours of the day,
some threads stretched between these gnomons serving to indicate the
days of the solstices and the equinoxes, since at the time of the latter the
shadows would be parallel and at the summer solstice they would be con-
founded, while at the winter solstice the shadow of the upper thread would
fall above the stone or in the line where the vertical plane of the monument
cut the ground. These gnomons were placed in the eight sockets, which,
in fact, appear near the border of the cylinder.


Although differing in some points, our interpretation of the relief
is not in complete disaccord with the ideas of the illustrious archaeolo-
gist since it is possible to admit that the stone has been as he says, and
that the gnomons would give something of the indications that he
mentions; it is possible to admit that the Ce Ucpatl indicates one of
the festivals, as well as the first day of the fourth age, the figure
near being the acompanado of this day. We differ indeed as to the
meaning of the ij-dcatl, which does not fall toward the middle but at
the end of the cycle (except when this begins with Ce tochtli, conform-
ably to the Mexican system, which date is not seen on the stone, which
bears the Toltec Ucpatl); we differ at the same time in some other
particulars, as the reader will see.

/) The following zone is the one from which we begin to pro-
ceed through the field of conjecture, according to the phrase of
Don Antonio Pefiafiel. It is the circle of the quinaries or numerals
distributed in groups of five units. There are in all 260 units of
this kind, perfectly counted, but not explained until now.

Chavero and the majority of archaeologists see in these the
tonaldmatl, sacred reckoning which really consists of just this number
of days. But it must not be forgotten that it is distributed in thir-
teens, and in the zone which we study the thought of making the
distribution in groups of five units appears very clear.

In reality it treats of Venus years. The explanation is moreover
simple. The period of the planet measures eight solar years, equiva-
lent to five in the Venus calendar, phenomenon unquestionably
observed by the natives, as the festival atamalqualiztli proves. In
other terms, five synodical movements of Venus, each one of which
lasted very near to 584 days, is equivalent to eight years in the solar
calendar, knowledge which the aborigines could acquire by observing
the march of the planet. This was the origin of the festival which was
celebrated every eight years. According to this, the fives represent
the five revolutions of the planet which make a set with the solar
calendar; to which we add the following: Only five of the twenty-
day characters or symbols of the native month were initials of the
year in the Venus calendar. The selection then of the groups
of five seems perfectly motived. And as the numerals distributed in
this form are 260, the indication is of that number of synodical
movements of the evening star, that is to say, it treats of 260 Venus
years. The number, which also constitutes the basis of the tonald-
matl, was sacred, and the period, especially significant, is found in


harmony with the other elements of the relief; 260 Venus years adjust
themselves to a grand cycle of 416 solar years and equal exactly 584

Another proof that these elements do not allude to days, but to
years, we shall see in the two objects, which are considered in the next
paragraph, in which fives appear combined with gl3T)hs denoting the
solar years; it would not be logical to suppose that elements signi-
fying a day should be arbitrarily mixed up with elements signifying a
year. This is the error into which have invariably fallen Chavero,
Valentini, Abadiano, and most of the interpreters of the monu-

g) Glyphs follow which have been counted by Chavero and other
authors; bu^, except for that archaeologist, who saw in them a cycle
of 104 years, without decipherment. They represent solar years, and
they are seen combined with the preceding in many astronomical
monuments of the museum; in the cubical stone with the four ages
of the world of which we have spoken before; in the stone known as
the Stone of Tizoc, on whose border Abadiano read the same num-
ber of 1,664 which we know represents one of the ages of the world;
in a most interesting stone box {tepetlacalli) from Texcoco, which also
belongs to the museum, etc., etc.

The finding of the two classes of units in the cubical stone suffi-
ciently proves that they denote years, since it is not logical to com-
pute in another manner ages of prolonged duration.

The same glyphs, in diverse combinations, appear in a great
number of monuments: pages of the codices; a precious vase
(cuauhxicalU) in Berlin of which Kingsborough published an engraving ;
the admirable stone of Tepetzuntla, symbolism of Quetzalcoatl, which
shows under the teeth the 8 glyphs of the solar years equivalent to the
five Venus years which the god has on the forehead; the frieze of Mitla,
copied by the great German archaeologist Seler; the figure from a
Tacubaya garden which is called Tetzcatzdncatl.

h) No one has deciphered the so-called "pentagons." We iden-
tify these glyphs with the conventionalized signs, sufficiently analogous,
which adorn the body of the so-called Cipactli of Xochicalco and that
of the four serpents of page 72 of the Borgian Codex. Four plumed
serpents appear in the codex, with 13 circles distributed over the
body (including the eye of the monster). The figure forms a sort of
frame within which the initial characters of the Venus year are encount-
ered. We already know that there are five of these. The circles


indicate that the combination is separated 13 times in one huehue-
Hliztli. Each one of the fantastic beings has then the value of 65
Venus or 104 solar years.

Seen with attention, the gl3^hs of the Cipactli of Xochicalco have
no small similarity with the pentagons. It has been said (Ramon
Mena) that their outline is that of a snail, relating them to Quetzal-
coatl; this is correct, since it concerns a conventionalization of the
jewel of that deity which alludes to his marine origin (the deity pro-
ceeded from the sea of the east). The giant stromhus is truly the
most beautiful shell of the Antillean seas and of the Gulf; its hollow
interior reproduces the murmur of sea waves; for this reason they
adopted it as the emblem of the deity come from that direction.
Sahagun, describing the representations the Indians made of him, twice
mentions the shells that served him as adornment: "He has a collar
of gold, from which hang some very precious sea shells .... some
leggings of tiger skin, from the knees down, from which hung some
sea shells."

In the pentagons of the relief there is very evident a curve or
' hollow in the lower part, which in the figures of Xochicalco very clearly
presents the outUne of an ear or shell. Both characters contain the
same symboUsm: they are Venus symbols each of which represents
2,920 days, equivalent to eight years. Assuming the planet to be
morning star at the beginning, this period having run its course, it will
occupy the identical position in the heavens. Ah well, the Cipactli
of Xochicalco have thirteen signs, like the groups of pentagons of the
rehef. Each one, therefore, denotes 65 and the four groups 260 Venus
years, which are 416 solar years. The stone, the codex, and the edifice
say the same thing. The groups of pentagons might be replaced
around the face of the relief by the four serpents of the codex or by
the Cipactli of Xochicalco.

The initial page of the Fejervary-Mayer Codex, the page of the
cruciform trees of the Vatican Codex B, and others of the most notable
pictographic representations are to be read in the same way, as we
shall demonstrate further on.

We insist that the pentagons of the stone allude to Venus cycles
and not at all to days. Abadiano sees in them the groups of twelve
and thirteen intercalary days, which the natives, according to the
theory of Gama and Orozco y Berra, added at the end of each 104
years to adjust the calendar with the tropical year. But, apart from
the fact that the codices bring no conclusive proofs of such correction,


as Seler has shown, we will repeat that the elements of this central part
of the magnificent relief are glyphs symboUcal of special cycles and of
complete years; but in no case of days. These find their representa-
tion by means of dots upon the bodies of the serpents and with their
own proper characters in the zone outside the sun's face; the other
characters of the central part of the stone possess a much larger
significance, in consonance with the importance of the monument.
The objects of this kind that deal with the representation of a simple
year are very few; usually the natives figured knottings or tyings and
the cycle of 52 years, which appears with great frequency in the codices
and in the inscriptions of stone. It happens thus in the tableland of
Mexico the same as in Yucatan; in Mitla and Xochicalco as in the
zone of Palenque, Copan, and Quirigua. With greater reason may we
suppose analogous meaning in a colossal relief, which is but the
Teoamoxtli made stone or the allegory of the world's history, con-
formable to the cosmogonic and astronomical beliefs of the aborigines.
It is obvious that, in an allegory of this kind, the component elements
shou'd represent periods o' a certa'n duration.

Let us undertake now to explain rationally the necessity of"
inscribing four groups of Venus cycles in place of one, since one
suffices to indicate the century of the chronological counts, 104
years. We might limit ourselves exclusively to facts, indicating the
pages already mentioned of the Borgian, Vatican B, and Fejervary-
Mayer codices, which show the frequency with which the native
astronomers repeated in their pictographs what we see in the basalt
relief. Also the Dresden Codex gives the number of 151,840 days,
which are 260 Venus years. But we must explain the data which are
observed. The reason of the fact reveals how perfect were the astro-
nomical observations of the ancient inhabitants of America, and to
what height their knowledge of the phenomena of space attained.
The value of the apparent revolution of Venus not being exactly
584 days, but 583 days 22 hours, 6 minutes, and 14 seconds, it seems
that the natives knew this difference, at least' as regards the 22 hours
over and even a little more. -In the development of the series of
days, it results that at the end of 104 years (65 Venus years) the calen-
dar of the planet was five days behind with reference to the
solar; and the Indians, proceeding as astronomers, had to make some
correction. This was secured by initiating in a special calendar
(probably reserved for chiefs and priests, and but little known to the
vulgar) the second huehuetiliztU, with another five of the twenty day


characters, and making them run thirteen times, as the preceding
until termmating a new sacred cycle. This concluded, they continued
the falling behind with other five days, making use of the third group
of characters; and, finally, at the closing of the fourth cycle of 104
solar years, theoretically have entered into the arrangement, as initial
years, all of the twenty day characters of the month, permitting that
the new period of 416 years should commence anew with Cipactli.
The idea, for which there exist no conclusive proofs, has been very
ingeniously suggested by Mrs. Nuttall. Each time that the long-
drawn-out period arrived at its end, the calendars of the two stars
actually adjusted themselves, at the time when they returned to con-
cur in the same respective position in the firmament. The harmony
and beauty of this arrangement are indeed marvelous.

The distribution of the day signs in the planet's calendar results
as follows:

First huehnetiliztli: Cipactli, Coatl, Atl, AcatI, and Ollin
Second huehuetiliztli: Miquiztii, Itzcuintli, Ocelotl, Tecpatl, and Ehecatl
Third huehuetUiztli: Ozomatli, Cuauhtli, Quiahuitl, Calli, and Mizatl
Fourth huehuetiliztli: Cozcacuiuhtli, Xochitl, Cuetzpallin, Tochtli, and

The great cycle ended in Malinalli, to begin with Cipactli in the
one and the other calendar. We shall see this confirmed in the edi-
fice of Xochicalco, where Malinalli separates the allegorical repre-
sentatives of 416 years; let us say for the moment that these groups
of day symbols are those which are met with in the four serpents of
page 72 of the Borgian Codex. Their true significance has eluded
the archaeologists until now. Seler limits himself to see in the page
mentioned the four parts of the tonaldmatl} This would not explain
satisfactorily why the monsters have thirteen divisions in the body;
by our hypothesis, the thing is simple; they are the number of times
which the five chronographic signs run in one huehuetiliztli. In
total, 52 occasions: the number of the pentagons of the monoHth.

At the same time, the number 151,840 (number of days in 416
solar years) has the notable property, not yet observed so far as we
know, of being a multiple, with the difference of a single unit, of the

• Although the same savant ventures the hypothesis that this page expresses
some great period of time. And Don Jose Fernando Ramirez affirms literally,
studying the Borgian Codex, that "the Mexicans had a cyclical period much larger
and more perfect that Gama concedes to them, and all the other writers who have
followed in his steps" (the period of 104 years). — ^Letter to Andrade, July, 1850.


number 9; the characters of the /owa^tf ma// known as the queckolU or
acompanados de la noche close in that period a complete round, since
in the last day there are superposed two characters in accordance
with the invariable practice of the arrangers of that book. The same
result is not secured at the end of 104 years, because in 37,960 days
seven quecholli remain, it being necessary that this cycle repeat itself
four times in order that the important and mysterious nocturnal
characters should combine with the diurnal in a harmonious man-
ner. And this is a new confirmation of the special importance which
the Indians attributed to the great period; in it, all the chronological
elements combined:

151, 840-^ 9 = 16,871+1

151,840-r 13 = 11,680

151,8404-20= 7,592

Now we may understand why the cycle of 416 years is found
repeatedly stamped upon the relief. Although the movements of
the sun and Venus are adjusted every 104 years, that is to say, the

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Online LibraryEnrique Juan PalaciosThe stone of the sun and the first chapter of the history of Mexico → online text (page 6 of 8)