New Aztec Codices.

Alonso Zamora at Tlacuilolli (which “focuses on Mesoamerican writing systems: Aztec, Maya, Mixtec, and more”) announced (on March 21) an exciting discovery:

Yesterday, a team of specialists of the National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico, led by the historians Baltazar Brito Guadarrama and María Castañeda de la Paz, the philologist Michel Oudijk, and the Nahuatl specialist Rafael Tena, presented to the public the discovery of three new Aztec codices, collectively known as the Codices of San Andrés Tetepilco, formerly a part of the Culhuacan polity of Central Mexico, and nowadays located within the Iztapalapa borough in Mexico City. This is one of the most exciting and spectacular discoveries regarding codical sources in recent years, and is no doubt closely related to the topic of this blog. The discovery has been already covered by the Mexican press and explained in detail in yesterday’s presentation at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, which can be seen in Youtube. However, an English summary will be presented for the readers of this blog.

[…] It comprises three codices. The first is called Map of the Founding of Tetepilco, and is a pictographic map which contains information regarding the foundation of San Andrés Tetepilco, as well as lists of toponyms to be found within Culhuacan, Tetepilco, Tepanohuayan, Cohuatlinchan, Xaltocan and Azcapotzalco. The second, the Inventory of the Church of San Andrés Tetepilco, is unique, as Oudijk remarks, since it is a pictographic inventory of the church of San Andrés Tetepilco, comprising two pages. Sadly, it is very damaged. Finally, the third document, now baptised as the Tira of San Andrés Tetepilco, is a pictographic history in the vein of the Boturini and the Aubin codices, comprising historical information regarding the Tenochtitlan polity from its foundation to the year 1603. […]

Of course, new and very interesting examples of Aztec writing are contained throughout all these documents, including old and new toponyms, spellings of Western and Aztec names, and even some information that confirms that some glyphs formerly considered as hapax, as the chi syllabogram in the spelling of the name Motelchiuhtzin in Codex Telleriano-Remensis 43r, discussed in another post of this blog, were not anomalous but possibly conventional. Besides logosyllabic spellings, the presence of pictographs with alphabetic glosses in Nahuatl will be of great help to ascertain the functioning of this still controversial part of the Aztec communication system.

Images and more details at the link; thanks, Y!


  1. That’s a cool blog.

    If anyone has a further interest in the subject, I recommend Cave, City and Eagle’s Nest, An Interpretive Journey through the Mapa de Cuauhtinchan No. 2, about a similar codex map.

  2. Deciphering Aztec Hieroglyphs: A Guide to Nahuatl Writing by Gordon Whittaker is a beautifully illustrated book that takes an in-depth look at the principles of the writing system and Nahuatl grammar.

    I’ve only read snippets so far, but he argues for multiple phonetic values per sign and signs for CVC and VC as well as disyllables, which are different from the Maya script and therefore not always accepted by those who come from the Mayanist tradition.

  3. I learned long ago that Aztec writing was purely pictographic and had no phonetic element. Probably an opinion held by bewildered Mayanists. I’m very glad to be corrected.

  4. David Marjanović says

    Aztec Writing: How does it really work? From 2016. Complex, reminiscent of crossword cues.

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