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The Aztec Account of the Spanish Conquest of Mexico
 
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Join date : 2009-05-11
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PostSubject: Pre-Hispanic Writing and Calendars   Tue Jun 30, 2009 8:14 am

The highest cultures in ancient Mexico-especially the Mayas, Mixtecs, Toltecs and Aztecs-succeeded in developing their own systems of writing, as we can see from their carved inscriptions and the few pre-Columbian codices that have been preserved. The Aztecsystem was a combination of pictographic, ideographic and partiallyphonetic characters or glyphs, representing numerals, calendar signs, names of persons, place names, etc. The Aztecs came closest to true phonetic writing in their glyphs for place names, some of which contained phonetic analyses of syllables or even of letters. For example, the sounds a, e and o were indicated by the symbols for water (ati), bean (etl) and road (otli). The paper used in the codices was made by pounding and burnishing strips of bark from the amate tree (ficuspetiolaris). The illustrations in the present book have been adapted from post-Hispanic codices, of course, but the original artists used the old modes to depict their version of the Conquest.

Like the Mixtecs and Mayas, the Aztecs had two principal types of calendars. One was the xiupohualli, or "year-count," based on the astronomical year and made up of eighteen groups or months of twenty days each, with a remaining period of five days, called nemontemi, "those who are there," that was considered extremely unlucky. Despite the additional five days at the end, it became obvious that the calendar was moving ahead of the actual year, and therefore an extra day was added to every fourth year, as with our leap year. The other form of calendar was the tonalpohualli, or "day-count." It was not based on the astronomical year, for its twenty months had only thirteen days each; instead it was calibrated to a fifty-two-year "century." Thexiupohualli and tonalpobualli were related in various ways, but the whole topic of pre Hispanic calendars is far too complicated to be explained in a brief space. We have kept a few of the Aztec year, month and day names in this book, with explanatory foot notes where needed.
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