The Aztec Calendar The Aztec were a group of indigenous people who dominated central and southern Mexico from the 14th to 16th centuries. They founded the city Tenochtitlan, located on the site of present-day Mexico City. Their city flourished until the Spanish Conquest in 1519.
They were a very advanced society with beautiful cities, pyramids, and a very exact timekeeping device called a calendar. The Aztec calendar, seen below, contained images for days, months, and suns. The original stone is 3.66 meters (12 feet) in diameter and weighs 21.6 metric tons (24 tons). The Aztecs began making the calendar in 1427, and they finished in 1479. They did not have a written language so they had to carve pictures to represent an idea. These pictures were called pictographs.
The face of the main Aztec god, Tonatiul, is the center of the stone. Around the face are four squares called Nahui-Ollin, or the Four Movements. They represent the Aztec belief that in four ways, four previous worlds had come to an end: by animals, wind, fire, and floods. The Aztecs believed they were living in the fifth and final world.
The circle shows the 20 squares naming each day of the Aztec month.
They are called the Ring of Solar Archetypes. Each pictograph and day is depicted below, along with Aztec beliefs about each day.
Cipactli, Crocodile-A good day for beginnings.
Malinalli, Grass-A good day for those suppressed.
Itzcuintli, Dog-A good day for being trustworthy.
Cuauhtli, Eagle-A good day for action, bad day for reflection.
Ozomatli, Monkey-A good day for laughter, bad day for seriousness.
Tecpatl, Flint-A good day to trust one's character.
Acalt, Cane-A good day for justice, a bad day to act against others.
Quiahuitl, Rain-A good day for traveling and learning.
Ehecatl, Wind-A good day to root out bad habitats.
Ollin, Motion-A good day for transformation.
Ocelotl, Jaguar-A good day for doing battle.
Calli, House-A good day for rest and family life.
Cuetzpalin, Lizard-A good day to work on reputation through action.
Coatl, Snake-A good day to work on reputations through action.
Miqutztli, Death-A good day of transformation.
Mazatl, Deer-A good day to double back on your tracks.
Tochtli, Rabbit-A good day to commune with nature.
Cozcacuauhtli, Vulture-A good day for the trickster.
Atl, Water-A good day to battle the enemies within.
Xochitl, Flowers-A good day for companionship.
The Aztec year consists of 18 months, with each having a special name. This arrangement took care of 360 days to which 5 days were added as "unlucky days". The extra days were sacrificial days known as Nemontemi. The next circle is composed of square sections with five dots in each section, representing weeks of five days. Eight angles divide the stone into eight parts, showing the sun rays.
On the bottom part of the stone are two enormous snakes facing each other. Their bodies are divided into sections, recording the 52 year cycles. The date 13 Acatl is placed between the snakes. This corresponds to 1479, the year the calendar was completed.
Eight holes appear on the edge of the calendar. The Aztec placed sticks into the holes letting shadows fall on the figures of the calendar to determine the time of day. The stone was used as both a sundial and a calendar.
Some descendants of the Aztec still use the calendar and maintain a very active culture. Many include both ancient beliefs and Christianity in their day-to-day life.
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