buried mirror: latest reflections

mesoamerica and the maya world

Category: aztecs

Adding up the bones

and arms, and hearts, and hands, and arrows . . .

Geographer Barbara Williams and mathematician Maria del Carmen Jorge y Jorge have, after three decades of labor, deciphered an Aztec code used to calculate the areas of land plots.

The Aztecs needed to calculate the area of irregular shaped parcels of land for tax purposes. Their calculations were recorded in two books, the Codex Vergara and the Codice de Santa Maria Asuncion, in which older documents written on tree bark or cotton cloth were presumably transcribed onto paper brought by Spanish conquistadors. According to an article by Alan Zarembo in the L. A. Times,

The pages of the books are filled with tiny property maps. For each plot, there are two drawings — one showing the lengths of the sides and another showing the area. The measurements are represented by seven symbols: lines, dots, arrows, hearts, hands, arms and bones. Each map also includes the name of the property owner and the soil type.

Researchers already knew what each map represented and the value of some of the measurements. A line, for example, was the standard unit of length, which was known as a tlalquahuitl, or rod, and in modern units would measure a little more than 8 feet.

When the researchers knew the values of the units in roughly rectangular plots, they could easily follow the logic of the Aztecs and reproduce their calculations by multiplying lengths and widths.

But they were stymied in calculating many plots because they didn’t know the value of the units. The breakthrough came when Jorge y Jorge, a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, found that the values of some areas were prime numbers.

So now we know, a hand equaled 3/5 of a rod, an arrow was 1/2 , a heart was 2/5 , an arm was 1/3 , and a bone was 1/5.

But I would like to know more about how the Aztecs classified soil types.

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Ancient pyramid found in Mexico City

The pyramid, about 36 feet high, was found in the central Tlatelolco area. The discovery pushes back the date of the founding of Tlatelolco by a couple of centuries, meaning the Aztec presence in central Mexico began earlier than previously supposed.

via Yahoo news

Aztec tomb discovered

Using radar equipment, archaeologists have located the tomb of the Aztec ruler Ahuizotl 15 feet below a ceremonial center in the heart of Mexico City. The tomb is large, consisting of several chambers.

Ahuizotl was the uncle of Moctezuma, who led the Aztec emperor at the time of the conquest by Hernán Cortés. He was cremated in 1502 according to a large monolith that was recently discovered, prompting the search for his tomb. From an article about plans to excavate the tomb:

Leonardo López Luján, the lead archaeologist, told Associated Press that his team hoped to be inside the chambers by October, staring at the ashes of Ahuizotl, as well as offerings befitting his status as the last Aztec ruler to die in power.

The team was moving slowly because the entrance is flooded and filled with rocks, forcing the need for pumps to keep the water level down as archaeologists excavate while hanging from slings, he said. He said the conditions may have helped preserve the tomb’s contents.

LINK:
GroundReport | Archaeologists in Mexico City Find First Tomb of Aztec Ruler

Ancient Offerings Found at Nevado de Toluca

An AP article announces the find by scuba divers of what may be Aztec offerings deep in a volcanic crater lake west of Mexico City. The snow-capped volcano lies at 13,800 feet above sea level.

Research is being led by Stanislaw Iwaniszewski of the National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico. Among the finds are lightning bolt-shaped scepters, copal incense, obsidian knives, and maguey cactus spines.

The lightning bolt scepter indicate offerings to the rain god Tlaloc (Chac is the Maya equivalent). Obsidan knives were traded through Mesoamerica. The cactus spines would have been used in blood letting.

Some of the materials are said to date to 100 BCE, which of course is more than a millennium before the appearance of the Aztecs (who headline the AP article).

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