Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Myth, Environment, and the Orientation of the Templo Mayor of Tenochtitlan

  • A. F. Aveni (a1), E. E. Calnek (a2) and H. Hartung (a3)
Abstract

In the light of the recent excavations of the Templo Mayor in downtown Mexico City, we explore the problem of the role of astronomy, calendar, and the landscape in the design and orientation of the building and of the city in general. We employ ethnohistoric data relating to the foundation myth of Tenochtitlan as a means of generating hypotheses concerning astronomical orientation that can be tested by reference to the archaeological record. We find that eastward-looking observations (implied in dismantling and reconstructing the myth) that took place around the time of the equinox may have been related to an attempt to transform a true east orientation from the natural environment into the architecture via a line that passed through the center of the Temple of Huitzilopochtli (the more southerly temple of the pair constituting the top of the Templo Mayor). It also is possible that the notch between the twin temples served a calendrical/orientational function. Evidence is presented to support the view that the mountain cult of Tlaloc, represented in the environment on the periphery of the Valley of Mexico by Mount Tlaloc, also may have directly influenced the orientation of the building and that it was part of a scheme for marking out days of the calendar by reference to the position of the rising sun at intervals of 20 days from the spring equinox. In this regard, we discuss the connection between the Templo Mayor and an enclosure containing offertory chambers atop Mount Tlaloc, which is located on a line extended to the visible horizon 44 km east of the ceremonial center. The ethnohistoric record implies that this place had been used for sacrifices to the rain god after whom the other of the twin temples of the Templo Mayor was named.

Copyright
References
Hide All
Alvarado Tezozomoc H. 1944 Cronica Mexicana. Seleccion e introduccion por M. Mariscal. Secretana de Educacion Publica, Mexico City (reprint of 1878 edition).
Alvarado Tezozomoc H. 1949 Cronica Mexicayotl. Edited by Leon A.. Universidad Autonoma de Mexico, Mexico City.
Aveni A. F., and Gibbs S. L. 1976 On the Orientation of Pre-Columbian Buildings in Central Mexico. American Antiquity 41 : 510517.
Aveni A. F., and Hartung H. 1982 New Observations of the Pecked Cross Petroglyph. Lateinamerika Studien 10 : 2541.
Aveni A. F., Hartung H., and Buckingham B. 1977 The Pecked Cross Symbol in Ancient Mesoamerica. Science 202 : 267279.
Barlow R. H. (editor) 1949 Codice Azcatitlan. Journal de la Societe des Americanistes de Paris 38 (supplement).
Berlin H. 1948 Anales de Tlatelolco : Unos anales historicos de la nacion Mexicana, y Codice de Tlatelolco. Antiguo Libreria Robredo, Mexico City.
Broda J. 1982a El culto Mexica de los cerros y del agua. Multidisciplina 7 : 45-56. Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Mexico City.
Broda J. 1982b La fiesta Azteca del fuego nuevo y el culto de las Pleyadas. Lateinamerika Studien 10 : 129157.
Calnek E. E. 1974 Conjunto urbano y residencial en Tenochtitlan. In Ensayos sobre el Desarrollo Urbano de Mexico, pp. 1165. Sep Setentas 143, Mexico City.
Calnek E. E. 1976 The Internal Structure of Tenochtitlan. In The Valley of Mexico, edited by Wolf E., pp. 287302. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
Carrasco P. 1976 La sociedad Mexicana antes de la Conquista. In Historia General de Mexico, vol. I, edited by Martinez B. Garcia, Lorenzo J. L., Bernal I., and Carrasco P., pp. 165288. El Colegio de Mexico, Mexico City.
Chimalpahin D. 1958 Das Memorial Breve Acerca de la Fundacion de la Ciudad de Culhuacan und Weitere Ausgewdhlte Telle aus den “Diferentes Historias Originales” (Ms. Mexicain No. 74, Paris). Translated by Lehmann W. and Kutscher G.. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart.
Clark J. (editor and translator) 1938 Manuscrito Mexico conocido como coleccion de Mendoza, Bodleian Library, Oxford. Waterloo & Sons, London.
Cook de Leonard C. 1971 Minor Arts of the Classic Period in Central Mexico. In Archaeology of Northern Mesoamerica, pt. I, edited by Ekholm G. F. and Bernal I., pp. 207208. Handbook of Middle American Indians, vol. 10, R. Wauchope, general editor. University of Texas Press, Austin.
Dibble C. E. (editor) 1963 Historia de la nacion Mexicana : Reproduccion a todo color del Codice de 1576 (Codice Aubin). Jose Porrua Turanzas, Madrid.
Dow J. W. 1967 Astronomical Orientations at Teotihuacan, a Case Study in Astroarchaeology. American Antiquity 32 : 326334.
Duran D. 1971 Historia de las indias de Nueva Espana. 2 vols., edited by Garibay A. M.. Porrua K., Mexico.
Garcia G. (editor) 1910 The True History of the Conquest of New Spain by Bernal Diaz del Castillo, One of its Conquerers, vol. III. Hakluyt Society, Mexico City.
Garcia Icazbalceta J. (editor) 1941a Historia de los Mexicanos por sus pinturas. In Nueva Coleccion de Documentos para la Historia de Mexico, vol. 3, pp. 209240. Chavez Hayhoe, Mexico City.
Garcia Icazbalceta J. (editor) 1941b Relation de Texcoco. In Nueva Coleccion de Documentos para la Historia de Mexico, vol. 3, pp. 164. Chavez Hayhoe, Mexico City.
Garcia Icazbalceta J. (editor) 1941c Codex Franciscano. Nueva Coleccion de Documentos para la Historia de Mexico, vol. 1. Chavez Hayhoe, Mexico.
Graulich M. 1982 Quecholli et Panquetzaliztli : Une nouvelle interpretation. Lateinamerika Studien 10 : 159173.
Harvey H., and Williams B. 1980 Aztec Arithmetic : Positional Notation and Area Calculation. Science 210 : 499505.
Hellbom A. B. 1979 Reflejos de “sincretismo” en el Valle de Mexico. Acts XLII International Congress of Americanists VI: 73-84. Fondation Singer-Polignac, Paris.
Ixtlilxochitl F. 1952 Obras historical. 2 vols. Museo National de Antropologia, Mexico.
Mapa de Siguenza n.d. Mexico City. Museo Nacional de Antropologia. Codex collection 3514.
Marquina I. 1960 El Templo Mayor de Mexico. Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, Mexico City.
Matos Moctezuma E. 1981 Una visita al Templo Mayor. Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, Mexico City.
Matos Moctezuma E. 1984 The Great Temple of Tenochtitlan. Scientific American 251(2) : 7079.
Maudslay A. P. 1912 A Note on the Position and Extent of the Great Temple Enclosure of Tenochtitlan. Acts XVIII International Congress of Americanists, pp. 173175. London.
Mengin E. 1952 Commentaire du Codex Mexicanus No. 23-24. Journal de la Societe des Americanistes 41.
Millon R. 1973 Urbanization at Teotihuacan, Mexico , vol. 1. University of Texas Press, Austin.
Motolinia T. 1971 Memoriales o libro de las cosas de Nueva Espana y de los naturales de Ella , edited by O'Gorman E.. Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Mexico City.
Noguez X. (editor) 1978 Tira de Tepexpan (Tepechpan). 2 vols. Bibliografia Enciclopedica del Estado de Mexico, Mexico.
Nuttall Z. (editor) 1975 [Codex Nuttall] A Picture Manuscript from Ancient Mexico. Dover, New York.
Rickards C. G. 1929 The ruins of Tlaloc, State of Mexico. Journal de la Societe de Americanistes 21 : 197199.
Sahagun B. 1950-1982 Florentine Codex, General History of the Things of New Spain. 12 vols, and introduction. Translated by Anderson A. and Dibble C.. School of American Research, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Seler E. 1904 Die Ausgrabungen am Orte des Haupttempels in Mexiko. Gesammelte Abhandlungen 11 : 767904.
Siemens A. H. 1983 Oriented Raised Fields in Central Veracruz. American Antiquity 48 : 85102.
Tichy F. 1974 Explicacion de las redes de poblaciones y terrenos como testimonio de la occupacion y planificacion del Altiplano Central en el Mexico antiguo. Comunicaciones 11 : 4152.
Tichy F. 1983 El Patron de asentamientos con sistema radial en la Meseta Central de Mexico : ^Sistemas ceques en Mesoamerica? Jahrbuch fur Geschichte Lateinamerikas 20 : 6184.
Torquemada J. 1975 Monarquia indiana. Porrua, Mexico City.
Townsend R. 1979 State and Cosmos in the Art of Tenochtitlan. Dumbarton Oaks Studies in Pre-Columbian Art and Archaeology No. 20. Washington, D. C.
Umberger E. 1981 The Structure of Aztec History. Archaeoastronomy Bulletin (IV) 4 : 1018.
van Zantwijk R. 1985 The Aztec Arrangement. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.
Wheatley P. 1971 The Pivot of the Four Quarters. Aldine, Chicago.
Wicke C, and Horcasitas F. 1957 Archaeological Investigations on Monte Tlaloc, Mexico. Mesoamerican Notes 5 : 83-97.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Antiquity
  • ISSN: 0002-7316
  • EISSN: 2325-5064
  • URL: /core/journals/american-antiquity
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 3 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 221 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 20th January 2017 - 17th December 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.