Aztec Calendar

An Aztec saying tells that the one who has the skill of counting the days, has the ability of talking to the gods. It is important to mention that even thou no Mesoamerican culture developed a practical writing system, the account of time was of so

An Aztec saying tells that the one who has the skill of counting the days, has the ability of talking to the gods…

It is important to mention that even thou no Mesoamerican culture developed a practical writing system, the account of time was of so much importance for them that their calendars were not only highly sophisticated: Mesoamerican calendars are cultural features that were transmitted and improved from culture to culture, throughout 35 centuries.

One fine day at the end of the 18th century in Mexico City, during refurbishment works in the Metropolitan Cathedral, a big round stone was unearthed. Measuring almost 13 feet in diameter by 3 feet wide, and weighing 25 tons, it was quickly identified as a calendar of Aztec manufacture, thus people started calling it the “Aztec Calendar” while archaeologists called it the “Sun Stone”.

This calendar was created in order to celebrate the Aztec century in 1479, and it is a copy of one that was a copy itself. Its original name is Cuauhxicalli, meaning “Eagles Bowl”, and it was basically a stone over which sacrifices were practiced. Blood was collected and given to eagles as food, it was believed that they would fly and feed the sun with the vital liquid to give it strength. In the center the sun is represented with a flintstone as tongue, this instrument was used by priests to take out the pounding heart of the sacrificed one.

It consists of eight concentric circles, starting with the sun in the center, second circle represents the 4 cardinal points and the 4 seasons; the 20 days of their month in the third one; Quetzalcóatl in his role as mediator between gods and humans is in the fourth one; in the fifth one the borderline between the divine and the earthly things, the sky and all what comes from it; Moon and stars in the sixth one; war, fire and the death in the seventh one; the eighth one represents the borders of the visible world and the meeting point of day and night.

Mesoamerican calendars are the synthesis of religion, science and politics developed up to the day of its creation. The Aztec one skillfully synchronizes the cycles of Venus, Moon, Sun and other sky objects, resulting in two independent accounts. One calendar of 260 days considered as sacred, and another one of 360 days plus 5 "resting" days, considered as the civil calendar. Both calendars coincide in the very same date every 52 years, in which the “New Fire” ceremony was held.

The Aztec Calendar, Sun Stone or Eagles Bowl can be (literally) admired in the Aztec Culture hall, in the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City.