05) Cuauhtli & Cuahuitl

Compound glyphs and simplexes (e.g. Cuauhtlan) that feature trees (cuahuitl) or eagles (cuauhtli) share the same stem, which is the phonetic sound "cuauh," often at the start of a place name. Trees and eagles are both so favored as place name elements that place names beginning with Cuauh- are markedly numerous. As we add content to this database, at this early point, however, we already have more signs referring visually to trees than eagles. Trees have an obvious value to human beings for the resources they provide (oxygen, fruits, habitat for animals, firewood, torches, etc.). Eagles are majestic birds for their size, dramatic soaring, and hunting ability. Eagles enjoyed a great significance in Nahua culture, associated as they also were with war and warriors.

A fascinating glyph from the MatrĂ­cula de Huexotzinco (left) represents the name Cuahuitl (tree, wood), with both some wood and the head of an eagle, as though covering both possible readings!

(Draft, SW)