acolli (Mdz21v)

acolli (Mdz21v)
Element from a Compound

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This element has been carved from the compound sign for the place name, Acolhuacan. It shows a flesh-toned human arm with a bone protruding at the top, near where the shoulder (acolli) would be. The elbow is slightly bent. A yellow and a red line run across the top of the arm, just below the protruding bone. At the wrist of the arm there is a turquoise bracelet with red (leather?) ties hanging down. There is a (left) hand with five fingers and visible fingernails. The positioning of the thumb would suggest that this is a left arm.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

The bone may be intended to draw attention to the shoulder area, given that acolli means shoulder. Gordon Whittaker calls "acol" a pseudo-logogram, for in place names it is not literally about a shoulder but provides the phonetics for "a" (water) and "col" (bend, or curve), referring to "the curve of the lakeshore." [See Whittaker, Deciphering Aztec Hieroglyphs, 2021, 180.] The bracelet in this glyph may be emblematic of the Acolhua people of Tetzcoco, unless it is how a historical figure or a divinity was adorned. The red and yellow lines at the top of the arm may indicate that what appears above them is the interior of the arm. This theory is based on the location of the yellow and red lines at the bottom of the tepetl, which might be an entrance to the underworld and the point where a natural spring could emerge. Support for this interpretation is found in the place name glyph for Ixicayan. Similarly, the interior of the water channel or canal (apantli), also has these yellow and red lines (between the sides and the water).

Added Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Source Manuscript: 
Date of Manuscript: 

c. 1541, but by 1553 at the latest

Creator's Location (and place coverage): 

Mexico City

Cultural Content, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Shapes and Perspectives: 

arms, hands, bones

Glyph or Iconographic Image: 
Relevant Nahuatl Dictionary Word(s): 
Glyph/Icon Name, Spanish Translation: 

el hombro

Spanish Translation, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Image Source: 

Codex Mendoza, folio 21 verso,, image 53 of 188.

Image Source, Rights: 

The Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, hold the original manuscript, the MS. Arch. Selden. A. 1. This image is published here under the UK Creative Commons, “Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License” (CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0).