cacahuatl (Mdz19r)

cacahuatl (Mdz19r)

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This iconographic material shows a cacao bean. It is a terracotta color, it is standing upright, and it has a small curving mark near the top. Some cacao beans appear in the realia comparison image below that show this slightly perceptible cleavage.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

A varying number of this bean could substitute for a coin. For example, in our Online Nahuatl Dictionary entry for tomin (1/8 peso), we can see that a tomin could be worth between 20 and 200 cacao beans (and 230 of somewhat shriveled). Purchases were made with cacao beans, until eventually the imported pieces of eight and their smaller subdivisions were embraced by Indigenous people. The word in Nahuatl for the cacao bean was cacahua(tl), which could also stand for other small hard things, such as beans of various kinds, nuts, and even eggs. But mostly it referred to the cacao bean.

Added Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Gloss Image: 
Gloss Diplomatic Transcription: 


Gloss Normalization: 


Gloss 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

Syntax (patterns): 
Cultural Content, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Shapes and Perspectives: 

semillas, granos, seeds, beans, cacao, cocoa, chocolate, tributes, tributos

Museum & Rare Book Comparisons: 
Museum/Rare Book Notes: 

Cacahuatl, a detail of cacao beans from a public domain image.

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

el cacao o la semilla del cacao

Spanish Translation, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Image Source: 

Codex Mendoza, folio 19 recto,, image 48 of 188.

Image Source, Rights: 

Original manuscript is held by the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, MS. Arch. Selden. A. 1; used here with the UK Creative Commons, “Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License” (CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0)

Historical Contextualizing Image: 
See Also: