cempohualli (Mdz21v)

cempohualli (Mdz21v)
Element from a Compound

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This element for cempohualli (the number twenty) has been carved from the compound sign for the place name, Cempohuallan. This representation of the number twenty involves the head of a man with a short fringe of dark purple colored hair above his ear and forehead. The rest of his hair is black. His hair style includes a ponytail tied up with what may be a red leather strip. The tip of the pony tail is pointing upwards. At the man's chin is a turquoise blue-colored disd, probably a lip plug. In the digital collection TLACHIA, the three visual examples of a cempohualtecatl all have lip plugs. Here, the plug consists of two circles, one being smaller and concentric. The man's skin is a tan color. His head is in profile, looking to the viewer's right, and his eye is open.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

This man may be a tribute leader who oversaw twenty laborers or twenty households that were paying tributes (i.e. taxes in kind or in labor) to the local lord or to the colonial authorities. Michael E. Smith writes about the labor teams that were supposed to have twenty men, or at least that was the original concept. (See his contribution to the book, Fiscal regimes and the political economy of premodern states, 2015.) An alternate reading is that this was a Cempohualtecatl (singular), a person of the Toltec kingdom of Tollan (or Tula), something discussed by Miguel León-Portilla, as cited in our online Nahuatl Dictionary entry for Cempohualteca (plural). An iconographic study of the hair style and tie and lip plug might help settle the question. If so, this could be an ethnic indicator.

Source Manuscript: 
Date of Manuscript: 

c. 1541, but by 1553 at the latest

Creator's Location (and place coverage): 

Mexico City

Semantic Categories: 
Cultural Content, Credit: 

Xitlali Torres and Stephanie Wood


twenties, veintes, labrets, enchufes, tapones, labios, bezotes, adornos labiales, jewelry, jollas, lip plugs, lip-plugs

Glyph or Iconographic Image: 
Relevant Nahuatl Dictionary Word(s): 
Image Source: 

Codex Mendoza, folio 21 verso, https://digital.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/objects/2fea788e-2aa2-4f08-b6d9-648c00..., 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).