centzontli (Mdz16r)

centzontli (Mdz16r)
Element from a Compound

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This element has been carved from the compound glyph for the place name, Centzontepec. Here, the centzontli, a glyph for the number 400, is a line drawing in black that looks a bit like a tree with many branches or a dark feather. It can also have an association with a large lock of hair or a full head (tzontli) of hair.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

The number 400 [whether called centzontli or just tzontli], was considered a very large number. Literally, it refers to one entire ("cen") head ("tzontli") or large clump of hair. See the element below of the tzontli, a large, bound, lock of hair. As blades of grass, barbs of a feather, branches on a tree, or pieces of hair, the number 400 was probably simply estimated by eye-balling the size of the clump. To speak of how many times one did something, one might say "400," even when not being literal, much as those of us using the decimal system might say, "I've done that a thousand times."

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

Semantic Categories: 
Cultural Content, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood


numbers, números, cuatrocientos, four hundred, 400, tzontli

Glyph or Iconographic Image: 
Relevant Nahuatl Dictionary Word(s): 
Additional Scholars' Interpretations: 

400, or a bundle of 400 hairs or blades of grass

Glyph/Icon Name, Spanish Translation: 

quatrocientos, un cabello entero, o una mata de hortaliza o de yerba

Spanish Translation, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Image Source: 

Codex Mendoza, folio 16 recto, https://digital.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/objects/2fea788e-2aa2-4f08-b6d9-648c00..., image 42 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).