chinampas (T2681:6:2r)

chinampas (T2681:6:2r)

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This example of iconography shows an area of chinamitl) agriculture--also known as chinam(pan)) and, in the Hispanized plural noun, chinampas. These dark, narrow rectangles are found on am Indigenous-style map (1579) from the region of Cuitlahuacan, Chalco, in the Valley of Mexico. Thus the representation of these artificial, raised fields, constructed in shallow parts of lakes in the valley, is likely to betray a certain amount of Spanish artistic influence (see older examples, below).

Description, Credit: 

Robert Haskett

Added Analysis: 

According to Nahua petitioners from Cuitlahuacan, led by the pueblo’s gobernador don Estéban de Caravajal, a man named Bartolomé Arias was attempting to gain a grant of a house lot and two agricultural parcels ("huerta" in Spanish) from the viceregal authorities that would compromise the Nahuas' land tenure and their ability to grow traditional crops such as maize and chiles there. Arias’ effort eventually failed. The type of property in dispute is labeled camellones (agricultural ridges) by whomever provided the Spanish glosses on the map, but “translated” in related documents by Indigenous witnesses and a Spanish surveyor as either chinamitl or chinampas (for instance, the surveyor reported that they are “camellones que los yndios llaman chinampas”).

Areas of human habitation on the same map seem to be represented, in part, by buildings situated on black-outlined, ovoid elements with green shading that are not anything like the chinampan elements. Instead, it is possible that they are islands. In fact, one of the Spanish records associated with the map contains the statement that one of them, Michcalco, is situation on something “like a kind of island” (folio 4 recto). Whether this is a natural feature, a more substantial kind of chinamitl, or a combination of these things is not entirely clear, but two of them lacking representations of buildings are glossed as tierras rather than as camellones (see the historical contextualizing image).

Added Analysis, Credit: 

Robert Haskett

Gloss Image: 
Gloss Diplomatic Transcription: 


Gloss Normalization: 


Gloss Analysis, Credit: 

Robert Haskett

Date of Manuscript: 


Creator's Location (and place coverage): 

Cuitlahuaca, Chalco, Valley of Mexico

Cultural Content, Credit: 

Robert Haskett

Reading Order (Compounds or Simplex + Notation): 
Other Cultural Influences: 

chinampas, camellones

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

Photograph of a model of chinampa agriculture by Stephanie Wood, 15 February 2023.

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

chinami(tl), a chinampa or agricultural strip,
chinam(pan), a long narrow extension of farm land built by human hands and stretching into the freshwater lakes around Mexico City, entered Spanish as chinampa,

Glyph/Icon Name, Spanish Translation: 


Spanish Translation, Credit: 

Robert Haskett

Image Source: 

Single-page codex, Archivo General de la Nación, México, Ramo de Tierras Vol. 2681, Exp. 6, Fol. 2r.

Image Source, Rights: 

The Archivo General de la Nación (AGN), México, holds the original manuscript. This image is published here under a Creative Commons license, asking that you cite the AGN and this Visual Lexicon of Aztec Hieroglyphs.

Historical Contextualizing Image: