Cuauhnacaztlan (Mdz13v)

Cuauhnacaztlan (Mdz13v)
Compound Glyph

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This compound glyph for the place name Cuauhnacaztlan has two principal elements, a tree (cuahuitl) and an ear (nacaztli) located at the place where the tree's leader and two branches come off the trunk. The tree is generic, with its standard, two-toned green foliage and red, curling roots shown above ground. The trunk and branches are a terracotta color, and the ear is this same color.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

Berdan and Anawalt derive their analysis from a reference in Hernández (1959 2:173) to a tree called the quauhnacaztli. If that is the case in the region where this pueblo was located, then it could be the place of cuauhnacaztli trees (which produce a treasured hardwood called guanacaste that is easily worked). Karttunen supports the importance of the guanacaste tree in understanding the place name. Gordon Whittaker, however, proposes that the -nacaz element is not literally about human anatomy, but it is there to provide the figurative meaning, "beside," as in "Beside the Trees." The human ear is associated with being on the side of something. Another very similar locative suffix based on the word for ear is -nacazco, which means "at the side of." The translations are practically the same in meaning. They are phonetic and can only be understood in Nahuatl.

Pedro Carrasco (The Tenochca Empire of Ancient Mexico, 2012, 329) suggests that the contemporary town could be "Guanacastitlan in San Luis Acatlan, Guerrero." Others place the town in the area of Oaxaca.

Added Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Gloss Image: 
Gloss Diplomatic Transcription: 

quauhnacaztlan. puo

Gloss Normalization: 

Cuauhnacaztlan, pueblo

Gloss Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Source Manuscript: 
Date of Manuscript: 

c. 1541, or by 1553 at the latest

Creator's Location (and place coverage): 

Mexico City

Semantic Categories: 
Cultural Content, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Parts (compounds or simplex + notation): 
Reading Order (Compounds or Simplex + Notation): 
Reading Order, Notes: 

The ear has been fully woven into the trunk of the tree to the point that it was decided to describe the two elements as merged.


trees, ears, guanacastes, orejas, árboles

Glyph or Iconographic Image: 
Karttunen’s Interpretation: 

"Cuauhnacaztli Place" [Frances Karttunen, unpublished manuscript, used here with her permission.]

Additional Scholars' Interpretations: 

"Beside the Trees" [Gordon Whittaker, Deciphering Aztec Hieroglyphs, 2021, 107]; "Where There Are Many Quauhnacaztli" (Berdan and Anawalt, 1992, vol. 1, 200–201)

Whittaker's Transliteration: 


Glyph/Icon Name, Spanish Translation: 

"El Lugar de Guanacastes"

Spanish Translation, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Image Source: 

Codex Mendoza, folio 13 verso,, image 37 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).