cuicani (Mdz43r)

cuicani (Mdz43r)
Simplex Glyph

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This simplex glyph for the noun for singer (cuicani) can have multiple readings, including the verb cuica (to sing), the noun em>cuicatl (song),and the place name, Cuicatlan. It consists of a human face in profile, looking to our right. From the open mouth emerges a huge speech scroll with an elaborate design. The scroll is segmented, red and white, with black line drawings.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

The symbols inside the segments are reminiscent of symbols for writing or painting, as shown on folio 70 recto, where a "pintor" writes on a codex. See Mexicolore for this an another image (of a woman) writing/painting. The outside of the scroll of this glyph for cuicani has small, white, curling shapes that could be feathers. The elaborate decorations on the speech scroll may take speaking to a new height to represent singing.

Scrolls associated with representations of sounds can also be found coming out of drums. See, for example, Valeria Ballomia, "Sound artefacts as containers. The materiality of rhythm in ancient Mesoamerica," Pallas: Revue d'Études Antiques 15 (2021), 121–145, especially section 4.

Other symbols inside the large scroll here may include shells, including the turbinate shell that appears so often splashing off from a stream of water. See the examples of the shells called cilin and cuechtli, below. Jeanette Peterson (The Paradise Garden Murals of Malinalco, 1993, 47) identifies a song scroll in the Malinalco murals, and in it she identifies the ilhuitl sign (which also stands for writing and the tonalamatl), the shell, and a flower. So, in content, it is very similar to this glyph.

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

Cultural Content & Iconography: 
Cultural Content, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood


songs, singers, singing, canciones, cantando

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

el cantor

Spanish Translation, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Image Source: 

Codex Mendoza, folio 43 recto,, image 96 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)