huitzoctli (Mdz37r)

huitzoctli (Mdz37r)
Simplex Glyph

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This simplex glyph for the planting stick (huitzoctli) doubles for the place name Huitzoco. The -co locative suffix is not represented visually. This representation of an agricultural planting stick is shown standing vertically. The orange color gives the impression of wood, probably hardwood (e.g. oak). In the middle of the stick appears a white, rectangular element, possibly held on with a tie or hanging from a crossbar. Small vertical lines appear along the bottom edge of the rectangle of what may be cloth or paper.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

This agricultural implement has a white rectangle in the middle of the stick that resembles the examples of quemitl from various other glyphs; this was apparently a bib that could be warn over a person's face or chest. The association may give this huitzoctli a possible ritual dimension. Huitzoctli planting sticks are mentioned in a seventeenth-century testament as being brought out to break soil in a field when this action had a religious significance. [See: James Lockhart, The Nahuas (1992), p. 201.] The huitz- part of the term may have a connection to huitztli, thorn or spine. The huictli was a similar instrument, but apparently more of a digging than a planting stick (according to signage at the Templo Mayor). Both a pre-contact huitzoctli and a huictli are on display in the museum of the Templo Mayor in Mexico City. Wikipedia offers additional examples, many from manuscripts. The one from the Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca has a handle resembling a serpent head. After contact, a synonym for huictli was coa, not actually related to coatl (serpent, snake), because it was a term imported to Mexico from the Caribbean, according to James Lockhart, The Nahuas (1992), 531, note 281. Mexicolore also has a short study of the huictli. Many huictli tools were shaped like a very large thorn (huitztli), with a flat blade in the lower part.

Added 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

Cultural Content, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

SVG of Glyph: 
SVG Image, Credit: 

Joseph Scott and Crystal Boulton-Scott


digging sticks, tools, agriculture, coas, palos para agricultura, herramientas

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

Huitzoctli, Templo Mayor. Photographed by Stephanie Wood, 15 February 2023.

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

huitzoc(tli), planting stick, agricultural implement,
-co (locative suffix), in or at,

Additional Scholars' Interpretations: 

hardwood pole for agriculture

Glyph/Icon Name, Spanish Translation: 

la coa, el punzón o la palanca agrícola de roble

Spanish Translation, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Image Source: 
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).