macuilli (Mdz42v)

macuilli (Mdz42v)

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This notational sign for the number five (macuilli) has been carved from the compound sign for the place name, Cuauhquecholan Macuilxochic. It consists of black line-drawings (without colorants) of five circles in a vertical row. Each circle has a dot in the middle.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

It was common to represent single digits and, often, all numbers below 20 with single circular counters. They can appear all in a row, in two rows, horizontal or vertical, or even go around a corner. Sometimes they are colored, such as red or black. While the number five was called macuilli in the post-Classic period and/or early Spanish colonial era, at some earlier time five must have had the stem of chic-, given that chicuacen (six) is five plus one, chicome (seven) is five plus two, etc., repeating this pattern through the number nine. Perhaps chic- had something to do with the hand or fingers, given that the human hand has five digits. The word "macuilli" has at its beginning "ma," which is likely from the word for hand (maitl) or ma the verb to take/capture. Cui is another verb that means to take or grab, and ma plus cui comes close to macuilli. Interestingly, the number five was considered unlucky, an excess (with four being a cultural ideal, symmetrical), according to Ian Mursell of Mexicolore. But as the name Macuil was once likely part of a calendrical name, it could be lucky or not, depending upon the companion day name.

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 & Iconography: 
Cultural Content, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood


numbers, numerals, ones, números, numerales, unos, cinco

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


Glyph/Icon Name, Spanish Translation: 


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).