macuilli (Mdz44r)

macuilli (Mdz44r)

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This notational sign for the number five [macuil(li has been carved from the compound sign for the place name, Macuilxochic. It consists of five circles in a horizontal row. The circles have an open center, making them look something like beads. They are not perfectly spaced apart because them have been carved from the compound glyph, where the roots were cut away.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

Five-Flower is a calendrical expression from the 260-day tonalpohualli (day count). Day signs often appear in conjunction with strings of what we might call "ones" (digits or numbers represented in strings of such circles). Book IV of the Florentine Codex, for example, has horizontal rows of these circles, up to five per row, and linked together with simple lines. These counters also can appear in various colors. The bead-like appearance of the five circles here recalls the Spanish word for beads (cuentas), which also have an association with counting. 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 term "macuilli" starts with "ma" which is also short for maitl). On an interesting aside, the number five was considered unlucky, an excess (with four being a cultural ideal, symmetrical), according to Ian Mursell of Mexicolore.

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


counters, numbers, ones

Glyph or Iconographic Image: 
Additional Scholars' Interpretations: 


Spanish Translation, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Image Source: 

Codex Mendoza, folio 44 recto,, image 98 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).