Mictlan Cuauhtlan (Mdz49r)

Mictlan Cuauhtlan (Mdz49r)
Compound Glyph

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This compound glyph of the placename Mictlancuauhtla ("Place of the Dead with Abundant Trees") has two prominent elements, a corpse (micqui) and a tree (cuahuitl). The corpse is shrouded. It is sitting in an upright (male) position, with its knees up under its chin. The white shroud has an X-shaped cord keeping it on the cadaver. The tree has the classic iconography, with a leader and two branches, two-tone green foliage, terracotta-colored bark, red curling roots, and two black lines (one thin and one thick) crossing the trunk diagonally. The -tlan locative suffixes are not represented visually, but perhaps the landscape provides a semantic locative.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

The place name Mictlan Cuauhtlan is something of a double place name, perhaps representing moieties. The first part of the name would be a place of the dead. The second part would be a wooded place. Berdan and Anawalt combined these to be the "Forest [at the] Place of the Dead."

In this case Berdan and Anawalt assumed that the final "n" of the suffix -tlan was not intended, as they give "Quauhtla" (also spelled Cuauhtla) and they recognize this as "forest," differing from their interpretation of Cuauhtlan (elsewhere in this collection), which relates to eagles. The stem Cuauh- is challenging to interpret; perhaps we need to rely on the visuals to differentiate the readings of eagles and woods.

The black stripes (tlilcuahuitl) on the trunk of the tree are phonetic indicators that this sign is a tree (cuahuitl), something I discovered independently, but which has also been pointed out by Brígida von Mentz ("De árboles, raíces, y locativos en la iconografía del México antiguo," Tlalocan 15, 2008, 216–219).

Added Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Gloss Image: 
Gloss Diplomatic Transcription: 

mictlan quauhtla

Gloss Normalization: 

Mictlan Cuauhtlan, 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: 
Writing Features: 
Cultural Content, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Reading Order (Compounds or Simplex + Notation): 

trees, árboles, death, dead person, deceased, bundled, muertes, cadáveres, mortajas, Quauhtlan, Quauhtla, Cuauhtla, Mitla

Glyph or Iconographic Image: 
Karttunen’s Interpretation: 

"Forest [at the] Place of the Dead" [Seemingly agreeing with Berdan and Anawalt, Karttunen sees the second part as Cuauhtla (forest), an abundance of trees, and apparently discounts the -tlan locative suffix on that second part of the place name. This is a different interpretation from the Cuauhtlan that appears elsewhere in this collection. Source: Frances Karttunen, unpublished manuscript, used here with her permission.]

Additional Scholars' Interpretations: 

"Forest [at the] Place of the Dead" (Berdan and Anawalt, 1992, vol. 1, p. 192)

Image Source: 

Codex Mendoza, folio 49 recto, https://digital.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/objects/2fea788e-2aa2-4f08-b6d9-648c00..., image 108 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).