Nenca (MH505r)

Nenca (MH505r)
Simplex Glyph

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This simplex glyph for the personal name (of a woman), Nenca ("Unemployed," or "Inactive"), refers to being idle or lazy. It shows a doll or an ixiptla image of a divine force, which were both apparently called (nenetl), along with women's genitals (according to Molina, but unattested in alphabetic Nahuatl manuscripts). This one has its arms up. The word provides the phonetic start of the name (Nen-). Diagnostic traits for such anthropomorphic "nen" figures include two rectangular protrusions at the top of the head. They are also typically shown in a frontal view.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

The vast majority of glyphs or glyphic elements that include the ne- or nen- syllable as a phonogram, typically expressing a negative such as idleness or low productivity, will show figurines in a frontal view. The figurines can be either full bodied, just the bust, or just the head. The syllable comes from the term nenetl, which, as translated by Alonso de Molina, means doll, deity image, or woman’s genitals. These are three very different meanings, although a doll and a figurine of a divine force/deity could have a similar look. The glyphic representations almost always show such figurines, yet it can be difficult to tell if they represent dolls or deities.

One of the diagnostics for nenetl involves squared-off protrusions on the top of the head. If these are not protrusions such as the glyphs for Cuauhtecolotl or Xolotl have (below), perhaps they are stylized representations of the hairstyle called neaxtlahualli, where the Nahua sedentary woman wears locks of hair twisted up into two points over each side of her forehead. Fortunately, figurines with squared-off protrusions on their heads have survived from pre-contact times. The Museo Tomás Medina Villarruel has a number of them. These are mostly female, with skirts and breasts, and they are often shown in activities such as carrying children or grinding maize. Two images from that collection appear below. These figurines may well be dolls rather than deities.

Ian Mursell has published a photo of such a figurine in an article he shares about rattle figurines. In the image in Mexicolore, the figure on the left fits the nenetl characteristics with its protrusions on its head, and since it is a rattle one could call it a female doll. Other small figurines of women are published in the Museo de Sitio de Tlatelolco (2012, 235); they vaguely resemble dolls and they have interesting headdresses. In that same book, on p. 236, one sees "figurillas femeninas tipo galleta," which are something like dolls that could also be deity sculptures. Again, here, the protrusions of hair at the top of the head more closely resemble the nenetl protrusions.

Keiko Yoneida writes about the negative reading of nenetl “fetiches” as “useless” or “in vain,” which she suggests is a patriarchal deprecation of women. See her discussion of nenetl and the nemontemi days in the calendar in her study, Los Mapas de Cuauhtinchan y la historia cartográfica prehispánica (1991), 140. A few nenetl glyphs or elements in this digital collection do not include the negative nen-, although most do, and most are female, but a few are male or genderless.

In the case of this glyph, nenca may be short for nencauh, which refers to a domestic servant. Perhaps it is a servant who does not work hard (as perceived by the employer).

Added Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Gloss Image: 
Gloss Diplomatic Transcription: 

Juana
nenca

Gloss Normalization: 

Juana Nenca

Gloss Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Date of Manuscript: 

1560

Creator's Location (and place coverage): 

Huejotzingo, Puebla, Mexico

Semantic Categories: 
Cultural Content, Credit: 

Jeff Haskett-Wood

Shapes and Perspectives: 
Keywords: 

género, mujeres, nombres, flojera, nenetl, muñecas, dolls, mal comportamiento, inactiva, desempleada, statues, carvings in stone, esculturas en piedra, estatuas, juguetes

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

Photo credit: Eduardo Flores. Museo Tomás Medina Villarruel, Tlahuac, CDMX.

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

Desempleada, o Inactiva

Spanish Translation, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Image Source: 

Matrícula de Huexotzinco, folio 505r, World Digital Library, https://www.loc.gov/resource/gdcwdl.wdl_15282/?sp=89&st=image

Image Source, Rights: 

This manuscript is hosted by the Library of Congress and the World Digital Library; used here with the Creative Commons, “Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License” (CC-BY-NC-SAq 3.0).

Historical Contextualizing Image: