nochtli (Mdz38r)

nochtli (Mdz38r)
Element from a Compound

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This element has been carved from the compound sign for the place name, Nochco. The nochtli refers to the fruit atop the prickly pear cactus. The fruit is bulb-shaped and has a yellow blossom at the top. This particular fruit is red, one of the typical colors. It is juicy, leaving one's fingers as though covered with blood. The cochineal insects that live on prickly pear cacti, when squished, produce a red dye that also resembles blood. This dye is called nocheztli, which combines nochtli (cactus fruit) with eztli (blood).

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

The red and yellow of this cactus fruit, along with its shape, recall the human heart (yollotl). See below, and see the article on the colors of interiors, on the navigation bar to the left.

Source Manuscript: 
Date of Manuscript: 

c. 1541, but by 1553 at the latest

Creator's Location (and place coverage): 

Mexico City


cactus fruits, tunas

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

cactus fruit

Image Source: 

Codex Mendoza, folio 38 recto,, image 86 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).