olin (TR46r)

olin (TR46r)

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This simplex glyph for earthquake, olin, shows an X-shaped quincunx shape, with the X being golden in color and a yellow circle in the middle. Inside this circle is an eye, with a red eyelid and a white pupil and iris. Outside the X and attached to it are, on the left, a turquoise blue tripartite shape, with the middle part being rounded. On the right side of the X is a similar shape, but painted green. Behind this symbol for movement is a somewhat cockeyed rectangle filled with horizontal gray and brown stripes. These stripes are dotted. It is tempting to refer to this as a compound glyph, given the presence of the background, but it does not enter into the reading of the term in Nahuatl. It does add semantic understanding.

Added Analysis: 

We know from other recorded glyphs that the two-tone rectangle refers to land, probably to ground the movement in the earth (tlalli), where the earthquake was felt. The land was typically worked in long furrows, and the dots may refer to cultivation, given that it could be punctured with a stick when the corn kernels were planted. We also know from other recorded glyphs that the sign located in the middle of the land is the olin glyph. But, here, we are getting an excellent view of how it can be shaped and colored. The eye in the middle is probably what many call a “starry eye,” or a star that looks down from the heavens. By comparing this olin with others in the collection, we see that this one differs from other examples from the same manuscript, the Telleriano-Remensis, where on folios 8 verso and 33 recto we have two other versions. It also differs from the Codex Quetzalecatzin and from the Matrícula de Huexotzinco.

Gloss Image: 
Date of Manuscript: 


Creator's Location (and place coverage): 

Huejotzingo, Puebla, Mexico

Cultural Content & Iconography: 
Cultural Content, Credit: 

Jeff Haskett-Wood


land, tierra, temblores, earthquakes, agricultura, ojos, estrellas

Glyph or Iconographic Image: 
Relevant Nahuatl Dictionary Word(s): 

olin, movement/motion; can refer to an earthquake or temblor, https://nahuatl.wired-humanities.org/content/olin

Image Source: 

The Codex Telleriano-Remensis is hosted on line by the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8458267s/f117.item. We have taken this detail shot from the indicated folio.

Image Source, Rights: 

This manuscript is not copyright protected, but please cite Gallica, the digital library of the Bibliothèque nationale de France or cite this Visual Lexicon of Aztec Hieroglyphs, ed. Stephanie Wood (Eugene, Ore.: Wired Humanities Projects, 2020–present).

Historical Contextualizing Image: