patolli (Mdz70r)

patolli (Mdz70r)

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This iconographic example features the game called patolli, which the gloss says is similar to dice. Shown are four playing pieces, with a man's hands (tan in color) above them. The hands appear positioned for movement, ready to play. The playing pieces look much like large black beans with white dots. The visuals provide comparisons for the glyphs of beans and hands.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

The contextualizing image here shows a man as the player, referred to as a "jugador de patol" ("player of patolli"). And the gloss adds that this game is "a manera de dados" ("like [playing] dice"). The player is wearing only a loin cloth. He has apparently removed his (white cotton?) cloak or cape, which is nearby. The cloth has shading that gives it three-dimensionality.

The patolli game (or patole as it was taken as a loan into Mexican Spanish), which was played across Mesoamerica, is more extensively portrayed in the Florentine Codex. In that depiction, one will also see four beans serving as playing pieces, along with an X shaped playing mat with 52 squares through which the pieces would move. Scattering beans with the hands was part of the game, but also twelve markers (six per player) were moved along the spaces on the mat. The game involved betting precious things (jewelry, feathers, blankets, food, or maguey plants, for example). Even one's home or freedom could be wagered. The game of patolli is also represented in the Codex Magliabechiano.

Added Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Gloss Image: 
Gloss Diplomatic Transcription: 


Gloss Normalization: 


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

Cultural Content, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood


games, chance, juegos, fortunas, suerte, frijoles, hombres

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

Codex Mendoza, folio 70 recto,, image 150 of 188.

Image Source, Rights: 

Original manuscript is held by the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, MS. Arch. Selden. A. 1; used here with the UK Creative Commons, “Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License” (CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0)

Historical Contextualizing Image: