popocatetl (TR42v)

popocatetl (TR42v)

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This is an iconographic example of what is probably a comet, a "smoking stone" (popocatetl). The stone is the usual oval with curling ends and alternating orange and purple wavy stripes across the center. Hazy, gray smoke curls rise from the stone up to the heavens (a half circle of turquoise blue with a yellow border all along the bottom curve and two white stars in the firmament, one on either side of the smoke curls. Contrary to what the gloss suggests, the stone appears to be falling from the heavens, which is what suggests it is a comet.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

The Nahuas were (and are) skywatchers and stargazers. The ancient annals regularly feature events in the skies. To contextualize this event of a "smoking stone" (comet), consider this quote from Manuel Aguilar-Moreno published in Mexicolore: "‘The Aztec,’ writes Manuel Aguilar-Moreno, ‘like all peoples of Mesoamerica, were avid astronomers who carefully tracked the stars and planets at night. The two most important ritual hours to observe the sky were sunset and at midnight.’" Ian Mursell continues: "Sky watching was very much the domain of rulers, priests and the nobility - it was, after all, a subject of study in the élite calmecac school. Priest-astronomers assembled data on solstices, equinoxes, eclipses and other celestial phenomena methodically, using a simple method of observation, by taking regular visual bearings on a high mountain or distant temple tower. In this sense, mountains and temple-pyramids that ‘mirrored’ them, were particularly sacred due to their special alignment with stars appearing on the horizon."

The Florentine Codex conveys how the heavens or sky could be thought of as "a blue gourd bowl filled with popcorn." See: Fr. Bernardino de Sahagún, Florentine Codex: General History of the Things of New Spain; Book 6 -- Rhetoric and Moral Philosophy, No. 14, Part 7, eds. and transl. Arthur J. O. Anderson and Charles E. Dibble (Santa Fe and Salt Lake City: School of American Research and the University of Utah, 1961), 237.

On smoking stones, see Allison Caplan, "Locking Eyes with the Sun: Perception, Landscape, and the Fame of Greenstone in a Sixteenth-Century Nahuatl Narrative," MAVCOR Journal 5:21 (2012), https://mavcor.yale.edu/mavcor-journal/object-narratives/locking-eyes-su....

Added Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Gloss Image: 
Gloss Diplomatic Transcription: 

les parecia q~ humeaua|
las piedras tanto q~ llegaua
el humo al cielo

Gloss Normalization: 

les parecía que humeaban las piedras tanto que llegaba el humo al cielo

Gloss Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Date of Manuscript: 


Creator's Location (and place coverage): 

Huejotzingo, Puebla, Mexico

Cultural Content, Credit: 

Jeff Haskett-Wood


sky, cielo, heavens, stars, estrellas, comets, cometas, smoking, humeante

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

el cometa

Spanish Translation, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Image Source: 

The Codex Telleriano-Remensis is hosted on line by the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8458267s/f110.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).