tlachtli (MH501v)

tlachtli (MH501v)
Element from a Compound

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This element for the noun ball court (tlachtli) has been carved from the compound glyph for the personal name, Tlachatl ("Ball Court-Water"). This ball court, unlike many that have the shape of a capital letter I, shows two curving sides and rings (half-circles) on the outside of these sides. Each side also has a thin stripe.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

The signs for olin (movement) in the Codex Mendoza most closely resemble this particular ball court from the Matrícula de Huexotzinco, but not the courts that appear in the Codex Mendoza. Most courts have the shape of a capital letter 'i" lying on its side. This one has the wing shape and the outside rings. While it does not resemble a typical ball court shape, the fact that the tlacuilo named it tlachtli and even conceived of it this way may tell us that the olin shapes are akin to the ball court. The way the ball bounces through the court recalls the motion of the sun and moon through the celestial realm. It is surely no coincidence that olli (rubber balls) and olin (movement) are practically homophones. Maffie (232) notes how "the oscillating path of the Sun" and "bouncing balls" have an important association. Butterflies share in this, too, and the olin glyph in some cases has attributes of butterflies.

Added Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Date of Manuscript: 


Creator's Location (and place coverage): 

Huejotzingo, Puebla, Mexico

Semantic Categories: 
Cultural Content & Iconography: 
Cultural Content, Credit: 

Jeff Haskett-Wood


ballcourt, ball game, ballgame, capital letter I shape, balls, courts, pelotas, canchas, games juegos

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

la cancha de pelota

Spanish Translation, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Image Source: 

Matrícula de Huexotzinco, folio 501v, World Digital Library,

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).