tlilli (Mdz46r)

tlilli (Mdz46r)
Element from a Compound

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This sign is somewhat obscure, being embedded in a building (calli) that does not have a phonetic value. The black paint (tlilli) consists of a design painted on the building. The black part comprises color given to the lintel and door frame, usually depicted as the color of wood (or a terracotta color) on the calli sign, as seen below, right. Part of the black paint, however, is negative where there appear two quincunx symbols, where the horizontal and vertical black rectangles come together.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

The building (calli) does not have a phonetic value in the compound place glyph from which we draw this tlilli example, Teotillan. The building serves as the host for the black paint. The presence of quincunx symbols may indicate a desire on the part of the artist to point to the cardinal direction that had an association with black (north), but this requires further investigation. This design is reminiscent of the building that provides the setting for the New Fire Ceremony that is depicted in the Codex Borbonicus,

Added 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 & Iconography: 
Cultural Content, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

SVG Image, Credit: 

Crystal Boulton-Scott made the SVG.


houses, buildings, architecture, casas, edificios, arquitectura

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

tlil(li), black ink, soot, or the name of the color black,

Additional Scholars' Interpretations: 

black ink, black paint, black soot

Glyph/Icon Name, Spanish Translation: 

la tinta negra, la pintura negra, el hollín

Spanish Translation, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Image Source: 

Codex Mendoza, folio 46 recto,, image 102 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).