Tzacualpan (Mdz6r)

Tzacualpan (Mdz6r)
Compound Glyph

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This compound glyph for the place name Tzalcualpan has two notable elements, a stepped pyramid (tzacualli) and an arm with a hand. The pyramid or temple has a thinner base and four additional levels, each one getting less wide as they rise. The arm (with a left hand) is disproportionally large, and it appears on the left side of the structure, from the viewer's point of view. The stepped building is white. The arm and hand are a terracotta color. Either the locative suffix (-pan, "in" or "on") is not shown visually, or the pyramid is a silent locative. Hands can also represent the verbs, ma of capture, ana of grab, or poloa of destroy (see: Deciphering Aztec Hieroglyphs, 2021, 104). But here, too, the hand seems to be silent and so perhaps only implied.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

Frances Karttunen mentions the verb tzacua, to enclose. This could make a tzacualli an enclosure, but it apparently came to mean pyramid. The origin is interesting for what it suggests about the pyramid having something inside. The tzacualli is similar in appearance to the tlatelli. It differs from the teopan, in that the teopan shows steps from the base going up at a slant, and then shifting to climb more steeply. See below, right, for some examples from the collection.

Added Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Gloss Image: 
Gloss Diplomatic Transcription: 


Gloss Normalization: 

Tzacualpan, pueblo

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

Semantic Categories: 
Writing Features: 
Cultural Content, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Shapes and Perspectives: 
Reading Order (Compounds or Simplex + Notation): 
Reading Order, Notes: 

If there is a reading for the hand/arm, it would come after the pyramid, which is why the "right to left" reading order has been selected here.


temples, pyramids, hands, arms, templos, pirámides, brazos, manos

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

"At the Pyramid" [Frances Karttunen, unpublished manuscript, used here with her permission.]

Additional Scholars' Interpretations: 

"On the Enclosure" (Berdan and Anawalt, 1992, vol. 1, p. )

Glyph/Icon Name, Spanish Translation: 

el pirámide

Spanish Translation, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Image Source: 

Codex Mendoza, folio 6 recto,, image 22, 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).