tzauhqui (MH536v)

tzauhqui (MH536v)
Simplex Glyph

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This black-line drawing of the simplex glyph for the occupation tzauhqui (“spinner or "textile worker,” attested here as a man’s name) shows what appears to be a piece of equipment that might be found in a textile factory. It may be a wheel with four spokes and a circular center (with a dot in the middle). The area between the spokes is dark gray.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

Spinning was originally the work of women prior to colonization, and yet the occupations relating to textile production are often held by men in this 1560 manuscript. The shape of this spinning wheel is a quincunx, whether intentional or just a coincidence, but spinning had associations in Nahua culture with what James Maffie (2014, 266) calls "transformative change." This glyph is a far cry from another glyph for tzauhqui from this same manuscript (below), which features a drop spindle. The difference may be that the spindle was more associated with cottage industry and the wheel with an obraje (Spanish for a textile workshop).

Alternatively, this may be a bird's eye view of the weighted part of a drop spindle, the whorl. The sun disk or quincunx motif is found on a great many whorls from Nahua culture, especially from the autonomous era. See the study by Jesper Nielsen, "The World on a Whorl: Considerations on Aztec Spindle Whorl Iconography," published in 2017, but presented at a meeting in 2016 in Nebraska, the PreColumbian Textile Conference VII / Jornadas de Textiles PreColombinos VII.

Added Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Gloss Image: 
Gloss Diplomatic Transcription: 


Gloss Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Date of Manuscript: 


Creator's Location (and place coverage): 

Huejotzingo, Puebla, Mexico

Semantic Categories: 
Cultural Content, Credit: 

Jeff Haskett-Wood

Other Cultural Influences: 

textiles, trabajador, tejedor, hilandero, quincunx, ruecas

Museum & Rare Book Comparisons: 
Museum/Rare Book Notes: 

One of many spindle whorls with a large range of designs. From the Peabody Museum, Harvard, May 2023. Photo by Stephanie WOod

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

Historical Contextualizing Image: 
See Also: