tzompantli (Mdz35r)

tzompantli (Mdz35r)
Element from a Compound

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This logogram of a skull rack (tzompantli) has been carved from the compound glyph for Tzompahuacan. The wooden rack (colored terracotta) consists of two upright pieces of wood and one crossbar (also brown, apparently wood). While known racks often had multiple skulls, this element shows one skull, sufficient to identify the concept. The bar that holds the skull goes into the back of the skull and oomes out again through its teeth. The skull is white, outlined in black. The eye is white, drawn with black lines, but it has a red eyelid.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

The bottom of the compound glyph for Tzompahuacan has the base of a white, stepped temple (teopan) underneath the skull rack, which remains to be analyzed, possibly representing the -hua- (possession or containment?). The look of this eye, different from that in skulls association with other tzompantli from the Codex Mendoza, recalls the sign for ixtli. Perhaps the artists for the tzompantli on folios 2 recto and 17 verso vs. this one were different. Recent news from the Templo Mayor in Mexico City reveals the discovery of additional buried skulls for that site.

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, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

SVG of Glyph: 
SVG Image, Credit: 

Joseph Scott and Crystal Boulton-Scott made the SVG.


skulls, racks, tzompan

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

Tzompantli. Section of a stone version located in the Museo del Templo Mayor. Photograph by Robert Haskett, 15 February 2023.

Glyph or Iconographic Image: 
Relevant Nahuatl Dictionary Word(s): 
Additional Scholars' Interpretations: 

skull rack

Glyph/Icon Name, Spanish Translation: 

el plataforma de calaveras, un palo con cabezas de personas sacrificadas

Spanish Translation, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Image Source: 
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).