Xicalhuacan (Mdz29r)

Xicalhuacan (Mdz29r)
Compound Glyph

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This compound glyph for the place name Xicalhuacan has two principal visual elements. A right hand holds a vessel or cup (xicalli). The xicalli appears to contain water, judging by its turquoise blue color. The vessel also has two upright, parallel hash marks. The -can locative suffix is not shown visually, which is standard for this particular locative.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

The turquoise-colored water seems to be an added phonetic indicator for xi- much like xiuh-, underlining the sound at the beginning of the word xicalli (vessel). This is an example of what Gordon Whittaker might call syllepsis; it provides an overlap or redundancy to ensure a particular phonetic reading of the visuals. The hash marks inside the vessel could represent the -hua- element from the verb huahuana (to make lines) for possession or containment, as it contains the water. The hand also has possession of the vessel, doubling up on the "hua" possessor)= syllable. Alfonso Lacadena coined the "grasping hand" sign as having the value hua, carrying "meaning in addition to sound." [See his article, "The wa1 and was2 Phonetic Signs and the Logogram for WA in Nahuatl Writing," The PARI Journal 8:4 (2008), 42.]

Very similar hash marks to the ones in this vessel have also been seen in other place names that have a -hua- element, including Acalhuacan and Cihuatlan. (See below, right.) While this reading of -hua- came to mind independently here, Danièle Dehouve (Ancient Mesoamerica, 2020--see the Bibliography) also noticed this phenomenon. Dehouve suggests the lines represent face paint (xahualli) or face paint specifically involving liquid rubber (tlaolxahualli).

Alfonso Lacadena has called this the "double-stroke sign." [See his article, "The wa1 and was2 Phonetic Signs and the Logogram for WA in Nahuatl Writing," The PARI Journal 8:4 (2008), 38.] Leonardo Manrique felt the "hua" sign could be translated as "owner, possessor," but as Lacadena points out, it does not work in all cases. Sometimes it is a logogram and sometimes is is a phonogram in a complement role. Differing from Dehouve, Lacadena suggests that the double-stroke sign comes from the verb huahuana, whose definition includes to make or mark lines, citing Karttunen 1992. It is interesting that the double-stroke sign is a reduplication that is both alphabetic and hieroglyphic. Lacadena also writes about a hua "leaves sign" that involves two leaves (a phonogram) and the aforementioned grasping hand (for possessor) hua sign.

Added Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Gloss Image: 
Gloss Diplomatic Transcription: 

xicalhuacan, puo

Gloss Normalization: 

Xicalhuacan, 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: 
Cultural Content, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Shapes and Perspectives: 
Parts (compounds or simplex + notation): 
Reading Order (Compounds or Simplex + Notation): 
Reading Order, Notes: 

The "hua" symbol is merged with the xicalli. The role of the hand is unclear. There is not "ma" (whether for hand, maitl, or for the verb "to take") in the place name. If the role of the hand gets identified, then we may have an additional right to left reading.


hands, arms, brazos, manos, jícaras, double-strike sign, double-stroke sign

Glyph or Iconographic Image: 
Image Source: 

Codex Mendoza, folio 29 recto, https://digital.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/objects/2fea788e-2aa2-4f08-b6d9-648c00..., image 68 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).