Tribute Roll


The Matrícula de tributos (Tribute roll) records in pictographic writing the tributes that subject towns paid to Mexico-Tenochtitlan, the center of the triple alliance of Mexico, Tetzcoco, and Tacuba in the period just before the conquest of Mexico by the Spanish. The roll was very likely copied or elaborated on from a pre-Hispanic original circa 1522-30 by order of the conqueror Hernán Cortés, who wanted to learn more about the economic organization of the alliance's empire. Each page of the Matrícula represents one of 16 tributary provinces. The main city of each province appears first, at the bottom left of the page, followed toward the top by the towns or altepetl subject to it. Each altepetl is represented by its toponymic glyph. When the left margin is full, the right margin follows, and finally the upper row. Within this frame of toponymic glyphs, the items paid by the region are represented visually, in rows, and the expected quantity of each item is registered, using the Nahuatl system of arithmetic. With its several hundred toponymic glyphs and detailed tributary record, the Matrícula de tributos is a valuable document for the study of the political geography and economy of preconquest Mexico, Nahuatl place names, the Nahuatl numbering system, and the economic wealth of the empire.

Last updated: May 24, 2017