The Months of the Aztec Tonalpohualli (Day Count) Calendar


The Tovar Codex, attributed to the 16th-century Mexican Jesuit Juan de Tovar, contains detailed information about the rites and ceremonies of the Aztecs (also known as Mexica). The codex is illustrated with 51 full-page paintings in watercolor. Strongly influenced by pre-contact pictographic manuscripts, the paintings are of exceptional artistic quality. The manuscript is divided into three sections. The first section is a history of the travels of the Aztecs prior to the arrival of the Spanish. The second section is an illustrated history of the Aztecs. The third section contains the Tovar calendar, which records a continuous Aztec calendar with months, weeks, days, dominical letters, and church festivals of a Christian 365-day year. This illustration, from the third section, depicts an Aztec month, showing the name of each day of the month. At the top is an image of a man with fish-scale torso and quetzal plume, standing in water and holding a stalk of maize and a vessel. The Aztecs used two calendars to compute the days of the year. Xiuhpohualli (the first, or solar, calendar) consisted of 365 days, divided into 18 months of 20 units each, plus an additional period of five empty days at the end of the year. Tonalpohualli (the second, or "day count," calendar) was made up of 260 days, combinations of 13 numbers and 20 symbols. Every 52 years both calendars would align. The image probably indicates that the month shown here is the sixth month, Etzalcualiztli (Meal of Maize and Beans).

Last updated: October 26, 2012