The Funeral Rites of Auitzotl


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, an illustrated history of the Aztecs, forms the main body of the manuscript. The third section contains the Tovar calendar. In this illustration, from the second section, a mummy is shown seated on a basketwork throne with the glyph of Auitzotl, a crown, feathered ornament made from quetzal plumes, a jade collar, and three men in the background. The mummy has blood coming from it. The mummy of Auitzotl, with his glyph and other symbols of his royalty, is shown in the second stage of the funeral rites of the Aztec, the cremation. The three men in the background represent the slaves who were sacrificed when an emperor died. Auitzotl, or Ahuitzotl (reigned 1486–1502), the eighth Aztec emperor, son of Moctezuma I (or Montezuma) and brother of Axayácatl and Tizoc, enlarged the Aztec Empire to its greatest size. He died of a wasting disease. His funerary rites are described in another important manuscript, the Codex Durán. Auitzotl is represented by the auitzotl or ahuitzote, a kind of spiny rat or otter that lived in the lake on which Tenochtitlan was built. To ancient Mexicans, it was a fearful mythological creature, which existed to trap men for the rain god, Tlaloc.

Last updated: June 18, 2015