The History of the Arrival of the Indians

Known as the Tovar Codex, this manuscript by the Mexican Jesuit Juan de Tovar (circa 1546–circa 1626) is based upon a history of the Aztecs (also known as Mexica) by the Dominican friar Diego Durán (circa 1537–circa 88). It contains detailed information about the rites and ceremonies of the Aztecs, an elaborate comparison of the Aztec year with the Christian calendar, and the correspondence between Tovar and fellow Jesuit Father José de Acosta, for whom Tovar is believed to have written the work. The manuscript 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 by Tovar of the travels of the Aztecs prior to the arrival of the Spanish. The second section—an illustrated history of the Aztecs—is essentially the same as the Codex Ramírez, a manuscript discovered in Mexico in 1856 by José Fernando Ramírez, and forms the main body of the manuscript. 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.

The Boban Aztec Calendar Wheel

This Aztec pictorial calendar wheel, commonly known as the Boban calendar wheel, is printed on amatl (fig bark) paper. Initially dated to approximately 1530, it has now been more accurately dated to 1545–46. The initial dating derived from the identification of two figures shown in the document, one said to be Hernán Cortés and another said to be Don Antonio Pimentel Tlahuitoltzin, depicted as the son of Ixtlilxochitl. The scholar Patricia Lopes Don has argued for the date of 1545–46 based on the fact that Don Antonio Pimentel Tlahuitoltzin was the ruler of Texcoco de Mora from 1540–46. The outside ring of the calendar is comprised of glyphs for the 18 months of veintenas (20 days), which make up the Aztec calendar. This outside ring surrounds a central three-part history with three pairs of figures and glosses in Nahuatl and Spanish. The Boban calendar wheel is the result of a succession dispute between the family of Don Antonio Pimentel Tlahuitoltzin, shown seated on the upper right, represented by his heir Don Hernando de Chávez, the seated figure on the upper left, and Don Carlos Ometochtli Chichimecatecotl, who was backed by Spain. This document was intended to prove that Don Antonio Pimentel Tlahuitoltzin had the legal right to be ruler of Texcoco de Mora. The outside ring of the calendar as well as the central three-part history is hand colored and probably drawn and composed by two hands. The calendar is named after Eugène Boban, a French archeologist and collector. It was brought to general attention in 1866 when Colonel Louis Doutrelaine published a reproduction and explanation of the calendar in Archives de la commission scientifique de Mexique (Paris, 1866–67). Because of deterioration, the reproduction made in 1866 shows much greater detail than the original.

An Aztec Noble’s Sacrifice for his Country

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. This illustration, from the second section, shows an episode during the war against the Chalco in the mid-15th century. Moctezuma I is shown sitting on his throne pointing at the scene. Below him a soldier in yellow dressed in the feathered headdress of the nobility is being taken prisoner by the soldiers of Chalco. A prisoner dances on a platform while beneath him another prisoner lies with his arm and head severed. At the far left a lord of Chalco sitting on a throne watches the dance with two of his subjects. At top center is the glyph of a flowering cactus representing Tenochtitlan (present-day Mexico City). Military aspects shown include war clubs and shields. The hero of this story is Ezhuahuacatl, cousin of Moctezuma, whose story is told in another important manuscript, the Codex Durán. Ezhuahuacatl was offered the chance to become the ruler of the Chalco, but instead he danced on a pole and threw himself off it to his death to save his people from being slaves of the Chalco.

Auitzotl, the Eighth Aztec King (Reigned 1486–1502)

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. This illustration, from the second section, depicts Auitzotl, holding a spear or scepter, standing on a reed mat and next to a basket-work throne. Above him is an auitzotl or ahuizote. Auitzotl (or Ahuitzotl, reigned 1486–1502), the eighth Aztec king (incorrectly identified here as the fifth), was the son of Moctezuma I and brother of Axayácatl and Tizoc. He enlarged the Aztec Empire to its greatest size. A ruthless military leader, he suppressed a Huastec rebellion and more than doubled the size of lands under Aztec dominance. He conquered the Mixtec, Zapotec, Tarascan, and other peoples down to the western part of Guatemala. Under his rule the main temple at Tenochtitlan was completed. Auitzotl is represented by the auitzotl, a kind of spiny rat or otter that lived in the lake upon which Tenochtitlan was built. To ancient Mexicans, it was a fearful mythological creature, which existed to trap men for the rain god, Tlaloc.

The Eagle, the Snake, and the Cactus in the Founding of Tenochtitlan

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. This illustration, from the second section, depicts the founding of Tenochtitlan (present-day Mexico City). An eagle is shown devouring a bird while perched on a flowering cactus. The cactus grows from a rock in the middle of a lake. Footsteps of the Mexicans are shown approaching the base of the cactus. On the right is Tenoch (known from his glyph of a flowering cactus), who led the Aztecs to Tenochtitlan. On the left is Tochtzin, or Mexitzin (known from his glyph of a rabbit), who came from Calpan (known from the glyph of a house with a flag), Tenoch's co-ruler. The two rulers sit on basketwork thrones. At upper right is the symbol of Copil, son of Malinalxochitl, or five dots with crossed arrows, on a shield. The Aztecs, guided by the prophecies of Huitzilopochtli (the god of the sun and war), ended their migration from farther north by building Tenochtitlan, on an island in a lake where an eagle held a snake perched on a flowering nopal (prickly pear) cactus. The cactus grew, according to their mythology, from the heart of Copil, son of Huitzilopochtli's sister, which had been flung onto the island. His symbol of five dots represents the Aztec belief that the world was a flat surface divided into five directions (north, south, east, west, and the center, where their capital was located).

The Aztec Ritual Offering Against Drought

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, three priests carry offerings and walk beside a stream into which are cast decapitated birds. The priests wear necklaces of green stones or chalchiuitl (jade) and wear their long hair tied with three red rings. Two of the priests wear a headdress of flowers. All the men carry bags or pouches. One carries a staff and an incense burner with Aztec incense or copal (or copalli, a dried resin from various trees), another blows a conch shell, and the third wrings the neck of a bird. A flowering cactus rests on an island in the middle of the water. The decapitated doves were a ritual offering against drought. The conch shell was often used in religious ceremonies. The symbol of the flowering cactus represents Tenochtitlan. Under Ahuitzotl (or Auitzotl, reigned 1486–1502), Mexico suffered from a great drought. Ahuitzotl dammed the source of the Acuecuexco situated in Coyoacan.

The Temple to the Aztec God Huitzilopochtli

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. This illustration, from the second section, shows (at left) a temple or pyramid surmounted by the images of two gods flanked by native Mexicans. On the temple is an image of Huitzilopochtli on the right, and an image of Tlaloc holding a turquoise serpent is on the left. The temple is surrounded by a wall of serpents swallowing one another's heads. At right is a tzompantli (Aztec skull rack). Huitzilopochtli, whose name means "Blue hummingbird on the left," was the Aztec god of the sun and war. The xiuhcoatl (turquoise or fire serpent) was his mystical weapon. Tlaloc, the god of rain and agriculture, was of pre-Aztec, or Toltec, origin. A coatepantli (wall made of sculpted serpents) often surrounds Aztec temples. The tzompantli would hold the skulls of sacrificial victims. The great temple at Tenochtitlan was surmounted by two sanctuaries—the one on the left dedicated to Tlaloc, the one on the right to Huitzilopochtli.

The Aztec God Tezcatlipoca and His Temple

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. This illustration, from the second section, shows Tezcatlipoca seated on a basketwork throne in his temple. He holds a shield with the five directions of space and three arrows, as well as a spear. He wears a red cloak covered with skulls and bones and his hair contains white feathers. Tezcatlipoca (Smoking Mirror) was an omnipresent and omnipotent god, the god of the night sky and memory. Here he carries the same shield as Huitzilopochtli, the god of the sun and war. The volutes on his temple represent butterflies or fallen soldiers. White feathers were placed in the hair of sacrificial victims.

Aztec Priests Sacrificing to the Gods by Burning Incense and Offering Blood

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. This illustration, from the second section, shows two priests whose bodies are colored blue making offerings to the gods. One holds an incense burner and a bag while the other pierces himself with a cactus spine. In the center is a braided vessel with three cactus spines covered in blood that will be offered to the gods. The priests, called tlamacazqui (keepers of the gods), recognizable by their long hair held back by three rings, burn copal (or copalli, a dried resin made from various trees) and offer blood to the gods by mutilating themselves with cactus spines.

Hueymiccaihuitl, Great Feast of the Dead, the Tenth Month of the Aztec Solar 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, shows two boys climbing a pole. At the top of the pole are a shield with white feathers, spears, banners on serrated poles (from cacti), two flowers (possibly xocoxochitl), and two bifurcated objects (possibly teocuitlanacochtli). Above the pole are the head of a long-billed bird with a seed in its mouth, a loaf studded with nuts and resembling a starry night, an ear of corn, and a trapezoidal object. The text describes the festival as being of the Tepanecs. This month is called Hueymiccaihuitl (or Xocotlhuetzi; Fall of Fruit or Great Feast of the Dead). It was commemorated by a ceremonial pole-climbing competition. The month was dedicated to Xocotl, the Aztec god of fire and the stars (also called Otontecuhtli, and whose cult was especially developed among the Tepanec tribes). Teocuitlanacochtli also were associated with worship of the god Xipe Tótec.