Mesoamerica is a historical region and cultural area in North America. It extends from central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and northern Costa Rica, within this region pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas. In the 16th century, European diseases like smallpox and measles caused the deaths of upwards of 90% of the indigenous people, it is one of five areas in the world where ancient civilization arose independently, the second in the Americas along with Norte Chico in present-day Peru, in the northern coastal region. As a cultural area, Mesoamerica is defined by a mosaic of cultural traits developed and shared by its indigenous cultures. Beginning as early as 7000 BCE, the domestication of cacao, beans, avocado, vanilla and chili, as well as the turkey and dog, caused a transition from paleo-Indian hunter-gatherer tribal grouping to the organization of sedentary agricultural villages. In the subsequent Formative period and cultural traits such as a complex mythological and religious tradition, a vigesimal numeric system, a complex calendric system, a tradition of ball playing, a distinct architectural style, were diffused through the area.
In this period, villages began to become stratified and develop into chiefdoms with the development of large ceremonial centers, interconnected by a network of trade routes for the exchange of luxury goods, such as obsidian, cacao, Spondylus shells and ceramics. While Mesoamerican civilization did know of the wheel and basic metallurgy, neither of these technologies became culturally important. Among the earliest complex civilizations was the Olmec culture, which inhabited the Gulf Coast of Mexico and extended inland and southwards across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Frequent contact and cultural interchange between the early Olmec and other cultures in Chiapas and Oaxaca laid the basis for the Mesoamerican cultural area. All this was facilitated by considerable regional communications in ancient Mesoamerica along the Pacific coast; this formative period saw the spread of distinct religious and symbolic traditions, as well as artistic and architectural complexes. In the subsequent Preclassic period, complex urban polities began to develop among the Maya, with the rise of centers such as El Mirador and Tikal, the Zapotec at Monte Albán.
During this period, the first true Mesoamerican writing systems were developed in the Epi-Olmec and the Zapotec cultures, the Mesoamerican writing tradition reached its height in the Classic Maya hieroglyphic script. Mesoamerica is one of only three regions of the world where writing is known to have independently developed. In Central Mexico, the height of the Classic period saw the ascendancy of the city of Teotihuacan, which formed a military and commercial empire whose political influence stretched south into the Maya area and northward. Upon the collapse of Teotihuacán around 600 AD, competition between several important political centers in central Mexico, such as Xochicalco and Cholula, ensued. At this time during the Epi-Classic period, the Nahua peoples began moving south into Mesoamerica from the North, became politically and culturally dominant in central Mexico, as they displaced speakers of Oto-Manguean languages. During the early post-Classic period, Central Mexico was dominated by the Toltec culture, Oaxaca by the Mixtec, the lowland Maya area had important centers at Chichén Itzá and Mayapán.
Towards the end of the post-Classic period, the Aztecs of Central Mexico built a tributary empire covering most of central Mesoamerica. The distinct Mesoamerican cultural tradition ended with the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. Over the next centuries, Mesoamerican indigenous cultures were subjected to Spanish colonial rule. Aspects of the Mesoamerican cultural heritage still survive among the indigenous peoples who inhabit Mesoamerica, many of whom continue to speak their ancestral languages, maintain many practices harking back to their Mesoamerican roots; the term Mesoamerica means "middle America" in Greek. Middle America refers to a larger area in the Americas, but it has previously been used more narrowly to refer to Mesoamerica. An example is the title of the 16 volumes of The Handbook of Middle American Indians. "Mesoamerica" is broadly defined as the area, home to the Mesoamerican civilization, which comprises a group of peoples with close cultural and historical ties. The exact geographic extent of Mesoamerica has varied through time, as the civilization extended North and South from its heartland in southern Mexico.
The term was first used by the German ethnologist Paul Kirchhoff, who noted that similarities existed among the various pre-Columbian cultures within the region that included southern Mexico, Belize, El Salvador, western Honduras, the Pacific lowlands of Nicaragua and northwestern Costa Rica. In the tradition of cultural history, the prevalent archaeological theory of the early to middle 20th century, Kirchhoff defined this zone as a cultural area based on a suite of interrelated cultural similarities brought about by millennia of inter- and intra-regional interaction. Mesoamerica is recognized as a near-prototypical cultural area, the term is now integrated in the standard terminology of pre-Columbian anthropological studies. Conversely, the sister terms Aridoamerica and Oasisamerica, which refer to northern Mexico and the western United States have not entered into widespread usage; some of the significant cultural traits defining the Mesoamerican cultural tradition are: sedentism based on maize agricultu
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the Pre-Columbian peoples of North and South America and their descendants. Although some indigenous peoples of the Americas were traditionally hunter-gatherers—and many in the Amazon basin, still are—many groups practiced aquaculture and agriculture; the impact of their agricultural endowment to the world is a testament to their time and work in reshaping and cultivating the flora indigenous to the Americas. Although some societies depended on agriculture, others practiced a mix of farming and gathering. In some regions the indigenous peoples created monumental architecture, large-scale organized cities, city-states, states and empires. Among these are the Aztec and Maya states that until the 16th century were among the most politically and advanced nations in the world, they had a vast knowledge of engineering, mathematics, writing, medicine and irrigation, mining and goldsmithing. Many parts of the Americas are still populated by indigenous peoples.
At least a thousand different indigenous languages are spoken in the Americas. Some, such as the Quechuan languages, Guaraní, Mayan languages and Nahuatl, count their speakers in millions. Many maintain aspects of indigenous cultural practices to varying degrees, including religion, social organization and subsistence practices. Like most cultures, over time, cultures specific to many indigenous peoples have evolved to incorporate traditional aspects but cater to modern needs; some indigenous peoples still live in relative isolation from Western culture and a few are still counted as uncontacted peoples. Indigenous peoples of the United States are known as Native Americans or American Indians and Alaska Natives. Application of the term "Indian" originated with Christopher Columbus, who, in his search for India, thought that he had arrived in the East Indies; those islands came to be known as the "West Indies", a name still used. This led to the blanket term "Indies" and "Indians" for the indigenous inhabitants, which implied some kind of racial or cultural unity among the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
This unifying concept, codified in law and politics, was not accepted by the myriad groups of indigenous peoples themselves, but has since been embraced or tolerated, by many over the last two centuries. Though the term "Indian" does not include the culturally and linguistically distinct indigenous peoples of the Arctic regions of the Americas—such as the Aleuts, Inuit or Yupik peoples, who entered the continent as a second more recent wave of migration several thousand years before and have much more recent genetic and cultural commonalities with the aboriginal peoples of the Asiatic Arctic Russian Far East—these groups are nonetheless considered "indigenous peoples of the Americas". Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, which includes not only First Nations and Arctic Inuit, but the minority population of First Nations-European mixed race Métis people who identify culturally and ethnically with indigenous peoplehood; this is contrasted, for instance, to the American Indian-European mixed race mestizos of Hispanic America who, with their larger population, identify as a new ethnic group distinct from both Europeans and Indigenous Americans, but still considering themselves a subset of the European-derived Hispanic or Brazilian peoplehood in culture and ethnicity.
The term Amerindian and its cognates find preferred use in scientific contexts and in Quebec, the Guianas and the English-speaking Caribbean. Indígenas or pueblos indígenas is a common term in Spanish-speaking countries and pueblos nativos or nativos may be heard, while aborigen is used in Argentina and pueblos originarios is common in Chile. In Brazil, indígenas or povos indígenas are common if formal-sounding designations, while índio is still the more often-heard term and aborígene and nativo being used in Amerindian-specific contexts; the Spanish and Portuguese equivalents to Indian could be used to mean any hunter-gatherer or full-blooded Indigenous person to continents other than Europe or Africa—for example, indios filipinos. The specifics of Paleo-Indian migration to and throughout the Americas, including the exact dates and routes traveled, are the subject of ongoing research and discussion. According to archaeological and genetic evidence and South America were the last continents in the world to gain human habitation.
During the Wisconsin glaciation, 50–17,000 years ago, falling sea levels allowed people to move across the land bridge of Beringia that joined Siberia to northwest North America. Alaska was a glacial refugium; the Laurentide Ice Sheet covered most of North America, blocking nomadic inhabitants and confining them to Alaska for thousands of years. Indigenous genetic studies suggest that the first inhabitants of the Americas share a single ancestral population, one that developed in isolation, conjectured to be Beringia; the isolat
The Zapotec civilization was an indigenous pre-Columbian civilization that flourished in the Valley of Oaxaca in Mesoamerica. Archaeological evidence shows; the Zapotec left archaeological evidence at the ancient city of Monte Albán in the form of buildings, ball courts, magnificent tombs and grave goods including finely worked gold jewelry. Monte Albán was one of the first major cities in Mesoamerica and the center of a Zapotec state that dominated much of the territory that today belongs to the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Zapotec civilization originated in the Central Valleys of Oaxaca in the late 6th Century BC; the three valleys were divided between three different-sized societies, separated by 80 square kilometres “no-man’s-land” in the middle, today occupied by the city of Oaxaca. Archaeological evidence, such as burned temples and sacrificed captives, suggests that the three societies competed against each other. At the end of the Rosario phase, the valley's largest settlement San José Mogote, a nearby settlement in the Etla valley, lost most of their population.
During the same period, a new large settlement emerged in the “no-man’s-land” on top of a mountain overlooking the three valleys, called Monte Albán. Early Monte Albán pottery is similar to pottery from San José Mogote, which suggests that Monte Albán was populated by the people who left San José Mogote. Although there is no direct evidence in the early phases of Monte Albán's history and fortifications around the site during the archaeological phase Monte Alban 2 suggest that the city was constructed in response to a military threat. Archaeologists Joyce Marcus and Kent V. Flannery liken this process to what happened in ancient Greece -: a centralization of smaller dispersed populations congregated in a central city to meet an external threat; the Zapotec state formed at Monte Albán began to expand during the late Monte Alban 1 phase and throughout the Monte Alban 2 phase. During Monte Alban 1c to Monte Alban 2, Zapotec rulers seized control of the provinces outside the valley of Oaxaca because none of the surrounding provinces could compete with the valley of Oaxaca politically and militarily.
By 200 AD, the Zapotecs had extended their influence, from Quiotepec in the North to Ocelotepec and Chiltepec in the South. Monte Albán had become the largest city in what are today the southern Mexican highlands, retained this status until 700 AD; the expansion of the Zapotec empire peaked during the Monte Alban 2 phase. Zapotecs colonized settlements far beyond The Valley of Oaxaca. Most notably, this expansion is visible in the sudden change of ceramics found in regions outside the valley; these region's own unique styles were replaced with Zapotec style pottery, indicating their integration into the Zapotec empire. Archaeologist Alfonso Caso, one of the first to do excavations in Monte Albán, argued that a building on the main plaza of Monte Albán is further evidence for the dramatic expansion of the Zapotec state. What today is called Building J is shaped like an arrowhead and displays more than 40 carved stones with hieroglyphic writing. Archaeologists interpreted the glyphs to represent the provinces controlled by the Zapotecs.
Each glyph group depicts a head with an elaborate head dress carved into the slabs. These are assumed to illustrate the rulers of the provinces. Heads turned upside down are believed to represent the rulers of those provinces taken by force, while the upright ones may represent those who did not resist colonization and had their lives spared. For this reason, Building J is called “The Conquest Slab”. Marcus and Flannery write about the subsequent dramatic expansion of the Monte Albán state: "a great disparity in populations between the core of a state and its periphery, it may only be necessary for the former to send colonists to the latter. Small polities, may accept a face-saving offer. Larger polities unwilling to lose their autonomy may have to be subdued militarily. During the expansion of Monte Alban 2 state, we think we see both colonization and conquest"; the name Zapotec is an exonym coming from Nahuatl tzapotēcah, which means "inhabitants of the place of sapote". The Zapotec referred to themselves by some variant of the term Be'ena'a, which means "The Cloud People".
The Zapotec languages belong to a language family called Oto-manguean, an ancient family of Mesoamerican languages. It is estimated that today's Oto-manguean languages branched off from a common root at around 1500 BC; the Manguean languages split off first, followed by the Oto-pamean branch while the divergence of Mixtecan and Zapotecan languages happened still. The Zapotecan group includes the Zapotec languages and the related Chatino. Zapotec languages are spoken in parts of the Northern Sierra, the Central Valleys as well as in parts of the Southern Sierra, in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and along parts of the Pacific Coast. Due to decades of out-migration, Zapotec is spoken in parts of Mexico City and Los Angeles, CA. There are over 100 dialects. Zapotec is a tone language, which means that the meaning of a word is determined by voice pitch, essential for understanding the meaning of different words; the Zapotec languages features up to 4 distinct tonemes: high, low and falling. Between Monte Alban phases 1 and 2 there was a considerable expansion of the population of the Valley of Oaxaca.
As the population grew, so did the degree of social differentiation, the centralization of political power
The Pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences on the American continent, spanning the time of the original settlement in the Upper Paleolithic period to European colonization during the Early Modern period. While the phrase "pre-Columbian era" refers only to the time preceding Christopher Columbus's voyages of 1492, in practice the phrase is used to denote the entire history of indigenous Americas cultures until those cultures were exterminated, diminished, or extensively altered by Europeans if this happened decades or centuries after Columbus's first landing. For this reason the alternative terms of Precontact Americas, Pre-Colonial Americas or Prehistoric Americas are in use. In areas of Latin America the term used is Pre-Hispanic. Many pre-Columbian civilizations established hallmarks which included permanent settlements, agriculture and monumental architecture, major earthworks, complex societal hierarchies.
Some of these civilizations had long faded by the time of the first permanent European colonies and the arrival of enslaved Africans, are known only through archaeological investigations and oral history. Other civilizations were contemporary with the colonial period and were described in European historical accounts of the time. A few, such as the Maya civilization, had their own written records; because many Christian Europeans of the time viewed such texts as heretical, men like Diego de Landa destroyed many texts in pyres while seeking to preserve native histories. Only a few hidden documents have survived in their original languages, while others were transcribed or dictated into Spanish, giving modern historians glimpses of ancient culture and knowledge. Indigenous American cultures continue to evolve after the pre-Columbian era. Many of these peoples and their descendants continue traditional practices while evolving and adapting new cultural practices and technologies into their lives.
Before the development of archaeology in the 19th century, historians of the pre-Columbian period interpreted the records of the European conquerors and the accounts of early European travelers and antiquaries. It was not until the nineteenth century that the work of men such as John Lloyd Stephens, Eduard Seler and Alfred P. Maudslay, of institutions such as the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology of Harvard University, led to the reconsideration and criticism of the European sources. Now, the scholarly study of pre-Columbian cultures is most based on scientific and multidisciplinary methodologies. Asian nomads are thought to have entered the Americas via the Bering Land Bridge, now the Bering Strait and along the coast. Genetic evidence found in Amerindians' maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA supports the theory of multiple genetic populations migrating from Asia. Over the course of millennia, Paleo-Indians spread throughout South America; when the first group of people migrated into the Americas is the subject of much debate.
One of the earliest identifiable cultures was the Clovis culture, with sites dating from some 13,000 years ago. However, older sites dating back to 20,000 years ago have been claimed; some genetic studies estimate the colonization of the Americas dates from between 40,000 and 13,000 years ago. The chronology of migration models is divided into two general approaches; the first is the short chronology theory with the first movement beyond Alaska into the Americas occurring no earlier than 14,000–17,000 years ago, followed by successive waves of immigrants. The second belief is the long chronology theory, which proposes that the first group of people entered the hemisphere at a much earlier date 50,000–40,000 years ago or earlier. Artifacts have been found in both North and South America which have been dated to 14,000 years ago, accordingly humans have been proposed to have reached Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America by this time. In that case, the Eskimo peoples would have arrived separately and at a much date no more than 2,000 years ago, moving across the ice from Siberia into Alaska.
The North American climate was unstable. It stabilized by about 10,000 years ago. Within this time frame pertaining to the Archaic Period, numerous archaeological cultures have been identified; the unstable climate led to widespread migration, with early Paleo-Indians soon spreading throughout the Americas, diversifying into many hundreds of culturally distinct tribes. The Paleo-Indians were hunter-gatherers characterized by small, mobile bands consisting of 20 to 50 members of an extended family; these groups moved from place to place as preferred resources were depleted and new supplies were sought. During much of the Paleo-Indian period, bands are thought to have subsisted through hunting now-extinct giant land animals such as mastodon and ancient bison. Paleo-Indian groups carried a variety of tools; these included distinctive projectile points and knives, as well as less distinctive implements used for butchering and hide processing. The vastness of the North American continent, the variety of its climates, vegetation and landforms, led ancient peoples to coalesce into many distinct linguistic and cultural groups.
This is reflected in the oral histories of the indigenous peoples, described by a wide range of traditional creation stories which say that a given people have been living in a certain territory since the creation of the world. Over the course of thousands of years, paleo-Indian
Mesoamerican calendars are the calendrical systems devised and used by the pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica. Besides keeping time, Mesoamerican calendars were used in religious observances and social rituals, such as for divination; the existence of Mesoamerican calendars is known as early as ca. 500 BCE, with the essentials appearing defined and functional. These calendars are still used today in the Guatemalan highlands, Veracruz and Chiapas, Mexico. Among the various calendar systems in use, two were central and widespread across Mesoamerica. Common to all recorded Mesoamerican cultures, the most important, was the 260-day calendar, a ritual calendar with no confirmed correlation to astronomical or agricultural cycles; the earliest Mesoamerican calendar to be developed, it was known by a variety of local terms, its named components and the glyphs used to depict them were culture-specific. However, it is clear that this calendar functioned in the same way across cultures, down through the chronological periods it was maintained.
The second of the major calendars was one representing a 365-day period approximating the tropical year, known sometimes as the "vague year". Because it was an approximation, over time the seasons and the true tropical year "wandered" with respect to this calendar, owing to the accumulation of the differences in length. There is little hard evidence to suggest that the ancient Mesoamericans used any intercalary days to bring their calendar back into alignment. However, there is evidence to show Mesoamericans were aware of this gradual shifting, which they accounted for in other ways without amending the calendar itself; these two 260- and 365-day calendars could be synchronised to generate the Calendar Round, a period of 18980 days or 52 years. The completion and observance of this Calendar Round sequence was of ritual significance to a number of Mesoamerican cultures. A third major calendar form known as the Long Count is found in the inscriptions of several Mesoamerican cultures, most famously those of the Maya civilization who developed it to its fullest extent during the Classic period.
The Long Count provided the ability to uniquely identify days over a much longer period of time, by combining a sequence of day-counts or cycles of increasing length, calculated or set from a particular date in the mythical past. Most five such higher-order cycles in a modified vigesimal count were used; the use of Mesoamerican calendrics is one of the cultural traits that Paul Kirchoff used in his original formulation to define Mesoamerica as a culture area. Therefore, the use of Mesoamerican calendars is specific to Mesoamerica and is not found outside its boundaries. In the 260-day cycle 20 day names pairs with 13 day numbers; this cycle was used for divination purposes to foretell unlucky days. The date of birth was used to give names to both humans and gods in many Mesoamerican cultures; each day sign was presided over by a god and many had associations with specific natural phenomena. The exact origin of the 260-day count is not known. One theory is that the calendar came from mathematical operations based on the numbers thirteen and twenty, which were important numbers to the Maya.
The numbers multiplied together equal 260. Another theory is; this is close to the average number of days between the first missed menstrual period and birth, unlike Naegele's rule, 40 weeks between the last menstrual period and birth. It is postulated that midwives developed the calendar to predict babies' expected birth dates. A third theory comes from understanding of astronomy and paleontology; the mesoamerican calendar originated with the Olmecs, a settlement existed at Izapa, in southeast Chiapas Mexico, before 1200 BCE. There, at a latitude of about 15° N, the Sun passes through zenith twice a year, there are 260 days between zenithal passages, gnomons, were found at this and other sites; the sacred almanac may well have been set in motion on 1359 BCE, in Izapa. In the post-classic Aztec calendar the periods of 13 days called in Spanish a trecena were important; the days of a trecena were numbered from 1 to 13. There were some exceptions, such as in the Tlapanec area where they were counted from 2 to 14.
The first day of the trecena, the god, its patron, ruled the following thirteen days. If the first day of a trecena was auspicious so were the next twelve days; this 365-day calendar corresponded was divided into 18'months' of 20 days each, plus 5'nameless' days at the end of the year. The 365 day year had no leap year; the years were given their name in much the same way as the days of the 260-day calendar, 20 names were paired with 13 numbers giving 52 different possibilities for year names In the post-classic Aztec calendar the 20 days called veintenas in Spanish and meztli, meaning moon in Nahuatl, were important. The five unlucky days were called nemontemi in Mexico. Most believe them to have come at the end of each year, but since we do not know when the year started, we cannot know for sure. We do know though, that in the Maya-area these five days were always the last days of the year; the nemontemi were seen as'the useless days' or the days that were dedicated to no
Diego Durán was a Dominican friar best known for his authorship of one of the earliest Western books on the history and culture of the Aztecs, The History of the Indies of New Spain, a book, much criticised in his lifetime for helping the "heathen" maintain their culture. Known as the Durán Codex, The History of the Indies of New Spain was completed in about 1581. Durán wrote Book of the Gods and Rites, Ancient Calendar, he was fluent in Nahuatl, the Aztec language, was therefore able to consult natives and Aztec codices as well as work done by earlier friars. His empathetic nature allowed him to gain the confidence of many native people who would not share their stories with Europeans, was able to document many unknown folktales and legends that make his work unique. Durán was born sometime around 1537 in Spain, his family traveled to Mexico when he was young—he said that "although I did not acquire my milk teeth in Texcoco, I got my second ones there."' In Texcoco, a city-state known for its learning in the prehispanic period, he learned Nahuatl.
His family was not wealthy, but the family did have servants, slaves. When he was still young, his family moved to Mexico City where he attended school and was exposed to Aztec culture under the colonial rule of Spain, as well as the many Africans brought by the Spanish for slavery. According to Heyden, Durán was puzzled by the mix of races and cultures and their significance for social class. In 1556 he entered the Dominican Order and was sent to Oaxaca in 1561 after being trained in Mexico City, he resided for a time at a convent, or friary, in Oaxtepec, there he found many informants within the Church. He is believed to have been tutored by Dominican Fray Francisco de Aguilar, who had once been a soldier involved in the siege of Tenochtitlan. Aguilar joined the Dominican order, had much to tell Durán about the Aztecs at first contact, he was cited by Durán in his History. Durán became a vicar at a convent in Hueyapan and it was there that he learned the most from the native Nahuas; the convents had been issued a decree by Charles V to preach the Christian word to native rural villages and Durán ventured into the villages to converse with the natives there.
The clergy were to observe native customs and to search for ancient documents. The lost Holy Scriptures of Saint Thomas, he developed a close association with the people he was attempting to convert, which led him to criticize the clerics and conquistadors who never learned the natives’ language, writing “they should know the language well and understand if they have any pretense of obtaining fruit. And the clergy should not acquiesce by saying they need know only enough of the tongue in order to hear confession and, enough.” And scorns the Spaniards' crude use of the language that made the natives scoff. Durán was torn between two worlds, his own people, the Aztecs. On one hand, he respected their governmental organization before the conquest. On the other hand, he was repulsed by certain acts of his native informants human sacrifice, it was, after all, his duty to evangelize them and his Catholic background gave him a great disdain for such things. Another of his duties was to document the cultural ways and practices of the native people to serve as a manual for other monks in their attempt to evangelize them.
Although his purpose was to detail the “heathen practices” as a manual for other missionaries, he wanted to make it pleasant to read and useful to others. In 1585 Friar Diego returned to Mexico City in ill health to live and work in the Convent of St. Dominic there, as a translator from Nahuatl to Spanish for the Inquisition, he died in 1588 of an unknown illness. The History of the Indies of New Spain, sometimes referred to as the Durán Codex, contains 78 chapters spanning from the Aztec creation story until after Spanish conquest of Mexico, includes a chronology of Aztec kings; the friars of the 16th century borrowed one. Some scholars believe that the Durán Codex formed the basis for the Ramirez Codex although others believe that both Ramirez Codex and the Durán Codex relied on an earlier unknown work referred to as "Chronicle X". In 1596, Durán was cited as a source by Fray Agustín Dávila Padilla in his Historia de la fundación y discurso de la Provinciade Santiago de Mexico; the Durán Codex was unpublished until the 19th century, when it was found in the Library of Madrid by José Fernando Ramírez.
In his Ancient Calendar, Durán explains why his work would go so long without being published by saying “some persons say that my work will revive ancient customs and rites among the Indians”, to which he replied that the Indians were quite good at secretly preserving their own customs and needed no outside help. Durán's work has become invaluable to archaeologists and others studying Mesoamerica and scholars studying Mesoamerican ethnohistory. Although there are few surviving Aztec codices written before the Spanish conquest, the more numerous post-conquest codices and near-contemporary works such as Durán's are invaluable sources for the interpretation of archaeological theories and evidence, but more for constructing a history of the indigenous from texts produced by the indigenous themselves, as exemplified in the New Philology. Aztec Nahuatl Dominican Order List of people from Morelos, Mexico Fray Diego Durán's The History of the Indies of New Spain, translated and with introduction by Doris Heyd
The Aztec or Mexica calendar is the calendar system, used by the Aztecs as well as other Pre-Columbian peoples of central Mexico. It is one of the Mesoamerican calendars, sharing the basic structure of calendars from throughout ancient Mesoamerica; the calendar consisted of a 365-day calendar cycle called xiuhpōhualli and a 260-day ritual cycle called tōnalpōhualli. These two cycles together formed a 52-year "century," sometimes called the "calendar round"; the xiuhpōhualli is considered to be the agricultural calendar, since it is based on the sun, the tōnalpōhualli is considered to be the sacred calendar... The tōnalpōhualli consists of a cycle of 260 days, each day signified by a combination of a number from 1 to 13, one of the twenty day signs. With each new day, both the number and day sign would be incremented: 1 Crocodile is followed by 2 Wind, 3 House, 4 Lizard, so forth up to 13 Reed, after which the cycle of numbers would restart resulting in 1 Jaguar, 2 Eagle, so on, as the days following 13 Reed.
This cycle of number and day signs would continue until the 20th week, which would start on 1 Rabbit, end on 13 Flower. It would take a full 260 days for the two cycles to realign and repeat the sequence back on 1 Crocodile; the set of day signs used in central Mexico is identical to that used by Mixtecs, to a lesser degree similar to those of other Mesoamerican calendars. Each of the day signs bears an association with one of the four cardinal directions. There is some variation in the way the day signs were carved; those here were taken from the Codex Magliabechiano. Wind and Rain are represented by images of Ehēcatl and Tlāloc respectively. Other marks on the stone showed the current world and the worlds before this one; each world was called a sun, each sun had its own species of inhabitants. The Aztecs believed that they were in the Fifth Sun and like all of the suns before them they would eventually perish due to their own imperfections; every 52 years was marked out because they believed that 52 years was a life cycle and at the end of any given life cycle the gods could take away all that they have and destroy the world.
The 260 days of the sacred calendar were grouped into twenty periods of 13 days each. Scholars refer to these thirteen-day "weeks" as trecenas, using a Spanish term derived from trece "thirteen"; the original Nahuatl term is not known. Each trecena is named according to the calendar date of the first day of the 13 days in that trecena. In addition, each of the twenty trecenas in the 260-day cycle had its own tutelary deity: In ancient times the year was composed of eighteen months, thus it was observed by the native people. Since their months were made of no more than twenty days, these were all the days contained in a month, because they were not guided by the moon but by the days; the days of the year were counted twenty by twenty. Xiuhpōhualli is the Aztec year count. One year consists of 5 nameless. These'extra' days are thought to be unlucky; the year was broken into 18 periods of twenty days each, sometimes compared to the Julian month. The Nahuatl word for moon is metztli but whatever name was used for these periods is unknown.
Through Spanish usage, the 20-day period of the Aztec calendar has become known as a veintena. Each 20-day period started on Cipactli; the eighteen veintena are listed below. The dates are from early eyewitnesses. Bernardino de Sahagún's date precedes the observations of Diego Durán by several decades and is believed to be more recent to the surrender. Both are shown to emphasize the fact that the beginning of the Native new year became non-uniform as a result of an absence of the unifying force of Tenochtitlan after the Mexica defeat; the ancient Mexicans counted their years by means of four signs combined with thirteen numbers, obtaining periods of 52 years, which are known as Xiuhmolpilli, a popular but incorrect name. We can see below the table with the current years: For many centuries scholars had tried to reconstruct the Calendar; the latest and more accepted version was proposed by Professor Rafael Tena of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, based on the studies of Sahagún and Alfonso Caso of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
His correlation confirms that the first day of the Mexica year was February 13 of the old Julian calendar or February 23 of the current Gregorian calendar. Using the same count, it has been verified the date of the birth of Huitzilopochtli, the end of the year and a cycle or "Tie of the Years," and the New Fire Ceremony, day-sign 1 Tecpatl of the year 2 Acatl, corresponding to the date February 22. Maya calendar Mesoamerican calendars Aztec New Year Muisca calendar The Aztec Calendar - Ancient History Encyclopedia Detailed description of the temalacatl from Mexico's Museo Nacional de Antropología Aztec Calendar and Percussion Instrument Daily Aztec Calendar