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Méxica/Aztec Chronicle, Codex Telleriano-Remensis:1385-99

From the Collection of Andres Resendez

Aztec (Méxica) historical chronicle of 1385 - 89, the Codex Telleriano-Remensis, c. 1563. The destruction of Colhuacan by the Aztecs and Tepanecs. Colhuacan had been founded by the Toltecs under Mixcoatl, the god of war, and was the first Toltec city. A U-shaped frame of year signs, with two sets of glossed dates correlating them with the European calendar, encloses the two major events depicted on this folio. The second, correct sequence of 1385-99 replaces that of 1393-1407, which has been crossed out. At top right, sitting upon woven reed seats of authority or thrones, are two rulers. At right a compact mummy bundle is wrapped in a gray cotton cloth and bound by a rope. At left is his living successor, wearing a plain, white cotton mantle. This pairing of a deceased ruler and his heir is an Aztec pictorial convention for conveying legitimate succession. Serpent-form name signs over their heads suggest the respective names Coatl (Snake) and Itzcoatl (Obsidian Serpent). Below, two unnamed warriors, dressed identically in white cotton hip-cloths and green cotton jackets, brandish formidable obsidian-edged wooden weapons and shields. With his flaming torch the warrior at left reaches out to set ablaze the thatched roof of a temple, a traditional gesture of conquest. The centrally-placed pyramid temple shown in profile is a high, stepped platform and a crowning shrine. At upper left a place sign of a curved hill and a gloss identify its location as Colhuacan. A black line connecting the warrior at left to the year sign II Acatl (Reed) at top right specifies the year of this event, corresponding with the European date of 1399. Lightly sketched hands point to the years 1388 and 1396. The Codex Telleriano-Remensis, produced in 16th c. Mexico and printed on European paper, is one of the finest surviving examples of Aztec manuscript painting. Created around 1563 by an unnamed Aztec artist and about six annotators, the Codex (book) contains a calendar of ritual feasts, a religious almanac, and a historical chronicle, all illustrated in brightly colored, pre-Hispanic Aztec artistic forms (although the years after 1529 show Spanish artistic influences). This codex is recognized for its outstanding Aztec painting, details of Aztec culture, and unique annotations; no other codex had multiple authors who edited one another's writings directly on the page. Today only 50 folios (pages) remain; many were lost in the codex's shipment from Mexico through several stops in Europe before arriving at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris. It was first published in 1810 by the German explorer Alexander von Humboldt. For detailed notes and scholarly comments on the image contents see Stacey Greer, Documentary Source Problem: "Aztec Life as Revealed in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis," 2010, History Project, University of California, Davis. Online at http://historyproject.


  • War
  • Religion
  • Arts and Architecture
  • Ancient Mexico
  • Mexican


  • Latin America
  • Mexico

California Standard(s):

  • 7.7 - The geographic, political, economic, religious, and social structures of the Meso-American and Andean civilizations
  • 7.11 - political and economic change in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries (the Age of Exploration, the Enlightenment, and the Age of Reason)

National Standard(s):

  • World Era 5 - Intensified Hemispheric Interactions 1000-1500 CE


Codex Telleriano-Remensis, c. 1563, Folio 29r, Mexican Manuscript 385. Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Site François-Mitterrand, Quai François-Mauriac, 75706 Paris Cedex 13 FRANCE. Text: Eloise Quiñones Keber, "Codex Telleriano-Remensis: Ritual, Divination and History in a Pictorial Aztec Manuscript," 1995 (Copyright University of Texas Press, PO Box 7819, Austin, TX 78713-7819. All rights reserved) pp. 61, 209-10.

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