8 Ahau 3 Zec


O 123 tf 122/ 5 108 % 103

5 235 % 229 n 234

5 158 % 160

© Sun. $ Mercury. 2 Venus. d Mars. % Jupiter. ^ Saturn.

* Base 10 equivalents of Maya Long Count dates and (interlined) intervals between them. f Calculated back from end date. § From parallel text of Naranjo Hieroglyphic Stairway.

© Sun. $ Mercury. 2 Venus. d Mars. % Jupiter. ^ Saturn.

* Base 10 equivalents of Maya Long Count dates and (interlined) intervals between them. f Calculated back from end date. § From parallel text of Naranjo Hieroglyphic Stairway.

12.22. Asterisms

Direct evidence for the identity of Mesoamerican asterisms is not extensive. The famed Aztec "calendar stone" was once set in the midst of a series of asterisms drawn in the ball-and-link convention, but only a few of these survive and we know of no convincing attempts to identify them. Figure 12.19 shows both a photograph, kindly provided by Prof. Angione, of the artifact as it appears in its current display case in Mexico City and a sketch that depicts the asterisms on the rim of the stone more fully than can be seen in the photo.

Sahagun also gives a few examples of Aztec ball-and-link asterisms. W. Lamb (1981) has uncovered a number of references in Mayan-Spanish dictionaries, but they are a meagre supply. From the few remaining codices, stelae, monuments, and other representations, however, we do have some idea of how Mesoamericans pictured certain asterisms. Coe (1975a) cites constellation references in an account of the admonition given Moctezuma Xocoyotzin on his election as emperor (Tezozomoc 1944) and sketches by the Spaniard Sahagun in the 1540s. The constellations include: tianquitzli ("Marketplace," the Pleiades; in Spanish, las cabrillas), yohualitqui mamalhuaztli ("Fire Drill," "the Keys of St. Peter," near Orion's Belt), colotlixayac or citlal-colotl ("Star Scorpion," identified as Scorpius), xonecuilli ("the Cross of St. James," which has the appearance of one of the Dippers), and citlaltlachtli ("Star Ballcourt," which looks somewhat like Gemini). The Christian names emerge from local Spanish, medieval usage. Aveni (1980) has a further discussion of these identifications and of individual star names in Mesoamerica. One of the most important "constellations" in Mesoamerica seems to have been the Pleiades. It was known as tzab ("rattlesnake rattle") among the Yucatec and Lacandone Maya. At the end of a 52-year calendar cycle, the Aztecs made special observations of the Pleiades at midnight. Following Bruce, Robles, and Ramos Chao (1971), Coe (1975a, p. 27) mentions the following modern Lacandone star names: "Big Woodpecker," Sirius;

Figure 12.19. The Aztec "calendar stone," set in the midst of a series of asterisms drawn in the ball-and-link convention: (a) Photo by Dr. R. Angione. (b) Sketch, emphasizing the asterisms on the rim. Drawing by Rea Postolowski and Sharon Hanna.

"Woodpecker," Rigel; "Peccary," Orion's Belt; "Turtle," unidentified; "Red Dragonfly," Betelgeuse; and "Alligator," Ursa Minor.

Köhler (1984/1991) has collected material on the astro-mical knowledge of a number of communities in Mexico, with particular attention to the asterisms that seem to be at least similar to known Aztec asterisms. His data were obtained during the rainy season of 1982, and few were identified in the sky. Informants were Tzotzil, Mixe, Totonac, and Nahua. Köhler found that informants drew asterisms to correspond with their ideas about the stars, with little regard for visual accuracy, except at the most general level. He was able to identify "The many," as the Pleiades, also sometimes called "The sandal." The "Fire-drill" was the name of the Belt and Sword of Orion. The Xonecuilli was our Ursa Major. The Star-Scorpion has a variety of identifications, including: a small asterism near Corvus; Cassiopeia; and Scorpius. The Aztec "shooting star" had the same meaning as "shooting star" in English. Other asterisms remain unidentified.

By far the fullest account of the asterisms of any indigenous group in Mexico is that collected by Alessandro Lupo (1984/1991) from the Huaves of San Mateo del Mar, Oaxaca. Lupo was able to identify 17 asterisms and learned the names of 9 others, still astronomically unidentified. These are:

stars of the sikip Pleiades mah^oy pelican roob "bellows"


miwiil roob "tail of the bellows"

ihkiaw okas "two stars"

(or mankwerna < span.) (two bulls?) kinc big crab pilaw little crab nepep shooter

(now, of a musket) once a blow gun?? markesand a sacred rectangular


Aldebaran & Hyades Belt & Sword of Orion


Castor & Pollux head of Hydra g, 8 Cancri "la hoz" of Leon sickle trapecio del Cuervo nemeahmeay a wooden handle or hilt with a red macaw feather on the point (Huaves ff, A. Lupo 1984/91)

(<Sp. marquesina)


Sikwi'w krus okas Eskalera (stairway, ladder)

krus nimeeC ndiik krus okas am Kali'y Pilmiik

Huave "constellation"

arch okas 0ol kwak liw [Leo] neoel omal wakis

pisaw wiil cipliw object of wood and paper alacran scorpion deer

(frontal view) cross stars the ladder used by the "hangmen" to crucify Jesus the sign

"Jesus Nazarenus

Rex Iudeorum"

Cross of the devil

(el brazo "esta chueco")

if things are "not complete"

horned snake cross stars of the north sea-horse

' names ff. A. Lupo 1984/91 "asterism" three stars heron spider jaguar doll head of the bull duck fox tarantula

Scorpius, identical 5 stars of Sagittarius Cruz a, b Centauri g, 8 Centauri (one informant)

Navio (3 Carinae 1 Velorum) they belong to the devil Cassiopeia & Perseus Ursa minor [The Cross moves but the foot, Polaris, stays in place] Ursa major +2 of Lynx, 1 of Leo astronomically unidentified

Several scholars, beginning with Spinden (1916), have suggested the existence of a series of asterisms analogous to our zodiac, especially as represented in the Paris codex and in an inscription at Chichen Itza. The Paris codex representations are marked with intervals of 168 units, presumed to be days. Although Spinden and many later scholars thought that these asterisms were next to each other, as depicted, Kelley argued that the associated interval of 168, if it did indicate days, suggested that adjacent representations were actually on nearly opposite sides of the sky. This view is supported by Justeson (1989, pp. 46-47) and by Lounsbury (cited therein).

It has been supposed by Thompson (1972, pp. 65-67) that the series of 20 deities that appear in the Dresden codex Venus table may have been associated with asterisms. The worst problem in connection with such an interpretation is the fact that the series of 20 deities appears twice in the table, shifted in relative position and thus associated with different intervals. Justeson (1989, p. 47) has calculated the relative sky positions of the deities in terms of their calen-drical placements in the table in the upper of the two occurrences, and finds some similarities with the "zodiac"

sequence. On the whole, the interpretation appears plausible.

Kelley's (1976, p. 87) illustration of a drawing of a cosmic diagram (sometimes called "cosmogram") from the Fejervary-Mayer codex was intended to suggest that the drawing may have some characteristics of a Mesoamerican sky map; the text, however, does not make such an interpretation clear, and there is no compelling evidence either to support or reject the idea.

Finally, Kelley (1989, p. 92) noted that the series of 20 drawings in the Borgia group of codices associated with the 13-day periods known to Americanists as trecenas (see §12.15), started with Tonacatecuhtli, identified as the "Milky Way." It is possible, however, that a more specific star grouping than what we call the "Milky Way" is intended. With one exception, the 20 trecenas show the same sequence of deities as the 20 day names. Eurasian parallels would suggest that day names were originally derived from the asterisms of the lunar mansions (Moran and Kelley 1969, especially, Fig. 19; and §15). Kelley further suggested that the 9 Lords of the Night and the 13 Lords of the Day also established sequences, counting in opposite directions from Xiuhtecuhtli

Figure 12.20. A sky diagram suggests the relationships of the sequences of the Trecenas and the Nine Lords of the Night to segments of the sky. Drawing by Sharon Hanna.

Figure 12.20. A sky diagram suggests the relationships of the sequences of the Trecenas and the Nine Lords of the Night to segments of the sky. Drawing by Sharon Hanna.

(Lord of Fire; see also §§ and, associated with those just discussed. A diagram of the sky derived from the sequences is shown in Figure 12.20.

Bricker and Bricker (1992) have summarized the data on "zodiacal" constellations (ecliptic markers). Bricker and Bricker (1996) have made a major contribution to our knowledge of the glyphs associated with these constellations in a study of the throne inscription from the so-called Governor's Palace at Uxmal. They also infer a particular pattern of movements of Venus through these constellations as they identify them. They argue that constellations were treated in the iconography as horizon pairs. They found that the alignment between the Governor's Palace and Cehtzuc/Nohpat, to be discussed shortly, is a good reciprocal marker for Venus's northern p.m. and southern a.m. extreme positions, although not "perfect" for either (their study used dates between 880 and 934 a.d.). Examination for other correlations would be worthwhile. They found that a number of the glyphs of this inscription show a monster head with cross-bands in the mouth and iconographic traits allowing identification of the particular constellation.

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