The Aztec Sun Calendar coin is one of Silver Pit’s most popular. The obverse side (front face) of this beautifully crafted coin features the intricate design inspired by an ancient Mexican calendar, known as the Aztec Sun Calendar. In this post, I will share briefly the fascinating story behind the calendar.
The Aztec Sun Calendar is a famous Mexican monumental stone, which, as modern research suggests, was first made and displayed around 1520 AD, during the Post-Classic Period, a time of great growth and change in the valley of Mexico where the Aztecs ruled. It is believed the stone was most likely commissioned by Montezuma Xocoytzin. The stone is 3.58 m by 0.9 8m and weighs more than 24kgs.
Shortly after the Spanish conquest in 1519, the stone was buried in the main plaza (also called the Zócalo) on the order of Archibishop Alconso de Montúfar. Around 240 years later, in December 1790, it was uncovered during a ‘leveling project’ in the plaza. Later, it was installed in the newly established national museum. The calendar remained there until 1964, where it was relocated to the Museo Nacional de Antropología, where it is still housed today.
The iconography of the calendar is very elaborate, clearly made by a sophisticated culture, with a complex belief-system. The core elements of the calendar, which you can clearly see with the naked eye on the coin, are a central face within a series of concentric circles.
The face represents an ancient deity. The deity could be Tonatiuh, the Sun god, Tlaltecuhtl, the Earth god or a hybrid being, combining features of both deities. The X-shape with four dots enclosing the face represent the hieroglyph Nahui Ollin, meaning ‘4 Earthquake’, which is another name for the 5th Sun. The Aztecs, like other Pre-Columbian civilizations, including the Maya, believed that the world was created and destroyed multiple times.
The first ring represents the Tonalpohualli, the 260-day calendar, which was associated with the moon.
The second ring is divided into boxes, each one featuring a ‘five-part symbol’. This could represent turquoise, which for the Aztecs represented both fire and the sacred or rays of the Sun.
The final ring features two dragons, known as Xuihcoatl.
So, from this fascinating stone, we have and continue to learn much about the ancient Mexican cultures.
Written by Dr Lisa Dunbar Solas