The Aztec Sun Stone

Synthesis From Various Web Sources




The Aztec name of this huge basaltic monolith is Cuauhxicalli (Eagle Bowl), but it is universally known as the Aztec Sun Stone or Calendar, as it was dedicated to the solar deity. It weighs almost 25 tons and its diameter is a little less than 12 feet. On December 17th, 1760 the stone was discovered, buried in the "Zocolo" (the main square) of the City of Mexico. The viceroy of New Spain was Don Joaquin de Monserrat, Marquis of Cruillas. Afterwards it was embedded in the wall of the Western tower of the Metropolitan Cathedral, where it remained until 1885, when it was transferred to the National Museum of Archeology and History by order of the President of the Republic General Porfirio Diaz. It was in the year 1479 A. D. during the reign of the 6th Aztec monarch, Axayacatl, that this stone was carved. The stone has both mythological and astronomical significance. However, the altar was where victims of human sacrifice were killed. The pictures on the stone are taken from the Aztec calendar. The colours are based minute paint particles left on the stone.

The word Aztec itself was introduced by a 19th century writer; perhaps the word was used to sanitize or distance the historical people from their progeny. The people encountered by Cortez were known as the Mexica, leaders of the Triple Alliance. None of the inhabitants of Mexico and Central America referred to themselves as "Aztecs." This word, which probably means "Those Who Came From Aztlan (the place of herons)," encompassed seven tribes who'd migrated from the Northeast several hundred years before the Conquisadors' arrival. The Conquistadors fought with one of these tribes, the one dominant at the time, the Mexica. Some others, for example the Tlaxcalans and the Acolhuas of Texcoco, threw their lot in with Cortez, who could not possibly have conquered the Mexica without the thousands of Indian allies who flocked to his side. This culture had an old history, stretching back to the Olmecs of the Gulf Coast, to the great city of Teotihuacan, to the Toltecs of Tula. A rich and full culture destroyed by Spaniards interested mainly in gold. But many of their monumental structures remain, like the Great Pyramid at Cholula, the largest man-made structure on the planet even today.



  1. Date 13-Acatl (13-reed), begin of Nahui-Ollin (The Earthquakes Sun - fifth epoch)
  2. Twenty days and their names
  3. The Symbol of the North
  4. Ocelotonatiuh (The Jaguar Sun - first epoch)
  5. Solar Ray
  6. Tonatiuh's Claws imprison human hearts
  7. Atonatiuh (The Water Sun - fourth epoch)
  8. Tonatiuh (The Sun) faces Xiutecutli (The Night)
  9. Ollin Tonatiuh (The Center Sun of Movement)
  10. The Gods face to face show their obsidian tongues
  11. Quiauhtonatiuh (The Rain of Fire Sun - third epoch)
  12. Ehecatonatiuh (The Wind Sun - second epoch)
  13. Amate paper bands
  14. The Symbol of the East
  15. The Symbol of the West
  16. The Symbol of the South


[Center, First and Second Ring]


Tonatiuh's Face, the face of the sun, Lord of Heaven, around which takes place all daily and periodical phenomena. The crown, nose-pendent, earrings and necklace are magnificent, as must be the ornaments characteristic of the deity. The hair is blond, due to the golden appearance of the sun. The wrinkles on the face show age and maturity. And the tongue, stuck out is the form of an obsidian knife, indicates that the deity demands to be fed with blood and human hearts. This tongue points towards the heads of the two monsters that form the outer circle of the stone. He is portrayed in the center of the Aztec calendar and governed the universe in all its manifestations.


The Suns or Cosmic Eras


The Mexicans, as all other Meso-Americans, believed in the periodic destruction and recreation of the world. The first ring depicts the date 4-Ollin (movement/ earthquake), on which they anticipated that the current world would be destroyed, and within the dates of previous destuctions: 4-jaguar, 4-wind, 4-rain and 4-water.  


Ocelotonatiuh - The Jaguar Sun (1:00 o'clock)

Was the first and most remote of the four cosmologic epochs in which lived the giants created by the gods. They did not till the soil, lived in caves, ate wild fruits and roots, and were in the end attacked and devoured by the jaguars. This basic epoch of the Aztecs is related to the geological quaternary period. As indicated by the discovery of bones of pre-diluvium animals found in deep ravines under dense Lithospheric layers. The jaguar is adorned with a "smoking mirror", symbol of the god Tezcatlipoca.


Ehecatonatiuh - The Winds Sun (11:00 o'clock)

Was the second mythological epoch. The human race was in danger of being destroyed by tremendous hurricanes, but the gods transformed men into apes so they could hold on better with four hands and not be carried away by hurricanes. This is the reason for the resemblance between men and simians. The epoch received its name because they found huge forests flattened by cyclones. The god of this era is Quetzalcoatl.


Quiauhtonatiuh - Rain of Fire Sun (7:00 o'clock)

Third cosmologic epoch, in which everything is extinguished by rain of lava and fire. Men were transformed at this time into birds, thus being saved from cataclysm. They justified this belief with the traces of volcanic activity and with the discovery of numerous huts and skeletons buried under layers of lava and ashes. The god that reigned over this period was Tlaloc.


Antonatiuh - Water Sun (5:00 o'clock)

Means the fourth epoch, at the end of which everything perished because of terrific storms and torrential rains that covered the whole earth, reaching the peaks of the highest mountains. The gods changed men into fishes to save them from the universal deluge. The discovery of different fossilized species of marine fauna on the tops of mountains created the basis for this belief. This epoch is represented by a vessel of water, and the goddess Chalchiuhtlicue.


The Symbol of the North (12:30)

The date 1-Tecpatl (1-obsidian knife).


The Symbol of the East (11:30)

The Xiuhuitzolli sign. Coat of arms that used to cover the corpses of noblemen and brave warriors during their funerals.


The Symbol of the South (6:30)

The date 1-Quiahuitl (1-rain).


The Symbol of the West (5:30)

The date 7-Ozomatli (7-monkey).


Claws of the Sun God (9:00, 3:00 o'clock)

With them it is supposed to be suspended in space. We see a chalchihuite bracelet, and eye with eyebrow, which indicates "allseeingness", and a human heart in each of the two paws. This symbolizes the need to perform human sacrifices in honor of him.

Dots of the sign Nahui-Ollin (fifth Sun of Earthquakes) above and below the claws.


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Twenty Days of the Aztec Month

Like the Mayas, the Aztecs counted time in years of 365 days based on the solar cycle, and a religious year based on the 260 days cycles of the planet Venus. The solar calendar of 365 days, called "Xiuhpohualli", the Vague Year (or Civil Year), was composed of 18 "months" of 20 days each, called veintenas, divided into four five-days weeks. A period of 5 days was added at the end. The 360-day period was called "Xihuitl" by Aztecs, and "Haab" or "Tun" by the Maya. The final unlucky days, or days of nothing were called "Nemontemi" days in Nahuath, and "Uayeb" in Mayan. This was a time of festivals.
This solar calendar was inseparable from the Sacred Round, or Sacred Almanac. The priests used this ritual calendar of 260 days, called "Tonalpohualli" by the Aztecs and "Tzolkin" by the Maya, primarily for divinatory purposes and was broken up into 20 periods, each containing 13 numbered days, called trecenas. The numbers 1 to 13 were also personified as the heads of the gods they represented. This period of 260 days also constituted the divinatory or ritual calendar, known as "Tonalamatl".
Based upon 365 x 52 is the same as 260 x 73, every 52 solar years the Xiuhpohualli and the Tonalpohualli calendars would align. This is what was known as "Xiuhmolpilli" (bundle of years), the Mesoamerican century and the aligning event was marked by a 12/13 arrear day festival with a "New Fire" ceremony. This included mass human sacrifice in order to prevent apocalypse in the next "century". The exact length of the solar year is 365.24219879 earth days. Our old Julian calendar, in comparison, produced 25 arrear days in 100 years, that's 365.250000. If the Aztecs applied 25 arrear days in 104 years, they were much more accurate with the resulting 365.240385 days. Maybe they would even just simply await a specific astronomic event to mark the proper beginning of a new century? For this reason 1582, Pope Gregory XIII introduced the new Gregorian calendar, with the rules, that in each year divisible by 100, the arrear day (February 29) is to be removed, except for the years divisible by 400. That gives a continuous alignment to 365.2425 days.

Each day of the Aztec year was associated with or "protected" by one of the day signs. These included various animals and objects with different symbolic meanings, something like the 12 months of our known zodiac. The day symbols were taken from nature, starting on the sun stone from about 11:30, and going counterclockwise around the ring.

In comparison also the according Mayan days. The Aztec calendar seems to be lagging behind the Mayan by 46 days, i.e. the 1st of April in Mayan calendar corresponds 17th of May in Aztec calendar.


E-1. Cipactli
earth creature)
N-2. Ehecatl
W-3. Calli
S-4. Cuetzpallin
E-5. Coatl
N-6. Miquiztli
W-7. Mazatl
S-8. Tochtli
E-9. Atl
N-10. Itzcuintli
([hairless] dog)
W-11. Ozomatli
S-12. Malinalli
(grass/dry herb)
E-13. Acatl
N-14. Ocelotl
W-15. Cuauhti
S-16. Cozcacuahtli
(vulture/king buzzard)
E-17. Ollin
N-18. Tecpatl
(flint stone/
obsidian knife)
W-19. Quiahuitl
([fire] rain)
S-20. Xochital
(solar lord)

According, the following table marks the names of the years, of one 52 year cycle, determined by the last day of each year. Our years 1948 and 2000 are supposed to be 1-flint, i. e. the first (1480) in a new 13 year cycle relative to carving of the sun stone in the year 13-reed (1479).


YEAR 0 13 26 39
1 flint house rabbit reed
2 house rabbit reed flint
3 rabbit reed flint house
4 reed flint house rabbit
5 flint house rabbit reed
6 house rabbit reed flint
7 rabbit reed flint house
8 reed flint house rabbit
9 flint house rabbit reed
10 house rabbit reed flint
11 rabbit reed flint house
12 reed flint house rabbit
13 flint house rabbit reed

The offical 52 year cycle began with 1-rabbit i. e. +/- 26 years (1454/1974). The binding of the years Xiuhmolpilli concerning the 12/13 arrear days was for reasons known only to the Aztecs held at the end of the officially second year, 2-reed (1455/1975). Most likely the reason had to do with a tribal myth, that after a great flood had destroyed the earth, it took the first year to raise the heavens again, and that in the second year a feast was prepared for the gods and fire was acquired for the first time [Krickeberg, W. 1980. "Mitos y leyendas de los Aztecas, Incas, Mayas y Muiscas" (P. 24), Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Economica]. The rekindling of all the fires in the empire is known to have been a fundamental part of the ceremony. It's timing was dictated by the passage of the Pleiades through the zenith, an event that occurred annually at around midnight near the end of October or the beginning of November. To conclude, February 12 and October 30 seem the key dates in their time count, where latter as the last day of the sacred almanac and namegiver of the year. The first same day of the religious count thus necessarily fell 260 days earlier. That date in the present Gregorian calendar coincides with February 2 in the Julian count, which implies that the Spanish cleric Sahagun, the earliest of the European chroniclers, was correct in his determination of the start of the Aztec year. They had likewise exchanged the zenithal passage of the Pleiades for the zenithal passage of the sun. It is perhaps in this latter regard that we see the role of geographical location most strongly manifested in the Toltec and Aztec calendar, because no other people in Mesoamerica lived so directly beneath the path of the Pleiades. Translated into our todays calendar the crucial date is October 30, 1975 which marks the year and day 2-reed. So the next Xiuhmolpilli would take place in October 2027. Another interesting fact is found 28 miles Northeast of Mexico city, in the great Pyramid of the Sun. It was built by Aztecs and its west face is oriented to the rising (or setting) of the Pleiades. The date of their midnight culmination was observed with solemn ceremony in countries as widely separated in the world as Pre-Columbian Mexico and Ancient Persia. The actual midnight culmination of the Pleiades now occurs on November 21st.


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Circle of Blood, Solar Rays...


Nahui-Ollin (Fifth Earthquakes Sun)

Fifth epoch in the solar age, the next and last destruction of human life in the world. This symbol is used here as a frame for central signs (frame around the squares in the second ring).


The Chalchihuite Ornaments

The precious ornaments are made of jade plates having five perforations and were attached by means of reds leather thongs, and feather tips ending in a pearl. This is the most magnificent ornament and it means light, strength and beauty (squarish shape with 3 arches at the top).


Splashed Blood

Symbols of splashed blood nourishing the flames at the back of the Xiuhcoatls (little 'v' shapes near the Chalchihuites ornament).


Sun Rays

The huge 'V' shapes are the signs of solar light beams (12:00, 9:00, 6:00, 3:00 o'clock).


Xiuhcoatls (Fire Serpents)

The Exterior Circle is formed by the numeral 13-Acatl on the top and 2 Xiuhcoatls (fire serpents) that are placed face to face on the bottom. From the bottom up we see:



  1. Heads of the Xiuhcoatl with eye, eyebrow, teeth and fangs, like fantastic dragons with open gullets. In the mouth of the monsters one can see two "gods" showing obsidian tongues, perhaps representing an everlasting battle between two elemental dualistic forces. The left one Quetzalcoatl-Tonatiuh (light/sun), the right one Tezcatlipoca-Xiuhtecutli (darkness/night). On each new day the sun appears as an eagle, after having vanquished the moon and the stars. So sometimes the left one is identified with Xiuhtecutli and the right one with Tonatiuh, which seems evident comparing with the center Tonatiuh face. The more komplex approach is, that Tonatiuh in fact represents both forces in the same time, like the two monster mouths seem to merge in one.
    The profile of Tonatiuh, with the same ornaments appearing in the center of the calendar, emitting smoke as a sign of anger because of its daily fight with the God of Night. Both gods are dressed with Xiuhcoatls, mythic and celestial serpents whereby they acquire greater strength and authority. Within those Xiuhcoatls are all the chronological signs, thus indicating that everything occurs in the universe during day and night time.
    In Nahuatl, the Duality was called Omeyotl - ome meaning "two". In most accounts, the Aztecs' supreme divinity is the god Ometecuhtli and the goddess Omecihuatl, who together pair as the Ometeotl, or Divine Pair.
    The Xiuhcoatl, is a cosmic being in the sense that it symbolizes so many aspects of the heavens. The fire on its back represents the new fires burning from the heat of the older flames, now dying to give way to the new fire. The small dots lined around its belly are the stars of the Milky Way. Tezcatlipoca often assumed the form of one of these creatures.
  2. Upturned nose over the Xiuhcoatl's head is lined with seven half-shut eyes. The condition of the eyes suggests motion, as if they were blinking. The seven blinking eyes were understood as the Pleiades, the Seven Sisters near the Taurus constellation. That stellar group followed a path which passed over the zenith above an extinct volcano every 52 years; the Aztecs used this as the marker for the Xiuhmolpilli, when they anticipated the destruction of the sun and the earth.

These seven are called by name Alcyone, Merope,
Electra, Celaeno, Taygete, Sterope and queenly Maia.

Small and dim are they all alike
But widely famed they wheel in heaven
At morn and eventide, by the will of Zeus,
Who bade them tell of the beginning of
Summer and winter and of the beginning of
Planting time.

-- Aratus, Phaenomena

  1. The front claw of the Xiuhcoatls, with eye and eyebrow (at 5:00, 7:00 o'clock) below flame.
  2. Tlachinolli (Flaming Sign) appears in each of the segments, with flames of intense fire at the backs of the Xiuhcoatls.
  3. Four bound strips of Amatl (natural paper) made of agave plant (at 11:00, 1:00 o'clock).
  4. The tail of Xiuhcoatls (at 11:30, 12:30), flat shape coming out of laying down 'V' shape and pouring into the third ring.
  5. A bundle of herbs with flower buds (at 11:30, 12:30) attached to square dedication of this stone with the date in the middle.
  6. Plate of the consecration and dedication of this stone with the date 13-Acatl (13-reed) equivalent to the beginning of the fifth, the Earthquakes Sun (at 12:00 o'clock) as well as the year 1479 when the stone was carved.

All around the border of the sun stone (strip of filigree not shown in the front) are the signs of Ilhuicatl (the heavens), stars over the night sky (dots in filigree), obsidian knives as solar beams over the day time sky (pointy objects in filigree) and the sign of the planet Venus over the day time sky (curlicue object in filigree).


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