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Current time:0:00Total duration:6:29

Video transcript

we're in the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City looking at what is perhaps their most famous object sometimes called the calendar stone but more accurately called the Sunstone it's become modern-day emblem of Mexican culture it looks like a Sun it's got a circular shape it has raised emanating out but in actuality when we look closely it's an incredibly complicated object this would have been originally painted which would have helped pick out the motifs that you're seeing here and it wouldn't have been up on the wall no most likely would have been placed horizontally on the ground and as you see it was unfinished there are protrusions of uncarved rock that we see on the top and to the left so in the center let's start there I see a rather gruesome looking face with deep-set eyes and a wide mouth and on either side hanging down what looked like your ornaments he's wearing ear spools and within that open mouth you see the tongue protruding out that's actually a anthropomorphised sacrificial blade the ear spools were decorations that Aztec elite would wear so who is that so this figure this face and if you look to the sides you also see that he has clawed hands and he's holding something possibly human hearts there have been various interpretations of who this individual actually is and most people identify him as the sun-god toe not you which is the Nahuatl word for this sun god and no ato was the name of the language spoken by the Gnawa people or the Aztecs the Aztecs were part of this larger ethnic group of the Gnawa so what this records with this figure in the center what the disc itself records is this origin of the cosmos as the Aztecs saw this stone relates to one of the main Aztec myth essentially the creation of the various eras or as they call them sons and so what we're seeing here is a record a cataclysmic history of the previous eras and then the current era under which we live so the current era is actually the fifth era according to this system the fifth son and yet the name of the fifth son the fifth era is for movement and we actually see that in the four square lobes that surround that center figure that particular shape that it's forming is a sign for a lien which in nahuatl means movement and we also see these four dots surrounding this central figure which gives us the name for movement which is the title of the fifth son or this fifth era that we're living in right now and then inside those squares or rectangular shapes that mean for movement we see the names of the previous forts on exactly so if we go from the top right and go counterclockwise the four eras are for Jaguar for wind for claw look and then for child Chi way or let's say and the idea is that in the first era its death by Jaguar devoured by Jaguars in the second era death by high winds in the third era death by rains of fire and in the fourth era death by water the idea with the fifth son is it's prophesizing that this current world in which we live is going to be death by earthquakes the city where we are and where this is from the Aztec capital is surrounded by volcanoes and a fault line you have devastating earthquakes that happen here earthquakes were terrifying and so this is prophesizing how our current world is going to end we have this idea of sacrifice in the center with that face and then we have this idea in a Steck mythology that this era that we're in was formed by two gods agreeing to sacrifice themselves the Sun is brought into creation by the gun sacrificing themselves but at first it was static it couldn't move and so then another God had to sacrifice himself in order to put the Sun in motion and then the idea is that because the gods have killed themselves willingly that we as humans need to be feeding them through offerings and that could include things like animal sacrifice piercing of our body to give blood or human sacrifice have now 20 glyphs or symbols the twenty days this basic unit of the Aztec calendar and outside of that band of calendrical dates we see the Rays of the Sun radiating outwards and you see that the largest ones are pointed in the four cardinal directions north south east west and their cosmos or the universe was thought to be divided into four quadrants associated with these four cardinal directions and Tenochtitlan the city the capital of the aztec empire was divided also into four replicating that cosmological diagram of sorts if we look closely at the outside band we can see two serpents whose heads meet at the bottom Center and from whose mouths emerge two faces these are called fire serpents or in nahuatl Shu coatl they're associated with time with the solar calendar and in some sources as carrying the Sun across the sky so they in a way make time happen exactly in terms of how we date this monument there are a couple of other glyphs here that I just want to point out next to the date of for wind for going counterclockwise the royal insignia of Moctezuma ii and so we typically date this monument to the reign of that aztec ruler and across from the insignia of Moctezuma ii right next to that jagwire head for the date for jaguar we see a flint knife one of these sacrificial blades and next what we see a single dot which reads as a date glyph for one Flint one Flint could be read in two different ways some people associate that particular date with the beginning of the era of the fifth son so what we have is a sense of the structure and order of the universe for the aztecs this is an object that is very present in our contemporary moment because it's become so well known and yet most people they're not aware of really complicated messages being conveyed