Secrets of Aztec the Sunstone: Part Two

Unlock the meaning of five symbols on the Aztec Piedra del Sol's inner ring

Piedra del Sol (1250/1500) by unknownMuseo Nacional de Antropología, México

The Piedra del Sol, or sun stone, is one of the most famous pieces in Mexico's National Museum of Anthropology. This carved stone disk symbolizes the conception of the time for the Mexicas; it didn't work as a calendar although it's often mistaken for one.

The iconographic elements that decorate the Sun Stone are distributed in concentric circles. The first ring around the center contains 20 symbols with represent the days in the Aztec month, which formed a cycle of 260 days also called Tonalpohualli.

The Inner Ring

Let's decode five symbols from the inner ring, and explore artifacts related to them. Players can collect these five objects in the second level of the Descent of the Serpent, the video game inspired by ancient Mesoamerica. Play if you dare, and read on to discover the secrets...

Symbol 2: Ehecatl - Wind

The second day of the Aztec month was associated with Ehécatl-Quetzalcóatl, god of wind. According to the Nahua mythology, the second era, called Sun of wind (Ehecatonatiuh), was presided by Quetzalcóatl until it was destroyed by strong winds and humanity was turned into monkeys.

Mono Ehécatl (1325/1521) by unknownMuseo Nacional de Antropología, México

Mono Ehécatl

This spider monkey figure wears a red  buccal mask in the shape of a bird’s beak, which was associated with religious worship of Ehécatl-Quetzalcóatl and distinctive to the god.

This interesting sculpture was found in the Temple of Ehécatl in Mexico City. It was found as an offering at the foot of a stair, broken into pieces, which means that it was ritually “killed” before being buried.

Piedra del Sol (1250/1500) by unknownMuseo Nacional de Antropología, México

Symbol 6: Miquiztli - Death

The sixth day, Miquiztli, was associated with death, and ruled by Tecciztecatl, the god of the moon. The Aztecs used the skull as a symbol for death, and practised many funerary rituals to mark the passage of a person from life to death. 

Brasero de Itzamna by unknownMuseo Nacional de Antropología, México

Copal Brazier

This brazier was used for burning copal incense, which is still burned in special ceremonies today. It is placed on or near Day of the Dead altars to draw in the spirits.

Piedra del Sol (1250/1500) by unknownMuseo Nacional de Antropología, México

Symbol 10: Itzcuīntli - Dog

Itzcuintli, Nahuatl for 'dog', is the sign of the tenth day of Aztec calendar, presided over by Mictlantecuhtli, the god of death.

Ahuitzotl (1325/1521) by unknownMuseo Nacional de Antropología, México


This beautiful sculpture represents a mythological animal thought to be an otter or water dog with long and sharp claws. It is characterized by having a human hand at the end of its tail. The Náhuatl name for this animal was ahuízotl, which literally means “river thorns” and which was translated as “a kind of water animal like a dog” in ancient glossaries. 

Piedra del Sol (1250/1500) by unknownMuseo Nacional de Antropología, México

Symbol 18: Tecpatl - Flint

The 18th icon on the sunstone's inner ring represents Tecpatl, meaning 'flint' or 'flint knife'. The day held religious significance, while its name alludes to the ancient Mesoamerican practise of ritual sacrifice.

Mexica parlour knife by unknownMuseo Nacional de Antropología, México

Mexica Parlour Knife

This flint knife was used in religious ceremonies and left as part of an offering to the gods.

Piedra del Sol (1250/1500) by unknownMuseo Nacional de Antropología, México

Symbol 14: Ocelotl - Jaguar

Ocelotl, meaning 'jaguar' in Nahuatl, is the 14th day sign of the Aztec calendar. This day was protected by Tezcatlipoca, the god of the night sky.

Ocelotl Cuauhxicalli (1250/1500) by unknownMuseo Nacional de Antropología, México

Ocelotl Cuauhxicalli

This magnificent piece, made of andesite, was found under the courtyard of the Marques del Apartado building in the corner of Argentina and Donceles in the Historical Center of Mexico City. 

Piedra del Sol in the Descent of the Serpent gameMuseo Nacional de Antropología, México

Now, it's your turn - travel back in time to ancient Mesoamerica to race through a maze, locate these objects and save the world by playing The Descent of the Serpent!

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