Link to enlarge K6042 (Las Bocas - Ceramic Vessel) THE FOUNDATION RESEARCH DEPARTMENT

Narrative of Some Things of New Spain and of the Great City of Temestitan,1 México.
Written by a Companion of Hernan Cortes, The Anonymous Conqueror.
Edited by Alec Christensen



Chapter   1
Chapter   2
Chapter   3
Chapter   4
Chapter   5
Chapter   6
Chapter   7
Chapter   8
Chapter   9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24

NOTES [p.83]

1 The name of the capital of Montezuma is spelled in various ways by the early chroniclers. In the account of the Anonymous Conqueror it is Temestitan, and Temistitan. Cortes in his letters writes it Temixtitan. In the manuscript of Bernal Diaz it is usually spelled Tenustitan, while a somewhat later writer, Cervantes de Salazar, gives it as Tenuztitlan in one place, and in another as Tenuchtitlan. Gomara gives this latter form. Today we know it as Tenochtitlan, which is the correct phonetic spelling, conforming also to the representation of the name in the picture writing of the Mexican codices and inscriptions. Its meaning is well known. According to the best modern Mexican authority, Peñafiel, and I quote from the later and more extensive edition of his work on the subject of geographic place names in México, "Nomenclatura Geografica de México," 1897, the word may be analyzed as follows: Te-noch-ti-tlan. Tenoch is composed of two particles, Te, represented in picture writing by a rock the Nahuan name for which is tetl, and noch, represented by a cactus tree growing out of the same, the name for which is nochtli. This cactus is the nopal or tuna very common today in México. By elision of the final tl, we thus have tenoch, expressed by the two objects representing the [84] name of the division of the Nahuan family bearing the name of Tenocha. There are many variants of the glyph if such it may be called, the most common being the one above referred to. Others show an eagle perched on the branches of the cactus, and again we find it given with an eagle devouring a snake. Peñafiel considers the ti, a ligature, and tlan, meaning among, to be understood; hence the sign means among the nopals, or as probably was further expressed by the picture or glyph, the place founded by Tenoch.

2 To the north.

3 It is of course understood that the native Mexicans never used either tin or iron, and these mines must have been found by the Spaniards.

4 The Coyote or Coyotl. Note by Icazbalceta.

5 Peccaries.

6 The Tlacuatzin or Tlacuache. Note by Icazbalceta. The Tlacuache is a small animal like an opossum which feeds on fruits. In Oaxaca it is such a pest that when the fruit of a certain tree is ripe night-watchmen are often employed to protect the fruit.

7 The valuable description of the Indian houses of Texcoco by Pomar may be used in amplifying this brief notice of the Anonymous Conqueror concerning the dwellings of Tenochtitlan and the Valley of México. Pomar states that the form and construction of these houses is low, with no upper story. Some of them are built of stone and lime; others of stone and simple clay, the most of them of adobe (sun-dried mud). The covering is of beams, and instead [85] of planking there are small strips so well fitted together that none of the earth which forms the top can run through. Most of them enclose a court around which are the rooms which they require; their dormitories and reception rooms for the men in one section, for the women in another, their storage place, kitchens, and corrals. The houses of the principal men and caciques, particularly those of the kings, are very large and massive woodwork. They stand on platforms, the lowest of which is six feet high, and the highest thirty to forty feet in height. The largest rooms are more than one hundred feet long and as many wide. They are square, and in the middle are many wooden pillars at a fixed distance from each other resting on great blocks of stone, and on these the rest of the woodwork is supported. These rooms have no outer doors, only doorways with wooden posts like those inside. The floors were of white stucco or cement.

8 The conquerors accustomed to treat with the Arabs of their country, some give the names of Mesquites to the temples of the Indians, although they are commonly called cues. Note by Icazbalceta.

9 On the subject of soldiers and the organization of the army the reader should consult the critical essay by the late Adolf F. Bandelier, "On the Art of War and Mode of Warfare of the Ancient Mexicans," published in the Tenth Annual Report of the Peabody Museum, Harvard University, 1877.

10 The banner referred to is a standard or insignia [86] but not a flag. They are represented in the Lienzo of Tlaxcala as well as in other codices. On this subject Mrs. Nuttall has published an exhaustive treatise basing her studies on the wonderful example of a standard or insignia now in the Ethnographical in Vienna. The title is, "Standard or Head-Dress? An Historical Essay on a Relic of Ancient México," Archaeological and Ethnological Papers of the Peabody Museum, Harvard University, Vol. I, No. 1, 1888.

11 To give a man vassals was to make him the feudal Lord of one or more villages. Many writers have denied the existence of the feudal system in México, but it seems probable that it existed though it may not have been hereditary.

12 This armor was called ichcauipilli and was made so strongly that many of the early Spanish soldiers used it as a protection against the darts and swords of the Indians. It is represented in the codices, and in the American Museum of Natural History there is a life-size figure of terra cotta from the Valley of México. It was collected by the translator and described by him in "An Ancient Figure of Terra-Cotta from the Valley of México," in Bulletin of the A. M. N. H. Vol. IX, Article XVII, 1897.

13 An example of one of these mosaic-covered head-pieces in the form of an animal’s head may be seen in the British Museum.

14 These shields were called chimalli and the several examples which have been preserved in México and Europe are probably of the kind referred to by the [87] Anonymous Conqueror as having been used solely for festivals and dances.

15 This instrument was known as the atlatl and a number still exist in various museums, some of them beautifully carved and still exhibiting gold-leaf covering. These highly decorated spear throwers were probably used in the ceremonies in which the feather mosaic shields were used. There is a survival of the atlatl in the spear thrower used by the Tarascan fishermen of Lake Chapala. On this subject of the atlatl consult the paper by Mrs. Zelia Nuttall, "The Atlatl or Spear Thrower of the Ancient Mexicans." Archaeological and Ethnological of the Peabody Museum, Harvard University, Vol. I, No. 3. 1891.

16 Three-tipped darts, probably like those referred to here are used by the Tarascan fisherman above mentioned, for use with the atlatl.

17 This saw sword is the maquahuitl. No specimens of this weapon have come down to us, but numerous representations are found in the codices.

18 Probably Indian allies of the Spaniards.

19 This refers to those who held fiefs.

20 In several of the codices we find representations of this gladiatorial combat and full descriptions are given by a number of the early Spanish chroniclers.

21 Pomar in his narrative of the city of Texcoco, Ms. relates with some variations the ceremonies of this extraordinary sacrifice which the Spaniards called gladiatorial. Although he reduces to four the number of those who contended against the prisoner he [88] states that no one was ever so valiant as to escape from the four. Note by Icazbalceta.

22 Fabric of silk or cloth dyed a very bright purple. Note by Icazbalceta.

23 The Anonymous Conqueror was deceived in regard to this matter, for the Mexican silk was made from the Mexican ramie, which is identical with "China grass." It was a trade secret, and the merchant caste kept it as long as they could. Ramie is the fiber of a tall nettle.

24 Tlaolli or Tlaoyalli, that is to say maize. Note by Icazbalceta. Probably tamales.

25 A small piece of copper money with the effigy of San Marcos, which is worth about two sous of a franc. Note by Ternaux. In the Mexican codices a bag which contained 8000 grains of cacao represented the number 8000.

26 A kind of sweetmeat made by boiling the fresh liquor.

27 The Mexicans never wore shoes, a two-toestrap sandal was the universal foot-gear when such article of clothing was worn.

28 This is tequila, a hot intoxicating liquor, colorless and of a smoky taste, distilled from the maguey. It is also called mescal.

29 Maize.

30 The Italian word is cavalieri.

31 These towers were the well-known teocallis, of which a good example may still be seen in Teayo, Vera Cruz. [89]

32 See the plate. No other illustration of this style or type of teocalli is known to the translator.

33 We are ignorant of the signification of the adverbial expression per punti and hora: Ternaux translates sans preliminaire, it might be interpreted á horas fijas. Note by Icazbalceta.

34 Teocallis or towers.

35 This paragraph is not translated into Spanish by Icazbalceta.

36 This paragraph is not translated into Spanish by Icazbalceta.

37 Pilgrimages are still made to the Sacromonte (now dedicated to the virgin) but there is an avenue of cypresses leading to it, whose trees must be more than a thousand years old. In Tetzcuco they say that the remains exist of an old oratory sacred to Tlaloc, on the top of the mountain of that name behind Tetzcutzingo, a combination of the Amequeme chain which terminates in Popocatépetl, on whose eastern flank the Sacromonte is located. Pilgrims after praying at the shrine climb the mountain as far as they can.

38 This undoubtedly refers to the sacerdotal city of Cholula.

39 Tejocotes.

40 It is difficult to comprehend either the Spanish or Italian, for neither writer seemed to know the geography of the two lakes.

41 It is at the foot of the Hill of the Star where the fires were lighted every fifty-two years, and a good road runs to Ixtapalapan, where salt-works had been [90] established as far back as the time of the "Toltecs," upon the south shore of the lake of Tetzcuco or México. The fresh-water lake rises from springs in the rocks forming the southeastern end.

42 Xochimilco.

43 We are reminded here of a better and much truer description which was given by a Mexican poet who in choice sapphics before the coming of the Spaniards compared the string of lovely small towns along the south and west of the lake of Xochimilco to a line of beautiful girls chattering and laughing and paddling their feet in the water.

44 Prescott in his Conquest of México questions the statement of the Anonymous Conqueror concerning the population, because all the principal ancient writers, such as Zuazo, Peter Martir, Gomara, and Herrera, agree in giving to the City of México at the time of the arrival of the Spaniards 70,000 families; it is probable that the original Spanish text of the Anonymous Conqueror stated also families, and the Italian translator made a mistake in interpreting habitatori when he should have written fuochi. In this case this document would confirm the usual calculation of 300,000 inhabitants. Note by Icazbalceta. We are inclined to believe that the estimate of the Anonymous Conqueror is a more sane and reasonable one than those of the other early writers who were not eyewitnesses of the conquest, and hence had not the same opportunity of judging of the size of the city as the Anonymous Conqueror. [91]

45 The aqueduct ran from Chapultepec to the great boulevard between Tenochtitlan and México and was carried on to the Salto by the Spaniards long afterwards. The Anonymous Conqueror supposed that the two cities were one organization, but they were distinct, and the two aqueducts, on the east from Chapultepec, and on the west (Calzada Veronica) from the spring of the Four Lionesses, in the hills towards Toluca, ending where the American Cemetery is now located, were probably built before the arrival of the Aztecs in the valley of México, even before the Culuas arrived in the valley. The position of Tenochtitlan was strong, but it was necessary to hold the two springs from a possible enemy. If these passed into the hands of invaders the great city was compelled to surrender even to savage foes much their inferiors.

46 For a longer and slightly more detailed description of the great Tianguiz or market the reader is referred to the Second Letter of Cortes, MacNutt ed. Vol. I, pp. 257, 259.

47 We suspect here some corruption in the text, because the phrase, conciere de testa fatti di capelli che usano tutte l’indiane, is unintelligible for me at least. Conciero is a word little used in the Italian, as we only find it verified by a single authority (Cartes del Tasso) and the meaning is given of rassettatura, conciatura, that is, composition, finery as the old writers said. With some violence it might be extended to signify head-dress or adornment for the head: but [92] the following remains to be explained, that is to say, that this adornment was made of hair (capelli). Ternaux translates (p. 96) des corbeilles faites avec des chevaux dont toutes les Indiennes font usage: the which we do not know how he was able to deduce: and I do not know what variation there might be in the text of the edition of 1606 which was the one he used. I have translated from that of 1556. All of our early writers make long mention of the famous market and of the things sold there, but I do not find in any of them that which would correspond to these head-dresses of the Indian women. It seems to have been the general custom among them to leave the head uncovered. Note by Icazbalceta.

48 As Pontifex Maximus.

49 Antiphonally.

50 This was the case in the temple of Quetzalcoatl at Cholula.

51 On the terrace roof.

52 Montezuma in the Coatepantli.

53 The game of Canes was a sport in which two bands threw their canes at each other to simulate javelins. This sport the Spaniards inherited from the Arabs, by whom it was called Lab-el-jend, or cane play.

54 It was shaped somewhat like the ace of diamonds.

55 Within the Coatepantli.

56 Tetzontli.

57 The faction of Tlaltelolco.

58 The search for gold in the graves of the ancient [93] Mexicans was later prosecuted with great vigor by soldiers acting under the orders of Cortes, not only in the vicinity of the former capital of the Aztecs in the Valley of México, but in various parts of southern México, and large quantities of gold objects were taken out and melted up.

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