Tamoanchan (pronounced: /tamo'ant͡ʃan/) is a mythical location of origin known to the Mesoamerican cultures of the central Mexican region in the Late Postclassic period. In the mythological traditions and creation accounts of Late Postclassic peoples such as the Aztec, Tamoanchan was conceived as a paradise where the gods created the first of the present human race out of sacrificed blood and ground human bones which had been stolen from the Underworld of Mictlan.[1]


According to a figurative etymology in the Florentine Codex of Sahagún (bk. 10, ch. 29, para. 14), "Tamoanchan probably means "We go down to our home".[2] The word tamoanchan does not actually come from the Nahuatl languages, but is instead demonstrated to have its roots in Mayan etymology, with a meaning which could be glossed as "place of the misty sky", or similar. Descriptions of Tamoanchan appearing in the Florentine Codex indicate that the Postclassic Nahuas thought of it being located in the humid lowlands region of the Gulf Coast of Mexico, inhabited by the Huastec Maya people.[3]

Depiction in codices

When depicted in Aztec codices Tamoanchan is frequently associated with the trecena 1 Calli in the Aztec calendar. This is "trecena 15 in the Borbonicus and Tonalamatl Aubin".[4] The deity Itzpapalotl, one of the main tzitzimime figures ("star demons"), commonly presides over this trecena, and by extension Tamoanchan is often considered as part of her dominion.[5]

The toponymic glyph used for Tamoanchan in the codices depicts a cleft tree, flowering and emitting blood; the significance of these motifs is uncertain. Besides being cleft, the two portions of the Tamoanchan-tree thus separated sometimes bear striping in opposite directions (as, in Codex Borgia 44[6]) such that "their diagonal position ... indicates the internal helicoidal movement."[7] Thus, helical rotations in two opposite directions would appear to be indicated.

Historic, earthly location

Besides the mythical Tamoanchan, Mexican historian and scholar of Mesoamerican belief systems Alfredo López Austin identifies several sacred sites that were historical localities associated with Tamoanchan. According to López Austin these were:

three Tamoanchans located on earth:
1) the Tamoanchan in Cuauhnahuac;
2) Tamoanchan Chalchiuhmomozco mentioned by Chimalpahin Cuauhtlehuanitzin (... where Chalco Amaquemecan was later established); and
3) the Tamoanchan ... mentioned in Sahagún's work.[8]

The first of these was where the first man and woman of the new re-peoplement were created (by Ehecatl), the "new Tamoanchan cave in the Province of Cuernavaca, actually Cuauhnahuac".[9]

The second of these was "a fountain ... in which they saw a goddess and which they called chalchiuhmatlalatl ("blue-green waters of chalchihuite ...") on a small hill next to Iztactepetl and Popocatepetl. ... Tamoanchan Chalchiuhmomozco was so sacred that no one could defecate there. The settlers had to travel four leagues to relieve themselves at a place called Cuitlatepec, or Cuitlatetelco, but, since they were great magicians, they flew there."[10] [Likewise for the Otomi, "Mayonikha is so sacred that no one can defecate" thereat.]

The third was the site where "the learned men, ... Tlaltecuin, and Xuchicahuaca, ... invented new sacred books, the count of destiny, the book of years, and the book of dreams."[11]


  1. Mesoamerican mythologies and creation myths in general suppose that there had been worlds previous to this one, which the gods had made and destroyed. The number of such previous worlds varies from tradition to tradition; a common conception among Late Postclassic central Mexican peoples held that there had been four rounds of creation previous to the current one. See Miller and Taube (1993, pp.68–71).
  2. López Austin (1997, p.283 [18]); see also Ibid., p.54.
  3. Miller and Taube (1993, p.160)
  4. Boone (2007, p.269 n.7:58)
  5. See Miller and Taube (1993, pp.100,160).
  6. Alfredo López Austin (transl. by Ortiz de Montellano) : Tamoanchan, Tlalocan. University Press of Colorado, 1997. p. 113, Fig. 12k
  7. Alfredo López Austin (transl. by Ortiz de Montellano) : Tamoanchan, Tlalocan. University Press of Colorado, 1997. p. 116
  8. López Austin (1997, p.53)
  9. Historia de los mexicanos por sus pinturas. In :- A. Ma. Garibay K. (ed.) : Teogonía e historia de los mexicanos. México : Editorial Porrúa, 1965. p. 106
  10. Quotation from López Austin (1997, p.54), who cites Chimalpahin's Memorial breve acerca de la fundación de la ciudad de Culhuacan.
  11. See López Austin (1997, p.55). See also Ibid., at p.283 [17].


Boone, Elizabeth Hill (2007). Cycles of Time and Meaning in the Mexican Books of Fate. Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long series in Latin American and Latino art and culture. Austin: University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-71263-8. 
López Austin, Alfredo (1997). Tamoanchan, Tlalocan: Places of Mist. Mesoamerican Worlds series. Bernard R. Ortiz de Montellano, Thelma Ortiz de Montellano (trans.). Niwot: University Press of Colorado. ISBN 0-87081-445-1. 
Miller, Mary; and Karl Taube (1993). The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya: An Illustrated Dictionary of Mesoamerican Religion. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05068-6. 
Garibay, Angel María : Poesía nahuatl. México : UNAM, 1964-1968. 3 vols [cited by volume and page]
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Tamoanchan. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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