Aztec calendar stone
The artist carved the Aztec calendar stone in 1479. Naturally, it was dedicated to the sun god. It was a massive carving, 3 feet thick, almost 12 feet across, and weighing almost 25 tones (22.5 tonnes). It was carved from basalt - a solidified lava, this being an area where volcanos were common. But then it was lost - buried under the central square of
Then, in 1790, renovations began on the central square (Zocalo) of Mexico City. On December 17th, the massive carving was unearthed, renewing interest in Mexico's ancient cultures. It was the Aztec calendar stone, or, more properly, the Cuauhxicalli Eagle Bowl.
For a while it remained on display in the Western Tower of the Metropolitan Cathedral, and then in 1885 it was moved to the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico, where it remains to this day.
The famous calendar stone is a brilliant combination of artistry and geometry. It reflects the Aztec understanding of time and space as wheels within wheels. The detailed surface of the stone combines the understanding of the gods the people had created over the centuries as well as their observations of the heavens.
Calendar 1 - The Xiuhpohualli
With the addition of a 12 day New Fire ritual every 52 years (which we'll talk about in a moment), the exact length of the years were remarkably close to the actual length of the solar year that modern scientists calculate.
Calendar 2 - The Tonalpohualli
Though both calendars inter-relate in religion and ceremony, it's the tonalpohualli that is considered the sacred calendar. The rituals were all divided up among the gods. After all, we have to be fair, or the gods will get all out of balance.
The end of the century
Every 52 years, the two calendars would align. This could bring disaster on the world, so a special ritual took place called the New Fire Festival. Check out the Aztec religion article for more about what took place during the festival and why.
A coloured representation of the Aztec calendar stone, or sun stone
The Aztec calendar stone itself
We are unsure of how the stone itself was used, but it may have been simply a monument or possibly a sacrificial altar. In the centre is the terrible sun god, Tonatuih (some believe this may be the earth god). Each of his hands holds a human heart, and his tongue is a ritual blade for sacrifice. As you may know, the sun required blood to remain strong, and human sacrifices were often offered. (read more about the Aztec sun god)