FIGURE 3. Differential damage of folio 1r (left) versus folio 1v (right).
FIGURE 9. Map of frontier outposts included in the Matrícula de Tributos.
FIGURE 10. Folio 2r of the Matrícula de Tributos.
FIGURE 11. Flag (20), Feather (400), and Pouch (8,000) numeric abbreviations. Left: 20 bundles of white feathers and 400 loads of chiles and 400 loads of chiles from the province of Tuchpa (folio 15v). Right: 8,000 cakes of liquidambar from the province of Tlatlauhquitepec (15r).
The first three pages of the Matrícula—folios 1r, 1v, and 2r—are, in addition to being damaged, difficult to interpret.17 They do not follow the visual layout found in the rest of the document. They are subdivided by red lines, and they contain a number of glyphs showing human faces. What survives of folio 1r depicts two pairs of places—Oztoma and Poctepec below, Çoçolan and Huaxacac above—as well as glyphs for human heads representing the governors of these locations. The bottom of folio 1v depicts an additional pair of places (Atlan and Teçapotitlan), and at the top of the page are painted two more, single places (Atzacan and Soconusco with their governors)(Figure 3). Significantly, most of these locations (Oztoma and Poctepec, Çoçolan and Huaxacac, Atlan and Teçapotitlan, Xoconochco) were located on the outer fringes of the Aztec empire. Atzacan was sandwiched between two kingdoms (Tlaxcala and Teotitlan) that had maintained their independence from the Aztec. In other words, the places depicted on the initial folios of the Matrícula probably represented different kinds of frontier outposts (Figure 9).18
Folio 2r—what survives of it—shows the signs of Tenochtitlan (left) and Tlatelolco (right), the two cities which shared the island at the center of Lake Texcoco (Figure 10). Between these cities are shown four fifteenth-century rulers, two from Tenochtitlan and two from Tlatelolco. They are presented in pairs: an Aztec ruler who conquered Tlatelolco is joined with a defeated Tlatelolcan ruler. The first conquest of Tlatelolco (by the Aztec ruler Itzcoatl) seems to have left the Tlatelolcan tlatoani (ruler) in power. The second conquest (by the Aztec ruler Axayacatl) was permanent: no tlatoani was permitted to rule Tlatelolco again. The top of the page shows the tribute that Tlatelolco had to offer to Tenochtitlan.
Finally, starting with folio 2v, the images of the Matrícula follow a standard layout. Each page is dedicated to a tribute province—with the exception of 8r, which depicts two provinces (Malinalco / Xocotitlan), and 10v, which depicts three (Tlalcoçauhtitlan / Quiauhteopan / Yoaltepec). The reading of each page begins in the lower left-hand corner. A series of place signs runs left to right along the lower edge of each page and, if necessary, continues upwards along the right-hand edge. The first place shown (so, the town depicted in the lower left-hand corner) is the main town of each tribute province, and gives each tribute province its name. The majority of the space on each page is then filled with images of the tribute items that the listed towns were expected to send to Tenochtitlan, probably every 80 days. Many of the visually-depicted objects (bowls of gold dust, jars of honey, jaguar skins) are marked with numeric signs. These indicate how many such objects were demanded. A white paper flag stood for 20, a black and white feather for 400, and a white pouch for 8000 (Figure 11). The reading order of these tribute items across each folio is not clear. For our presentation here we have decided to read them along a snaking back-and-forth route: left to right, then right to left, then left to right again. This was a reading order well known to prehispanic Mesoamericans—and also to the ancient Greeks, who called it boustrophedon, “as the ox plows.”
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17 This summary is based on the interpretations published in Berdan 1980b,27-43; and Reyes García 1997, 57-164.
18 Berdan 1992, 55-57.