David Wright dcwright at prodigy.net.mx
Mon Oct 11 15:39:54 UTC 2010

Buenos días, Peter.

The use of "oyoualli" (*oyohualli* /oyowalli/) to refer to a pectoral
ornament can be traced back to Seler, who Mesoamericanists have often used
as a stepping-stone into iconography. In his Collected works (II, 93) he
describes a relief on a rock near Huaxtepec as representing "the dance god
with coyote ears on his temples and the *oyoualli* breast ornament" (the
latter element is not clearly represented in the drawing). In another
article (IV, 146) he relates how dead warriors as Mimixcoa greet the rising
Sun "beating upon their shields and rattling their *oyoualli* ornaments in
its direction". He cites Sahagún, book 3, appendix, chapter 3. I checked
this source and didn´t find the word *oyohualli.* He must have gotten it
somewhere, but he doesn't give us any clues to follow.

John Bierhorst, in his concordance to the *Cantares mexicanos*, has an entry
for the word *oyohualli,* which he translated as "leg bells (worn by
warriors)" and "the sound of screaming." He provides several references to
this word and its variants in the *Cantares mexicanos* manuscript and in
other sources, notably the *Florentine codex,* that you can use to follow up
on the word and see it in different contexts. Bierhorst's book is available

I could not find anything about the ornament you describe in Lourdes Suárez
Diez's book "Conchas y caracoles," which is the first place I look for
information on Mesoamerican shell ornaments.

Saludos desde Guanajuato,

David Wright


Bierhorst, John, A Nahuatl-English dictionary and concordance to the
Cantares mexicanos, with an analytic transcription and grammatical notes,
Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1985.

Bierhorst, John, “A Nahuatl-English dictionary and concordance to the
Cantares mexicanos, with an analytic transcription and grammatical notes,”
facsimile of the 1985 ed., in *Ballads of the lords of New Spain,* digital
ed., John Bierhorst, editor and translator, Austin, University of Texas
Press, 2009 (http://utdi.org/book/pdf/dictionary.pdf; access: January 7,

Sahagún, Bernardino de, *Florentine codex, general history of the things of
New Spain,* 1st. ed./2nd. ed./reprint, 13 vols., Arthur J. O. Anderson and
Charles E. Dibble, editors and translators, Santa Fe/Salt Lake City, The
School of American Research/The University of Utah, 1974-1982.

Seler, Eduard Georg, *Collected works in Mesoamerican linguistics and
archaeology, English translations of German papers from Gesammelte
abhandlungen zur amerikanischen sprach- und alterthumskunde,* 2nd. ed., 6
vols., Charles P. Bowditch, translation supervisor; Frank E. Comparato, J.
Eric S. Thompson, and Francis B. Richardson, editors, Lancaster,
Labyrinthos, 1990-1998.

Suárez Diez, Lourdes, *Conchas y caracoles, ese universo maravilloso,* 2nd.
ed., Mexico, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 2007.

-----Mensaje original-----
De: nahuatl-bounces at lists.famsi.org [mailto:nahuatl-bounces at lists.famsi.org]
En nombre de Peter Keeler
Enviado el: domingo, 10 de octubre de 2010 12:28
Para: Nahuatl at lists.famsi.org
Asunto: [Nahuat-l] oyoualli

Greetings, fellow Mesoamericanists - 

Here is a question from a lurking Mayanist: 

what can you tell me about the word oyoualli?

I was surprised not to find it in the usual dictionaries,  nor, to my eye,
any related word, or other spelling.

Oyoualli is the term often used by archaeologists and art historians of
pre-Columbian central Mexican cultures for a  cut-shell pectoral pendant.
The pendant is a cross-section cut from the giant Mexican limpet, patella
mexicana, oval in shape, with a hole in the middle.  Allegedly, for the
Mexica it had connotations of female genitalia.

thanks in advance for your comments, 

Peter Keeler

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