Michael McCafferty mmccaffe at indiana.edu
Mon Oct 11 18:56:04 UTC 2010

David's comment seems to be correct. "Oyoualli" appears to be a term 
whose application to these shell ornaments Seler coined.


My memory tells me it originally means "rattle". Leon-Portilla 
mentioned it, I'm pretty sure, in the Handbook of Middle American 
Indians. But then I know he translates it as "bells" in _Native 
Meso-American Spirituality in his study of a song about the birth of 


Quoting David Wright <dcwright at prodigy.net.mx>:

> 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
> online.
> 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
> References
> 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,
> 2010).
> 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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