Weights and Measures in Mesoamerica

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-3934-5_8936-2

Indian Measures

In Latin America, the Indian populations measured and counted the goods, lands, merchandise, and the days and months according to scientist systems that historiography began to decrypt. After the Spanish conquest, the conquerors imported the weights and measures of their country, the Castille, which, itself, had borrowed a good part from the Arab-Berber occupants (Villena). In Mesoamerica, in Mexico in particular, the result was a new syncretism which merged the different systems. The Indians adopted the measures of the conquerors who did not hesitate to attribute Indian names to the new measures.

“Los aztecas tenian una fuerte tendencia a medir y contar” [The Aztecs had a strong tendency to measure and count] (Harvey and Williams). The arithmetic system was based on three major numbers: 20, 400, and 8,000. The number 20 is called “a count” (cempoalli in Náhuatl language), 202 = 400 or “a head of hair” (cen-tzontl), and 203 = 8,000 “a bag” (cen-xiquipilli). The system...


Spanish Conquest Familiar Territory Arithmetic System Spanish Author Land Measure 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre National de la Recherche ScientifiqueUniversity of LilleLilleFrance