A Proposal of a Seismic Intensity Scale Obtained from the Nahuatl Codex Telleriano Remensis
1.20 MB
Víctor Hugo Garduño-Monroy • español
Abstract. Before the arrival of the Spaniards in America, between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries A.D., events and daily life were described through symbols in documents called codices. During the conquest, the Spaniards destroyed many of the codices because they were viewed as idolatrous. In Mexico and overseas there exist a number of codex that were artistically and consistently drawn by the Tlacuilo people who had strong knowledge in different disciplines, including natural processes, biodiversity, war, and social and religious problems. These codices contain five kinds of glyphs: numerals, calendrical, pictographic, ideographic and phonetic. One codex that contains an especially large amount of information about natural processes such as climate, volcanic eruptions, and major earthquakes, is the Telleriano Remensis. A careful analysis of this codex and related documents provides evidence for 12 earthquakes defined in space and time. Earthquakes were represented by two combined symbols: motion and earth. These symbols are not related to earthquakes themselves, but together, represent a seismic event, whose effects could be related to intensities of V in the ESI 2007 scale. The effects interpreted in the codex (tilted buildings, rolling stones, landslides, and human migration) suggest that earthquake strengths are very similar to those described in the 2007 ESI scale. The Mexicas, influenced by the Mayan culture, assigned a determined number of bars (tlalli) to each earthquake giving them a numerical representation and scale. This indicates that prehispanic cultures, such as the Aztec (Mexicas), Mixtec and Zapotec, already had some assessment criteria to scale earthquakes and their effects.
Keywords: Prehispanic seismic events, Intensity scale, ESI 2007 scale.
Garduño-Monroy, V. H. 2016.
Una propuesta de escala de intensidad sísmica obtenida del códice náhuatl Telleriano Remensis. Arqueología Iberoamericana 31: 9-19. URL:
Publication date: July 25, 2016.
Creative Commons License

© 2016 ARQUEOLOGIA IBEROAMERICANA. ISSN 1989-4104. License CC BY 3.0 ES.
Edited & Published by Pascual Izquierdo-Egea in Graus, ES.
W3C HTML 4.01 compatible. Contact