The glyph for the toponym (place name) Calixtlahuaca from the Codex Mendoza is a house. The name means something like “plain full of houses.” There are problems with this toponym as a name for the ancient city, however. First, nearly all of the houses and occupation were on the hill, not on the plain. Second, this name is only found in documents describing the final pre-Spanish period. Third, it is a Nahuatl term, yet it is very likely that the people of the city spoke one or more non-Nahuatl languages in ancient times (the most likely candidates are the Otomi, Mazahua, and Matlatzinca languages).
The term Matlatzinco (which means something like place of nets in Nahuatl) was used extensively in the central Mexican native historical sources. Its two primary usages were: (1) the
Much confusion was introduced when colonial friars named one of the indigenous languages of the
While studying stone reliefs from the site in 2006, Emily Umberger and Maelle Sergheraert identified several examples of an image of a bird. This occurs as the sole image on at least one relief, and as an element on shields held by warriors on other carvings. This bird most closely resembles a flying turkey (thanks to my father-in-law, biologist James Heath, for this observation). Could this be a toponym for the ancient city? Or perhaps it was the symbol of the ruling dynasty. I have tried to find the words that would mean turkey place, or flying-turkey place in the four relevant languages. In Nahuatl, “Totoltepec” means place of the turkey. It turns out that several towns just north of Calixtlahuaca are called Totoltepec. Could this be a connection? Perhaps additional linguistic and iconographic research, and some fortunate finds in the ground, will help us figure out what the ancient inhabitants (whose garbage we are excavating) called their city.