The researchers also asked indigenous people in Mexico what terms they used for the sunflower.
They described how they used sunflower and told us the name in their native language, says Lentz. The names they used for sunflower were all unique, not related to Spanish. That tells us the use of sunflower is older than the Spanish expeditions of the 15th and 16th centuries."
The Otomi, one of the Mexican indigenous groups interviewed, use the name d nukh, which translates to big flower that looks at the sun god, a reference to pre-Columbian solar worship. The sunflower is commonly still used as an ornament in their churches.
When asked about sunflowers, people of the Nahua culture in Mexico, descendants of the Aztecs gave us a clue to help interpret early historic texts, describes Lentz. The modern Nahua use two words for sunflower: chimalxochitl, which means shield flower, or chimalacatl, which means shield reed, which is also a reference to its hollow stem and large, disk-like head (that resembles an Aztec shield). These terms led us to sunflower references to listed in early chronicles of 16th century Aztec society, including The Florentine Codex, written by Fray Bernardino de Sahagun. In the Florentine Codex, the sunflower is described as part of an offering to the Sun God, 'Huitzilopochtli.'"
The researchers point out, the sunflowers association with solar worship and warfare in Mexico may have led to its suppression after the Spanish Conquest.
Sunflower was believed to be a powerful aphrodisiac, which could have also contributed to its being banned by the Spanish priests, Lentz says with a smile. Of course, it is not but this belief was probably part of the case against sunflowers.
Mesoamerica had a thriving culture, a grand civilization, Lentz notes. They had irrigation systems, monumental construction, agriculture and a complex socie
|Contact: Wendy Hart Beckman|
University of Cincinnati