(The following is a transcription of a video by me on the same topic. This was written with permission and in collaboration with Eric and so I feel it is appropriate to give it the same name.)
Prior to housing the Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, Alcatraz Island was held in high regard by the Native American People, and elements of the Aztec mythology permeates the entire map. The most obvious reference, other than the setting of the map itself, is the Hell’s Retriever - a Tomahawk - this being a stereotypical native american hand-axe, however the connections run far deeper than this.
First noted by Eric Maynard on May 23 2013, the native american influence on Alcatraz seems to link directly to one mythological figure - Mictlantecuhtli. His name meaning Lord of the Underworld, it seems like a plausible connection at first that this deity inspires some of the themes of Mob of the Dead. In Aztec Mythology, a description of the entry into the underworld is described like so: "The dead had to pass many challenges, such as crossing a mountain range where the mountains crashed into each other, a field with wind that blew flesh-scraping knives, and a river of blood with fearsome jaguars.". The noteworthy idea here is that of “Flesh Scraping Knives”. As seen within the map, many of the zombies are portrayed as having blades protruding from their flesh, as if they had been blown into them…
Before proceeding with the next section of the video, we first must establish some concepts about the Aztec calendar. In the majority of the modern world, we use a 365+¼ day calendar, known as the Gregorian calendar, unsurprisingly however, the Aztecs’ used a wholly different calendar. In order to govern their year, argriculture was given a 365 day calendar and, for ritual days, a 260 day calendar was used. Each ritual year consisted of periods of varying lengths, with each of these periods being governed by a different deity who would be responsible for giving “Shadow Soul” or “Life Energy” to living beings. In the original theory, an incredibly interesting point was brought up. When the map was released (in fact up until Treyarch released the “official” timeline), Mob of the Dead was believed to take place on the 1st January 1939. In the Aztec Calendar, this agricultural day, the Day of the Dog, is governed by Mictlantecuhtli, as he is the provider of life energy on that day. This day is regarded as “A good day for funerals, remembering the dead and being trustworthy. It is a bad day to trust those of questionable intent”. This description can be matched exactly to Al Arlington and his genuine plan to escape, and the Mobsters who planned to betray his trust. Furthermore, this day on the aztec ritual calendar is governed by Quetzalcoatl, the lord of the gods and Mictlantecuhtli’s enemy - and the day is considered a bad day for working with others.
At first, I believed this to be the end of the story. With the release of the timeline, the date of mob was changed to January 19th 1934. I initially took this to mean that these mythological parallels were no longer relevant, yet on further inspection, they are more relevant than ever. According to the Aztec Agricultural Calendar, this day is regarded as “A good day for doing battle. It signifies Power, Valor and Reckless Abandon in the face of Danger” As well as this, on this day, the warriors of Tezcatlipoca, the second god of creation and eternal opposite of Quetzalcoatl, would “Give their lives to keep the flame of the Old Ones burning forever”. This is a direct parallel to the events of the map, with the Weasel being sacrificed over and over to prolong the cycle. I brought up Tezcatlipoca as well, as his relationship with Quetzalcoatl is similar to that of The Shadowman and Monty - Neither are good or evil, and both are vital for creation. They are equal and opposite forces of Stasis and Change.
This line of thought only carries on further in Blood of the Dead. The date of the map is given as July 4th 1941 and this day fits scarily well with the maps ending. This day in the agricultural calendar is regarded as “A day of the purified heart, signifying the moments when humans percieve what they are becoming. A good day for those who are active in carrying out their motivations and those who are willing to change, but a bad day for those who are passive in carrying out their motivations and those who are not willing to change. This change arrives like an earthquake, leaving the ruins of rationality, order and preconception in its wake”. This description relates to the struggle of Richtofen to comprehend the damage his actions are doing, and his unwillingness to make a brave change for the betterment of everyone. The day was indeed good for Dempsey, Takeo and Nikolai who, in leaving their dying comrade without a second thought, displayed their willingness to act and to change.