Thursday, March 15, 2012

Codices: The Books of the Maya

The Maya crafted accordion-style books on what is called copo (or amatl in the Nahuatl language) -- paper created from the inside bark of fig trees -- whose pages they thinly coated with lime plaster. Instead of printing, Maya scribes would draw information and pictures of activities ranging from religious duties of the priests to crop production. Today, these books are called codices.

There are not many codices around now however. Due to the tropical climate of some areas of the Maya world, codices tended to rot away after a time -- though fragments of codices have been found in tombs. Also, after the Conquest, Franciscan “missionaries” such as Bishop Diego de Landa ordered Maya codices to be burned. Despite the climate
and the burn order, so far four codices have been brought to light.

These four codices are the Dresden Codex, the Paris Codex, the Madrid Codex and the Grolier Codex. This last codex was discovered fairly recently, in 1971. These surviving codices contain information on Maya rituals, divination and astronomy but do not contain much historical information.

University of Arizona Libraries: Mayan Codex Facsimiles

“The Ancient Maya”; Robert J. Sharer, Loa P. Traxler; 2006

Palomar College: Wayne's Word: Stranglers and Banyans

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