Monday, April 30, 2012

The Madrid Codex

The Madrid Codex -- once known as the Tro-Cortesiano Codex -- is one of the four surviving codices from the ancient Maya civilization. It was rediscovered in Europe in the 19th century, and is now in the possession of the Museo Arqueológico, in Madrid.

Physical Features
The codex is a 56 “page” work that was possibly produced by about 8 Mayan scribes in the Postclassic period. It is page size measures about 5.72 by 9.44 inches, and when unfolded completely it reaches about 21.98 feet in length.

History of Rediscovery
Taken from the Maya and ending up in Spain, rediscovery of the Madrid Codex occurred in the mid to late 1800s. A man named Juan de Tro y Ortolano once came possessed a manuscript, known as the Troano Codex. This codex ended up in the Museo de América de Madrid when he died. Another man named José Ignacio Miró bought another codex in 1872 that was known as the Cortesiano Codex, and this too ended up in the museum. A third man, Léon de Rosny went to see the Cortesiano Codex in the museum, and discovered that these codices were in fact two parts of the same codex. (This is why the Madrid Codex used to be known as the Tro-Cortesiano Codex.)

However, the Madrid Codex may not be what it seems. In 1999, an archaeologist -- also an author of books on the ancient Maya -- named Michael Coe questioned the total authenticity of the codex. Coe believes that page 56 has a piece of European-style paper dating from 1600s. Despite this, the codex is still generally understood to have been created before theConquest. 

And what does the Madrid Codex contain?It has religious writing that ranges from information on divination and rituals (such as rituals to complete on New Year’s) to information on the beings called Pauahtuns -- gods of the cardinal directions. Astronomical information in the Madrid Codex includes astronomical tables, though it does not have as many as the Dresden Codex. It has almanacs on things such as marriage, weaving, deer trapping and hunting, beekeeping and how to make it rain.

University of Arizona Libraries: Mayan Codex Facsimilies

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

"Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World"; Lynn V. Foster; 2005

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