Pre-Hispanic codices of Mesoamerica

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The pre-Hispanic codices of Mesoamerica are invaluable documents that provide a window into the past of the indigenous civilizations that inhabited this region before the arrival of the Spanish conquerors. These codices, created by the tlacuilos, “those who write by painting,” bear witness to how Mesoamerican indigenous people conceived time, history, religion, astronomy, and daily life.
Unfortunately, many of the pre-Hispanic codices of Mesoamerica were destroyed after the Conquest, in events like the Auto de Maní, where numerous Mayan documents were burned. However, some survived and are preserved in museums and libraries around the world.

Preserved pre-Hispanic Codices

Mixtec Codices
Codex Bodley: A document that narrates the genealogies and alliances of the Mixtec nobility.
Codex Colombino-Becker: It tells the story of 8 Deer, an important Mixtec lord.
Codex Nuttall: Another document about 8 Deer and his conquests.
Codex Vindobonensis: Account of wars and alliances between Mixtec city-states.
Codex Selden: Although completed after the Conquest, its theme is predominantly pre-Hispanic.

Mayan Codices
Codex Dresden: Famous for its astronomical tables.
Codex Tro-Cortesian or Madrid: Contains rituals and almanacs.
Codex Paris: Its theme is mainly ritualistic.
Mayan Codex of Mexico: Previously known as the Grolier Codex, it is an astrological almanac.

Mexica Codices
Codex Borbonicus: Ritual and calendrical document.
Codex Boturini or Pilgrimage Strip: Narrates the pilgrimage of the Mexicas from Aztlán to the Valley of Mexico.
Tribute Roll: List of tributes paid by provinces subject to the Mexicas.

Borgia Group Codices
Codex Borgia: The main document of this group, with astronomical and ritual themes.
Codex Cospi: Ritual almanac.
Codex Fejérváry-Mayer: Related to the calendar and rituals.
Codex Laud: Contains rituals and omens.
Codex Vaticanus B: Almanac and tonalámatl.

The pre-Hispanic codices of Mesoamerica, made on amate paper or skin, are presented in long strips folded like a screen. Their themes vary, but many are related to astronomy and the 260-day ritual calendar. The codices are essential for understanding the rich history and culture of Mesoamerica, and although many were lost, those that survive remain an invaluable source of knowledge about these ancient civilizations.

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