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Encyclopedia > Dresden Codex

Maya codices (singular codex) are books written by the pre-Columbian Maya civilization, using the Maya hieroglyphic script. There were many such books in existence at the time of the Spanish conquest of the Maya area in the 16th century, but they were destroyed in bulk by the Conquistadors and priests soon after. In particular, all those in Yucatan were ordered destroyed by Bishop Diego de Landa in July of 1562. A codex (Latin for book; plural codices) is a handwritten book from late Antiquity or the Early Middle Ages. ... A book is a collection of leaves of paper, parchment or other material, bound together along one edge within covers. ... The term Pre-Columbian is used to refer to the cultures of the New World in the era before significant European influence. ... This article is about the pre-Columbian Maya civilization. ... The Kingdom of Spain or Spain (Spanish and Galician: Reino de España or España; Catalan: Regne dEspanya; Basque: Espainiako Erresuma) is a country located in the southwest of Europe. ... (15th century - 16th century - 17th century - more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 16th century was that century which lasted from 1501 to 1600. ... Conquistador (meaning Conqueror in the Spanish language) is the term used to refer to the soldiers, explorers, and adventurers who brought much of the Americas under Spanish rule between the 15th and 17th centuries. ... Roman Catholic priest A priest or priestess is a holy man or woman who takes an officiating role in worship of any religion, with the distinguishing characteristic of offering sacrifices. ... The Yucatán Peninsula separates the Caribbean Sea from the Gulf of Mexico. ... Diego de Landa (1524 - 1579) was Bishop of the Yucatán. ... Events Earliest English slave-trading expedition under John Hawkins. ...

Such codices were the primary written records of Maya civilization, although now more text from stone monuments survives.

Only three codices and a fragment of a fourth survived to modern times. These are:

  • The Madrid Codex, also known as the Tro-Cortesianus Codex
  • The Dresden Codex
  • The Paris Codex, also known as the Peresianus Codex
  • The Grolier Codex, also known as the Grolier Fragment

Dresden Codex

The Dresden Codex is held in the Sächsische Landesbibliothek, a museum in Dresden, Germany. It is the most elaborate of the codices. It is a calendar showing which gods are responsible for which days of the year. It explains to us the details of the Mayan calendar and number system. The codex is written on a long sheet of paper which is 'fanfolded' to make a book of 39 leaves, written on both sides. It was probably written by Mayan scribes just before the Spanish conquest. Somehow it made its way to Europe and was bought by the royal library of the court of Saxony in Dresden in 1739. Brühls Terrace and the Frauenkirche Dresden [ˈdreːsdn̩] (Sorbian/Lusatian Drježdźany), the capital city of the German federal state of Saxony, is situated in a valley on the river Elbe. ... The Federal Republic of Germany (German: Bundesrepublik Deutschland) is one of the worlds leading industrialised countries, located in the heart of Europe. ...

Madrid Codex

The Madrid Codex deals with horoscopes and astrological tables and is the product of eight different scribes. It is in the Museo de América in Madrid, Spain, where it may have been sent back to the Royal Court by Hernán Cortés. There are 112 pages, which got split into two separate sections, known as the Troano Codex and the Cortesianus Codex. These were re-united in 1888. Coat of arms The Plaza de España square Madrid, the capital of Spain, is located in the center of the country at 40°25′ N 3°45′ W. Population of the city of Madrid proper was 3,093,000 (Madrilenes, madrileños) as of 2003 estimates. ... The Kingdom of Spain or Spain (Spanish and Galician: Reino de España or España; Catalan: Regne dEspanya; Basque: Espainiako Erresuma) is a country located in the southwest of Europe. ... -1...

Paris Codex

The Paris Codex was found in a trashcan in a Paris library. As a result, it is in very poor condition. It is currently held in the Bibliothèque Nationale (National Library), Paris, France. The new buildings of the library. ... The Eiffel Tower has become the symbol of Paris throughout the world. ... The French Republic or France (French: République française or France) is a country whose metropolitan territory is located in western Europe, and which is further made up of a collection of overseas islands and territories located in other continents. ...

Grolier Codex

While the other three codicies were known to scholars since the 19th century, the Grolier Codex only surfaced in the 1970s. This fourth authenticated Maya codex was said to have been found in a cave. It is a fragment of 11 pages. It is currently in a museum in Mexico, but is not on display to the public. Scanned photos of it are available on the web. The pages are much less detailed than any of the other codices. Each page shows a hero or god, facing to the left. At the top of each page is a number. Down the left of each page are what appears to be a list of dates.

Other Maya codices

Given the rarity and importance of these books, rumors of finding new ones often develop interest.

Archaeological excavations of Maya sites have turned up a number of rectangular lumps of plaster and paint flakes, most commonly in elite tombs. These lumps are the remains of codices where all the organic material has rotted away. A few of the more coherent of these lumps have been preserved, with the slim hope that some technique to be developed by future generations of archaeologists may be able to recover some information from these remains of ancient pages. Excavation is just one stage of archaeological research. ...


Since the start of the 20th century, various forgeries of varying quality have been produced; these seldom have fooled serious scholars but art collectors have often generated profits for the forgers (Two elaborate early 20th century forged codices were in the collection of William Randolph Hearst). When the Grolier first surfaced a number of prominent Mayanists thought it was likely an unusually clever forgery, until more detailed examination proved it to be genuine. Forgery is the process of making or adapting objects or documents (see false document), with the intention to deceive (fraud is the use of objects obtained through forgery). ... William Randolph Hearst (April 29, 1863 – August 14, 1951) was an American newspaper magnate, born in San Francisco, California. ...


In reference to the few extant Maya writings, Michael Coe, a prominent archaeologist at Yale University stated: This article is about the institution of higher learning in the United States. ...

"[O]ur knowledge of ancient Maya thought must represent only a tiny fraction of the whole picture, for of the thousands of books in which the full extent of their learning and ritual was recorded, only four have survived to modern times (as though all that posterity knew of ourselves were to be based upon three prayer books and Pilgrim's Progress)." (Michael D. Coe, The Maya, London: Thames and Hudson, 4th ed., 1987, p. 161.)

External links

  • Mayan Codices (http://www.mayadiscovery.com/ing/history/codices.htm)

  Results from FactBites:
Maya codices - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (757 words)
The Dresden codex is generally considered the most important of the few that survive.
The Dresden Codex is held in the Sächsische Landesbibliothek (SLUB), the state library in Dresden, Germany.
The codex is written on a long sheet of paper which is 'fanfolded' to make a book of 39 leaves, written on both sides.
Mayan Codices (1955 words)
The first Maya codex to be recognized as such, the Dresden Codex is considered the most beautiful, complete and best made of the three.
The Dresden Codex, written on kopó, is a folded-screen document divided into 39 sheets, each nine centimeters wide by 20.4 centimeters high and 3.5 meters long when opened.
The codex was written by eight different scribes, each with their own distinctive style, type of glyphs and subject matter.
  More results at FactBites »



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