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The Madrid Codex

The Madrid Codex: New Approaches to Understanding an Ancient Maya Manuscript

Gabrielle Vail
Anthony Aveni
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 468
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  • Book Info
    The Madrid Codex
    Book Description:

    This volume offers new calendrical models and methodologies for reading, dating, and interpreting the general significance of the Madrid Codex. The longest of the surviving Maya codices, this manuscript includes texts and images painted by scribes conversant in Maya hieroglyphic writing, a written means of communication practiced by Maya elites from the second to the fifteenth centuries A.D. Some scholars have recently argued that the Madrid Codex originated in the Petén region of Guatemala and postdates European contact. The contributors to this volume challenge that view by demonstrating convincingly that it originated in northern Yucatán and was painted in the Pre-Columbian era. In addition, several contributors reveal provocative connections among the Madrid and Borgia group of codices from Central Mexico. Contributors include: Harvey M. Bricker, Victoria R. Bricker, John F. Chuchiak IV, Christine L. Hernández, Bryan R. Just, Merideth Paxton, and John Pohl. Additional support for this publication was generously provided by the Eugene M. Kayden Fund at the University of Colorado.

    eISBN: 978-0-87081-861-5
    Subjects: Sociology, Archaeology, History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
    Davíd Carrasco and Eduardo Matos Moctezuma

    The publication of this excellent and innovative study of the Madrid Codex revitalizes both our Mesoamerican Worlds series and the decipherment of the Maya pictorial tradition. Focusing on a single indigenous manuscript, Vail and Aveni and their colleagues bring the Maya people and their world view and ritual actions to life in original ways. An interdisciplinary methodological tour de force, this volume demonstrates how to collectively read a pre-Columbian codex. Further we find a series of innovations in deciphering, in both numerical and metaphorical terms, this manuscript and others like it. The overall result is a rich contextual narrative that...

  5. Preface
    (pp. xix-xxii)
    Gabrielle Vail and Anthony Aveni
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  7. List of Contributors
    (pp. xxv-xxvi)
  8. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xxvii-xxx)
  9. CHAPTER 1 Research Methodologies and New Approaches to Interpreting the Madrid Codex
    (pp. 1-30)
    Gabrielle Vail and Anthony Aveni

    Progress in scholarly endeavor often comes in spurts. Unexpected revolutionary breakthroughs are followed by long periods of what historian of science T. S. Kuhn calls ʺnormal science,ʺ in which the community of investigators rallies around a new paradigm, applies it, and tests it out, each according to his or her particular purview—until another breakthrough occurs. Such has been the case in the decipherment of Maya writing. The first wave of progress broke around the turn of the nineteenth into the twentieth century with the discovery and documentation of Maya stelae and the publication of the earliest facsimiles of the...

  10. Part I Provenience and Dating of the Madrid Codex

    • CHAPTER 2 The Paper Patch on Page 56 of the Madrid Codex
      (pp. 33-56)
      Harvey M. Bricker

      Several years ago, Michael Coe suggested that the substrate of the Madrid Codex consisted in part of an amalgam or sandwich of indigenous bark paper and European paper (Coe and Kerr 1998:181–182). The pages Coe identified as composed in part of European paper are the outside, or cover, pages of the codex in its present form—pages M. 1 (and M. 57 on the other side of it) and M. 56 (and M. 112 on its other side). On both outer pages, according to Coe (in Coe and Kerr 1998:181), ʺfragments of European paper with Spanish writing are sandwiched...

    • CHAPTER 3 Papal Bulls, Extirpators, and the Madrid Codex: The Content and Probable Provenience of the M. 56 Patch
      (pp. 57-88)
      John F. Chuchiak

      Mystery and controversy have shrouded the origins of many fascinating documents throughout human history. The hieroglyphic Maya text known as the Madrid Codex is one such document. Initially believed to be two separate manuscripts, Léon de Rosny proved in 1880 (de Rosny 1882) that the two documents known as the codices Troano and Cortesianus belonged to the same codex (the Troano section was first reproduced and published in 1869 by the Frenchman Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg and the Cortesianus section by de Rosny in 1883). Renamed the Madrid Codex after its purchase by the Museum of Archaeology in Madrid, the...

    • CHAPTER 4 Tayasal Origin of the Madrid Codex: Further Consideration of the Theory
      (pp. 89-128)
      Merideth Paxton

      There are three surviving fragments of prehispanic Maya books, or codices, whose authenticity is not subject to question.¹ Named for the cities where they currently reside, the Dresden, Paris, and Madrid codices consist of screenfolded pages with illustrated hieroglyphic texts; the most extensive of these is the Madrid Codex (Codex Tro-Cortesianus). Each of the codices provides fundamental information concerning the people who produced them, but unfortunately no known European records register the circumstances under which they were collected by the Spaniards. Therefore, any attempt to determine the cultural contexts of the manuscripts must derive from study of their intrinsic traits....

  11. Part II Calendrical Models and Methodologies for Examining the Madrid Almanacs

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • CHAPTER 5 Maya Calendars and Dates: Interpreting the Calendrical Structure of Maya Almanacs
      (pp. 131-146)
      Gabrielle Vail and Anthony Aveni

      Some of the earliest advances in decipherment were made in terms of interpreting dates recorded in Maya texts. Like other Mesoamerican cultures, the Maya used several independent but overlapping calendars to track time. The first, which is based on a 260-day repeating cycle known as the tzolkʹin, functioned primarily as a mechanism for divination and prophecy. A second calendar, the haabʹ, is 365 days in length and was based on the solar year. The two were used concurrently and together created a 52-year cycle, which archaeologists call the Calendar Round. Throughout much of Mesoamerica the beginning of this 52-year period...

    • CHAPTER 6 Intervallic Structure and Cognate Almanacs in the Madrid and Dresden Codices
      (pp. 147-170)
      Anthony Aveni

      Numbers are everywhere in the Maya codices: red numbers to mark dates, black numbers that signify temporal distances between them, but then numbers were ubiquitous in the Maya world; there are glyphs for numbers, both head variant and full figure. Numbers dominate texts on stelae, they appear on carved lintels, and they are painted on ceramics. Clearly, numbers were important. Yet not a single study of the significance of numbers in Maya inscriptions exists, save for the recognition of their use in broader inquiries such as the study of astronomy and calendar (e.g., Thompson 1972; Lounsbury 1978; Justeson 1989). Perhaps...

    • CHAPTER 7 Haab Dates in the Madrid Codex
      (pp. 171-214)
      Gabrielle Vail and Victoria R. Bricker

      In contrast to the Dresden Codex, which contains a series of astronomical tables that include dates in the 52-year Calendar Round as well as the Long Count calendar, the Madrid Codex is generally believed to be almost entirely lacking in references to any cycles of time larger than 260 days. Except for one Calendar Round date occurring on page 73b (V. Bricker 1997a; Kelley 1980), researchers have paid little attention to haab dates that appear in several of the almanacs throughout the codex. Many of these have gone unrecognized prior to our research (but see Knorozov 1982:221, 265; Thomas 1892;...

    • CHAPTER 8 A Reinterpretation of Tzolk’in Almanacs in the Madrid Codex
      (pp. 215-252)
      Gabrielle Vail

      Both the Maya codices and Spanish colonial sources provide compelling evidence that haabʹ ceremonies were extremely important in the ritual life of the prehispanic Maya.¹ Bishop Diego de Landa (in Tozzer 1941:133–167), writing in the 1560s, devoted over 30 pages of his Relación to a description of the festivals associated with each of the 18 months of the haabʹ, as well as the rituals performed during the final 5 days of the year (Wayebʹ). The Wayebʹ and New Year (Pop) ceremonies together comprised the Mayasʹ most extensive celebration, which highlighted the themes of world destruction and renewal (Taube 1988:Ch....

  12. Part III Connections Among the Madrid and Borgia Group Codices

    • CHAPTER 9 In Extenso Almanacs in the Madrid Codex
      (pp. 255-276)
      Bryan R. Just

      The Madrid Codex is known to be an eclectic compilation of astronomical, seasonal, ritual, and calendrical information drawn from various sources across time and space.¹ Recent research has specified temporally the relevance of portions of the manuscript, suggesting that the Madridʹs almanacs reference at least 500 years of astronomical data (cf. H. Bricker, V. Bricker, and Wulfing 1997; V. Bricker 1997b). Additionally, Alfonso Lacadena (1997) has demonstrated that the Madridʹs hieroglyphic texts incorporate both Chʹolan and Yucatecan lexemes and morphology, suggesting a process of translation from earlier sources and a diglossic context of reception and use. Further, current scholarship is...

    • CHAPTER 10 The Inauguration of Planting in the Borgia and Madrid Codices
      (pp. 277-320)
      Christine Hernández and Victoria R. Bricker

      Just prior to the arrival of the Spanish in the early 1500s, the Aztec in highland central Mexico and the Maya of northern Yucatán were, like all Mesoamerican civilizations, populous agricultural societies that relied upon a triad of maize, beans, and squash for their subsistence. Mesoamerica enjoys a subtropical climate with marked wet and dry seasons. Although two or perhaps three crops per year could be grown in certain instances, in the high, arid elevations of central Mexico or on the karstic plains of northern Yucatán, where permanent surface water is limited, daily stores depended upon the harvest of major...

    • CHAPTER 11 “Yearbearer Pages” and Their Connection to Planting Almanacs in the Borgia Codex
      (pp. 321-364)
      Christine Hernández

      In an earlier study of the Borgia Codex (Hernández 2003), I argue that Aveniʹs (1999) correlation of the starting day of the almanac on page 27 (year 1 Reed 1 Crocodile) with a Venus elast event on April 4, 1467 (Gregorian) aligns the rain god and maize iconography on the page with the anticipated start of the rains and the inauguration of planting activities in highland central Mexico. The almanac on Borgia 27 employs year-naming notation and dates in the 260-day ritual calendar (Nahuatl tonalpohualli) to refer to 4 individual solar years (Nahuatl xihuitl) separated by intervals of 13 years...

  13. Part IV Overview:: The Madrid Codex in the Context of Mesoamerican Traditions

    • CHAPTER 12 Screenfold Manuscripts of Highland Mexico and Their Possible Influence on Codex Madrid: A Summary
      (pp. 367-414)
      John M.D. Pohl

      I have spent many years considering how the screenfold manuscripts we call codices can be analyzed within broader cultural frameworks through interdisciplinary study, and I continue to look for ways to transcend the limitations of single viewpoints rooted in archaeology, art history, religious studies, or any of the other specializations fostered by our department-based institutions. I am concerned that academic specialization emphasizes divisions in our intellectual understanding that were not necessarily shared by the ancient Mesoamerican civilizations we study; the distinction between so-called ritual codices of prognostication versus retrospective historical codices is a good case in point. Consequently, I was...

  14. Index
    (pp. 415-426)