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Lord Eight Wind of Suchixtlan and the Heroes of Ancient Oaxaca

Reading History in the Codex Zouche-Nuttall

By Robert Lloyd Williams

Publication Year: 2009

In the pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican world, histories and collections of ritual knowledge were often presented in the form of painted and folded books now known as codices, and the knowledge itself was encoded into pictographs. Eight codices have survived from the Mixtec peoples of ancient Oaxaca, Mexico; a part of one of them, the Codex Zouche-Nuttall, is the subject of this book. As a group, the Mixtec codices contain the longest detailed histories and royal genealogies known for any indigenous people in the western hemisphere. The Codex Zouche-Nuttall offers a unique window into how the Mixtecs themselves viewed their social and political cosmos without the bias of western European interpretation. At the same time, however, the complex calendrical information recorded in the Zouche-Nuttall has made it resistant to historical, chronological analysis, thereby rendering its narrative obscure. In this pathfinding work, Robert Lloyd Williams presents a methodology for reading the Codex Zouche-Nuttall that unlocks its essentially linear historical chronology. Recognizing that the codex is a combination of history in the European sense and the timelessness of myth in the Native American sense, he brings to vivid life the history of Lord Eight Wind of Suchixtlan (AD 935–1027), a ruler with the attributes of both man and deity, as well as other heroic Oaxacan figures. Williams also provides context for the history of Lord Eight Wind through essays dealing with Mixtec ceremonial rites and social structure, drawn from information in five surviving Mixtec codices.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Series: The Linda Schele Series in Maya and Pre-Columbian Studies


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Some seventeen hundred years ago in the mountainous western Mexican state of Oaxaca, a culture developed that left us with the rarest of commodities: books. This culture—the Mixtecs—existed in a world defined by mountains, valleys, and caves. Politically, this landscape was divided into a series of very small principalities ...

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Author's Preface

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pp. xi-xii

In 1985, I studied Mayan hieroglyphic writing with Professor Linda Schele at her annual spring break Maya Hieroglyphic Workshops at the University of Texas at Austin. I taught introductory classes for her in 1987 and 1988 at that workshop. In 1989, Professor Schele asked me to found a Mixtec Pictogram Writing Workshop ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

This present volume is the result of a study extending over the last twenty years. For this reason, I am unable to remember all who contributed to the final product. However, that being the case, I would like to thank every student who attended the annual spring break Mixtec Writing Seminars at the University of Texas at Austin. ...

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pp. 1-26

The Mixtec Indian people are concentrated in the northern and western parts of what is today Oaxaca, southern Puebla, and Guerrero. Their land is composed of a succession of small, yet prosperous valleys surrounded by high mountains and dry deserts. The largest is called the Nochixtlan Valley. Some 10,000 years ago their ancestors subsisted by hunting and gathering. ...


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Chapter One. It Happened Long Ago

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pp. 29-44

When some of us want vacation, education, or adventure, we think in terms of space; that is, we travel a distance across the planet to achieve our goals. Anthropologists, art historians, and archaeologists travel spatially and ideologically across the planet to achieve the goals of social science, but, like sci-fi heroes, these adventurers in history also travel through time as well. ...

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Chapter Two. The People of the Codices

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pp. 45-56

Prior to the arrival of the Toltec people in approximately AD 700, the Mixtecs were culturally complex, their forebears possibly influenced in Middle Formative times (1200–900 BC) by the Olmecs, who imported greenstone from what is now present-day Oaxaca (Tate 1995:49c). The Mixtecs were then dominated by the Zapotecs. ...

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Chapter Three. The Narrative Structure of Codex Zouche-Nuttall Obverse

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pp. 57-62

Each page of every Mixtec codex usually displays painted tableaux that can be interpreted individually as stating temporality in years and days. In these tableaux are symbols defining places, actors who are chiefly elite personnel, and actions such as marriage, conquest, peregrination, and diverse religious ceremonies. ...

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Chapter Four. Sacred Geography, Personified Geography

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pp. 63-68

The gods pictured on the obverse of Codex Vienna interacted with a living, personified geography: the very landscape itself was alive and named accordingly. Codex Zouche-Nuttall pictures Pregnant Hill, Bird Hill, and the Place Where the Sky Was. It is no surprise to find named places in the codices that can still be found in the modern Mixtec landscape. ...

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Chapter Five. Caves in Mesoamerican Iconography | Chalcatzingo and the Mixteca

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pp. 69-90

As mentioned in the previous chapter, the geography of earth and sky, and of the forces of nature is generally personified as graphic toponyms in the Mixtec codices. This nomenclature has persisted among Mixtec people to this day, and frequently a place in their landscape—whether natural or manmade in ancient times ...


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Chapter Six. Lord Eight Wind's Introduction

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pp. 93-100

Although page 1 of Codex Zouche-Nuttall obverse has three tableaux, the single large tableau on page 2 is the dominant scene, with the page 1 tableaux subordinate to it. The five dates among the four tableaux on these two pages cover a span of fifty-two years, from AD 935 (Year 1 Reed Day 1 Alligator) to AD 987 (Year 1 Reed Day 1 Alligator). ...

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Chapter Seven. The War from Heaven, Part One

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pp. 101-106

Page 3 (figure 7.1) has six tableaux and two sequential year dates. The first tableau occurs in Year 3 Reed (AD 963) Day 6 Dog, the next four occur in Year 5 House (AD 965) on various days, and the last is an undated, chronologically ambiguous ceremony related to the last two tableaux on page 4. ...

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Chapter Eight. The War from Heaven, Part Two

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pp. 107-114

This page is visually and chronologically complex, with six tableaux and four year dates, one of which (10[9]) House) is reconstructed. These years are: 12 Flint (AD 972), 13 Rabbit (AD 986), 6 Rabbit (AD 966), and 10(9) House (AD 969). Three tableaux are concerned with war events, one with a retrospective event, and the final two with events after the war. ...

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Chapter Nine. Lord Eight Wind's Family

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pp. 115-120

Page 5 (figure 9.1) of Codex Zouche-Nuttall resumes the biography of Lord Eight Wind, now at the beginning of Mixtec Year Cycle 3. There are four tableaux and seven dates, for a span of forty years (table 9.1). ...

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Chapter Ten. Transition to the Future | Eight Wind, Two Rain, and Eight Deer

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pp. 121-132

As mentioned in the previous chapter, Codex Zouche-Nuttall obverse page 6a illustrates Lord Eight Wind’s second and third wives. The dates of these marriages as they appear in the codex have been incorporated into my reconstructed chronology. ...


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Chapter Eleven. Rituals of Order | Codices Zouche-Nuttall and Vienna

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pp. 135-145

In their codices, the Mixtec scribes define the history of Lord Eight Wind of Suchixtlan, his person, and his Mixtec descendants. The histories of other great Mixtec leaders are part of that historical panoply. The first goal of this book, the elucidation of Eight Wind’s history, is accomplished. ...

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Chapter Twelve. The Problem of the Two Dead Lords

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pp. 146-155

Codex Zouche-Nuttall reverse was painted, according to best guess, in thirteenth-century Oaxaca, and the obverse perhaps as late as the early to middle fifteenth century. The obverse is complete, but the reverse is unfinished. Various commentators have remarked that the obverse is obscure. ...

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Chapter Thirteen. The Epiclassic Mixtec Ceremonial Complex

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pp. 156-162

The obverse of Codex Zouche-Nuttall—throughout all forty-one pages—is primarily a document recording ceremonies, the histories of these ceremonies, and, therefore, almost certainly, the ideology which these ceremonies validate. For purposes of definition, and considering the similarity of the ZN rituals with those recorded in Codex Vienna, ...

Appendix I. Biographical Sketches of Major Personnel from the Codices: Lord Eight Deer the Usurper, Lord Two Rain the King, and Lady Six Monkey of Jaltepec

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pp. 163-186

Appendix II. Notes for Codex Zouche-Nuttall Pages 1-4

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pp. 187-189

Appendix III. Codex Zouche-Nuttall Reverse Day Dates on Pages 46a-48a for Year 5 Reed (AD 1095) and Lord Eight Deer's Campaign as Lord of Tututepec

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pp. 190-198


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pp. 199-208


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pp. 209-216

E-ISBN-13: 9780292793347
E-ISBN-10: 0292793340
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292721210
Print-ISBN-10: 0292721218

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 25 b&w photos, 4 line drawings, 4 maps, 19 tables, 8 color illus. in section
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: The Linda Schele Series in Maya and Pre-Columbian Studies
See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 501181065
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Lord Eight Wind of Suchixtlan and the Heroes of Ancient Oaxaca

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Subject Headings

  • Codex Nuttall.
  • Mixtec language -- Writing.
  • Picture-writing -- Mexico.
  • Manuscripts, Mixtec.
  • Eight Wind, 935-1027.
  • Mixtec Indians -- Kings and rulers.
  • Mixtec Indians -- History.
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