We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

The Madrid Codex

New Approaches to Understanding an Ancient Maya Manuscript

Edited by Gabrielle Vail and Anthony F. Aveni

Publication Year: 2009

“The Madrid Codex offers a new and nuanced understanding of one of the few surviving Maya hieroglyphic books, a porthole into the ancient Maya mind and a poignant reminder of how much was in a world now lost. [It is] a barrage of scholarship from leading scholars in everything from iconography to archaeoastronomy. . . . The Madrid Codex, on the basis of the impressive scholarship in every chapter of this book, now takes its place as a crucial document of this cultural ferment and fusion." —Antiquity

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.

Published by: University Press of Colorado

Series: Mesoamerican Worlds Series


pdf iconDownload PDF (83.3 KB)
pp. vii-viii


pdf iconDownload PDF (94.0 KB)
pp. ix-xvi

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (73.3 KB)
pp. xvii-xviii

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, Vailand Aveni and their colleagues bring the Maya people and their world view and ritual actions to life in original ways. An interdisciplinary methodological...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (94.4 KB)
pp. ixx-xxi

This collection of papers stems from a series of presentations and discussions at two workshops on the Madrid Codex held at Tulane University, the first co-organized by Gabrielle Vail and Victoria R. Bricker (June 22-24, 2001) and the second by Gabrielle Vail and Anthony Aveni (February 28-March 2, 2002). The theme of the two sessions was "Issues in the Provenience and Dating of the Madrid Codex"...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (73.1 KB)
pp. xxiii-xxiv

We would like to thank Dr. Thomas Reese, Director of the Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University, for providing the funds to support the June 2001 workshop and the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Provost's Office of Tulane University for support of the second conference as part of Anthony Aveni's appointment as Mellon Professor in the Humanities...


pdf iconDownload PDF (72.6 KB)
pp. xxv-xxvi


pdf iconDownload PDF (77.8 KB)
pp. xxvii

read more

Chapter 1: Research Methodologies and New Approaches to Interpreting the Madrid Codex

pdf iconDownload PDF (272.7 KB)
pp. 1-30

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 "normal science,"

Part 1: Provenience and Dating ofthe Madrid Codex

read more

Chapter 2: The Paper Patch on Page 56 ofthe Madrid Codex

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.3 MB)
pp. 33-56

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...

read more

Chapter 3: Papal Bulls, Extirpators, and the Madrid Codex

pdf iconDownload PDF (843.2 KB)
pp. 57-88

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, Leon de Rosny proved in 1880 (de Rosny 1882) that the two documents known as the codices Troano and Cortesianus belonged to the same...

read more

Chapter 4: Tayasal Origin of the Madrid Codex

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.4 MB)
pp. 89-127

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...

Part 2: Calendrical Models and Methodologies for Examining the Madrid Almanacs

read more

Chapter 5: Maya Calendars and Dates

pdf iconDownload PDF (599.9 KB)
pp. 131-146

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 tzolk'in, functioned primarily as a mechanism for divination and prophecy. A second calendar...

read more

Chapter 6: Intervallic Structure and Cognate Almanacs in the Madrid and Dresden Codices

pdf iconDownload PDF (341.9 KB)
pp. 147-170

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...

read more

Chapter 7: Haab Dates in the Madrid Codex

pdf iconDownload PDF (3.0 MB)
pp. 171-214

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 Countcalendar, 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...

read more

Chapter 8: A Reinterpretation of Tzolk’in Almanacs in the Madrid Codex

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.5 MB)
pp. 215-252

Both the Maya codices and Spanish colonial sources provide compelling evidence that haab' 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 Relacion to a description of the festivals associated with each of the 18 months of the haab', as well as the rituals...

Part 3: Connections Among the Madrid and Borgia Group Codices

read more

Chapter 9: In Extenso Almanacs in the Madrid Codex

pdf iconDownload PDF (326.1 KB)
pp. 255-276

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 Madrid's almanacs referenceat least 500 years of astronomical data (cf. H. Bricker, V. Bricker, and Wulfing...

read more

Chapter 10: The Inauguration of Planting in the Borgia and Madrid Codices

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.5 MB)
pp. 277-320

Just prior to the arrival of the Spanish in the early 1500s, the Aztec in highland central Mexico and the Maya of northern Yucatan 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...

read more

Chapter 11: “Yearbearer Pages” and Their Connection to Planting Almanacs in the Borgia Codex

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.9 MB)
pp. 321-364

In an earlier study of the Borgia Codex (Hernandez 2003), I argue that Aveni's (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...

Part 5: Overview: The Madrid Codex in the Context of Mesoamerican Traditions

read more

Chapter 12: Screenfold Manuscripts of Highland Mexico and Their Possible Influence on Codex Madrid

pdf iconDownload PDF (881.9 KB)
pp. 367-413

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...


pdf iconDownload PDF (122.4 KB)
pp. 415-426

E-ISBN-13: 9780870818615
E-ISBN-10: 0870818619
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870819391
Print-ISBN-10: 0870819399

Page Count: 456
Illustrations: 15 b&w photographs, 66 line drawings, 6 maps
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Mesoamerican Worlds Series