John Pohl, THE CODICES John Pohl's

ANCIENT BOOKS: Mixtec Group Codices

How to Read Mixtec Group Codices

The Mixtec Group codices were not meant to be read simply as books, they also served as scripts for the celebration and re-enactment of historical events. The codices could be displayed as "storyboards." A poet recited the text from the codex to musical accompaniment, while actors performed parts of the saga in costume. The setting for these literary and theatrical presentations was the royal feast. Imagine a banquet in which the participants were literally part of the art of the perfomance. They attended wearing garments painted with figures of culture heroes and gods while drinking and eating from polychrome pottery decorated with scenes from the codices, and exchanging gifts of gold, shell, bone, and turquoise engraved with images of the founding ancestors of the highest ranking dynasties.

Image - Page 42 of Codex Zouche-Nuttal
Click on image for more detail.

Pages 42 and 43 of Codex Nuttall illustrate how a Mixtec Group codex is read. Because the painters were careful to provide vertical red guidelines, anyone can follow the story. One begins in the lower right hand corner with the place sign for Tilantongo composed of a black frieze and a temple with stars in the roof symbolized by tiny eyes. A year date appears to the right of the temple as Year 6 Flint. The day date 6 Eagle appears to the left of the temple. Having established the place and time, we now move up to witness an event, the marriage of Lord Five Crocodile, regent of Tilantongo, to his first wife Lady Nine Eagle. Following the marriage, their first born son is shown. He is named for the day of his birth: Lord Twelve Earthquake. The artist also added the year of his birth, 7 House, one year after his parents wedding. Moving down we next see the second and third children of the marriage, Lord Three Water and Lady Six Lizard. Then, moving up the third column we see Lord Five Crocodile’s second wife. We know this is his wife and not his daughter because she is seated on a jaguar throne. Her name is Lady Eleven Water. The date of her marriage appears to her left and below: The year was 10 House and the day was Six Deer. Moving left of Lady Eleven Water appear her children. The first born was named Lord Eight Deer. The date of his birth appears below his shield: Year 12 Reed (C.E. 1063). Pages 42-84 of Codex Nuttall are concerned with the legend of Lord Eight Deer and his wars against his rivals including Lady Six Monkey, the queen of a neighboring kingdom called Jaltepec.

Previous Page  |  Table of Contents  |  Next Page

Return to top of page