Sunday, January 22, 2023

Madrid Codex

Madrid Codex

Madrid Codex is called the Tro-Cortesianus Codex or the Troano Codex. This is one of three surviving Maya books of the pre-Columbian period, circa 900–1521 AD, around the Postclassic period of Mesoamerican chronology. In 1965, Grolier Codex, a fourth codex, was founded. It is held in Madrid by the Museo de América. Besides, it believes that the codex is vital in its collection. Although you should know that the original version is not displayed as it is in fragile condition, an exact reproduction is in display instead.

Once, the Maya Madrid codex was categorized into two pieces- "Codex Troano" and "Codex Cortesianus." Then, an ethnologist named Leon de Rosny realized in the 1880s that both pieces belonged together. He helped to combine these pieces into one text which was later brought to Madrid. Later, it was named "Madrid Codex".

Physical Characteristics of Madrid Codex:

People used amate paper in a long strip to create codex. The paper was folded up accordion-style and then coated using a stucco of a thin layer. Usually, people use it as a painting surface. There is an entire document, the whole Madrid codex, containing 56 sheets, and these are painted on both sides to make a total of 112 pages. Hence, the Troano is the bigger portion which has seventy pages including 22–56 and 78–112. The name came from Juan Tro y Ortolano.

The Cortesianus Codex contains the remaining 42 pages, which are pages 1–21 and 57–77. Every page has a measurement of roughly 23.2 × 12.2 centimetres (9.1 by 4.8 in).

Madrid Codex Content:

It is a very long surviving Maya codice the content of which is made up of almanacs and horoscopes. These are useful for Maya priests in ceremonies and divinatory rituals. It has astronomical tables, but the number is lesser than the three surviving Maya codices. A few contents are expected to be copied from older Maya books.

Coe and Kerr suggested that there was only one scribe behind the work as the codex is stylistically uniform. But after a close analysis of glyphic elements, it was believed that many scribes were involved in its production. It was assumed that about eight or nine scribes were involved in the creation and made consecutive sections of the manuscript.

Basically, the Scribes were the priesthood members and made the religious content of the codex. It is assumed that all priests got the book one by one, and whenever they got this, they added a section to their hands.

In this case, the pictures depict rituals like human sacrifice and invoking rainfall, regular tasks- beekeeping, hunting, warfare, and weaving. Besides, the other pictures display that gods are taking Sikar smoke like modern cigars containing tobacco leaves.

Origin of Madrid Codex: 

Michael Coe and Justin Kerr were the two scholars who said that its origin was dated to after the Spanish conquest. However, the proof says that the document belongs to the pre-conquest date. It is expected that the codex was created in Yucatán. Whereas, Yucatecan is the language used here. This one is a group of Mayan languages, which contains Yucatec, Itza, Lacandon, and Mopan. In addition, these languages were distributed among the Yucatán Peninsula, like Chiapas, Belize, and the Guatemalan department of Petén.

According to J. Eric Thompson, its origin was in western Yucatán between 1250 and 1450 AD. Suggestions of some scholars also say that its origin may be the Petén region of Guatemala.

However, the opinions of all scholars are not the same. Other scholars said that it was similar to murals available at Chichen Itza, Mayapan, and other sites like Santa Rita, Tancah, & Tulum, which are on the east coast. There are two fragments of paper, and these are incorporated into its front and last pages, where we can find proof of Spanish writing. As a result, Thompson suggested that the document was acquired by a Spanish priest at Tayasal in Petén.

Discovery of Madrid Codex:

In 1860, it was founded and categorized into two various portions. These were of different sizes and available in different locations. Madrid codex gets Tro-Cortesianus Codex's another name after those parts were found. According to the scholar Léon de Rosny, these two parts belonged to the same book.

Troano Codex was the name of the bigger part. French scholar Charles Étienne Brasseur de Bourbourg published it in 1869–1870. In 1866, he discovered the part in possession of Juan de Tro y Ortolano in Madrid. This French scholar was the person who identified this first as a Maya book. Later, in 1888, the ownership of this part went to the Museo Arqueológico Nacional which is known as the "National Archaeological Museum".

Cortesianus Codex was the name of the smaller part that Juan de Palacios attempted to sell in 1867. Hence, you should know that he was a Madrid resident. Later, this part went to the Museo Arqueológico Nacional which acquired this in 1872 from José Ignacio Miró, who was a book collector by profession. He claimed that he recently bought this codex from Extremadura, a place from where Francisco de Montejo and several conquistadors came, like the work of Hernán Cortés, who won Mexico.

It is expected that anybody these conquistadors brought it to Spain. After that, this smaller part was named after Hernán Cortés, the director of the Museo Arqueológico Nacional. According to him, he was the person who brought it to Spain.

c. 1400 CE, when the Mayan period was about to end, people believed that it was the product of the late period. However, this one may be a post-Classic copy of the Classic Mayan scholarship. While its figures were sketched poorly, it was not similar to the other surviving codices in quality.

There you can find detailed information about astrology and divinatory practices in the book. While anthropologists can identify many Mayan gods, it is precious to historians. It was also precious to anthropologists who wanted to reconstruct the rites which ushered in the New Year. Additionally, there are available Mayan crafts like pottery & weaving and activities including hunting.

The pages of the Madrid codex were manufactured from the bark of a fig tree. In 1888, its two parts were brought together. As a result, the final document is now available in the Museum of America in Madrid.


Over five million people spoke thirty Mayan languages in the early 21st century. Among those people, most of them were bilingual in Spanish. Maya possessed a very big civilization belonging to the Western Hemisphere before the Spanish conquest of Mexico and Central America. Those people used to practise agriculture, make great stone buildings and pyramid temples, and worked gold and copper.

They had settled villages at the beginning of 1500 BCE. Then, these people made an agriculture cultivating corn (maize), beans, and squash. They also cultivated cassava (sweet manioc) by 600 CE. Later, they started building ceremonial centres, which turned into towns by 200 CE. Temples, pyramids, palaces, courts for playing ball, and plazas were developed there as improvements. They used to quarry limestone or building stones a lot and cut these stones with the help of chert & other harder stones.

While they used to practise slash-and-burn agriculture, they also used improved tricks of terracing & irrigation. Besides, a highly sophisticated astronomical system was developed. They produced paper using the inner bark of wild fig trees. After that, they used these papers as books to write their hieroglyphs. We know these books as codices. In addition, they made a tradition of sculpture and relief carving. We can know about them from primary resources like architectural works, stone inscriptions, and reliefs.

The period about 250 CE, at the time of the rise of Maya, is called the Classic Period of Mayan culture to archaeologists. This period lasted until about 900 CE. Their civilization was over 40 cities and each town contained between 5,000 and 50,000 people. Tikal, Uaxactún, Copán, Bonampak, Dos Pilas, Calakmul, Palenque, and Río Bec are names of some principal cities in this case. While there are about two million people in total, most people live in the lowlands— Guatemala.

Although, the classic Maya civilization had declined precipitously. Therefore, the principal cities and the ceremonial centres remained vacant. According to a few scholars, it happened due to the armed conflicts and the exhaustion of agricultural land. After that, they came up with another reason for the decline of civilization after discoveries in the twenty-first century. The river disruption related to battle and land trade paths is also the reason behind it.

Chichén Itzá, Uxmal, Mayapán, and some other towns were getting improvements and developments continuously during the Post-Classic Period (900–1519), and it continued for some centuries while lowland towns got depopulated. Maya who used to practise their forebear's religious rites, became village-dwelling agriculturists when Spaniards conquered locations in the sixteenth century.

Whereas Mayan cities and ceremonial centres were adorned with several pyramidal temples and palaces that were made of limestone blocks. But it is also true that scholars did not know the true nature of Mayan society, what hieroglyphics meant, and the chronicle of its history for centuries after the discovery of old building sites by Spaniards.

In the 1830s, the systematic explorations of these sites were undertaken first, and it was early and in the middle of the twentieth century when a tiny part of the writing system got deciphered. As a result, these highlighted the Mayan religion based on the Sun, the Moon, rain, and corn.

A pinnacle of intellectual achievement is represented by positional notation and the zero's usage. Their astronomy underlies a calendrical system which is hard to understand. It includes an accurately determined solar year, a sacred calendar of 260 days, and various longer cycles. In this case, you should know that the solar year consists of 18 months of 20 days each and five days extra. However, they believed it was unlucky. On the flip side, the sacred calendar includes 13 cycles of 20 named days. Astronomers could guess solar eclipses accurately.

In the middle of the twentieth century, scholars mistakenly thought, based on the discoveries, that their society had peaceful stargazers and calendar keepers. Several hieroglyphs depict the history of the rulers who fought against the weak towns and took their aristocrats captive. There was a tradition to torture the captives, mutilate them and later sacrifice them to the gods.

The Bottom Line:

You should know that torturing and sacrificing humans to gods were some of the basic religious rituals. People believed that it would guarantee fertility. In case they did not do such practices, cosmic disorder and chaos were believed to happen. People thought that drawing human blood could nourish the gods. Thus, they might get the chance to contact gods.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q. What is the main difference between the Madrid Codex and the Dresden Codex?

The length of the Madrid Codex is approximately 22 feet, and this part has 56 leaves meaning there are a total of 112 pages. On the other hand, the Dresden Codex has 74 pages. The Paris codic contains 24 pages, whereas the Grolier codice have ten pages.

Q. Where is the Madrid Codex?

It is in the Museo de América.

Q. When was the Madrid Codex discovered?

The Madrid Codices I–II (I – Ms. 8937 i II – Ms. 8936) was found in 1965 by Leonardo da Vinci and Dr. Jules Piccus in the Biblioteca Nacional de España in Madrid.

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