ASTRONOMY IN THE CODICES

 "We found a great number of books and since they contained nothing but superstitions and falsehoods of the devil we burned them, which they took most grievously, and which gave them great pain."

(BISHOP Diego de Landa, Yucatan 1549-1579)
Friar Diego de Landa in his book Yucatan Before and After the Conquest details how Spanish conquistadors went about eradicating the Mayan's way of life- a fear campaign to either kill or convert the Mayans to the Catholic faith and strip them off their natural resources. Ironically enough, Diego de Landa's passing comments about Mayan culture have helped immortalize the Mayan identity and way of life in the present day. These descriptions would describe such matters as gender relations, law, and punishment: "The tribes lived in such peace that they had no conflicts and used neither arms nor bows, even for the hunt..." De Landa also detailed the way in which he punished the Mayans, forever recording his violent and disastrous acts in the pages of history: "cutting off their noses, hands, arms and legs, and the breasts of their women...stabbing the children with spears"

De Landa was so successful in keeping the Spanish Galleon Ships loaded with treasure, that he was promoted to BISHOP, and the regions he controlled were 
expanded. He ruled from 1549 to his death in 1579. It is estimated that between 20,000,000 and 30,000,000 Mayans died of torture, disease, starvation, etc.



                             AND     "
THAT"     IS        "WHY?"

Only FOUR (4) Maya glyph books, called codices, survive.

They are painted on lime-whitened bark paper, folded accordion-style. The codices were likely produced in the late post-Classical period (1200-1519 AD).  Some material in the codices , including astronomical tables, appears to have been copied or adapted from manuscripts of  the Classical period (200 - 900 AD).  The long count entry date of the  Dresden Codex eclipse table, for example, correlates to 755 AD. This may date the original version of the table. 


See a nicely illustrated introduction to native Mesoamerican codices at (link gone).  On the history and provenance of the Maya codices, see Randa Marhenke's introduction,  The Ancient Maya Codices on-line at FAMSI.  The Maya Hieroglyphic Codices Project has backround information on the codices, and a searchable data-base of illustations and texts of the codices.  For on-line reproductions of the codices, see below. 
Unlike the Classical inscriptions, which are mainly concerned with events in the lives of kings, the codices are what Bruce Love has called "priest's handbooks." They are filled with information needed to time rituals and make auguries. Astronomical tables are an important part of at least three of the surviving codices. The codices also include pages devoted to new year rituals, and almanacs that follow the sacred round of the 260-day tzolk'in. There is accumulating evidence that astronomical information and cross- references to the astronomical tables are hidden in these as well. 

Dresden Codex  Eclipse Table
The most complete and best understood of the the glyph books is the Dresden Codex. Despite recent discoveries about astronomy in the inscriptions, it remains our most important source of information about Maya astronomy. 

The Dresden Codex includes:

  • An eclipse table that predicts times when eclipses may occur. This sophisticated exercise in observation and computation may be the most impressive achievement of Maya astronomy.
  • A Venus table that predicts the times of heliacal rise (when Venus appears as morning star) and the other apparitions of the planet.  It includes a mechanism for correcting the table for reuse at later dates. ............................................................................................................
  • A Mars table that records the times when Mars goes into retrograde motion. A second Mars table that tracks the planet's motion along the ecliptic has recently been identified. See the on-line article Ancient Maya documents concerning the movement of Mars at the PNAS web site. 


TheDresden Codex on-line:   Ernst Forstemann, archivist at Dresden where the Codex resides,  issued  photographic reproductions in 1880 and 1892.  The easiest to access copy of the Codex on-line is a scan of the Forstemann  edition  by Andreas Fuls.  A small-scale scan is on-line, and a high resolution  version is available on CD.  Link directly to Fuls' Eclipse, Venus and Mars  pages.  A very high-resolution large-scale scan of the Forstemann  edition can be downloaded as a .pdf (Acrobat Reader) file (95.7 MB) at FAMSI. 

The earliest edition of the Codex was not Forstemann's,  but a tracing made for Lord Kingbourogh's Antiquities of Mexico (1830).  This reproduction is quite pretty, and preserves some details lost due to later damage to the original.  A scan  can be downloaded at FAMSI.

The best print edition, a recoloured version of Forstemann's, is contained in Thompson's Commentary on the Dresden Codex (1972).  A small-scale scan of selected pages is on-line. An edition based on new photographs of the original was issued in 1975.  However, damage to the original in World War II reduces the usefulness of this edition.  See selected pages (link gone from web).   The Villacorta edition (1930), is a  black-and-white redrawing, recently  re-issued as an inexpensive reprint by Aegean Park Press.  It is still used by scholars because of its clarity. 



Grolier Codex
fragments 
Venus astronomy was particularly important throughout Mesoamerica. According to the Manuscript of Serna, a missionary report from Central Mexico, the natives "adored and made more sacrifices" to Venus than any other "celestial or terrestrial creatures" apart from the sun.  The Grolier Codex, a recently discovered but badly damaged Maya codex,  is a fragmentary Venus table. It appears to be simpler in structure than the Dresden Codex Venus table, and resembles what are thought to be Venus tables in the central Mexican Borgia Group Codices.

A high resolution scan of the  Grolier Codex  by Justin Kerr is online.  Smaller scale photos of the Grolier with commentary from Michael Coe,  The Maya Scribe and his World, are can be down loaded as as .pdf file (Acrobat Reader) at FAMSI.    It should be noted that not all scholars accept the authenticity of the Grolier Codex:  See Claude-Francois Baudez,  "Venus and the Codex Grolier" on-line from Arquelogia Mexicana (link gone from web). On the Venus table in the Borgia Codex, see  Anthony Aveni's article (link gone from web) in Natural History  magazine. A reproduction of the Borgia Codex Venus pages is also on-line. 
Part of the Paris Zodiac
The third Maya codex that unequivocally contains an astronomical table is the PARIS CODEX. This incomplete document includes what appears to be a Maya zodiac. Fantastic animals representing constellations along the sun's path about the sky hang from a "sky band", which represents the ecliptic in Classical inscriptions and the codices.

The Codex illustrates thirteen constellations along the ecliptic (one more than the twelve in the Old World zodiac).  The constellations are apparently not illustrated in the order they appear in the heavens. Instead, each illustration is separated from the next by a count of 168 days. 

Although most scholars identify these pages in the Codex as a zodiac, some are not convinced.  They agree that the Codex likely depicts constellations, but argue that the Maya did not conceive a "zodiac" in the Old World sense. 
 
 
 


A clear black-and-white redrawing and brief discussion of  the Paris Codex  is on-line at the Northwestern University web site.  This appears to be a scan of the Villacorta edition (1930).  A photographic reproduction of the original  can be down loaded as a .pdf (Acrobat Reader) file from FAMSI See Bruce Love, The Paris Codex: A Maya Priest's Handbook for commentary on the codex.

The Madrid Codex is perhaps the least understood of the surviving glyph books. It may have been produced after the conquest in Tayasal, a Maya kingdom that retained its independence until the end of the 17th C.

...

Madrid Codex  p.14. 
No astronomical tables have been identified with certainty in the Madrid, but there is astronomical symbolism. Skybands and what are likely zodiac and eclipse symbols appear in many illustrations. Pages 12-18 contain a long tzolk'in almanac with celestial serpents twining through it. (Serpents are often sky symbols. Chan means both "sky" and "snake").  This almanac has long been thought to have to do with agricultural seasons. Harvey and Victoria Bricker have recently suggested that it is an eclipse table. 
 

Right: Turtle (ak)  and "3 stones of creation" (Gemini/Orion?) hang from sun signs and  sky band (heliacal rise?) (from Madrid Codex p.71).
 


A photographic reproduction of the Madrid Codex can be  down loaded as a .pdf (Acrobat Reader) file at FAMSI.  See also "Redating the Madrid Codex"  on-line from Archaeology magazine.

PICTURES IN THE CODEX BOOKS SHOW HISTORICAL FACTS, SUCH AS THE ECLIPSES OF THE MOON AND SUN. ( COMPLETE DOCUMENT IS AT http://user.online.be/felixverbelen/ )


THIS PAGE was originally the work of M J Finley, to whom all references on the WEB have recently dissappeared ! I search every now and then to see if he returns! 



UNFORTUNATELY, Over HALF the LINKS on this page have gone DEAD!
I will have to re-edit the entire page at some point to fill in the missing pages...

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An interesting note: vast areas of what was "thought" to be jungle are now
being excavated, revealing vast CITY-scapes, some 100 Square miles,
where millions of Myans once lived. These were undiscovered by the Spanish,
so that new carvings and artifacts (that were not smashed and destroyed),
are emerging daily, that help to fill in the missing history and culture.. However,
the sheer SIZE of the cities is mind-boggling
and only a handfull of researchers are able to uncover one item at a time. What
was thought to be "hills" are now excavated to reveal the LARGEST pyramids
on earth! Standing on one of these, you see many more, in all directions, off to the horizon...






DUSTYGRAVES

Dusty Graves

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Real Science is a fascinating subject, unlike the decades of what was taught in schools that
I endured, that typically tries to KILL every shred of imagination, of hope, of possibility, and instead,
fills the time with memorizations of WHAT CAN NOT BE DONE!

Nothing can travel faster than the speed of light...

Nothing can get colder than absolute zero.

Matter can neither be created nor destroyed... etc etc. (All wrong! )

( you can search "Richard Feynman" for a lecture on this! )

There are always a handful of educators, scattered here and there,
who are both interested and interesting, and who keep mankind from falling back
into the Dark AGES !

With the String theory, and new discoveries of the last few years, we are on the brink of
an entirely new era - and I can't wait to see what happens next! This is a wondrous and
magical time, with the doors of science wide open again - and the view is breathtaking!


have fun


Robin Dusty Graves





 

 

Burning WATER (h2O) instead of gasoline in your car:

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Remote Control "MUTE" button for BIRDS (Every Female must read! ) :

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A growing number of INVENTIONS I have developed over the years:

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How to take an Obsolete old computer, like an 8086, 8088, 80186, 80188, 80286, 80386 etc,

and old discarded electronics, to build a FREE, home -made robot and controller:

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have fun

Robin Dusty Graves