The Dresden Codex
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September 5, 2021

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The Dresden Codex

Almost all of the codices were destroyed by conquistadors and Catholic priests in the 16th century. Around 3 Maya codices survive. They have been named for the cities where they eventually settled.

The Dresden Codex is the oldest surviving Maya book of the Americas, dating back to the 13th or 14th century. The codex was "rediscovered" in the city of Dresden, Germany, hence the book’s present name. The book suffered serious water damage during WWII. Written in Maya hieroglyphs, it refers to original text of three or four hundred years earlier, describing local history and astronomical tables. It is located in the museum of the Saxon State Library in Dresden, Germany.

It is the most elaborate of the codices, and also a highly important specimen of Maya art. Many sections are ritualistic (including so-called 'almanacs'), others are of anastrological nature (eclipses, the Venus cycles). The codex is written on a long sheet of paper that is 'screen-folded' to make a book of 39 leaves, written on both sides.Somehow it made its way to Europe and was bought by the royal library of the court of Saxony in Dresden in 1739. The only exact replica, including thehuun, made by a German artist is displayed at the Museo Nacional de Arqueología in Guatemala City, since October, 2007.

The second image is a reconstruction/interpretation of the final page.

Photographs courtesy Corozal House of Culture

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