At the top of that is power, the Mayan empire of Mesoamerica to be a complex culture with advanced systems that mathematics, astronomy, architecture, writing, and religion. They built massive cities of stone, charted the stars, created beautiful functions of art, and also recorded their history, knowledge, and also philosophies on tree bark document that to be folded into books called codices. Historians believe there were as soon as thousands of these codices that would give us a complete understanding the the Mayan world, yet only 3 (possibly four) the these documents remain.

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The Mayan Empire

Based in what is currently Guatemala, the Mayan Empire was founded about 1800 B.C.E. Prior to spreading into main America and Mexico"s Yucatan Peninsula. Approximately 250–700 C.E., the Mayan people, who were renowned scholars v advanced knowledge the mathematics and astronomy, built good stone structures and also impressive cities. By 900 C.E., however, most had actually been abandoned, and the Mayan populace declined considerably due come drought, overpopulation, and war. By the time the Spanish Conquistadors, led by Hernan Cortes, landed in the new World in 1525, the Mayans were couple of in number, living in small, primitive villages while their once-great cities languished in the tropical overgrowth.

The Conquistadors encountered the dwindling Mayan population, and the powerful Aztecs, and also those who refused to convert to Christianity were systematically slaughtered. All vestiges of the indigenous religions were obliterated through no regard because that their historical or social value, and also as part of this social erasure, hundreds of Mayan codices were burned.


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(Simon Burchell/Wikimedia Commons)

The just Surviving Codices

Fortunately, castle missed a few, which have actually been preserved by archaeologists and also historians. Three evidenced Mayan codices are known to have actually survived, every named
because that the city in i beg your pardon they space presently kept: the Dresden Codex, the Paris Codex, and also the Madrid Codex. They describe, amongst other things, details deities that the Mayan religion, huge predictions, the activities of planets, details of spiritual rituals, indications of negative omens, plants and animals, and farming tips. They to be most most likely written in the 12th century, however experts have pointed the end that the books may have been replicated from older works.

Since the 1700s, experts thought the Mayan codices were created on record made from tree fiber, yet a 1910 analysis revealed the pages to be long strips the the inner bark of fig trees folded like accordions, do them basic to store and also transport. Unfortunately, the essential material likewise made castle fragile and also easy come burn, as the Conquistadors proved, for this reason their suitable storage and preservation is a optimal priority for the academy responsible for them.


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(Bibliothèque Nacionale de France/Wikimedia Commons)

What"s In The Codices?

According to legend, the Paris Codex was gained by the national library the Paris in 1832 but sat collecting dust in a library office basket till it was rediscovered in 1859. Every little thing the case, the Paris Codex is in stormy shape, just a fragment of the book that once included 11 double-sided pages. The text reveals information about Mayan history, spiritual ceremonies, deities, huge observations, lunar phases, and constellations. The is currently kept at the Bibliotheque Nationale. 

The most finish of the three enduring Mayan codices, the Dresden Codex, was purchased by the royal Library that Dresden in 1739 from a personal antiquities collector and also has become the most studied the the three codices. Experts think that at the very least eight different scribes had actually a hand in creating the Dresden Codex, i m sorry was most likely penned in between 1000 and 1200 C.E. and focuses on astrology, providing information about significant dates for religious celebrations. It likewise provides important dates for farmers to plant and also harvest your crops and information on medicines for various illnesses. Unfortunately, during world War II, Dresden to be famously the target of an intense, three-day battle that heavily damaged the library and its collection, consisting of the Dresden Codex. Fortunately, copies of the message were made before the war, so study of the codex deserve to continue.

Prior come its come in Spain, the Madrid Codex to be separated into two parts, which scholars have called the Troano and also the Cortesanius, the weren"t an unified until 1888. Like the Dresden Codex, experts believe this message was likewise written by as many as nine various individuals around 1400 C.E. In ~ its pages, i beg your pardon are housed at the Museo de America in Madrid, we discover information around the Mayan brand-new Year and also the rituals bordering it and also the Mayan gods and also the job on the calendar associated with the different deities alongside common, day-to-day information pertaining come farming, hunting, and pottery making.

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(Unknown author/Wikimedia Commons)

The 4th Codex?

A feasible fourth codex exists, called the Grolier Codex, but many specialists doubt the authenticity
. The was discovered centuries later on than the other three, allegedly offered in 1965 in a crate of artifacts that had been recently unearthed in a cavern in Mexico come a mexico collector, Dr. Jose Saenz, that presented the 11 pages that the codex come the Grolier club of brand-new York City in 1971 prior to it do its way to its existing home at a museum in Mexico City. Like the evidenced codices, it offers astrological observations and also predictions, however it"s much less detailed and also contains tiny information the can"t be uncovered in the others.