Aztec Writing - Aztec Language and Literature answers questions

Aztec Writing

Aztec book
An Aztec book, or codex (ca 1500 AD)

The Aztec system of writing was very much like the Maya system, and probably the Aztec people learned how to write from the Maya. Aztec literature was written down in books, which folded like a fan. They are called codices (one codex, two or more codices). These books were hand-written on paper made out of agarve plant fiber. One of these books is the Madrid Codex, which is about how to predict the future. It discusses sacred rituals, what to do if evil spirits attack the crops, the right offerings to bring the rain, and about the calendar and the right offerings for each time of year, and how to clean yourself religiously after someone you know dies.

madrid codex
A page from the Madrid Codex

Another Aztec book is the Dresden Codex (they are named after the places where they are now). The Dresden Codex is about astronomy, and it tells you which days are good for planting or for telling the future. It also discusses sickness and medicine.

The third Aztec book that we still have today is the Paris Codex. The Paris Codex is about the calendar and the zodiac. It is not in as good shape as the other books, and the writing and drawing are not as good.

There were surely thousands of other Aztec books, but the Spanish invaders destroyed most of them in the 1500s.

Mayan writing
More about the Aztec

Bibliography and further reading about Aztec writing:

Maya home

Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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