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An Aztec book, or codex (ca 1500 AD)

An Aztec book, or codex (ca 1500 AD)

Aztec writing and the Maya

The Aztec system of writing was very much like the Maya system. Probably the Aztec people learned how to write from the Maya.

Mayan writing
Who were the Aztec?
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What were Aztec books like?

Aztec writers wrote their literature in books, which folded like a fan. We call these books codices (one codex, two or more codices). Aztec writers wrote their books by hand on paper made out of agave plant fiber.

Native American clothing and agave

What’s the Madrid Codex?

One of these books is the Madrid Codex. It’s 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. It tells you about the calendar and the right offerings for each time of year, and how to clean yourself religiously after someone you know dies.

And the Dresden Codex?

A page from the 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.

History of astronomy
Central American medicine

What’s the Paris Codex?

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.

What happened to the other books?

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

Charles V and the Holy Roman Empire

Mayan writing
More about the Aztec

Bibliography and further reading about Aztec writing:


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