The Madrid Codex (also known as the Tro-Cortesianus Codex or the Troano Codex) is one of three surviving pre-Columbian Maya books dating to the Postclassic Period of Mesoamerican chronology (c. 900–1521 AD). The Madrid Codex is held by the Museo de América in Madrid and is considered to be the most important piece in its collection. However, the original is not on display due to its fragility; a faithful copy is displayed in its stead.
The Madrid Codex is the longest of the surviving Maya codices. The content of the Madrid Codex mainly consists of almanacs and horoscopes that were used to help Maya priests in the performance of their ceremonies and divinatory rituals. The codex also contains astronomical tables, although less than are found in the other two surviving Maya codices. Some of the content is likely to have been copied from older Maya books. Included in the codex is a description of the New Year ceremony.
The Codex is stylistically uniform, leading Coe and Kerr to suggest that it was the work of a single scribe. Closer analysis of glyphic elements suggests that a number of scribes were involved in its production, perhaps as many as eight or nine, who produced consecutive sections of the manuscript. The religious content of the codex makes it likely that the scribes themselves were members of the priesthood. It is likely that the codex was passed down from priest to priest and that each priest that received the book added a section in their own hand.
The images in the Madrid Codex depict rituals such as human sacrifice and invoking rainfall as well as everyday activities such as beekeeping, hunting, warfare and weaving.
The Codex was discovered in Spain in the 1860s; it was divided into two parts of differing sizes that were found in different locations. The Codex receives its alternate name of the Tro-Cortesianus Codex after the two parts that were separately discovered. Early Mayanist scholar León de Rosny realised that both fragments were part of the same book. The larger fragment, the Troano Codex, was published with an erroneous translation in 1869–1870 by French scholar Charles Étienne Brasseur de Bourbourg, who found it in the possession of Juan de Tro y Ortolano in Madrid in 1866 and first identified it as a Maya book. Ownership of the Troano Codex passed to the Museo Arqueológico Nacional ("National Archaeological Museum") in 1888.
Madrid resident Juan de Palacios tried to sell the smaller fragment, the Cortesianus Codex, in 1867. The Museo Arqueológico Nacional acquired the Cortesianus Codex from book-collector José Ignacio Miró in 1872. Miró claimed to have recently purchased the codex in Extremadura. Extremadura is the province from which Francisco de Montejo and many of his conquistadors came, as did Hernán Cortés, the conqueror of Mexico. It is therefore possible that one of these conquistadors brought the codex back to Spain; the director of the Museo Arqueológico Nacional named the Cortesianus Codex after Hernán Cortés, supposing that he himself had brought the codex back to Spain.
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