Coding of the data contained in the Maya codices is an on-going project. Dr. Gabrielle Vail is responsible for the data relevant to the Madrid Codex, and she and Dr. Christine Hernández are working together to incorporate data from the other three Maya codices into the database. At present, data from the Madrid and Dresden codices are available for viewing and searching. We hope to have the data from the Paris and Grolier codices accessible by July 2010.
The website and database would not exist without the
hard work and dedication of our technical architect, William (Ty)
Giltinan. We appreciate his invaluable assistance, as well as that of our
academic consultants, Drs. Anthony F. Aveni, Victoria R. Bricker, and Martha J.
Macri, and our research assistants, including Sherri Buete, Destiny Lyals, Kathleen Moore, Lyssabeth Pedersen, Jason
Richardson, Lynn Robinson, and Bill Werner. Additionally, we gratefully
acknowledge the support of Dumbarton Oaks and especially that of Dr.
Jeffrey Quilter during his tenure as Director of Pre-Columbian Studies; Pete
Haggerty, Network Systems Administrator, for his technical expertise and
help in maintaining the on-line database; and Dr. Joanne Pillsbury,
current Director of Pre-Columbian Studies, for her continued support of the
database project. We also thank Dra. Paz Cabello Carro and the staff at the
Museo de América in Madrid for access to the Tro-Cortesianus screenfold and M.
Thierry Delcourt and his staff at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France
for kindly allowing us to work with the Paris Codex.
Prehispanic Maya culture can be investigated from several perspectives, including analysis of archaeological sites and associated artifacts; documents from the period of European contact which discuss the indigenous culture; and texts written by the Maya themselves, which occur on monumental sculpture and ceramic vessels dating from the Classic period (c. A.D. 250-900), and in screenfold books (called codices) believed to date to the Late Postclassic period (c. A.D. 1200-1521). This study focuses on the four remaining Maya hieroglyphic codices, the Dresden, Grolier, Madrid (or Tro-Cortesianus), and Paris codices. Data from the Madrid Codex are currently accessible through database searches.
The Madrid Codex is the longest of the existing Maya hieroglyphic manuscripts, containing over 250 separate “almanacs” that place events of both a sacred and secular nature within the 260-day Mesoamerican ritual calendar. These almanacs integrate calendrical data with pictures and glyphic texts to provide users (priests and daykeepers) with information about particular days in the sacred calendar. Unlike the other Maya codices, the Madrid Codex is concerned quite specifically with the activities of daily life (planting, hunting, tending one’s crops, etc.). The glyphic texts refer to specific activities, deities, offerings, and ritual and astronomical events.
Information concerning the iconography, hieroglyphic texts, and calendrical structure of the Madrid Codex was originally stored in three separate databases developed beginning in 1993 by members of the project staff, with financial support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation (grant SBR9710961), and Dumbarton Oaks (in the form of a residential fellowship). Phase I of the project (NEH grant RZ-20724-01) involved integrating the three databases and making them available on-line. The purpose of posting our database on the Internet is to (1) provide access to our primary data and interpretations about the calendrics, iconography, and glyphic texts of the Madrid Codex, and (2) offer users the ability to run searches and queries of the data, thereby making it possible for them to address questions of relevance to their own research.
Research on the codex was primarily done by using facsimiles of the manuscript (see list under References & Resources). We also had the opportunity to view the actual codex during a visit to Madrid in November 2003, thanks to the generosity of Paz Cabello Carro and her staff. Illustrations used in the on-line database were scanned and modified from the line drawings in J. Antonio Villacorta C. and Carlos A. Villacorta, Códices mayas (2nd ed.), Tipografía Nacional, Guatemala, 1976 [originally published 1930].
The current project involves incorporating data from the other Maya codices into the on-line database. As another component of this project, we are writing a commentary of the Madrid Codex that updates earlier studies of the manuscript. Exciting new lines of inquiry have become available in the past two decades, including the analysis of seasonal and astronomical texts and images that have only recently been identified or deciphered; comparisons with the Borgia group of codices from central Mexico; and a methodology for grouping almanacs thematically and by overlapping patterns of dates. Moreover, many of the glyphic texts can now be read, which allows us to explore the relationship between texts and images in ways not previously available.
We envision the commentary as breaking new ground in studies of Maya iconography and epigraphy. Our goal is to provide definitive arguments concerning the dating and provenience of the manuscript, its structure and function, and how it was used by the prehispanic Maya. Although our primary objective is to address questions of relevance primarily to the Madrid Codex, by answering these questions our project will also serve as a key to unlocking the structure, function, and content of divinatory codices in general, thereby bringing the study of Maya and other Mesoamerican manuscripts to a new level of sophistication.
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