Precolonial Mexican Manuscript

Three ICA bands are combined into an RGB image of pages 11 and 10 (above), reconstruction of these two pages based on this information (below). ‘What’s interesting is that the text we’ve found doesn’t match that of other early Mixtec manuscripts. The genealogy we see appears to be unique, which means it may prove invaluable for the interpretation of archaeological remains from southern Mexico,’ Snjiders said. 

Some pages feature more than 20 characters sitting or standing in the same direction. Similar scenes have been found on other Mixtec manuscripts, representing a King and his council. But the analysis of this particular text shows that the characters are both male and female, raising interesting questions about what the scene represents.

The imaging has also revealed a prominent individual who appears repeatedly on the document and is represented by a large glyph consisting of a twisted chord and a flint knife. The name seems to resemble a character found in other Mexican codices: the Codex Bodley (in the Bodleian’s collection) and Codex Zouche-Nuttall (in the British Museum).That character is an important ancestor of two lineages connected to the important archaeological sites of Zaachila and Teozacualco in Mexico. However, further analysis is needed to confirm that it is the same individual. 

The researchers analysed seven pages of the codex for this study and revealed other images including people walking with sticks and spears, women with red hair or headdresses and place signs containing the glyphs for rivers. They are continuing to scan the remainder of the document with the aim of reconstructing the entire hidden imagery, allowing the text to be interpreted more fully. 

‘Hyperspectral imaging has shown great promise in helping us to begin to reconstruct the story of the hidden codex and ultimately to recover new information about Mixtec history and archaeology,’ said David Howell, Head of Heritage Science at the Bodleian Libraries. ‘This is very much a new technique, and we’ve learned valuable lessons about how to use hyperspectral imaging in the future both for this very fragile manuscript and for countless others like it.’