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Original Maya Texts Popol Vuh

Thousands of Maya texts destroyed by Spanish. Only 4 known to have survived: Madrid, Paris, Dresden, and Mirador codices. Madrid, Paris, Dresden survived because sent out of Mexico. Texts significant because record some of ideology, in addition to calendar and astronomical data.

Madrid Codex (reproduction)


Mirador Codex: located at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City - - has not been opened. Paper so heavily damaged that sheets cannot be separated - - solid block of lime.

Grolier Codex

Found in a private collection in NY. Mystery document: paper appears to be authentic pre-Columbian paper. Glyphs questionable in authenticity. May be a forgery, using Maya paper that has been found in caves in Yucatan.


Popol Vuh scene from Vase

Madrid Codex

Maya Recording

Spanish destroyed Maya writing, but also taught Maya people the Roman alphabet. Purpose to get the Maya to write scriptures and prayers. Enterprise converted into Maya effort to preserve the content of their ancient texts, in Roman alphabet form.

New Maya Books

As form of "practicing" Roman alphabet, Maya priests wrote books recording ancient knowledge. Books of the Chilam Balam written in the Yucatan by various rulers and priests - - still being studied. Mostly historical records and calendars.

Popol Vuh

The Popol Vuh written by members of 3 ruling lineages in Quiche kingdom. They feared knowledge of their traditions would be lost as Spanish were destroying all of their ancient books, so they secretly recorded their religious stories in Maya language. Original included glyphs + images.

Popol Vuh

Dominican friar Francisco Ximenez found manuscript in 1703, while a parish priest in Quiche area. Made a copy and translated it into Spanish. Documents remained with Dominican order until 1830, when Univ of San Carlos in Guatemala City acquired it. Next, French priest Charles Etienne Brasseur de Bourbourg translated it into French in 1861.


Popol Vuh

Every translation carries potential for changes in meaning. Most drastic changes come from translating pictures and glyphs into strictly alphabetic writing - - original had illustrations and words, but Ximenez version contained only alphabetic prose.

Popol Vuh

Despite possible changes, Popol Vuh remains a vivid story that explains Maya creation, the role of the gods, and the dimensions of Maya cosmology.

Vase with Ballgame Scene



Popol Vuh.ppt

3 pages

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