The Códice de Santa María Asunción, Facsimile and Commentary: Households and Lands in Sixteenth-Century Tepetlaoztoc

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Author: Williams, Barbara J (1942- ) and H R Harvey

Year: 1997

Publisher: University of Utah Press

Place: Salt Lake City


xii+410 pages with 38 figures, 10 tables, appendix and page reproductions of the Códice de Santa María Asunción. Royal quarto (12 1/2" x 9 1/2") issued in maroon cloth gilt lettering to cover and spine. First edition.

The Códice de Santa María Asunción is a native pictorial manuscript painted in the mid-sixteenth century. It records censuses of households and landholdings of twelve rural communities in Tepetlaoztoc, a pre-Hispanic city-state in the eastern Basin of Mexico. Drawn and bound as a book, the codex is artistically relatively uninteresting, with its page after page of stylized heads of households and rectangular agricultural fields, but its content is extremely important for what it reveals about the less well-known, commoner component of Nahua culture at the time of Contact. Representative of the rural countryside twenty years after the Conquest, it is one of the few extant documents that illustrate indigenous methods of record keeping described by sixteenth-century observers. The census and cadastral records provide a wealth of information on numerous aspects of native rural life, including demography, land tenure, social structure, settlement patterns, political and economic organization and cultural ecology. Because the codex records an unusually large corpus of individual, household, and locality level data, it provides a unique opportunity to quantify the magnitude of variation between households and between communities in patterns of population and landholding. Few other manuscripts yield as much detailed, empirical evidence of the complexity of Indian commoner society during the Contact period. The codex is significant also as an important source for study of native epigraphy in the early Colonial period. Its large array of personal-name glyphs exhibits systematic use of phonetic and syllabic graphemes and certain glyphic conventions reveal heretofore unappreciated aspects of Nahua mathematics and science: the Nahua use of positional numerical notation and employment of the concept of zero - usually ascribed only to the Maya - indigenous derivation of land areal measurement, and detailed soil classification of agricultural land.


A fine copy issued without jacket.

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