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The Complete Codex Zouche-Nuttall

The Complete Codex Zouche-Nuttall
Mixtec Lineage Histories and Political Biographies
Foreword by Rex Koontz

With a full-color reproduction of the entire codex and the first modern commentary in English on the pre-Hispanic history it records, The Complete Codex Zouche-Nuttall unlocks the social and political cosmos of the ancient Mixtec.

Series: The Linda Schele Endowment in Maya and Pre-Columbian Studies, with funding from Latin American and Caribbean Arts and Culture series

May 2013
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456 pages | 6 x 9 | 116 numbered figures, 86 color photos, 34 tables |

The pre-Hispanic Mixtec people of Mexico recorded political and religious history, including the biographies and genealogies of their rulers, in pictograms on hand-painted, screen-fold manuscripts known as codices. Functioning rather like movie production storyboards, the codices served as outlines of oral traditions to stimulate the memories of bards who knew the complete narratives, which were sung, danced, and performed at elite functions. Centuries later we have limited access to those original performances, and all that remains for our codex interpretation is what is painted on the pages—perhaps five to ten percent of their memory-encoded information.

Continuing the pioneering interpretation he began in Lord Eight Wind of Suchixtlan and the Heroes of Ancient Oaxaca, Robert Lloyd Williams offers an authoritative guide to the entire contents of the codex in The Complete Codex Zouche-Nuttall. Although the reverse document (pages 42–84) has been described in previous literature, the obverse document (pages 1–41) has not been, and it has remained elusive as to narrative. The Complete Codex Zouche-Nuttall elucidates the three sections of the codex, defines them as to function and content, and provides interpretive and descriptive essays about the Native American history the codex recorded prior to the arrival of Europeans in Mexico and the New World generally. With a full-color reproduction of the entire Codex Zouche-Nuttall and Williams’s expert guidance in unlocking its narrative strategies and structures, The Complete Codex Zouche-Nuttall opens an essential window into the Mixtec social and political cosmos.

  • Foreword, by Rex Koontz
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter 1. The First Historian of the New World
  • Chapter 2. Historiography and Native History
  • Chapter 3. Reading Techniques
  • Chapter 4. Document 1 (Obverse), Part 1, Pages 1–13: Lord Eight Wind
  • Chapter 5. Document 1 (Obverse), Part IIA, Pages 14–19: The Ladies Three Flint
  • Chapter 6. Document 1 (Obverse), Part IIA continued, Pages 20–21: The War from Heaven and Lady One Death
  • Chapter 7. Document 1 (Obverse), Part IIB, Pages 22–35: Genealogies
  • Chapter 8. Document 1 (Obverse), Part IIIA–B, Pages 36–41: The Four Lords from Apoala
  • Chapter 9. Document 1 (Obverse): Discussion and Interpretation
  • Chapter 10. Document 2 (Reverse), Pages 42–84: Introduction to the Political Biography of Eight Deer Jaguar Claw of Tilantongo
  • Chapter 11. Document 2 (Reverse), Sections 1–6, Pages 42–50: Parentage Statement, Childhood Military Career, Chalcatongo Event, Transition from Chalcatongo to Tututepec, Eight Deer as Lord of Tututepec.
  • Chapter 12. Document 2 (Reverse), Sections 7–12, Pages 51–74: Eight Deer’s Toltec Alliance through the Conquests with the Toltecs
  • Chapter 13. Document 2 (Reverse), Sections 13–14, Pages 75–84: The Battle in the Sky through the Siege of Hua Chino
  • Chapter 14. The Four Voices of Mixtec History
  • Appendix 1. The Mixtec Calendar
  • Appendix 2. Occurrence of 260-Day Sacred Calendars in the 365-Day Mixtec Solar Calendar
  • Appendix 3. The Cycle of 260 Days (Tonalpohualli)
  • Appendix 4. The Calendrics of Codex Zouche-Nuttall Pages 42–84
  • Appendix 5. The Mixtec Calendar Cycle Correspondences from Byland and Pohl (1994)
  • Appendix 6. The Complete Mixtec/Aztec Calendar
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Robert Lloyd Williams has studied the Mixtec codices since the 1980s and taught courses on them in the Mixtec Codex Workshop, which he cofounded with John M. D. Pohl, for twelve years. He is presently Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at Texas State University–San Marcos.


“Robert Williams’s book is a close systematic reading of one of the most important manuscripts of Pre-Columbian art and writing known to us. Unlike the majority of other great Oaxacan manuscripts, the Zouche-Nuttall has not had an extensive and sophisticated commentary in English in the recent scholarship. Instead, the sole recent commentary is in Spanish and is published in a very limited edition bound together with an expensive facsimile. Thus, the present book will immediately function as the key English-language commentary on a major part of the codex and as the major recent synthetic commentary in any language.”
Rex Koontz, Associate Professor of Art, University of Houston; author of Lightning Gods and Feathered Serpents: The Public Sculpture of El Tajín

“For a number of years, Williams has guided a select group of students and scholars through the Mixtec codices in a series of fascinating seminars at the University of Texas. With the publication of this book, a whole new generation of students, specialists, and the interested public have access to the remarkable knowledge of this scholar. This book represents a major undertaking, tackling the oft-ignored and challenging obverse side of the codex. Unlike earlier scholars who dismissed perplexing passages or attributed them to scribal mistakes, Williams offers a convincing rationale for the manipulation of reading order, showing how the ancient scribes incorporated repetition in history to justify political events. Williams effectively brings this hand-painted book to life, allowing us to imagine the bards of the past who used such codices to perform the heroics of their rulers, thereby keeping the past alive.”
Annabeth Headrick, Associate Professor of Art History, University of Denver; author of The Teotihuacan Trinity: The Sociopolitical Structure of an Ancient Mesoamerican City