Monday, September 12, 2011

The Dresden Codex

It is nothing short of astounding just how precise the Mayans had the ability to read the stars, all without the help of modern instruments such as telescopes. They kept a record of this knowledge on a primitive form of manuscript made of bark from local fig trees. The Dresden codex, as it is called today, is also referred to as an ancient Mayan book of astronomy, and most likely originated in Chichén Itzá in the Yucatán state of Mexico. Dating back to around 1,200 AD, makes it one of the oldest books from the Americas.

The Dresden codex was discovered in Austria (of all places) as an unfortunate result of Spanish conquistadores and colonial expansion and pilfering of Mayan treasures of Central and South Americas. It survived against all odds despite the Spanish missionaries’ destruction and burning of most books in an effort to wipe out what was left of the Mayan culture. Unfortunately, there are only 4 known surviving documents.

The codex has never been fully understood, though many have tried in the last 250 years or so. Much more is known today regarding Mayan mathematics. They had a very sophisticated and complex numbering system with a base of 20 that included planets from our solar system and beyond.

Today, this archaic diary has found its final resting place in the Royal Library of Dresden, Germany.

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