isn’t really a codex and Zelia Nuttall was neither it’s creator,
it’s discoverer nor it’s owner, though her scholarly interest
did result in it’s first publication. The Codex Nuttall is made
of deerhide, pieced together to make one continuous strip over 40 feet
long and roughly 6-1/2 inches high, then folded fan-wise into 10 inch
sections to form a compact, 98 page “book”. Both sides were
coated with fine lime plaster and 88 of the pages were painted with the
vivid little scenes and date glyphs in bright colors.
The first 44 pages (the obverse side) of the Codex Nuttall record genealogical information on rulers and memorable events in the history of the Oaxaca Valley from as early as AD 698. The reverse side is devoted to the life and deeds of a single Hero King. Here we see him seated on his throne, wearing his full regalia and listening closely to what one of his subjects has to say. The animal head and series of fat dots just above his hand identify him by his day of birth and the spot- ted feline climbing the throne on a string of claws gives us his surname. The two glyphs in the lower left give the date. This, then, is the Lord 8 Deer “Tiger’s Claw”, military and political hero, giving audience on the day 7 Eagle in the Year 7 Serpent.
Here, seated facing one another in the position
representing marriage, are Lord 5 Crocodile, father of our hero, 8 Deer,
and his first wife, the Lady 9 Eagle. He is wearing a mask of Tlaloc,
God of Rain, and carries the sun on his back to indicate his surname,
“Sun of Rain”. The spray of blossoms seemingly sprouting inelegantly
from the lady’s rump is actually part of her name glyph and tells
us she is called “Garland of Cacao Flowers”. The date is 6
Stone in the year 9 Eagle, which corresponds to AD 992 of our calendar.
This marriage was blessed with two sons, 12 Motion “Bloody Tiger”
and 3 Water “Heron” and a daughter, 3 Liz ard “Jade
Another wedding scene is pictured here as 8 Deer, wearing a mask and an animal head helmet, takes the Lady 13 Serpent, “Serpent of Flowers” as his wife. They are seated in their palace, traditionally facing one another, while she pours and he accepts the ritual cup of chocolate which symbolized marriage. The date is 12 Serpent in the year 13 Cane (AD 1051) when 8 Deer was already 40 years old, surprisingly late in life for a first, especially a royal, marriage. The dynasty was assured, however by the birth of two sons, 4 Dog “Tame Coyote”, born in AD 1058 and 4 Crocodile “Serpent Ball of Fire” two years later.
Perhaps our hero had been too busy fighting
battles to think of marriage. He certainly seems to have been involved
in enough of them. Perhaps the most important was a long dynastic struggle
which was finally ended with the conquest of a place identified by its
glyph as “God Xipe’s Bundle”. In this scene, he is shown
in full war regalia, complete with shield, jaguar helmet and mace. The
captive he is grasping by the scalp-lock is nine year old 4 Wind “Serpent
of Fire” the third, and youngest, of three enemy princes taken that
day. The date is the day 12 Monkey in the Year 11 House, which translates
to AD 1059.
In yet another battle scene, 8 Deer, in the guise
of a red tiger, and a warrior dressed as a yellow tiger who is tentatively
identified as his brother, 9 Flower, face the enemy prince, 10 Dog “Eagle
Copal Burning”, and an ally (not shown here) wearing the gruesome
skull mask of the Death God. This event, which took place in AD 1060,
seems to have been a ritual combat or sacrificial game. Needless to say,
our heroes emerged triumphant, killing their opponents and chalking up
another important conquest for the Hero King of the Mixtecs.
The final page of the Codex Nuttal shows
three scenes of ritual sacrifice that may have formed a part of the victory
celebration eight days after the defeat of 10 Dog. On the day 1 Cane,
another enemy prince, whose name glyphs identify him as 6 House “Row
of Flint Knives”, is tied to a ladder-like scaffold and shot through
the heart with a decorated arrow from the bow of 8 Deer. (The inscription
above his head was added by some unknown Spanish scribe.) His death would
have served the dual purpose of propitiating the gods and marking a dramatic
end to 8 Deer’s final campaign. He died three years later in AD