Decoding the Codex Borgia
Visual Symbols of Time and Space in Ancient Mexico

Susan Milbrath

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Exploring the meanings in the intricate symbolism of a rare Precolumbian manuscript  
“Milbrath’s detailed study demonstrates that the scribes who made the Codex Borgia invested its pages with densely layered meanings and astronomical predictions based on careful observations, the complexity of which we are only beginning to grasp.”—Andrew D. Turner, coeditor of Flower Worlds: Religion, Aesthetics, and Ideology in Mesoamerica and the American Southwest  
This book explores the rich symbolism of the Codex Borgia, a masterpiece of Precolumbian art dating to the fifteenth century, one of the few surviving books from before the Spanish conquest of Mexico. Susan Milbrath uses information from the fields of art history, anthropology, ethnohistory, natural history, and cultural astronomy to show how the manuscript’s intricate and colorful imagery conveys complex ideas related to Mesoamerican myths and religion.
Milbrath sets the work in historical context, establishing its provenance in the Puebla-Tlaxcala Valley of Central Mexico and pinpointing the date it was painted based on rain almanacs found in its pages. She offers a new interpretation of a unique narrative section that has long intrigued scholars, arguing that the ceremonial variations depicted in it are related to the solar cycle. Overall, this book opens new doors in the study of the Codex Borgia by identifying seasonal imagery in the narrative and associated astronomical events, especially those that involve the three brightest objects in the sky: the sun, the moon, and Venus. Decoding the Codex Borgia is an illuminating journey into the culture and cosmology of the Aztecs and their neighboring communities.  
Susan Milbrath, emeritus curator of Latin American art and archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, is coeditor of Cosmology, Calendars, and Horizon-Based Astronomy in Ancient Mesoamerica and the author of Star Gods of the Maya: Astronomy in Art, Folklore, and Calendars.
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