Ancient Mexican manuscript, new research


This video says about itself:

Lord KingsboroughThe Antiquities of Mexico Volume III – Updated

Antiquities of Mexico: comprising fac-similes of Ancient Mexican Paintings and Hierogliphics, preserved in the Royal Libraries of Paris, Berlin and Dresden; in the Imperial Library of Vienna; in the Vatican Library; in the Borgian Museum at Rome; in the Library of the Institute al Bologna, and in the Bodleian Library at Oxford; together with the Monuments of New Spain by M. Dupaix; the whole illustrated with many valuables inedit Manuscripts by Lord Kingsborough; the drawings on stone by A. Aglio

Vol. I. Copy of the Collection of Mendoza, preserved in the Selden Collection of Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library at Oxford (73 pág.); Copy of the Codex Telleriano-Remensis, preserved in the Royal Library at Paris (93 pág.); Fac-simile of the original Mexican Hieroglyphic Painting, from the Collection of Boturini (23 pág.); Fac-simile of an original Mexican Painting in the Collection of Sir Thomas Bodley in the Bodleian Library at Oxford (40 pág.); Fac-simile of an original Mexican Hieroglyphic Painting, preserved in the Selden Collection of Manuscripsts in the Bodleian Library at Oxford.

Vol. II. Copy of a Mexican Manuscripts, preserved in the Library of the Vatican (149 pág.); Fac-simile of an original Mexican painting given to the University of Oxford by Archbishop Laud, and preserved in the Bodleian Library (46 pág.); Fac-simile of an original Mexican Painting, preserved in the Library of the Institute at Bologna (24 pág.); Fac-simile of an original Mexican Painting, preserved in the Imperial Library at Vienna (66 pág.); Fac-similes of original Mexican Paintings deposited in the Royal Library at Berlin by the Baron de Humboldt, and of Mexican Bas-relief preserved in the Royal Cabinet of Antiques.

Vol. III. Fac-simile of an original Mexican painting, preserved in the Borgian Museums, at College of Propaganda in Rome (76 pág.); Fac-simile of an original Mexican Painting, preserved in the Royal Library at Dresden (74 pág.); Fac-simile of an original Mexican Painting in the possession of M. de Fejérváry, at Pess in Hungary (44 pág.); Fac-simile of an original Mexican Painting, preserved in the Library of the Vatican (96 pág.).

Vol. IV. Monuments of New Spain by M. Dupaix, from the original drawings executed by order of the King of Spain Specimens of Mexican Sculpture, in the possession of M. Latour Allard in Paris; Specimens of Mexican preserved in the British Museum; Plates copied from the Giro del Mondo of Gemelli Careri: with an engraving of a Mexican Cycle, from a painting formerly in the possession of Boturini; Specimen of Peruvian Quipis, with plates representing a carved Peruvian box containing a collection of supposed Peruvian Quipus.

Vol. V. Extrait de l’ouvrage de M. de Humboldt sur Les Monuments de l’Amerique; Esplicación [sic.] de la Colección de Mendoza; Explicación del Codez Telleriano-Remensis; Codice Mexicano che si conserva nella Biblioteca Vaticana; Viages [sic.] de Guillermo Dupaix sobre Antigüedades Mexicanas; Libro sexto de la Retórica y Filosofía Moral y Teológica de la gente mexicana donde hay cosas muy curiosas tocantes a los primores de la lengua y cosas muy delicadas tocantes a las virtudes morales / por…Bernardino de Sahagún.

Vol. VI. Historia Universal de las cosas de la Nueva España / por…Bernardino de Sahagún. — Vol.VII. Appendix: the interpretatione of the Hieroglyphical Paintings of the Collection of Mendoza; The explanation of the Hieroglyphical Paintings of the Codex Telleriano-Remensis; The traslation of the explanation of the Mexican Paintings of the Codex Vaticanus; The monuments of the New Spain by M. Dupaix

From Leiden University in the Netherlands:

High-tech imaging reveals rare precolonial Mexican manuscript hidden from view for 500 years

Published on 16 August 2016

Researchers from the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries and from universities in the Netherlands have used high-tech imaging to uncover the details of a rare Mexican codex dating from before the colonisation of America.

The newly-revealed codex, or book, has been hidden from view for almost 500 years, concealed beneath a layer of plaster and chalk on the back of a later manuscript known as the Codex Selden, which is housed at the Bodleian Libraries. Scientists have used hyperspectral imaging to reveal pictographic scenes from this remarkable document and have published their findings in the Journal of Archaeology: Reports.

Ancient Mexican codices are some of the most important artefacts of early Mexican culture and they are particularly rare. Codex Selden, also known as Codex Añute, dates from around 1560 and is one of less than 20 known Mexican codices to have survived the colonisation of America. Of those, it is one of only five surviving manuscripts from the Mixtec area, now known as Oaxaca in Mexico. These codices use a complex system of pictures, symbols and bright colours to narrate centuries of conquering dynasties and genealogies as well as wars and the history of ancient cities. In essence these codices provide the best insight into the history and culture of early Mexico.

Since the 1950s, scholars have suspected that Codex Selden is a palimpsest: an older document that has been covered up and reused to make the manuscript that is currently visible. Codex Selden consists of a 5-metre-long strip of deer hide that has been covered with white plaster made from gypsum and chalk, and folded in a concertina format into a 20-page document. The manuscript underwent a series of invasive tests in the 1950s when one page was scraped, uncovering a vague image that hinted at the possibility that an earlier Mexican codex is hidden beneath.

Until now, no other technique has been able to unveil the concealed narrative in a non-invasive way. The organic paint that was used to create the vibrant images on early Mexican codices does not absorb x-rays, which rules out x-ray analysis that is commonly used to study later works of art.

‘After 4 or 5 years of trying different techniques, we’ve been able to reveal an abundance of images without damaging this extremely vulnerable item. We can confirm that Codex Selden is indeed a palimpsest,’ said Ludo Snijders from Leiden University, who conducted the research with David Howell from the Bodleian Libraries and Tim Zaman from the University of Delft. This is the first time an early Mexican codex has been proven to be a palimpsest.

‘What’s interesting is that the text we’ve found doesn’t match that of other early Mixtec manuscripts. The genealogy we see appears to be unique, which means it may prove invaluable for the interpretation of archaeological remains from southern Mexico,’ Snjiders said.

Some pages feature more than 20 characters sitting or standing in the same direction. Similar scenes have been found on other Mixtec manuscripts, representing a King and his council. But the analysis of this particular text shows that the characters are both male and female, raising interesting questions about what the scene represents.

The imaging has also revealed a prominent individual who appears repeatedly on the document and is represented by a large glyph consisting of a twisted chord and a flint knife. The name seems to resemble a character found in other Mexican codices: the Codex Bodley (in the Bodleian’s collection) and Codex Zouche-Nuttall (in the British Museum).That character is an important ancestor of two lineages connected to the important archaeological sites of Zaachila and Teozacualco in Mexico. However, further analysis is needed to confirm that it is the same individual.

The researchers analysed seven pages of the codex for this study and revealed other images including people walking with sticks and spears, women with red hair or headdresses and place signs containing the glyphs for rivers. They are continuing to scan the remainder of the document with the aim of reconstructing the entire hidden imagery, allowing the text to be interpreted more fully.

‘Hyperspectral imaging has shown great promise in helping us to begin to reconstruct the story of the hidden codex and ultimately to recover new information about Mixtec history and archaeology,’ said David Howell, Head of Heritage Science at the Bodleian Libraries. ‘This is very much a new technique, and we’ve learned valuable lessons about how to use hyperspectral imaging in the future both for this very fragile manuscript and for countless others like it.’

Painter Hieronymus Bosch’s fantastic animals


Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch, detail

This photo shows a detail of the painting The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch.

As I blogged before, on 8 July 2016 we were in the natural history museum in Tilburg, the Netherlands, for the exhibition about animals in the paintings by Hieronymus Bosch.

Many animals in Bosch’ age were used as symbols, eg of sinful or good human qualities: eg, peacocks for vanity. The catalogue of the exhibition says that many of these late medieval-early Renaissance symbolic meanings have become lost and are unclear now. We don’t know whether Bosch interpreted animals as symbols 100% like some contemporaries did. There are doves in Bosch’ paintings. Symbols of peace? Or symbols of prostitution, which they also used to be sometimes? We cannot be sure.

There are four types of animals in Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings. First, autochthonous west European animals which Bosch knew well. Like little owls: in The Garden of Earthly Delights, in The Wayfarer, and in St. Jerome at Prayer.

Or like the great tit in The Wayfarer.

Or like the magpie in The Wayfarer. According to the exhibition organisation, the magpie used to be a symbol of a soul liberated from sin. Also to Bosch? We cannot be completely sure.

The second category in Bosch’s work are exotic animals new for west Europeans; like giraffes. In his The Garden of Earthly Delights, in its left panel, Bosch depicted a giraffe. He very probably never had seen a living giraffe. The animal looks much like a picture from a book by fifteenth century Italian humanist Cyriacus of Ancona.

Cyriacus, according to a biography:

was not a religious man – not in the manner of most of his contemporaries.

Cyriacus’ ideas about science were at variance with Catholic Church doctrine. Much of his work got lost. That Bosch knew it and referred to it may be another sign of him being critical of religious (and secular) authority, besides other signs of that in his art.

Camel, by Hieronymus Bosch

Camels were then also considered exotic, like this one in the Garden of Earthly Delights.

In Bosch’s work there are also two kinds of fantasy animals. Animals which traditionally were supposed to exist, like unicorns and griffons. And animals which were products of Bosch’s own imagination; often half one animal species, half another animal species or object. Like the half spoonbill half ship in the Triptych of the Temptation of St. Anthony. In this blog post we will now discuss mainly the last two categories, especially in the Garden of Earthly Delights.

Unicorn and birds

This detail of the painting shows, eg, a unicorn; a bird with three heads; a bird with an arrow-like tongue and a bird vaguely looking like a hummingbird.

The Tilburg exhibition also includes work by twenty-first century artists like Neige, inspired by Bosch’s fantasy animals.

Bird by Hieronymus Bosch

Here are two other birds in which Bosch used his imagination. One standing; one drinking.

Bird drinking, by Hieronymus Bosch

Birds by Hieronymus Bosch

And many more birds here; some may be real, some imaginary.

Griffon and deer by Hieronymus Bosch

In this detail are people riding not only on a horse, but also on a wild boar, on a deer with a surrealist kind of antlers, and on a griffon.

Griffon and deer and wild boar, by Hieronymus Bosch

Real birds in Hieronymus Bosch’s fantastic paintings


Little owl, Bosch, Garden of earthly delights

This picture shows a little owl, by famous painter Hieronymus Bosch. It is in his painting The Garden of Earthly Delights.

Little owl, Hieronymus Bosch

This photo shows a little owl as well. In Bosch’s painting The Wayfarer.

Hieronymus Bosch, The Wayfarer

That little owl, like many other animals in Bosch’s work, is a little detail in a painting full of little details.

We saw these owls on 8 July 2016, when we were in the natural history museum in Tilburg, the Netherlands.

The Tilburg exhibition on animals in Bosch’s works did not show the original works of art. These had been earlier this year in the exhibition in Den Bosch; and are now in the exhibition in the Prado museum in Madrid.

The Tilburg exhibition had reproductions of Bosch’s paintings. And also many stuffed animals of species shown by Bosch. I think there was a mistake in these stuffed animals: they included a North American black bear. A species not known to Bosch as far as I know. The bears in Bosch’s work are European brown bears; not present among the stuffed animals in the exhibition.

Why did Bosch depict so many animals? We cannot be sure. As far as we know, Bosch never wrote about his work. Many animals in Bosch’ age were used as symbols, eg of sinful or good human qualities: eg, peacocks for vanity. The catalogue of the exhibition says that many of these late medieval-early Renaissance symbolic meanings have become lost and are unclear now.

Did Bosch agree 100% with what his contemporaries thought about symbolic meanings of animals? Maybe he did not agree 100%. His works show signs of non-conformism. In west European medieval social thought, the clergy were the first estate. The nobility was the second estate. Town-dwelling bourgeois, like Bosch in Den Bosch town, were the third estate.

Tradition said that bourgeois had to mind that they did not have as many rights as clergymen, kings, counts or barons (though more than peasant serfs). However, in his The Haywain, Bosch depicted the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and the pope as sinners who might end up in hell. He depicted a nun as a money-grabbing half pig, half human in The Garden of Earthly Delights. He depicted an armoured knight as a partly human, partly other mammal, partly bird being in hell in the same painting.

Art historian Marrigje Rikken recently wrote about images of animals between 1550 and 1630 becoming an art genre in themselves. In the dominant medieval view on art, artists worked mainly for the Roman Catholic church. They made art with religious subjects. Depicting animals could be a part of that, if it fitted in religious frameworks like the Garden of Eden or Noah’s Ark. In the sixteenth and seventeenth countries, certainly in the Low Countries, the link between artists, the Catholic church and the nobility became looser. According to Ms Rikken, there was a gradual change from earlier emblematic, symbolic depictions of animals in a religious framework to more scientific depictions; in which religion faded more and more into the background.

According to Rikken, the number of animals featured in works of art gradually increased. More and more, animals became subjects in themselves, not minor parts of religious depictions.

Was Hieronymus Bosch an early pioneer of this evolution, at least in some respects? Maybe; we don’t know for sure. He did depict many hundreds of animals. The emblematic-religious framework was still there. We may never know whether Bosch was a true believer in it. Or whether it was convenient for him as a pretext for painting or drawing animals which he loved for its own sake.

There are four types of animals in Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings. Autochthonous west European animals which Bosch knew well. Exotic animals new for west Europeans; like giraffes. And two kinds of fantasy animals. Animals which traditionally were supposed to exist, like unicorns and griffons. And animals which were products of Bosch’s own imagination; often half one animal species, half another species.

In the rest of this blog post we will confine ourselves to real animals; especially non-exotic birds; in The Garden of Earthly Delights.

Spoonbills, Hieronymus Bosch

Like these real spoonbills behind the bathing women.

Spoonbills on goat, Hieronymus Bosch

And these two real spoonbills on the back of a real goat, walking behind fantastic animals.

White storks and barn owl, Hieronymus Bosch

And these two white storks on a pig’s back. With above them, a real barn owl sitting on an ‘unreal’ unicorn’s horn. Another proof that Bosch knew the differences between various owl species.

Hooded crow, Hieronymus Bosch

And finally, this hooded crow. A species which used to be common in the Netherlands in winter; but is rare there now.

There will be more on this blog about that Hieronymus Bosch exhibition. So, stay tuned!

United States warship named after anti-war Harvey Milk


This 2015 video from the USA is called Harvey Milk / First Gay Politician (Biography TV).

This month, the United States Navy announced new names for several of their new warships.

United States warships and warplanes often have names of people in history. Eg, there is the military plane called the Spirit of Strom Thurmond. Republican Senator Strom Thurmond is one of the most racist bigots in US history.

Among the new warships’ names are several of people a lot better than Thurmond. They include women’s rights activist Lucy Stone and abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth. And activist against discrimination of LGBTQ people Harvey Milk.

The new names in themselves are signs that some historical oppression has been abolished. Slavery against which Sojourner Truth (and Lucy Stone) fought was officially abolished in the 1860s. The ban on United States women voting against which Sojourner Truth and Lucy Stone fought was abolished in 1920.

As for Harvey Milk, during Barack Obama’s presidency the homophobic ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ rule in the US military was abolished.

San Francisco politician Scott Wiener writes:

When Harvey Milk served in the military, he couldn’t tell anyone who he truly was.

Harvey Milk was in the United States navy as a conscript during the Korean war.

There is a paradox in this new warship’s name.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

A friend of Milk’s thinks it is ironic that a warship is now named especially after him because Milk was against the Vietnam War and was part of an anti-militarist movement. “In my time men used to say they were gay to stay out of military service.”

So, this new name looks like ‘pinkwashing‘ of wars all over the world.

There is similar ambiguity about naming warships after Lucy Stone and Sojourner Truth. Their abolitionist movement opposed slavery, and oppression of women; but it opposed wars as well.

The Liberator, the paper of Stone’s and Truth’s abolitionist movement, wrote:

Anti-War Pledge – War with Mexico

June 5, 1846 …

desiring to show our utter abhorrence of slavery, and of every act either of the state or the individual, which means to support it,— and to bind ourselves before God and the world, to side with the oppressed, and not with the oppressor, we hereby pledge ourselves, neither by act or deed, to aid, support, or countenance the Government in the War with Mexico….. to refuse enlistment, contribution, aid and countenance to the War.

History of lynching in the USA


This video from the USA says about itself:

A History of Lynching

13 July 2016

Dr. Lawrence Brown tells guest host Janaya Khan that recent police shootings of unarmed black men remind him of the 4000 lynchings between 1877 and 1950, the murder of Emmett Till, and bombings of black churches.

Extinct shellfish brought back to Europe by Vikings?


This video says about itself:

After reducing the level of water in the shallows sand seashells [soft-shell clams] (Mya arenaria) became visible.

Lower Tiligul Estuary (Liman). Ukraine. May 17, 2015.

From the Netherlands Journal of Geosciences, May 2016:

Are Medieval Mya arenaria (Mollusca; Bivalvia) in the Netherlands also clams before Columbus?

Abstract

During the Pleistocene [Ice Age], the coastal marine bivalve mollusc Mya arenaria became extinct in northwest Europe. The species remained present in North America. Datings of Mya shells found in northern Denmark and the southern Baltic Sea suggest that repopulation of northwest European coasts already occurred before Columbus’ discovery of America (1492), possibly facilitated by Viking (Norse) settlers at Greenland and northeast North America.

In this paper we report on findings of M. arenaria at five locations in the coastal landscape of the Netherlands: polders reclaimed from the Wadden Sea and the former estuaries of Oer-IJ and Old Rhine. The shells from four of these locations also date before 1492 AD.

Flying penguin on 17th-century painting


Flying penguin, by Dirk de Quade van Ravesteijn (1565–1620)

Apparently, penguins could not only fly on this video, but also on this 1610 painting.

Leiden University weekly Mare in the Netherlands writes about it (translated):

The flying penguin

[Dutch painter] Dirk de Quade van Ravesteijn (1565-1620) painted at the [Prague] court of [Habsburg emperor] Rudolf II, and made two animal albums there: one about four-legged animals, and one about birds.

He had a great interest in animals that were interesting from a natural history perspective. [Art historian] Rikken: “He chose animals with abnormalities, such as a chicken with three legs, or species that had just been discovered.” The Magellanic penguin was then a fresh discovery. Biologist Carolus Clusius – in Leiden known as the first boss of the Hortus Botanicus – described the species in 1605.

But what did Quade know about that? And how is it that the drawing of the coat is so accurate, while Clusius’ publication was in black and white? Again, Walker suspects that the artist has seen a stuffed specimen. “How the animal moved, about that he had of course no idea. You do see more artists struggling with penguins; they are so different from other birds!”

And a 3D-printed boot enabled this penguin to walk again.