Click on thumbnail to find out more about Mayan glyphs.
Cool website submitted by Megan Neilson.
The Maya numeral system is a vigesimal
(base-twenty) positional numeral system used
by the Pre-Columbian Maya civilization.

The numerals are made up of three symbols;
zero (shell shape, with the plastron
uppermost), one (a dot) and five (a bar). For
example, thirteen is written as three dots in a
horizontal row above two horizontal lines
stacked above each other.

Numbers after 19 were written vertically in
powers of twenty. For example, thirty-three
would be written as one dot above three dots,
which are in turn atop two lines. The first dot
represents "one twenty" or "1×20", which is
added to three dots and two bars, or thirteen.
Therefore, (1×20) + 13 = 33. Upon reaching
202 or 400, another row is started. The
number 429 would be written as one dot
above one dot above four dots and a bar, or
(1×202) + (1×201) + 9 = 429. The powers of
twenty are numerals, just as the Hindu-Arabic
numeral system uses powers of tens.

Other than the bar and dot notation, Maya
numerals can be illustrated by face type
glyphs or pictures. The face glyph for a
number represents the deity associated with
the number. These face number glyphs were
rarely used, and are mostly seen on some of
the most elaborate monumental carving.
The Grollier Codex
A Fourth Mayan Codex or a Forgery?
The Dresden Codex, also known as the Codex
Dresdensis, is a pre-Columbian Maya book of the
eleventh or twelfth century of the Yucatecan Maya in
Chichén Itzá. This Maya codex is believed to be a copy
of an original text of some three or four hundred years
earlier. It is the oldest book written in the Americas
known to historians. Of the hundreds of books that
were used in Mesoamerica before the Spanish
conquest, it is one of only 15 that have survived to the
present day.

The Dresden Codex consists of 39 sheets, inscribed on
both sides, with an overall length of 3.56 metres (11.7
feet). Originally, the manuscript had been folded in
accordion folds. Today, it is exhibited in two parts,
each of them approximately 1.8 metres (5.9 feet) long,
at the museum of the Saxon State Library in Dresden,
Germany. The document has played a key role in the
decipherment of Mayan hieroglyphs.


Johann Christian Götze, Director of the Royal Library

How Ida Solved the Puzzle
Quiz #475 Results
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Answers to Quiz #475- May 10, 2015
1. What is the name and significance of this?
2. Where is it kept?
3. What do the images depict?
TinEye Advisory
You can find this photo on,
but the quiz will be a lot more fun if you solve the puzzle on your own.
1.  Madrid Codex.  It is the longest known surviving Maya codex.
2.  The Museo Arqueolgico Nacional, Spain.
3.  The content of the Madrid Codex mainly consists of almanacs and
horoscopes that were used to help Maya priests in the performance of their
ceremonies and divinatory rituals.
Comments from Our Readers
I don't typically do well with this type of quiz.  I am proud of myself as I stuck
with it.  I was pretty sure it was Mayan, but couldn't find quite the right head
pieces in the Dresden Codex.  I knew the numbering system was correct with the
bars and dots.  The Paris one was not quite right either.

Finally, I found it in the Madrid codices.  Then, I went on to look at the Grolier
(named for a club in which in was first shown in New York, 1972) codices.  Pretty
neat that these are named after the cities (except Grolier) in which they can be
found today.  The Grolier one is questionable and very poor condition as compared
to the others.
Judy Pfaff
This is a fascinating subject.  Much to be learned and deciphered, but lots of good
information available. Exploration tells me that the quiz image shows page 41 of the
Madrid Codex ( Its
main images are to do with hunting and there are also numbers given by bars (=5)
and dots (=1). The Mayan numbering system was base 20 and they had two
calendars, one of 260 days and another of 365
( There is a
great site ( where it is possible to search the
meanings of glyphs in all four codices. In the case of the quiz image, a frame near
top left is described a "A hunter uses a rope to truss a captured deer". Using the site
search I could investigate more frames on this image, but I'll leave that to others.
The coding on the site is still in progress.

I was initially diverted by the fact that the quiz image appeared to be of a document
with two distinct holes. I've now decided that this isn't the case.  The image
originates from Wikipedia Commons, courtesy of Simon Burchell

There you can see a sequence of photographs of the museum's facsimile copy. And
several show what look like curious holes. They aren't. They are reflections of the
museum's lighting in the protective casing of the facsimile.  But this is only
apparent when looking at the image set, rather than a single image.
Megan Neilson
My first impression of this image was of a Mayan codex. Since there are only four
which survive, it was a matter of determining which one the image came from.
Looked at the Dresden codex first. No matching images. Looked at the Paris codex
next. No matching images. Googled images for the Madrid codex and found the
image. Info for images obtained from
Tony Knapp
I was sure it had something to do with the Maya. I did a little googling and this is
what I found.
Gus Marsh
several sad things about the Mayan civilization, before and after the New Spain
times. I don't know if we'll ever solve half its mysteries.

I learned the Mayan numeric system in grade school. I don't think the system in
Mexico does so nowadays, and surely the American schools never did. It's been
quite useful and a piece of knowledge that should be general and universal, not on
the verge of extinction.
Ida Sanchez
N.B.  I learned to add and subtract on an abacus when I was in first grade.  It's
odd now that I look back at it. But I am glad that I did. Besides helping me learn
math, knowledge of the abacus should be general and universal, and not on the
verge of extinction either.

Besides, if you travel to the Far East and eat in a restaurant, they usually
calculate your bill on an abacus and then check the math with a calculator.

Q. Gen.
It is amazing looking at the number of everyday items that we take for granted and
realize that they have been around for many, many years!!!!!!!!!

What does this say about saving early computers? Cell phones? What will
computers and cell phones look like in fifty years or so?  
Grace Hertz
It was a bit of a struggle at first trying to figure out which of the four codices this
came from and I had to do quite a bit of Googling before finally figuring it out. So,
yes one can really lose respect for the Spanish and others who either stood by or
directly participated in the destruction of ancient artifacts. One such case which
comes to mind from recent years is Iraq and the destruction of the country's
cultural heritage during the 10-year US-led war. The troops in Iraq were "ordered"
by the powers that be to stand by and permit the ransacking of the National
Museum in Iraq, which was the greatest collection of archaeological and historical
artifacts in the Middle East. The museum was picked clean by looters and
irreplaceable artifacts were stolen or destroyed and some of them dated 5,000
years. This is heartbreaking and totally unacceptable especially in this day and age!
So, I truly do understand your comment about losing respect for the Spanish.

In terms of my (p.s.) to you regarding Leonardo, it was "tongue in cheek" as when
I Googled The Madrid Codex at one point I saw reference to the Codex Madrid
(Leonardo), and I found it odd that the names were so similar.  Turns  out that
Leonardo created 2 codices or manuscripts that were discovered in the Biblioteca
Nacional de Espana in Madrid in 1966. The first one was finished in late 1400's and
the second was finished in the early 1500's. So, in answer to your question.....I'd
have to say that no, Leonardo was never in Central America in the 1500's. The
codices were brought to Spain by Pompeo Leoni, who was a sculptor in the court
of Philip II. Interestingly enough these codices changed hands a few times over the
years and at one point were owned by Juan de Espina, who was described as "a
gentleman who lives alone in a mansion in Madrid; his servants are wooden
automata'. What a strange description of a man! That statement in and of itself
demands some research. LOL

Anyway, this was an interesting quiz and because of it I learned about all kinds of
Mayan codices and as an extra bonus, I learned of the Codex Madrid (Leonardo).

I will check out the link to the glyphs. Thank you for that.
Cindy Costigan
I consider [the loss of the Mayan library] a tragedy on the level of the destruction
of the library in Alexandria.
Janice Sellers

Congratulations to Our Winners!

Judy Pfaff                Megan Neilsen
Tony Knapp                Margaret Paxton
Gus Marsh                Ellen Welker
Janice Sellers                Chris Martinzez
Yvonne Liser                Cindy Costigan
Ida Sanchez

Grace Hertz and Mary Turner
The Fabulous Fletchers!
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I recognized the mayan numbers on the image, so I first searched for
Maya stelae (in Spanish) without success. Then I realized the images
were too neat to have been sculpted, so  I switched languages and
wording. "preserved mayan painting" did give me another image that
looked similar in context and style. That led me to the Wikipedia
article about Mayan art, and scrolling down I found that leading
image and it said "Madrid Codex". Googling it directly provided all the
info, and scrolling in the image section I found this part, as well as
the translator for the whole codex. And the fact that it is in Madrid
explains why I had never seen it before, since I've visited a fairly
good amount of Mayan places as well as the National Museum of
Anthropology in Mexico.

Ida Sanchez
Copy of the Madrid Codex on display at the Museo de América in Madrid.
Madrid Codex
The Madrid Codex (also known as the Tro-Cortesianus Codex or the Troano Codex)
is one of three surviving pre-Columbian Maya books dating to the Postclassic Period of
Mesoamerican chronology (c. 900–1521 AD). The Madrid Codex is held by the Museo
de América in Madrid and is considered to be the most important piece in its collection.
However, the original is not on display due to its fragility; a faithful copy is displayed in
its stead.

Physlcal Characteristics

The Codex was made from a long strip of amate paper that was folded up accordion-
style. This paper was then coated with a thin layer of fine stucco, which was used as
the painting surface. The complete document consists of 56 sheets painted on both
sides to produce a total of 112 pages. The Troano is the larger part, consisting of 70
pages comprising pages 22–56 and 78–112. It takes its name from Juan Tro y
Ortolano, its original owner. The remaining 42 pages were originally known as the
Cortesianus Codex, and include pages 1–21 and 57–77. Each page measures roughly
23.2 by 12.2 centimetres (9.1 by 4.8 in).


The Madrid Codex is the longest of the surviving Maya codices. The content of the
Madrid Codex mainly consists of almanacs and horoscopes that were used to help

Click on thumbnail to
see a detailed images
of the pages of the
Madrid Codex.
Maya priests in the performance of their ceremonies
and divinatory rituals. The codex also contains
astronomical tables, although less than are found in the
other two surviving Maya codices. Some of the
content is likely to have been copied from older Maya
books. Included in the codex is a description of the
New Year ceremony.

The Codex is stylistically uniform, leading Coe and
Kerr to suggest that it was the work of a single scribe.
Closer analysis of glyphic elements suggests that a
number of scribes were involved in its production,
perhaps as many as eight or nine, who produced
consecutive sections of the manuscript. The religious
content of the codex makes it likely that the scribes
themselves were members of the priesthood. It is
likely that the codex was passed down from priest to
priest and that each priest that received the book added
a section in their own hand.

The images in the Madrid Codex depict rituals such as
human sacrifice and invoking rainfall as well as
everyday activities such as beekeeping, hunting, warfare and weaving.


The Codex was discovered in Spain in the 1860s; it was divided into two parts of
differing sizes that were found in different locations. The Codex receives its alternate
name of the Tro-Cortesianus Codex after the two parts that were separately discovered.
Early Mayanist scholar Léon de Rosny realised that both fragments were part of the
same book. The larger fragment, the Troano Codex, was published with an erroneous
translation in 1869–1870 by French scholar Charles Étienne Brasseur de Bourbourg,
who found it in the possession of Juan de Tro y Ortolano in Madrid in 1866 and first
identified it as a Maya book. Ownership of the Troano Codex passed to the Museo
Arqueológico Nacional ("National Archaeological Museum") in 1888.

Madrid resident Juan de Palacios tried to sell the smaller fragment, the Cortesianus
Codex, in 1867. The Museo Arqueológico Nacional acquired the Cortesianus Codex
from book-collector José Ignacio Miró in
1872. Miró claimed to have recently
purchased the codex in Extremadura.
Extremadura is the province from which
Francisco de Montejo and many of his
conquistadors came, as did Hernán
Cortés, the conqueror of Mexico. It is
therefore possible that one of these
conquistadors brought the codex to Spain;
the director of the Museo Arqueológico
Nacional named the Cortesianus Codex
after Hernán Cortés, supposing that he
himself had brought the codex to Spain.
Rain-bringing snakes, Madrid Codex
Mayan Codices
Maya codices (singular codex) are folding books stemming from the pre-Columbian
Maya civilization, written in Maya hieroglyphic script on Mesoamerican bark cloth,
made from the inner bark of certain trees, the main being the wild fig tree or amate
(Ficus glabrata). Paper of this sort, generally known by the Nahuatl word āmatl
/ˈaːmat͡ɬ/, was named by the Mayas huun. The folding books are the products of
professional scribes working under the patronage of deities such as the Tonsured Maize
God and the Howler Monkey Gods. The Maya developed their huun-paper around the
5th century, which is roughly the same time that the codex became predominant over
the scroll in the Roman world. However, Maya paper was more durable and a better
writing surface than papyrus. The codices have been named for the cities where they
eventually settled. The Dresden codex is generally considered the most important of the
few that survive.

Our knowledge of ancient Maya thought must represent only a tiny fraction of the
whole picture, for of the thousands of books in which the full extent of their learning
and ritual was recorded, only four have survived to modern times (as though all that
posterity knew of ourselves were to be based upon three prayer books and Pilgrim's
—Michael D. Coe
The Dresden Codex
at Dresden, purchased the codex from a private owner in Vienna in 1739. It was
described, at the time of acquisition, as a "Mexican book." How it came to Vienna is
unknown. It is speculated that it was sent by Hernán Cortés as a tribute to King Charles
I of Spain in 1519. Charles had appointed Cortés governor and captain general of the
newly conquered Mexican territory. The codex has been in Europe ever since.

Six pages (55-59, 74) of Codex B depicting eclipses (left),
multiplication tables and a flood (right)
The Paris Codex
The Paris Codex (also known as the
Codex Peresianus and Codex Pérez)[2] is
one of three surviving generally accepted
pre-Columbian Maya books dating to the
Postclassic Period of Mesoamerican
chronology (c. 900–1521 AD).[3] The
document is very poorly preserved and
has suffered considerable damage to the
page edges, resulting in the loss of some
of the text. The codex largely relates to a
cycle of thirteen 20-year k'atuns and
includes details of Maya astronomical

The Paris Codex is generally considered to
have been painted in western Yucatán, probably at Mayapan. It has been tentatively
dated to around 1450, in the Late Postclassic period (AD 1200–1525). More recently an
earlier date of 1185 has been suggested, placing the document in the Early Postclassic
(AD 900-1200). However, the astronomical and calendrical information within the
codex are consistent with a Classic period cycle from AD 731 to 987 indicating that the
codex may be a copy of a much earlier document.

The Paris Codex is currently held at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris, in the
Département des Manuscrits, catalogued as Mexicain 386.


The content of the codex is mainly ritual in nature, and one side of the codex contains
the patron deities and associated rituals for a cycle of thirteen k'atuns (a 20-year Maya
calendrical cycle). One fragment contains animals that
represent astronomical signs along the ecliptic including a
scorpion and a peccary; fragments of this Maya "zodiac"
are depicted on two pages of the codex. Some pages of the
codex are marked with annotations made with Latin

On one side of the codex the general format of each page
largely follows the same arrangement, with a standing
figure on the left hand side and a seated figure on the right
hand side. Each page also contains the ajaw day glyph
combined with a numerical coefficient, in each case
representing a date marking the final day of a calendrical
cycle. In spite of the poor state of preservation of the
document, enough text has survived to demonstrate that in
the case of the Paris Codex, the main series of dates
correspond to k'atun-endings, allowing for the
reconstruction of some of the lost date glyphs in the text.
The seated figures are each associated with a sidereal glyph
indicating that they represent the ruling deity of each k'atun.
Page 3 of the Paris
Codex, displaying the
typical combination of a
standing and a seated
The reverse of the codex is more varied in nature and includes a section dedicated to a
calendrical cycle ruled by Chaac, the god of rain. A set of two pages illustrates the days
of the tzolk'in 260-day cycle that correspond to the beginning of the solar year over a
period of 52 years (a cycle of the Calendar Round). The final two pages of the codex
depict a series of thirteen animals that represent the so-called "zodiac".