Among the great intelectual goals achieved by the mixtec prehispanic artists the pictographic writing showed great versatility and was full of aesthetic beauty. These documents represented their conceptual order and structural meaning, thus they were part of their daily life for centuries till they were forgotten in the second half of the 16th Century. Nevertheless, in the palaces and temples of the Mixtec área in Oaxaca, this writing lasted around sixty years after the Conquest when the alphabetic latin writing was used in Mixtec and Náhuatl texts.
The Yanhuitlán Codex was made in the 16th Century in a different format: instead of using a typical folding document, it was made like an European Codex. Using pictographs it is remarkable how they included themes from the Colonial period. It is clear they intended to create a modern mixtec book, following the new customs in order to paint a message to be interpreted by the Mixtec lords and the Spaniards.
This Codex is one of the most famous pictographic documents from the Mixtec culture, a testimony of the dramatic episodes during the colonization in that area; it describes historical and economical events that took place from 1532 to 1556. It also let us understand what people had to do in order to find a new sense to their lifes under the new conditions.
The José María Lafragua Historical Library (BUAP) shares the 26 pictures under its custody that belonged to the Fine Arts Academy in Puebla around 1891. Other 14 pictures that belonged to the same codex are nowadays under the custody of the Archivo General de la Nación (Mexican General National Archive) and the Francisco de Burgoa Library (UABJO) in Oaxaca; eight and six pictures respectively.
Abstract from a text made in 2014 by Sebastián van Doesburg for the book Códice de Yanhuitlán (in press).

Scan of front side


  • Title: Codex Yanhuitlán Page 7r
  • Creator: Indigenous of Yanhuitlán
  • Date: 1500/1699, 1500/1699
  • Location: Yanhuitlán, Oaxaca, Yanhuitlán, Oaxaca
  • Featured Website: Original site, Codex Yanhuitlan

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