General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 18 Mar 2019/7 Flint
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Can you identify this object from the Florentine Codex?

ORIGINAL QUESTION received from - and thanks to - Lon: Would it be possible for you to identify an object in one of the Aztec illustrations? The object looks like a piece of cord with some little barrel like objects around it, kind of like a necklace. The illustration title is ‘An Aztec trial; Florentine Codex, Book 8’. Just want to know what it is. It looks similar to some of the objects depicted in the Voynich Manuscript. Thanks. (Answered/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

The original image: an Aztec trial, from the Florentine Codex Book 8
The original image: an Aztec trial, from the Florentine Codex Book 8 (Click on image to enlarge)

We’re certain it shows precious stones tied together with cord. In the scene in question (see left) a criminal is brought before a judge (right), and whilst the Codex doesn’t specifically say what the objects are in front of the judge, we find excellent clues from the text and images nearby in Book 8. A similar corded greenstone is shown and mentioned in connection with the ruler placing bets on the outcome of both the hugely popular board game patolli and the ritual ballgame ullamaliztli -
’And all which the ruler was to wager in the game - the valued capes... the green stone lip plugs, the golden ear plugs, the green stone necklaces... the wrist bands with large, precious, green stones upon them...’

Goods displayed in the market place, Florentine Codex Book 8
Goods displayed in the market place, Florentine Codex Book 8 (Click on image to enlarge)

Perhaps the best clue is this: in describing all the goods for sale in the huge Aztec market of Tlatelolco, the Codex writers tell us (in Chapter 19 of the same book) -
’If someone sold stolen goods - perchance a costly cape or a green stone - if it were made known and he did not declare from whom he had bought that which had been stolen, they went to exact the penalty, and he died. Such was the sentence of the lords and judges, so that [men] would be fearful of that which was stolen and no one would buy it.’
In the image of market goods (see right), precisely where the above text comes, we see, lo and behold, a costly cape and green stones on a cord - and a man pointing specifically to these items for some reason.
So our guess is either a necklace or a wrist band of precious green stones!

Images from the Florentine Codex (original in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence) scanned from our own copy of the Club Internacional del Libro 3-volume facsimile edition, Madrid, 1994.

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Mexicolore replies: Fascinating stuff! Yes, it certainly looks like coincidence. Thanks very much for flagging it up.