General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 22 Sep 2017/11 Vulture
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Mixtec Lords agree

Deal? Done!

Stick-up? Hold-up? Frame-up? No, we’re on the same side...!
Far from a dispute of any kind, these two Mixtec Lords are in fact showing they’ve struck a deal. (Written/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

The scene in the original Codex Colombino
The scene in the original Codex Colombino (Click on image to enlarge)

Lord 10-Wind, on the left, is actually making a request gesture and Lord 4-Jaguar is signalling his acceptance. They feature in one of the precious few pre-Columbian Mixtec codices to have survived the Spanish Conquest. Called the Codex Colombino-Becker, it has ended up divided into 7 fragments (with 4 additional segments still being lost), split between two countries (Mexico and Austria) and bearing different names. Its contents is entirely historical events: basically it tells the story of the famous Mixtec leader Lord 8-Deer.

So just what IS the pistol-like object in the middle? Your guess is as good as ours...
So just what IS the pistol-like object in the middle? Your guess is as good as ours... (Click on image to enlarge)

As part of her meticulous [super-detailed] study of the contents of the Codex, Nancy Troike looked at the nature and shapes of all hands shown in the manuscript. This showed that hands were pictured in only 3 forms: pointing, flat, or busy holding an object. By checking all the examples in the codex very carefully, she noticed that two gestures often appeared to occur reciprocally [in pairs] when figures were shown meeting face to face.

She concluded that ‘figures giving gestures in the horizontal zone are making a request, while those showing gestures in the upward range are accepting that request and agreeing to carry out the desires of the other person.’ The example here ‘shows one of Lord 8-Deer’s supporters, Lord 10-Wind, making a request gesture and Lord 4-Jaguar responding with the acceptance gesture.’

What did they agree to? We’ll probably never know! As Nancy Troike writes: ‘These specifics, which would of course be different for each historical situation, were already stored in the minds of the trained readers who had learned the story of Lord 8-Deer in this codex.’ The gestures worked simply as what experts call ‘mnemonic guides’ to the meaning in the scenes - in other words, memory aids.

• Main picture scanned - and information adapted - from Postures and Gestures in the Mixtec Codices by Nancy P. Troike, in The Art and Iconography of Late Post-Classic Central Mexico, A Conference at Dumbarton Oaks (1977), Eds. Elizabeth Benson and Elizabeth Hill Boone, Trustees for Harvard University, 1982
• Colour image scanned from our copy of the 1966 Sociedad Mexicana de Antropología, Mexico, facsimile edition (folio X)

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Here's what others have said:

Mexicolore replies: OK! Many thanks for this - you may well be right...
Mexicolore replies: Could well be. Perhaps the rope-like object above could represent ‘tying up’ a deal: so these two were agreeing a trade in tobacco?!