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Last page of the Codex Boturini

‘Codex Corner’: the last page of the Codex Boturini

Shown here (right) is the end of the Codex Boturini, also known as the Tira de la Peregrinación (Pilgrimage Scoll), a uniquely precious and valuable manuscript that tells the story of the journey of the Mexica (Aztec) people from Aztlán to the Basin of Mexico. It is kept proudly in the Biblioteca Nacional de Antropología e Historia in Mexico City. Some years ago we prepared a ‘key’ for reading the famous first page (follow link below) with its rich detail of the departure from Aztlán in 1168 CE. In contrast, the last page only features two, very similar and plain-looking characters. Who are they, where are they heading, and what are they carrying? (Compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Aztec warriors discuss their mission as mercenaries of the Colhua king: to cut off the ears or noses of their Xochimilcan enemies; Codex Boturini, p. XXI (detail)
Aztec warriors discuss their mission as mercenaries of the Colhua king: to cut off the ears or noses of their Xochimilcan enemies; Codex Boturini, p. XXI (detail) (Click on image to enlarge)

The narrative of the Codex comes to an abrupt end, interrupting the relating of the war between the city-states of Colhuacan and Xochimilco, in which the Mexica fought on the side of the Colhua people. We don’t know why the narrative ends, inconclusively, at this point. Clearly the document wasn’t damaged in any way, the narration simply stops.
On the previous page, the Colhua king Coxcoxtli calls on the Aztecs to capture 8,000 Xochimilcan warriors, and to prove it by bringing back the corresponding number of ears. Instead of ears, the Mexica decide to cut off their prisoners’ noses, and the two Aztec warriors shown here are setting off, obsidian blades to hand, to fulfil this gruesome mission. The bags are to be filled with human ears or noses!

Page XXII of the Codex Boturini, in the Biblioteca Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico City
Page XXII of the Codex Boturini, in the Biblioteca Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico City (Click on image to enlarge)

Intriguingly, at the foot of the final page on the original, shown here (right) (the other images, above, were scanned from a hand-drawn facsimile of the Codex, in a private collection) there remains to this day a ‘sticky note’ attached to the Codex when it was exhibited in the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, London, in 1824 as part of the exhibition ‘Ancient and Modern Mexico’, assembled by William Bullock following his excursion to Mexico in 1823. At least the caption attempts to do the manuscript due justice, ending with the words ‘it is considered in Mexico as the most perfect and valuable one of the kind extant’. The exhibition itself has since been hailed as ‘the first exhibition of pre-Columbian antiquities anywhere in the world’.

Info and last image scanned from:-
• ‘Tira de la Peregrinación (Códice Boturini)’, Arqueología Mexicana, Special Edition no. 26 (Dec. 2007); introductory study by Patrick Johansson K. Image from the collection of the Biblioteca Nacional de Antropología e Historia.

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on Apr 19th 2020

emoticon Q. What did the Mexica warriors say to the messenger, sent by the Colhua king to check the contents of their shoulder-bags?
A. Don’t be so bloody nosey!

Codex Boturini, page 1 - a key

Watch a short, musical INAH video on the Codex Boturini and the ancient process of amate paper making
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