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Techialoyan Manuscript: text in Nahuatl on 16 leaves, and illustrated with 23 full-page drawings, written on amate (fig tree bark) paper
from Santa Maria Itztacapan. Mexico, 17th century

To an extent, the civilizations of Asia, Africa and Europe had always had some links through ancient trade routes and contacts, long before formal exploration or voyages around Africa or to the Far East. But the cultures of Central and South America were entirely new to the conquistadors and the news of the discovery of people living in the New World caused a sensation throughout the Old.

The Aztec civilization of Mexico was one of astonishing sophistication. The Aztecs, established in the Valley of Mexico in the 14th century, were highly literate with a pictorial script and some phonetic writing. Cortés undertook the conquest of Aztec Mexico in 1519 and in 1521 conquered the empire of Montezuma. Subsequently, the conquistadors, the Catholic clergy and the Inquisition all contributed to the annihilation of Aztec civilization. The Aztec archives were burned, therefore surviving examples of Indian Codices are of exceptional interest. Although this manuscript claims to date from the early 1500's, it is part of a group of manuscripts actually created in the following century using old methods. It is part of the so-called Techialoyan group of village records recreated to substantiate land claims with the Spanish regional authorities. The present manuscript says that it was composed by an Aztec Indian notary named Don Andrés at a gathering of town officials in Santa Maria Iztacapan (probably in the modern state of Hidalgo). The purpose of this meeting, the document asserts, was to record the land holdings granted by "our great ruler" [tohueytlatocatzin] Don Antonio de Mendoza (Viceroy of New Spain 1535-40).

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