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Mesoamerican Iconography and Ideology



Admission to BA2.


Analysis of ancient Mexican pictorial manuscripts and related visual art, dealing with history and society of Postclassic Mesoamerica, including a brief explanation of the Mesoamerican calendar (see also and a specific analysis of Mixtec historical narrative. Introduction to the department’s on-going research projects on Mesoamerican pictorial manuscripts and calendar and Mixtec language and culture.


  • Is able to interpret characteristic scenes from the ancient Mexican historical pictorial manuscripts;

  • Understands the mechanism of the Mesoamerican calendar;

  • Has overview knowledge of the contents of the ancient Mexican historical pictorial manuscripts and of current research projects on these manuscripts;

  • Has an insight into the principles and interdisciplinary methods, like iconographic analyses, of interpreting the ancient visual art and writing systems;

  • Is able to discuss various interpretations in class.


Interactive class with assignments and reports (using blackboard).


Practical knowledge and insight will be tested through assignments during the course, and discussion during the class. Overview knowledge will be tested through written examination at the end of the term, with open questions about the matters dealt with in class and in the literature, and with a number of pictorial scenes to be interpreted by the student.



  • M.E.R.G.N. Jansen & G.A. Pérez: Codex Bodley. A Painted Chronicle from the Mixtec Highlands, Oxford 2005;

  • Bruce Trigger, Understanding Early Civilizations. Cambridge University Press, 2003;

  • Reproductions of pictorial manuscripts in the library and on the internet (