Heaven and earth in ancient Mexico: Astronomy and seasonal cycles in the Codex Borgia.
Heaven and earth in ancient Mexico: Astronomy and seasonal cycles in the Codex Borgia is major new interpretation of the enigmatic middle section of the Codex Borgia. Milbrath demonstrates that this ancient painted text is the most important historical record of pre-Columbian astronomy and natural history in central Mexico.
Her innovative interpretation incorporates a reappraisal of the dates and imagery in a unique narrative passage that has been the subject of scholarly debate for generations. Decoding the imagery in the Borgia narrative allows a new understanding of the way astronomy was integrated with annual cycle of the festival calendar. Reading the Calendar Round dates in companion almanacs as historical records, the author sets the narrative in historical context.
These dates are associated with imagery that are related to changing seasonal rainfall and the festivals celebrated at different times of year to ensure rainfall at appropriate times of year. The book includes an analysis of the seasonal cycle of rainfall and maize, and its relationship to the late Postclassic (1325-1520) festival calendar shared throughout Central Mexico.
The author demonstrates that this account records actual observations of astronomical events and observations of seasonal cycles on earth involving plants, animals, and rainfall. The interpretations focus on Post Classic imagery of the three most important astronomical bodies in Mexico: the Sun, Moon, and Venus as manifested in the Borgia Group codices and the broader sphere of Aztec iconography. The narrative focuses on the transformation of Venus in relation to the solar cycle, tracking Venus events in concert with the equinoxes and solstices, and the periods when Venus made its underworld journey in conjunction with the sun. Significantly, the narrative records a time when Venus was seen to go through its phase transformations at key points in the solar cycle in a year (1496) of a solar eclipse, the only total eclipse recorded in late Postclassic Aztec sources.