Codex Colombino


This document was created to record the 11th-century military and political feats of the Mixtec Lord Eight-Deer (also known as Tiger Claw) as well as those of another ruler, Four-Wind, along with the religious ceremonies marking these feats. The codex, thought to have been created in the 12th century, was acquired by the National Museum around 1891 and was reproduced in 1892. The life of Eight-Deer, depicted in all pre-Hispanic Mixtec codices known to exist, included his conquests of two important Mixtec domains: Tilantongo and Tututepec. Through this and other conquests and the marital alliances he promoted, Eight-Deer achieved political unification among the numerous Mixtec domains of the Post-Classical period. The eminent Mexican archaeologist and historian Alfonso Caso (1896-1970), a pioneer in the study of pre-Hispanic cultures in the area of Oaxaca, demonstrated that this codex and the Becker I Codex (in the Museum für Völkerkunde in Vienna, Austria) are fragments of a single codex. Caso’s assemblage can be seen in Miguel León-Portilla’s 1996 edition of the codices, in which the fragments were reunited for the first time and named, in honor of the grand master, the Alfonso Caso Codex.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Códice Colombino

Type of Item

Physical Description

Tanned deer hide folded into screen form, painted on one side. 24 sections divided into four fragments (pages 1-15, 17-19, 20-24, and 16). The beginning, the end, and some intermediate pages are missing. Approximately 18.5 X 605.5 centimeters


  • This codex has a historical theme, depicted in a linear form, although the episodes are not easily comprehended given their intricate symbolism. The reading orientation of the codex is organized through horizontal strips, which go from the bottom to the top of the codex in a ‘zigzag’ fashion. It starts from the bottom-left and runs to the right. When the strip reaches the right side of the screen, it is then read from the right to the left, and continues this pattern all the way to the top. Once the script reaches the top, it goes down the next page in a similar fashion. The figures depicted on the codex lack perspective, a feature of pre-Hispanic illustration; objects have a black outline and the colors of the painting are rich and varied, although they are now somewhat deteriorated.
  • The painting contains annotations in Mixtec written in Latin characters, probably added in 1541, the year that is noted in them. These annotations reference the population boundaries of the Mixtec, in Oaxaca, without any direct relation to the content of the codex. The codex was used in 1717 in a land dispute lawsuit between the towns of Tututepec and Sola. There still exists documentation of this lawsuit along with a description of the codex in the General Archive of the Nation.

Last updated: May 24, 2017