Sunday, January 29, 2012

“History of Mexico” by Juan de Tovar, 17th Century

God Quetzalcoatl

Juan de Tovar, also known as the “Mexican Ciceron”, was the son of a Spaniard conqueror, arrived to Americas with the expedition of Pánfilo de Narvaez to explore and conquer the territories of gulf of Mexico, taking lands between actual Tampa (Florida) to Mississippi river for Carlos V of Spain.
Juan de Tovar entered the Jesuit order in 1573 and spent his life doing missionary work in Mexico, learning local languages like náhuatl, otomí and mazahua. After collecting all pre-Columbian Aztec codexes he could, he started their transcription, helped by natives.
This spectacular codex, “History of Mexico”, contains detailed information about the rites and ceremonies of the Aztecs; painted illustrations of mexican scenes, indian dances, and history. As main characteristic, this codex includes an elaborate comparison of the Aztec year with the Christian calendar. There's another codex from Juan de Tovar, known as "Codex Ramirez" or "Tovar manuscript", very similar to his "History of Mexico", hosted at John Carter Library, Brown University (Rhode Island, US).
Image below represents the xocotl huetzi (xocotlhuetzi) ceremony, related to the collection of the fruits of the earth and the ritual death of plants. It involved cutting a tree and placing an image of the god on the top. Copal and food were then offered to the tree. Young men were encouraged to climb the tree to get the image and gain a reward. Four captives were sacrificed by being thrown into a fire and by having their hearts extracted.

xocotl huetzi (xocotlhuetzi) ceremony, that included human sacrifice
Aztec calendar (month of June)
Maxcala Idol
Aztec Calendar representation

Sunday, January 22, 2012

German Treatise on munitions and explosives (16th Century)

This manuscript is similar to the "Bombs and Explosives handbook" I published last October, link here. There're some big differences, as this codex has intensification on "rockets". Officially, the rocket artillery started in India, when Tipu Sultan introduced the first iron cased metal cylinder rocket. But this kind of artifacts were used also in China, without metal casing, as fire arrows.
This treatise has also an amazing proposal for the "new" war concept during 16th Century: the incredible use of trained dogs and even birds as moving bombs, see first image above. In our days, dolphins and orcas are still trained for military purposes (known as "dolphins of war") but governments only recognize these programs in relation to defense techniques like mine detection and equipment recovery. Anyway, returning to the manuscript, I couldn't find references about author. Has around 30 detailed illustrations, 240 leaves, and was written in 20-22 cursive lines format, with the frame ruled in red ink. Investigations revealed that was written in Germany in 1580.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A family legacy: The “Codex Manesse” (14th Century)

Heinrich Frauenlob (1250-1318), sometimes known as Henry of Meissen (Heinrich von Meißen), was a Middle High German poet and minnesinger. The nickname Frauenlob means "praise of women" or "praise of Our Lady".

The house of Manesse was in origin a family of merchants who prospered and became the most wealthy family of the medieval city of Zürich, seat on a castle near Leimbach –I couldn’t find photos or any reference about this castle on the internet, probably there are no visible remains on the surface nowadays-. The fortune of the family finally declined and the castle was sold around year 1393, passing into the possession of Selnau Abbey. The founder of the family was Rudigër Manesse. His son Rudigër II patronized this Codex which has been defined as the quintessence of European medieval poetry. It’s basically a compilation or, even betteran anthology of the works of 135 german troubadours (a.k.a. Minnesangers in german) from mid 12th to 14th century. The codex was commissioned between 1304 and 1340  and is richly illustrated: a total of 135 miniatures, representing each poet, ordered by social status, from emperors down trough kings, dukes… In medieval European tradition, a Knight wasn’t only a warrior, but also a poet -basic conditions to be “noble"-. So, at the end, miniatures depicts each “poet” or “troubadour” taking part in a joust, and in much cases participating in real battles.

Yellow Knight is Albrecht Von Rapperswil, wearing the rose of the counts of Rapperswill and of course winning the joust, breaking his lance due to the terrible impact with his opposite... Troubadour or warrior?

Reinmar von Zweter (born around 1200 in Zeutern, died after 1248) was a Middle High German poet. The iconography in the Manesse Codex suggests that he may have been blind, since he is the only person represented in the manuscript with closed eyes.
Walther von der Vogelweide (1170 –1230) is the most celebrated of the Middle High German lyric poets. I recommend visiting his BIO on wikipedia here.

Henry VI (1165-1197), emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. From 1194 until his death he was also King of Sicily.

King Conrad the Younger (a.k.a. Conradin) duke of swabia. Having assumed the title of King of Jerusalem and Sicily, Conradin took possession of the Duchy of Swabia in 1262

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Mayan drawings from Palenque (18th Century)

Stucco relief at Palenque, appears on the exterior face of Pier E in House A, part of the central complex of buildings known as the Maya Palace. See below photo to see this same relief nowadays.
The reason why this drawings remain scientifically useful. Photo taken in 2008. Reliefs are lost due to ambient exposure.
Antonio del Río (1745-1789) was a Spanish Captain assigned to the american administrative division in Spanish Imperium which covered much of Central America (including what are now the nations of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, and the Mexican state of Chiapas). Del Rio led the first “archaeological exploration” in the Americas. Undertaken in only two months (May-June, 1787), this expedition was performed under direct command of King Carlos III of Spain and originally oriented to investigate the Mayan complex of buildings located in Santo Domingo de Palenque (Ciudad Real de Chiapas, formerly Reyno de Guatemala), known as “the Mayan Palace”.
Antonio del Rio and his expedition spent around 2-3 weeks digging on site and then 4-5 weeks studying and documenting all findings. They made a complete report with around thirty drawings, remarkably accurate, that shows detail of all buildings and bas reliefs that have been lost due to ambient exposure since then. Del Río's manuscript has been preserved in the Museum of Americas in Madrid, Spain, but the drawings were only recently found in a private European collection.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

De re militari (15th Century)

Armored ship

Roberto Valturio (Rimini, Italy, 1405-1475), author, dedicated this military treatise to his Patron and Condottiero, Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta - popularly known as the “Wolf of Rimini”- and considered by his contemporaries as one of the most daring military leaders in Italy. Malatesta commanded Venetia military forces against the Ottonian Imperium. When the treatise was finished by Valturio, around 1465, Malatesta distributed copies to European and relevant rulers like Louis XI, Francesco Sforza, Lorenzo de Medici, etc. The codex served as compilation for war recommendable strategies, some of them really new and ingenious, like a draft for a four propellers submarine boat (first submarine designs were engineered more than 200 years later) or an inflatable device to avoid a soldier get sink when crossing defensive inundated pits. Valturio’s submarine proposal, on 15th Century, was probably the most striking drawing of this fascinating codex for me.
Only twenty-two handwritten copies survive to our days. Leonardo da Vinci was the owner of one manuscript, and based some of his drawings about military technology on this codex.

Over wheels attack "dragon-tower" equiped with canyons, based on trojan horse design

Combat wagon

four propeller submarine boat designed by Roberto Valturio

inflatable device to avoid a soldier get sink when crossing defensive inundated pits