Only 4 Texts Remain from the Maya Civilization After Thousands Were Destroyed

Despite the fact that we are not very far removed from their heyday, we know very little about Maya civilization.

And it’s not because the Maya weren’t into recording their history.

The Maya were prolific writers and actually evolved from using scrolls to a form of folded paper called the codex right around the same time as the Romans, though each appears to be independent of the other.

Photo Credit: Nova

The Romans had papyrus, and the Maya had what they called “huun,” made from the inner layer of the bark of certain trees.

Before that, the Maya were making fabric for tunics out of the bark, and the process evolved to paper after more and more people started using the tunics as makeshift scrolls.

Maya glyphs and the records of the Spanish conquistadors themselves attest to thousands of these codices existing by the time the two cultures met in the 16th century. But, due to their being destroyed by priests, conquistadors, ship raiders, and even time and mold, only about 22 codices, of which only four have Maya origin, exist today.

None of them are complete, and none have their original covers.

There’s the Dresden Codex:

Photo Credit: World Digital Library

It’s perhaps the most elaborate of all the codices:

Photo Credit: World Digital Library

Photo Credit: World Digital Library

The Madrid Codex:

Photo Credit: Michel wal

The Madrid Codex is almost double the size of the Dresden Codex, at over 22 feet long:

Photo Credit: Simon Burchell

The Madrid Codex’s 112 pages were split into two volumes which were found in different places.

The Paris Codex:

Photo Credit: gallica.bnf.fr

At just under five feet and 22 pages, one might be lured into thinking that the Paris Codex doesn’t contain much of note:

Especially given the condition…