New Book: Astronomy in the Maya Codices

Astronomy in the Maya Codices
Harvey M. Bricker and Victoria R. Bricker
Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society
Volume 65 — $75.00
936 pp. (28 front matter, 908 text)
ISBN 978-0-87169-265-8

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The Precolumbian Maya were closely attuned to the movements of the Sun and Moon, the stars and planets. Their rituals and daily tasks were performed according to a timetable established by these celestial bodies, based on a highly comples calendar system. Agriculture provided the foundation for their civilization, and the skies served as a kind of farmer’s almanac for when to plant and when to harvest. In this remarkable volume, noted Maya scholars Harvey Bricker and Victoria Bricker offer invaluable insight into the complex world of the Precolumbian Maya, and in particular the amazing achievements of Maya astronomy, as revealed in the Maya codices, the indigenous hieroglyphic books written before the Spanish Conquest. This far-reaching study confirms that, independent of the Old World traditions that gave rise to modern Western astronomy, the Precolumbian Maya achieved a sophisticated knowledge of astronomy based on observations recorded over centuries.


Astronomy in the Maya Codices is the first thorough treatise on the codices since Thompson’s A Commentary on the Dresden Codex four decades ago. The Brickers’ work is special in that it gives a complete account of the historical background of scholarly inquiries into each of the instruments they deal with. The Brickers attempt to place each codical instrument in real time, an approach they uniquely develop and fully justify. This work will remain the ‘last word’ on the role of astronomy in the codices and in Maya thought for a long time to come.”
Anthony F. Aveni
Russell Colgate Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy and
Anthropology and Native American Studies
Colgate University

Astronomy in the Maya Codices represents a compilation of almost three decades of scholarly research conducted by the Brickers, reflecting a unique collaboration that combines their respective areas of expertise in linguistics, epigraphy, and astronomy. Their book is the most comprehensive treatment of the Maya codices to date, and is likely to remain a classic for years to come.”
Susan Milbrath
Curator of Latin American Art and Archaeology
Florida Museum of Natural History

Astronomy in the Maya Codices is simply a tour de force. The breadth and depth of Harvey and Victoria Bricker’s research on the Maya codices and the accessibility of their writing style make this important book a ‘must read’ for a host of constituencies, from scholars of the Maya to astronomers to the interested general public.”
Jeremy A. Sabloff
President, Santa Fe Institute