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Digital Resources: Digital Mesoamerica

Summary and Keywords

Mesoamerica is a culture zone that stretches geographically from approximately north-central Mexico into the northwestern half of Central America. Human occupation of this region dates back thousands of years. The end of the Post-Classic Period (c. 1519) is marked by the invasion of the region by Europeans, who were looking to extract goods, services, and taxes from the Mesoamerican peoples. Spanish occupation stretched into the early 19th century. Neocolonial Mesoamerica, of the 19th and 20th centuries, came to experience increasing influences from the United States, Britain, Germany, and other external powers. The past two centuries have also been marked by a continuing local control by a minority, Euro-originating elite over a majority, indigenous population, even as what we once knew as Mesoamerica faded from view. The division between these ethnicities has grown somewhat less clear as a result of the increasing mixed-heritage mestizo or ladino population across the region. Authoritarian regimes marked much of the 20th century, and civilian rule (still without much or any indigenous participation) came at the end of that century, continuing up to the present. But police and military authorities remain present, concerned with internal dissent and unrest at least as much as external threats.

For the present purposes, Digital Mesoamerica has as its focus the region’s indigenous cultures and their histories. Shared cultural traits in the pre-contact era—such as the calendars, glyphic writing, the ball court, human sacrifice, certain legends and religious beliefs, agricultural methods, art, and technologies—set off the many peoples of Mesoamerica from other parts of the Americas. The history of the culture zone is rich for exploring the rise of civilizations, social, economic, and political systems, gender ideologies and practices, religions, land tenure and agricultural systems, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, calendrics, and language diversity (among many other themes). Colonization and its dimensions—such as the impact of epidemic disease, the nature of hybrid religions, evolving tribute and labor systems, struggles over land, efforts to defend some measure of local autonomy, and more—is another arena of great scholarly interest. Contemporary studies are marked by human rights and cultural survival issues, ethnography, mining and other environmental crises, and fair trade, among many other topics.

The most popular and numerous digital resources supporting research and teaching related to Mesoamerican cultures and their histories tend to center on indigenous-authored manuscripts and maps, some of them pre-contact and most of them colonial. These sources are located primarily in Mexican, Guatemalan, U.S., and European repositories, where institutional funds are supporting the creation of open-access digital collections of such materials, along with audio demonstrating language use, videos of all kinds, educational units, and photographs of three-dimensional cultural heritage materials. We are also witnessing moves toward the aggregation of digital content across multiple repositories, such as we see with the World Digital Library, the Internet Archive, and the Getty Research Portal, among others, which increasingly represent Mesoamerica along with other regions of the world. Individuals are also submitting their full-text publications to such aggregators as, announcing their public talks and publications on listservs, Twitter, and Facebook pages, or creating their own robust, one-of-a-kind Web-based projects (with funding from host institutions or national endowments).

Keywords: Mesoamerica, indigenous, open-access, digital humanities, Wired Humanities Projects, Nahua, Nahuatl, Aztec, Mixtec, Zapotec, P’urhépecha, Yucatec Maya, Amoxcalli

Historical Overview

Mesoamerica is a culture zone that stretches geographically from approximately north-central Mexico into the northwestern half of Central America. Human occupation of this hemisphere dates back thousands of years, leading up to an emerging cultural era now called the “Paleo-Indian” period.1 Agricultural settlements arose in the Archaic era (3,500 to 1,800 bce), and urban and ceremonial centers emerged in what we call the Formative or Pre-Classic Period (1500 bce to 200 ce). Social stratification increased, monumental architecture became especially notable, and writing became more complex in the Classic Period (200 to 900 ce), some artistic developments marked the Epi-Classic Period (800 to 1200 ce), and the Post-Classic Period (900 to 1519 ce) saw some jockeying for power, an increase in trade, and the pursuit of more tributes. The end of the Post-Classic Period is marked by the invasion of the region by Europeans, who were looking to extract goods, services, and taxes from the Mesoamerican peoples.

Colonial Mesoamerica was marked by Spanish occupation and political rule, which began in the early 16th century and stretched into the early 19th. Neocolonial Mesoamerica came to experience increasing influences from the United States, Britain, Germany, and other external powers. The past two centuries have also been marked by a continuing local control by a minority, Euro-originating elite over a majority, indigenous population, even as what we once knew as Mesoamerica faded from view. The division between these ethnicities has grown somewhat less clear as a result of the increasing mixed-heritage mestizo or ladino population across the region. Authoritarian regimes marked much of the 20th century, and civilian rule (still without much or any indigenous participation) came at the end of that century, continuing up to the present. But police and military authorities remain present, concerned with internal dissent and unrest at least as much as external threats.

Shared cultural traits in the pre-contact era—such as the calendars, glyphic writing, the ball court, human sacrifice, certain legends and religious beliefs, agricultural methods, art, and technologies—set off the many peoples of Mesoamerica from other parts of the Americas. The history of the culture zone is rich for exploring the rise of civilizations, social, economic, and political systems, gender ideologies and practices, religions, land tenure and agricultural systems, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, calendrics, and language diversity (among many other themes). Colonization and its dimensions—such as the impact of epidemic disease, the nature of hybrid religions, evolving tribute and labor systems, struggles over land, efforts to defend some measure of local autonomy, and more—is another arena of great scholarly interest. Contemporary studies are marked by human rights and cultural survival issues, ethnography, mining and other environmental crises, and fair trade, among many other topics.

Mesoamerican Sources

Digital resources supporting research and teaching related to Mesoamerican cultures and their histories have been on a clear upward trajectory in the past two decades. Primary sources, both in Spanish and in indigenous languages (represented in writing and in pictorials), are found in significant numbers in the population centers of the region, whether these rich records are located in national, state, provincial, or religious archives, or community repositories. Owing to the history of colonialism in Mesoamerica, many manuscripts and three-dimensional objects of cultural heritage have also suffered diasporas, often landing in libraries and museums in the United States and Europe. The Handbook of Middle American Indians, Guide to Ethnohistorical Sources (HMAI), published in 1975 by the University of Texas Press, until recently offered one of the best annotated lists of available manuscripts and the collections that hold them.2 Now, in Mexico, we see the growing project of Michel Oudijk, Wiki-Filología, which builds upon the HMAI with support from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). This project is divided between alphabetic indigenous-language texts and pictorial manuscripts. We also find Amoxcalli (Nahuatl for “House of Books”) coming out of the national university in Mexico, with its rich metadata of the manuscripts’ location today, the collection to which they belong, their date of origin, the geographic area they address, their authors and themes, the criteria for their transcription, and sometimes a bibliography and discussion of academic relevance.

All pre-Hispanic manuscripts in Mesoamerica—the vast majority of which had either disintegrated or were burned by Europeans in the 16th century, sadly—were composed of glyphic texts or painted scenes. The production of such manuscripts would continue after Spanish colonization, although European influence may have contributed to a widening differentiation between painting and writing. Pre-Hispanic records are typically referred to as códices (codices, in English; codex, in the singular). Colonial-era manuscripts are sometimes also called códices, but we additionally see the terms lienzos (literally, canvases, but sometimes painted on other surfaces) and mapas (literally, maps, but not always cartographic) with some frequency, along with other labels. Late in the Spanish colonial period we see the emergence of new Nahuatl terms, such as tlalamatl (land record) and altepeamatl (town record), or the Spanish loan, títulos, applied to these kinds of primary sources.

Central and South American Holdings

After contact with Europeans, and the introduction of alphabetic writing in indigenous languages, pictorial manuscript production still continued, especially in central Mexico, Oaxaca, the Yucatán, and highland Guatemala. Gradually, glyphic expression did give way to alphabetic writing, but many concepts, narratives, maps, and accounts continued to be recorded in pictorial forms. What is remarkable, too, is that alphabetic writing in indigenous languages lived on for centuries, declining about the time of political independence from Spain in the first quarter of the 19th century and accelerating with the Liberal Reforms later in that century.

The diversity of titles in the Amoxcalli collection reveals the clear variety of genres, including, to name a few, procesos (court cases), títulos (land titles and local histories, sometimes including maps), planos and cartas geográficas (maps), cantares (songs or ballads), vocabularios and artes (indigenous-language vocabularies and grammars), and coloquios and doctrinas (religious educational materials). Amoxcalli currently lists nearly ninety digitized manuscripts and more than fifty facsimiles in digital form, in both black and white and color, encompassing, for example, land litigation records, genealogies, tribute registers, evangelization materials, testaments, complaints about abuses by colonial officials, travel accounts, and historical narratives. Some manuscripts have academic commentaries and transcriptions.3 Michel Oudijk, a professor at UNAM who is involved in these projects, is also building Ticha: A Digital Text Explorer for Colonial Zapotec. Oudijk has also directed the development of the online, searchable Zapotec-Spanish dictionary by Fray Juan de Córdova, the Vocabulario en lengua çapoteca of 1578.

The UNAM has supported additional digital projects, such as art historian Diana Magaloni’s close study of the eight omens experienced by the Nahuas prior to the landing of the Spanish invaders. This is part of the indigenous view of the conquest provided by the Florentine Codex. This is a virtual exhibition, Visualizando la nueva era, with attention (in Spanish) to calendrical structures and imagery, plus an appendix with a Nahuatl transcription of key passages followed by a translation.

Recently, the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) hosted a major exhibition of codices and other indigenous-authored pictorial manuscripts called Códices de México, which included forty-four examples that were briefly open to the public for viewing in late 2014 and early 2015. Images (or scans) of many of these manuscripts are still available for free downloading to enable close, individual study and use in teaching. One simply has to provide a name, an email address, and a password of one’s choosing.

The Biblioteca Digital Mexicana (BDMx) also offers codices for close viewing, with quality images and good magnification, such as the Matrícula de Tributos (register of tributes owed to the Mexica empire). Another essay in this Oxford Research Encyclopedia describes the BDMx in more detail, but it is worth noting here that we now also have access to the Codex Mendoza (Códice Mendoza or Mendocino), part of which encompasses the Matrícula. This is also a wonderful resource, published in free digital edition free online by INAH, with English and Spanish interfaces. This edition provides an introduction, an explanation of the project (by Drs. Baltazar Brito and Gerardo Gutiérrez), a discussion of the paleographic and translation conventions, and images of all seventy-one double-sided folios. Once again, one can provide information by signing in (upper right corner), and download pages at will for individual study and for teaching. This unparalleled 16th-century manuscript covers Mexica territorial expansion, tribute collection, and some details about daily life, building upon the original work of Frances Berdan and Patricia Anawalt. Also worth mentioning is the collection of indigenous-authored pictorials from the Archivo General de la Nación, Mexico (AGN), that is a collaboration with the BDMx and hosts zoomable “Mapas indígenas novohispanos” from ten states and the Distrito Federal. Unlike the INAH codices, these cannot be downloaded for personal study, but one can contact the BDMx or the AGN with questions about access and permissions; it is not an insurmountable barrier.

The Centro de Estudios de Historia de México, or Center for the Study of the History of Mexico (CEHM/CARSO), is a member of the Mesoamerican Codices Project Group that developed out of an international meeting in 2009. Founded by Condumex, CEHM has funding from Carlos Slim and the CARSO Group. It is part of a museum with about 800,000 items.4 On the CEHM website one will find a page of “Documentos Selectos,” including the Lienzo Totomixtlahuaca, a depiction of contested land in a dispute among indigenous people in a southeastern part of the state of Guerrero, Mexico. The pictorial, showing many people and activities on the landscape, dates from 1564 and has glosses in Nahuatl. The level of magnification is impressive. Other digitized manuscripts at CEHM include a 1493 manuscript written by Christopher Columbus in Cadiz, Spain; a royal decree for the foundation of the City of Tlaxcala; a Testerian catechism document; and a 1720 map of Mexico City.

Another private institution, associated with the Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala, is the Museo Popol Vuh. The museum’s website includes a virtual catalogue that includes three-dimensional images relating to Maya archaeology (sorted by period) and of colonial art (sorted by type, such as ceramics). The museum also holds public lectures and currently streams ninety-five highly valuable videos of these presentations, dating back to 2007, given in Spanish and illustrated with slides.

Digitization projects are gaining momentum outside of Mexico and Guatemala, too. An exemplary project that involves the collaboration of a number of institutions is the Primeros Libros de las Américas, or First Books of the Americas, currently consisting of digital renditions of sixty-four 16th-century Mexican monographs from libraries around the world, including the Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas, the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, Tulane University’s Latin American Library, the Harvey Cushing Library at Yale, and the Houghton Library at Harvard. Also contributing are libraries in Mexico and Spain, such as the prized Burgoa, Lafragua, Palafoxiana, Montejano y Aguiñaga, and Complutense libraries. The selections are rare and valuable books, all of them dating from before 1601 and published in the Americas, typically including indigenous-language vocabularies and grammars and Christianization aids. But one will also find studies of medicine, mathematics, laws, and a book about monuments in Mexico City.

The United States

The digitization of early books, especially books that contain indigenous languages, are proving a challenge to “optical character recognition” programs that convert images of words into searchable text. The University of Texas, Austin, has an impressive project underway, headed by Hannah Alpert-Abrams, to improve the reading of Nahuatl, the native language that represents the greatest number of early texts in the Americas, and early modern Spanish, which will greatly improve the results upon the scanning of rare books. Alpert-Abrams is especially targeting the Primeros Libros project, as many of these books do come from the Benson Collection at the University of Texas.

The LLILAS Benson Digital Collections at Texas, also discussed briefly elsewhere in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia, includes the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (recordings and texts in and about these languages, accessible free with a registration and login) and a rich Collection of Relaciones Geográficas, which describe indigenous communities, their resources, and their histories, and are accompanied by maps. Other original Mesoamerican manuscripts, such as the fragment of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala, the García Manuscript 8, and some fascinating genealogies, are not hosted continuously online, but they can be obtained from the Benson Collection in high-resolution digital images upon request. Finally, the University of Texas offers the Texas Notes on Precolumbian Art, Writing, and Culture (currently counting seventy-three full-text articles) as a part of its digital repository.

Several additional U.S. libraries have notable digital resources for research about Mesoamerica, such as the Newberry Library in Chicago, which hosts, for example, an exhibition called Aztecs and the Making of Colonial Mexico. This digital exhibit, although created for a temporary exhibition, has multiple, enduring components, including The Pictorial Books of the Aztecs; Europeans Invade the Aztec Empire (with maps and documents); Christianizing the Nahua (rare books); The Persistence of Nahua Culture (with wonderful Nahua-authored manuscripts); and Contemporary Expressions of Nahua Culture (with artistic books and manuscripts from Guillermo Gómez Peña and Enrique Chagoya, among others). The Newberry is also the current home of the famous Maya creation story, the Popol Vuh (Wuj), which Ohio State University has digitized and published in 2012 as the Popol Vuh (Wuj) Online. This manuscript, copied from an earlier one sometime in the first years of the 18th century by a Dominican priest, Francisco Ximénez, in Chichicastenango, Guatemala, is also called the Book of the Council, Book of the Community, Book of the People, and the Sacred Book of the Quiché Maya.5 The Newberry has also placed a number of manuscripts by Fray Bernardino de Sahagún in the World Digital Library. See, for example, the Lectionary in Nahuatl with Latin Headings. Finally, the Newberry is digitizing the Ayer Collection, and this currently includes the wonderful Nurenberg map of Mexico City.

Princeton University’s Digital Library draws from three relevant collections (gathered to a large extent by William Gates and Robert Garrett), hosting nine rare books and manuscripts. Princeton gives somewhat more attention to the Maya, including the fragment of the book of Chilam Balam of Kaua (Maya, c. 1824) and the Chilam Balam of Chumayel (copy believed to be from the late 18th century), the late-18th-century copy of the Ritual of the Bacabs, and the undated Títulos de los Señores del Reino del Quiché. Princeton also offers a rare Otomí catechism from c. 1775–1825.

The John Carter Brown Library (JCB) has an online series with relevant resources hidden within larger collections, such as the Archive of Early American Images, the JCB Book Collection (featuring the colonial Americas, with more than 50,000 books), the JCB Map Collection, and the Indigenous Collection. The image database features the colonial Americas and includes approximately 7,000 digital photographs (and growing) with bibliography and descriptions that are searchable. The map collection, with about 3,000 items (also increasing) was once part of the image database, but it is now managed separately. The impressive Indigenous Collection, which covers all of the Americas, includes 717 digitized rare books, many of which have a native language or linguistic orientation. The turning-the-pages format and multiple levels of zoom make these books exceedingly readable.

The Brooklyn Museum has two notable Mesoamerican pictorials in its digital collections, brought to light in a largely English-language PowerPoint by curator Nancy Rosoff. These are the Lienzo of Ihuitlan (with Nahuatl glosses), one of many genealogical records from the Coixtlahuaca Valley in the Mixteca region of Oaxaca, and the Techialoyan manuscript from San Pedro Atlapulco (c. 1710), in central Mexico. The latter is on amatl (ficus bark paper), with texts in Nahuatl. Fortunately, the high-resolution, color, digital images can be downloaded, and can be chosen from an array of available sizes. The Brooklyn Museum also offers digital images of a number of two- and three-dimensional objects of Mexican cultural heritage and a few from Guatemala.

Tulane’s library, in addition to contributing incunabula to Primeros Libros, also hosts a digital collection of seventeen Mesoamerican Painted Manuscripts (c. 1500 to 1700ce) that includes works on amatl, linen, and European paper, and representing Oaxacan genealogies (Mixtec) and central Mexican historical accounts, migrations, land disputes, land grants, censuses, and tributes. Images are in color and can be downloaded for independent study. Tulane also offers a collection of Early Images of Latin America, consisting of more than a thousand digitized photographs from the mid-19th into the early 20th century, encompassing Mexico and Guatemala along with many other countries.

The Hispanic Reading Room at the Library of Congress has collaborated in the development of a number of useful digital collections such as 1492: An Ongoing Voyage, which includes sections titled “What Came to be Called ‘America,’” “The Mediterranean World,” “Christopher Columbus,” “Inventing America,” “Europe Claims America,” and an epilogue. Especially notable for Mesoamerican studies in the 1492 exhibition is the digital version of the Huejotzingo Codex (or Huexotzinco Codex, eight pages), originally made c. 1531 and found in the Harkness Collection; the Oztoticpac Lands Map, from c. 1540; and, the Relacíon de las Ceremonias y Ritos y Población y Gobierno de los Indios de la Provincia de Mechoacán, a 19th-century copy of a manuscript from c. 1540. Another valuable digital exhibition hosted by the Library of Congress is Exploring the Early Americas: The Jay I. Kislak Collection. The latter includes three sections, “Precontact America,” “Explorations and Encounters,” and “Aftermath of the Encounter,” each with their own internal subdivisions. Pictured are a wide array of three-dimensional cultural heritage materials, plus maps, rare books, and manuscripts. One manuscript in the Kislak collection, not yet mentioned, is the Techialoyan land record from San Juan Tolcayuca, Mexico, c. 1700. Also standing out in this set are eight 17th-century paintings of the Spanish conquest of Mexico. Copies of the jpegs in the Library of Congress digital exhibitions are available upon request.

One of the premier organizations with a major digital presence connected with Mesoamerica has recently come to be housed (physically) at the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art (LACMA). This is the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. (FAMSI), which hosts a massive, virtual archive of resources, primary and secondary, of a high scholarly caliber. A few highlights include John Pohl’s Mesoamerica, the Justin Kerr Maya Vase Database, the Kerr PreColumbian Portfolio, the John Montgomery Drawing Collection (Maya sculpture), John Curl’s Ancient Mesoamerican Poets (Aztec and Maya, with transcriptions as well as translations to English), and the Mesoamerican Language Texts Digitization project. LACMA itself hosts digital exhibitions of importance for Mesoamerican studies, such as Contested Visions in the Spanish Colonial World, and the collection Spanish Colonial Art & 19th Century Art.

FAMSI also offers valuable digitized print facsimiles of numerous codices (Aztec, Maya, and Mixtec) published originally in print in Graz, Austria, courtesy of the Akademische Druk—u. Verlagsanstalt, and another large number of facsimiles published in Germany thanks to collaborations with the Universitätsbibliothek Rostock, Bibliothek der Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenshaften, and the Staats- un Universitätbibliothek Hamburg.

Europe and the United Kingdom

Those wishing to consult European repositories for original manuscripts that have been digitized and might be found online face somewhat more of a challenge. Relevant manuscripts from Germany are held in the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, the Iberoamerikanisches Institut, and the Ethnologisches Museum (Ex Museum für Völkerkunde). Unfortunately, these sources are not yet being provided on the Internet. Viola König’s PowerPoint about the offerings at these institutions (rich for Aztec and Mixtec pictorials) does provide the names and color images of the manuscripts; her slides serve as a helpful guide. The library at the ethnological museum in Berlin is also worth a visit for its rare books about Mesoamerica.6 The University Library in Dresden, Germany, holds the so-called Dresden Codex, the oldest and best preserved Maya screenfold on amatl. Digital images of its seventy-eight folios, with decent magnification of the glyphic texts and pictorial elements, are available free online for individual study and teaching, and one can obtain higher resolution digital images for a fee of twenty-five euros.

With regard to Mesoamerican manuscripts in the United Kingdom, Chris Fletcher’s PowerPoint, The Bodleian Library’s Mesoamerican Manuscripts, provides a useful introduction to the exceptional manuscripts held in Oxford. These include the pre-Hispanic screenfold Codex Laud (of obscure origins, but acquired in 1636), the pre-Hispanic Codex Bodley (a Mixtec screenfold, also acquired in the 17th century), and Selden (another Mixtec screenfold, with genealogies through 1556).7 The Bodleian additionally holds the early colonial Selden Roll of southern Mexico on amatl, and the Mexica culture’s Codex Mendoza from c. 1541. Sadly, these manuscripts have not yet found their place among the Bodleian’s digital images. Nevertheless, one can at least find on the Internet digital copies of print facsimiles, such as those hosted by the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies (FAMSI); for example, the Codex Laud and Codex Selden.8 The British Museum also provides full-color digital images of the Codex Aubin (a.k.a. Códice Aubin 1576/Historia de la nación Mexicana/Histoire mexicaine).

The library of the University of Bologna, Italy, has in its holdings the calendrical, divinatory Codice Cospi (Calendario Messicano 4093), said to be a pre-Hispanic screenfold manuscript on deerskin painted in the Borgia or Puebla-Tlaxcala style. Digitized facsimiles from Austria and Germany (mentioned above) include the Cospi, and the British Museum also provides a facsimile online, but to my knowledge, the original is not available from Bologna.

The Medicea Laurenziana Library in Florence, Italy, has in its collections a manuscript dating from 1577 called the Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España, compiled over a period of three decades by Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, who worked with Nahua students. The multi-volume encyclopedic work about the Nahuas of central Mexico, written in a semi-parallel Nahuatl and Spanish, is well known today as the Florentine Codex. In 2012, the library in Florence made digital images of the work available free online. Besides the detailed texts, one will find nearly 2,500 graphic elements of black-line and watercolored drawings worthy of analysis, plus an introduction to the twelve volumes.

The national library in France has quite an impressive body of Mesoamerican manuscripts. One of the 16th-century codices that it has put online for full consultation is the Codex Mexicanus. This manuscript, Mexicain No. 23.24, has been bound and shows some reinforcing conservation work, but it is an original. It is presented in digital form in a large enough format to see the details. One also has an option to view it in a second digital environment, GallicaLabs, which allows for some magnification.

As one might expect, Spanish repositories contain a number of Mesoamerican treasures. A 2010 PowerPoint by Ana Verde of the Museo de América (MECD) highlights the codices in that institution, the Trocortesiano (also called the Tro-Cortesiano and the Códice Madrid, a pre-Hispanic Maya divinatory screenfold) and the Tudela (a 16th-century Aztec ritual-calendrical and ethnographic pictorial). Unfortunately, the museum does not seem to offer images of the codices online except for one image of one page of each, and not with enough magnification to see details well. It does provide a Spanish-language podcast of a little over a minute about the Tudela. The MECD also hosts digital photos of a selection of Pre-Columbian American artifacts (not all from Mesoamerica, of course) and Colonial and Ethnological images free online. Another 2010 PowerPoint, this one by María Luisa López Vidriero shares information about American manuscripts in the Cervantes Virtual online collections, some of which come from Real Biblioteca (Royal Palace Library) of Spain. Of special note is the Web page she highlights that is devoted to “Manuscritos de América en las Colecciones Reales.” This includes documents about royal visits to New Spain, evangelization in the province of Mexico, and other colonial records. True gems from the Royal Library are the ethnographic Códices Matritenses, including the Primeros Memoriales, compiled by Bernardino de Sahagún between 1558 and 1585, now offered in quality digital images with high magnification options by the Biblioteca Digital Mexicana.

Another Spanish repository, the Biblioteca Nacional (BNE), has created the Biblioteca Digital Hispánica, with many key resources for Mesoamericanists. If one searches “Nueva España,” one gets 530 hits, and for Mexico, more than 5,000. Narrowing this down to “Highlighted Collections,” and then “Masterpieces, brings up Diego Durán’s 16th-century Historia de las Indias de Nueva España e islas de la tierra firme, along with a four-volume study of medicinal plants and animals from the early 17th century, both generously downloadable. The BNE has also collaborated with the World Digital Library by providing, for example, the fabulous Painting of the Governor, Mayors, and Rulers of Mexico (also called the Códice Osuna, dating from 1565) and making it available in full online. Its one level of magnification is sufficient to read the Spanish and Nahuatl alphabetic texts, the glyphic writing, and to view the graphic material of its magnificent eighty-one pages, so rich with details of colonial adjustments for the Nahuas.

Also in Spain, of course, is the Archivo General de Indias (AGI), in Seville, which is home to ten million items, including 8,000 images, and a focus on Spain’s colonial administration in the Americas. Digitized manuscripts and images from the AGI have been folded into the federated Portal de Archivos Españoles (PARES), which facilitates searches across institutions in Spain.

Aggregation and Accessibility of Mesoamerican Sources

Having one website with all available digital versions of Mesoamerican manuscripts (perhaps copied from other sites to ensure their stability in the face of shifting fortunes), or a Web crawler that finds and aggregates them for us, obviously would surpass having to locate and visit individual institutions and study individual documents. Some aggregators are beginning to emerge, with three general sites worthy of special attention as of this writing. None has Mesoamerica as its focus, but they all offer quality materials, such as collections of digital images of rare books and manuscripts, which do include Mesoamerican content. These are open-access, subscription-free sites of great utility.

The World Digital Library (WDL) has a wonderful summary of the growing body of Mesoamerican manuscripts and other cultural heritage materials that it hosts. The WDL also offers a long list of PowerPoint presentations—several of which have already been mentioned—created in 2010 by collaborators interested specifically in Mesoamerican Codices. These collaborators, along with others, have provided to WDL some of the manuscripts already described (e.g., the John Carter Brown Library, Newberry Library, and Library of Congress treasures, Relación Geográfica maps from Texas, the Florentine Codex, the Codex Osuna, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia’s Matrícula de Tributos and other pictorials, the Dresden Codex, manuscripts held by the Archivo General de la Nación-México, and various additional Center for the Study of the History of Mexico manuscripts). Also worth mentioning here is the collaboration of the WDL and the University of Uppsala library in Sweden. Uppsala has provided its map of Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) that dates from 1550. On the map, we see the surrounding lakes, as well as the canals that cut through the city. Like many colonial maps, this one is more than a cartographic schema; it shows people on the landscape involved in various quotidian activities, such as canoeing, hunting, transporting goods on one’s back, farming (indigenous residents), and riding a horse (likely a Spaniard). The PowerPoint by Per Cullhed about the “Uppsala Map” of Mexico, created in 2010, includes some of these kinds of details. One wishes the digital image provided in WDL could be magnified (more than the one level provided) for an even closer reading, but the Uppsala University Library now provides two levels of magnification.

A search for “codices + Mexico + mediatype:texts” in the second of these aggregating sites, the Internet Archive, will bring up digitized books about codices, digitized print facsimiles, and digitized manuscripts. These can be downloaded in a variety of formats, such as PDF, e-Pub, Kindle, Daisy, and more. One can make the images full-screen for online viewing, and the magnification possibilities are impressive. An example of a digitized manuscript hosted by the Internet Archive is the Diccionario de Motul (Mayan and Spanish) by Antonio de Ciudad Real (1551–1617), which is a multivolume, bound, handwritten compilation of vocabulary. The original is in the John Carter Brown Library (JCB). Another example, also from the JCB, is the Guatemalan linguistic work (possibly late colonial) on Cakchiquel and Quiché. The JCB collaboration with the Internet Archive is notable. Another JCB piece is the Catecismo Testerino, a Testerian-type of catechism that is a pictographic manuscript with some Spanish glosses, drawn and written on watermarked European paper. Also worthy of mention is the Boban Calendar Wheel, a circular Nahua pictorial on amatl, possibly from 1545–1546, housed in the JCB.

The third significant compilation resource, the Getty Research Portal, hosts nearly 44,000 total titles. In the first two months of 2015, more than 3,000 were added, so it will likely continue to grow at an impressive rate. Unfortunately, despite the sincere efforts of the Getty staff, Mesoamerican content could use more of a boost. Inserting “Mexico” and “codex” as keywords into the search interface, one will obtain six results—five from the Getty’s own rare books, and one rare book from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Searching “manuscript” and “Mexico” brings fourteen hits, once again all rare books that have been digitized, coming from the same two repositories plus the Smithsonian.

Many who share their own photographs may well know about Flickr, where images can be shared freely (and with varying layers of light protection). Interestingly, the British Library has recently provided a data dump to Flickr. To test the quality of material in this donation for Mesoamerican research, one might enter “British Library Aztec” into the advanced search and find hundreds or dozens of results. Looking more closely, however, the majority comes from one book that has been digitized, Brantz Mayer’s Mexico: Aztec, Spanish, and Republican, published in 1852.

Another aggregator of Mesoamerican codices is the Raúl Varela, an Argentinian has produced the Pueblos Originarios website, under constant expansion. This site differs from the three just mentioned for its more focused approach, compiling information about the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere, although not just Mesoamerica. In the search interface, one can submit, for example, the keywords “codices” and “Maya” or “Aztec” and receive links to a number of digital resources that have been created by many organizations or institutions, often in the form of print facsimiles that have been digitized. One may also choose to visit a section devoted to Escritura y Simbología (writing and a system of symbols) and see links to a variety of resources. It does not appear that Varela is digitizing works himself, but rather pulling from what is already available online.

The Wired Humanities Projects

Before any of these aggregators got started, the Wired Humanities Projects (WHP), directed by Stephanie Wood at the University of Oregon, launched a portal site called the Virtual Mesoamerican Archive (VMA), a finding aid with links to almost 13,000 websites and repositories with relevant content (1800 bce to 1800 ce), digitized assets (photo collections about Mesoamerica, for example), and scholars’ bios. The VMA also offers links to 179 sites that are useful for teaching. When this project was born, at the start of the current millennium, scholars were having a field day publishing their own research notes and photographs. Museums and libraries also began digitizing their collections and making special, Web-based exhibitions. Materials were coming onto the Internet fast and furiously, with little or no coordination and uneven metadata, and federated searching was sorely lacking. WHP made an effort to help those who might google the word “Aztec”—and get a bewildering seven million “hits” (now nearly up to 60 million)—find their way to quality materials shared by reputable institutions and scholars with expertise in the field.

The VMA is still available online, but it has not had the funding to support expansion, nor even the optimal regular updating of existing content. Instead, WHP shifted in the direction of creating original digital collections rather than federating existing online materials. With in-house university funding and grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and Fulbright,9 WHP has broadened its “Digital Mesoamerica” emphasis over the past decade and more. WHP collections—continually under expansion and openly available for researchers, teachers, and students—currently consist of the VMA portal/finding aid, plus interactive digital manuscript and map collections, multimedia indigenous language dictionaries, and an e-book about sources and methods for the study of Mesoamerican ethnohistory. The shift toward increasing Mesoamerican content has emerged over the past decade partly owing to the director’s expertise, success with funding, and tracking the interests of users. As documented with the Google Analytics tool, Digital Mesoamerica’s audience is geographically broad, with people accessing these many projects from 149 different countries (Mexico being first and the United States second). This audience is also numerically large, with more than 70,000 repeat users and more than 100,000 visitors in any given year, counting one-time visitors to the dictionaries alone.

With funding in the form of a Preservation and Access grant from NEH, WHP began building the Mapas Project, which has as its focus pictorial, indigenous-authored manuscripts from New Spain. High-quality images provided by the Library of Congress for manuscripts in the Kislak Collection represented the initial core. Once the database was constructed and serving adequately, more content became the focus. The Mapas Project (MP) currently offers access to full views and atomized, annotated details of seventeen pictorial manuscripts, the vast majority in the Nahua tradition, plus one in Mixtec and one in Zapotec. Contributors transcribe and translate the glosses and short texts that can be a part of these pictorials. Contributors include, for example, Bas van Doesburg, Michel Oudijk, Amara Solari, Richard Conway, Jonathan Truit, and Florencio Barrera. A considerable number of additional manuscripts are under development behind the scenes and will be published in due course.

From the outset, WHP envisioned creating projects that could be cloned and repurposed, making tax dollars stretch as much as possible and managing to keep projects open-access. This has been accomplished with the Mapas Project, creating the similarly functioning Age of Exploration Digital Map Collection, which contains maps of the Americas authored by Europeans. WHP currently hosts six maps from the 16th and 17th centuries, with more under production. Map scholar Dr. James Walker has had the primary responsibility for annotating the details of these maps, which highlight an average of about eighty-five elements per manuscript. In both projects, the details are stored in databases for search and retrieval. Just as in the Mapas Project, one can ask to see images from across the corpus, for example, of any imaginable detail, or search the text for any imaginable gloss or keyword and then see it in its context, as well.

WHP has additionally cloned the Mapas Project to build the Early Nahuatl Library (ENL) of primarily textual manuscripts. The ENL hosts facsimile images large enough to read and to place side by side with transcriptions and translations to English and Spanish prepared by a range of contributors, including renowned Nahuatl scholar James Lockhart and many of his students and close associates. The ENL makes the texts searchable to help those studying particular vocabulary and its meaning in different contexts, time periods, and regions.

The Early Nahuatl Library dovetails with the free, online Nahuatl Dictionary, created with three years of funding from NSF and NEH. The dictionary combines early (or “classical”) Nahuatl with the modern Eastern Huastecan variant, and currently serves more than 37,000 headwords. Native speakers working with John Sullivan at the Instituto de Docencia e Investigación Etnológica de Zacatecas were major collaborators in this project. Generous donations of material have also come from linguists Frances Karttunen and Joe Campbell, James Lockhart, and, once again, many of Lockhart’s former students. A growing number of the dictionary’s lexical items have attached audio with pronunciation by a native speaker, video links, attestations of phrases in actual usage and from manuscripts (with translations to Spanish and English), and some pictographic representations. The Nahuatl Dictionary is notable for its lengthy list of attestations of many headwords, phrases pulled from manuscripts from different places and dates, which are thus marked for those who wish to track meaning across regions and time frames. Translations to English and Spanish that might have been published with the selected phrases are provided whenever permission is available. Clones of this dictionary are now growing with content in Zapotec, Mixtec, P’urhépecha, and Yucatec Mayan, but these dictionaries have yet to establish a long-term funding model. Digital humanities fellowships are no longer easily obtainable for simple digitization projects, and they rarely support the costs of site and server maintenance over the long haul.

Discussion of Related Research Tools

University presses are increasingly finding ways to accommodate and sustain digital projects, such as the Oxford Research Encyclopedia, which allows for open access to summaries while charging for access to longer essays. The University of Texas, which published John Bierhorst’s Ballads of the Lords of New Spain in print, is also hosting the entire digital version free online. Other presses, such as Duke University, which hosts an “e-Duke Scholarly Collection,” allows access to e-books only by subscription. This model is probably the more pervasive one, as it has the consumer underwrite the cost of producing and maintaining the scholarship. But the scholars themselves sometimes press for greater public access to their research. One can only hope new funding models will help tip the balance in favor of democratic, rather than privileged, access to information essential for teaching and learning. Some open-source Web-publishing platforms, such as Omeka and Scalar (of the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture born digital), are enabling scholars share their own work more easily.

The Wired Humanities Projects team has published an e-book free online, Sources and Methods for the Study of Postconquest Mesoamerican Ethnohistory, edited by James Lockhart, Lisa Sousa, and Stephanie Wood. The contributors are mostly tenured, advanced scholars who were willing to take the risk of not having their chapters see traditional print publication. WHP is also providing a space to publish documents in indigenous languages with English translations—something that might once have found their way into appendices to books in print, but given the rising costs of print publishing were becoming more difficult to retain in that format.

For other secondary sources, such as current scholarly publications being posted for open access, is a good place to begin. One can specify a research interest and follow specific scholars. Here are some prominent topics and their growing numbers of followers as of August 2016:

Mesoamerican Archaeology


Maya Archaeology




Maya Epigraphy


Classic Maya (Archaeology)


Mesoamerican Studies


Mexican Codices


Mesoamerican Ethnohistory






One can opt to receive prompts when prominent researchers post new papers. For example, Mayanist epigrapher David Stuart of the University of Texas currently offers thirty-one papers for downloading. This site requires that people join, but it does not charge a fee. Maya specialists, such as Stuart, far outnumber Aztec specialists, let alone those with an interest in the Zapotecs, Mixtecs, Otomies, and so on.

Rosemary Joyce, a professor of anthropology at University of California, Berkeley, has more than 5,700 followers on Most of her materials are only bookmarked, not downloadable. But the list of fifty-one papers and fifteen books comprises a helpful bibliography. She also posts links and comments about not only her own research, but also the research of colleagues, all of which garner comments themselves—discussions that can be illuminating.

Michael E. Smith, the archaeologist at Arizona State University who specializes in the Aztec civilization, has more than 2,500 followers on, where he currently offers a large number of articles, book reviews, and blogs about the Aztecs. One feature of that becomes very apparent when viewing Smith’s listing is the number of views each item has enjoyed—often in the many hundreds of views, and, in the case of his 2007 article, “Form and Meaning in the Earliest Cities: A New Approach to Urban Planning,” originally published in the Journal of Planning History, with more than 6,000 views as of August 2016. He and other professors are surely using this site to assign readings to students.

Scholars from Mexico and Central America participate in, which enhances its importance and reach. For example, participants who have an association with the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México currently number more than 25,000. Approximately 5,000 members of have an affiliation with a university in Guatemala, and nearly the same in El Salvador. Honduran universities show somewhat fewer members, and academic Belizean members number in the hundreds.

For digital projects launched by individuals that support teaching about Mesoamerican cultures and their histories, Mexicolore, created by the teaching team Ian Mursell and Graciela Sánchez in the United Kingdom, is exemplary and extensive. This impressive couple works closely with British museums and the BBC and uses images of artifacts as an expression of the “theater-in-education” movement in England. Founded in 1980 and having launched the website in 2001, this project originally had a primary interest in the Aztecs, but now the team is expanding its attention to the Mayas as well. Mursell and Sánchez have a long list of impressive consultants and contributors who help write their content in response to questions posed by school children (for “Ask the Experts”), and they have an internal search window for locating content. For example, a search of “Berdan” brings up short, illustrated pieces by anthropology professor Frances Berdan about such topics as Aztec super glues, the use of cacao beans for currency, and social hierarchy. While the site is aimed indirectly at K–12 students, researchers and teachers across all grades will find these short, illustrated essays to be highly useful given that they have a reliable academic foundation.

Another site aimed at teachers is the blog NEH Summer Institute for School Teachers, Oaxaca, 2015. While it appears to have a temporal limitation, there have been five such institutes, and the site has grown over the years to contain a massive amount of content intended as resource material for the development of curricular projects. The site, which will remain online into the indefinite future, also hosts lessons developed by K–12 teachers relating to “Mesoamerican Cultures and their Histories” (Oaxacan, central Mexican, and Maya-oriented) from 2010, 2011, 2014, and 2015. While the assigned readings are password protected, all images and curricula are open-access, downloadable, and available (with citation) for customizing by teachers who might wish to make them more relevant for their own purposes. Curriculum design help includes pages devoted to archaeology (including the ball court and related objects), codices, the Spanish invasion, STEM (science—especially ethnozoology and ethnobotany—plus technology, engineering, and mathematics), ethnomusicology, arts and crafts, migration, calendar, gender, digital stories, and external links. A companion to this site is the Facebook page with more than 650 followers as of August 2016, NEH Oaxaca: Mesoamerican Cultures and their Histories, where news, photos, and links to scholarship also appear several times a week. Facebook is burgeoning with indigenous-language groups. Especially exciting is Nahuatlahtolli, a closed group with more than 5,000 members that was launched with a request that all posts be in Nahuatl. Other Nahuatl Facebook pages primarily have postings in English and Spanish, where discussions take place not in but about the language, and Nahuatlahtolli now leans this way, too.

Ancient Mesoamerica is a Facebook page with a following of nearly 4,000 people as of August 2016. Regular postings are made by Michael Ruggeri (retired from the faculty at Harold Washington College), Meaghan Peuramäki-Brown (an archaeology professor at Athabasca University), and Geoffrey McCafferty (archaeology professor at the University of Calgary) among other academics, independent scholars, and interested members of the public.

Facebook pages are somewhat similar to listservs, where messages and discussions can be tracked through one’s email. One listserv that is notable for Mesoamerican studies is Aztlan, managed by Michael Ruggeri, who has also built numerous webpages. See, for example, Mike Ruggeri’s The Ancient Americas Breaking News. The Aztlan listserv, about pre-Columbian cultures of the Americas, but especially Mesoamerica, is currently managed from the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies (FAMSI). FAMSI also manages the Nahuat-L listserv, which is an unmoderated discussion list about the language, Nahuatl, spoken by the Aztecs, among others, and still spoken today.

Teachers often ask for recommended, free, streaming videos about Mesoamerica. YouTube, of course, is a source for videos about Mesoamerican studies, but we do not yet have a reliable guide to these resources. One still must enter search terms, such as the keyword “Mesoamerica,” and then wade through the results (currently about 20,000). One can find compilations of favorites about Mesoamerica, of varying length and origin, but the expertise of the compilers remains obscure. YouTube also offers “channels” to which one can subscribe after having identified quality material and a producer that one wishes to follow. Of possible interest are: #MayaCivilization, #Aztec, #Olmec, #PreColumbianEra, #Teotihuacan, #Toltec, #PreColumbianMexico, #NahuatlLanguage, #IndigenousPeoplesOfMexico, or #SpanishConquestOfTheAztecEmpire. For videos of contemporary Mesoamerican issues, such as cultural events, oral traditions, or Maya youth and labor, see the Mesoamerican Archive/Archivo Mesoamericano at the University of Indiana.

Streaming, digital audio is another arena where great gains are being made that may be useful to scholars, teachers, and language learners. The Fonoteca in Mexico, for example, has a selection of “sounds in danger of extinction,” including indigenous language recordings that they have digitized. The Fonoteca’s offerings include examples of Cucapá (with only 119 speakers in Baja California, Sonora, and Arizona), Kiliwa (29 speakers in Baja California), Pápago (94 speakers in Sonora and Arizona), Seri (356 speakers in Sonora), Zapotec, Zoque, Mixtec, Tepehua, and Popoloca. The already mentioned Archive of Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA) at the University of Texas also hosts a massive list of audio (and some video) from Mexico and Guatemala, some Pipil recordings from El Salvador, and a few pieces from Belize and Honduras. These lists include lexical elicitation (nouns, verbs, pronouns, numbers, etc.); songs; prayers; conversations about flora and fauna, healing and remedies, agriculture, town history, cooking, pottery and other technologies, aging, addressing elders, human origins, rituals, cosmology, dreams, home altars, festivals, schooling, and childrearing; autobiographies; and, a huge variety of additional narratives. Many of these recordings come with transcriptions and translations. There are some access restrictions, and registering and logging in are necessary.

Mesolore is a robust and polished site aimed at both teachers and scholars. Liza Bakewell (Ph.D., Anthropology, Brown University, 1991) and Byron Hamann (Ph.D., Anthropology and History, University of Chicago, 2011) created Mesolore with funding from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Davis Educational Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. The site pulls together primary source materials about Mesoamerica, skillfully analyzing and contextualizing them. For example, the site includes interactive studies of three indigenous-authored documents with central Mexican origins, the Matrícula de Tributos, the Lienzo de Tlaxcala, and Alonso de Molina’s Nahuatl dictionary. Documents can be viewed online page by page or they can be downloaded as PDFs. Some Word documents are also available, including syllabi and lesson plans; this is a generous format that allows for customization and repurposing. The site offers an emphasis on Nahuas and Mixtecs (Ñudzavui). It presents portraits of some of the relevant scholars working on these areas, plus podcasts of debates, and original scholarly articles by such people as Davíd Carrasco, Aurora Pérez, Maarten Jansen, and Anthony Aveni.

Mesoweb: An Exploration of Mesoamerican Cultures represents another collaboration effort among many scholars, in both Mesoamerica and the United States, and Marc Zender is the lead curator at present. Dating from the 1990s, this site has as its focus the Olmec, Zapotec, Mixtec, Teotihuacan, Toltec, Aztec, and Maya peoples, especially what we can learn from archaeological studies. The site publishes field reports (informes) and other publications, searchable databases of photo archives and sculpture rubbings, a map, a timeline, audio, visuals, flash animations, Mesoamerican links, and a searchable Enclopedia Mesoamericana. Mesoweb also maintains websites for the Pre-Columbian Art Research Institute and the Boundary End Archaeology Research Center.

Somewhat similar to Mesoweb, but with a focus solely on the Maya, is, organized by Nicholas Hellmuth and associated with FLAAR- Mesoamerica, an extension of the Foundation for Latin American Anthropological Research that is located in Guatemala. The website publishes research reports, supports a lecture program, and offers studies of Maya ethnozoology and Maya ethnobotany. These studies are illustrated with original photos from nature and the depiction of flora and fauna on three-dimensional artifacts.

With funding from Mellon New Directions Fellowship, Emory University history professor Yanna Yannakakis has been constructing an elaborate digital humanities project about social networks of indigenous people in late colonial and early republican Oaxaca, Mexico, and their role in judicial systems. This open-access project, called Power of Attorney, combines social and spatial data from a decentralized viewpoint. Previous work has tended to concentrate on the capital.

Another independent, somewhat focused site that had crucial support from the National Endowment for the Humanities is Vistas: Visual Culture in Spanish America, 1520–1820. Art history professors Dana Leibsohn (Smith College) and Barbara Mundy (Fordham University) created this academic collection that is generously hosted by Smith College. It once had a companion DVD for those who preferred to access the project without an Internet connection. The original 2005 site still exists in bilingual format (English and Spanish), and the new site, which is English only, has many more images, videos, and documents. As the name implies, this site is not solely about Mesoamerica, but one will find plenty worth perusing here, both for “Making Sense of the Pre-Columbian,” and for understanding numerous dimensions of the Spanish colonial context that include people and places of Mesoamerica. The authors offer a bibliography, maps, a timeline, a glossary, galleries of images of two- and three-dimensional objects sorted by century of provenance, Internet links, and a short study of visual culture that makes the concept understandable to a broad audience.

Barbara E. Mundy has also branched out on her own, publishing the open-access piece, “Mapping Babel: A Sixteenth-Century Indigenous Map from Mexico,” in October of 2013. It is a marvelous, annotated slide show about the Cempoala Map from the Relaciones Geográficas series (1570s), housed in the Benson Collection at the University of Texas, with added explanatory texts and animated images. This article is hosted by The Appendix, a “reader-supported quarterly journal of experimental and narrative history,” according to the website. The provisioning, below her article, of a link to Mundy’s book for sale on, The Mapping of New Spain: Indigenous Cartography and the Maps of the Relaciones Geográficas (1996), should be gratifying to the University of Chicago Press.

The Appendix just happened to publish Mundy’s map study; it does not specialize in this area. Another one-off is the full-text article “Ancient City of Teotihuacan, Mexico” by journalist Joseph Boltrukiewicz, published in the Digital Journal in 2012. One imagines that more open-access journals, ideally with a focus on this area of research, will appear in the near future. Another hope is that back issues of key journals in the field will be made available openly and in full text. Many journal publishers only offer summaries without a subscription, even for back volumes. The following are some examples of journals offering open, full-text articles in support of Mesoamerican studies: Mexicon (digital facsimiles of some issues made and hosted by Wired Humanities); Estudios de Historia Novohispana, Estudios de Cultural Nahuatl, Estudios de Cultura Maya, Mayab, and Wayeb Notes.

One can imagine a growing number of close, interactive studies by individual scholars such as Mundy being published online as institutions gradually come to support their maintenance and recognize their contributions toward the individual’s scholarly profile and the reputation of the college and the university, as well as its press. We will also hope to see increasing support for the aggregation of open-access digital resources on any number of given topics, Digital Mesoamerica being just one. What this may require is the emergence of virtual libraries and museums that understand the importance of making educational materials open to the public, organized with a disciplinary bent, guided with expert curation that anticipates users’ needs, and enjoying the resources that allow for sustainability.

Meanwhile, primary and secondary sources for research and teaching about Mesoamerican cultures and their histories are becoming ever more prevalent online. Institutions and individuals alike are increasingly collaborating to pool resources, and they are seeing the virtue in making more readily available the images of manuscripts, rare books, and three-dimensional objects upon which our scholarship depends, as well as the results of our work, upon which others may build.


(1.) Recent studies of human remains more than 11,000 years old found at the Horn Shelter Site in Texas report fascinating evidence of cultural development in the chunk of red ocher pigment, shells, badger claws, hawk talons, and turtle shells buried with the older gentleman. See J.B. Smith, “Smithsonian Sheds Light on Shaman and Girl Buried on the Brazos 11 000 Years Ago,”, February 22, 2015. New research by linguists finds so much language diversity in the Americas as to suggest a much longer human occupation of the hemisphere than the Bering Strait Theory supports. See Alex Ewen, “How Linguists are Pulling Apart the Bering Strait Theory,”Indian Country Today Media Network, March 19, 2014. Accessed February 27, 2015.

(2.) Worth mentioning here, too, are the guides to Nahuatl-language manuscripts in a number of U.S. libraries published by John Frederick Schwaller, many of which can be found online in PDF.

(3.) To move through the photos of a given document’s multiple pages, one clicks on tiny footprints at the top of the first image, something not immediately apparent to all users.

(4.) Lillehaugen, Brook Danielle, George Aaron Broadwell, Michel R. Oudijk, & Laurie Allen. (2015). Ticha: a digital text explorer for Colonial Zapotec, 1st ed.

(5.) See “Popul Vuh (Wuj) Online,” The Newberry, retrieved February 27, 2015.

(6.) Some of these items may be in preparation for the World Digital Library, given the inclusion of König’s PowerPoint on that site.

(7.) A recent revelation about the Codex Selden being a palimpsest, involving high-tech digital imaging and drawing from the research of Ludo Snijder at Leiden University, was announced by the Bodleian Library in August 2016.

(8.) These may also become part of the World Digital Library.

(9.) Grants for all kinds of scholarships can sometimes be applied to the creation of digital projects. Current funding for the creation of specifically digital resources is not very abundant. Some may already be aware that NEH Digital Start-Up and Implementation grants were combined in 2016 and given a new name, the Digital Humanities Advancement Grants, and maintenance of especially valuable digital resources can sometimes be underwritten by NEH. We can also look to the Kress Foundation to help finance “online resources in art history.”