The Mixtec civilization extended through what is now the states of Oaxaca, Puebla, and Guerrero in southern Mexico. Mixteca had three principal geographic areas: Upper, Lower, and Coastal. The region was divided politically into numerous territories, each with its own ruling family. The Mixtec achieved a highly developed civilization, and fortunately, some of temples, ruins and mounds, tombs, stone carvings, decorated vessels, jewelry of gold and precious stones, and códices have survived the centuries for us to enjoy and study. Mixtec códices were painted to record the genealogy of royal families and their divine descent, as well as rituals, auguries, and religious concepts.

Mixtec códices were written in a highly developed pictographic writing. They are read from right to left. The leaves are divided by red guide lines that define the winding path of the writing. Pictographic writing may have been a useful communication tool in a region of many languages. The numerical notation system, the images used for various words, and the names of days and years are the same in Mixtec, Zapotec, Cuicatec, Tlapanec, and Popoloca códices. Each codex served as a historical record and a source of reference for oral recitations of historical and religious narratives. The authors were respected as wise and knowledgeable, and they were considered spiritual guides.

The loss of the vast majority of Mixtec códices took from this people a rich record of history and traditions. Despite the many changes wrought by the influence of the Europeans over the centuries, hundreds of thousands of people still speak the Mixtec language today, and even more inhabitants of the area still follow ancestral customs and traditions.

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