Duhaime's LawGallery - The Law In Pictures


Aztec Court in Session (circa 1500)

  • Object type: Painting
  • Formal Title: Codex Mandoza
  • Creator: unknown
  • Date Created: 1541
  • Origin: Mexico
  • Current Location: Bodleian Library, Oxford University, Oxford, England

After the defeat of Tenochtitlan and the conquest of the Aztecs, the Spaniards sought to create a pictorial record to present to the Spanish king. They hired local artists to draw up how the courts looked, from personal memory, and this formed part of a collection sent to Spain.

But the ship carrying the Codex Mendoza, as it later became known, was pirated and the Codex spirited about Europe finally coming into the possession of the law library at Oxford University (Bodleian Library) in England in 1689, who still holds the original. It was safely held but nobody knew what it represented until it's origin and significance was discovered  in 1831.

Albeit 20-years after the fact, the Codex Mendoza still represents one of the best records we have of law and justice in the ancient and now lost Aztec Empire.

In the pictogram is an Aztec court hearing in progress: four Aztec judges with their assistants behind them, facing the litigants.


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