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Mathematical Treasure: Land Surveys in the Codex Vergara

Author(s): 
Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

The Codex Vergara (1539) is a Spanish land survey record of the land holdings of seven Aztec villages. It is one of the few scholarly documents available concerning the Spanish colonization of Mexico and its peoples. It is written in Spanish and the local language Nahuatl. The Codex begins with the genealogy of landholding families.

Below: A “relational graph” designates the lineage of the main landholder represented by the first head in a sequence. A direct line to another “head” represents a direct relationship and branch lines represent more distant relationships. The pictograph at the beginning of a head sequence denotes the family residence. The “balloon” associated with each head provides a phonetic glyph of the person’s name. 

Below: The land holdings are pictorially listed together with the perimeters and areas of each parcel. The accompanying head represents the owner. Modern measurements have affirmed the accuracy of the early Spanish survey.

These images are obtained through the courtesy of the World Digital Library. The codex itself is held by the National Library of France.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Land Surveys in the Codex Vergara," Convergence (June 2017)

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