[EVENT] Ancient Writing, Contemporary Voices: Decolonising the Mesoamerican Quincentenary

24th May 2021
BY Collective "Decolonising the Mesoamerican Quincentenary"| POSTED IN Mesoamerica

The event 'Ancient Writing, Contemporary Voices: Decolonising the Mesoamerican Quincentenary' to be held digitally by the British Museum between June 21-25 2021, critically commemorates 500 years since the fall of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan, in what is now Mexico City, to Spanish conquerors.

Recordings from the live event are available here.

This online event showcases an ongoing project in which a group of Indigenous archaeologists from different parts of Mesoamerica are using their own contemporary Indigenous languages, as well as their academic knowledge, to create new interpretations of pictorial manuscripts and glyphic inscriptions from the British Museum’s collection.

Our project underlines the importance of including descendent communities in studies of their heritage as well as the need for decolonising museums through collaborative work.

Tonindeye Codex (Zouche-Nuttall) ©Trustees of the British Museum

Tonindeye Codex (Zouche-Nuttall) ©Trustees of the British Museum

Xiuhpohualli of Tenochtitlán (Aubin Codex) ©Trustees of the British Museum

Xiuhpohualli of Tenochtitlán (Aubin Codex) ©Trustees of the British Museum

The lectures will be in Indigenous languages, Spanish and English, in order to reach new audiences in Mexico and Central America and will also platform non-academic specialists to broaden appreciation for other knowledge systems.

Alongside academic talks, the event programme will comprise artistic representations such as film, theatre, fashion, and poetry.


June 21-25, 2021– 500 years since the conquest of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan by Spain. The 21st of June is the birthday of Lord Eight Deer Jaguar Claw, a prominent Indigenous ruler from the Mixtec region and the protagonist of the Tonindeye (Zouche-Nuttall) Codex.

15:00 – 18:00 BST

Register here.


Programme Summary

  • Introductions by Indigenous leaders and museum staff
  • New interpretations of the Tonindeye (Zouche-Nuttall) and Xiuhpohualli de Tenochtitlan (Aubin) Codices, and the Yaxchilan lintels
  • Readings of these texts in Indigenous languages
  • Roundtable discussions of the significance of these collections and new interpretations for people in contemporary Mesoamerica
  • Creative: film, fashion, theatre, and poetry
  • Download the full programme here.


This bilingual multi-day event is aimed at a general public based in Europe and America. Indigenous language participants will translate their contributions in these languages into Spanish simultaneously.



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Yaxchilan Lintel 15  ©Trustees of the British Museum

Publications related to women’s and maternal health with Wixárika communities by the author of this exhibition


Gamlin, Jennie B. (2013)
Shame as a barrier to health seeking among indigenous Huichol migrant labourers: An interpretive approach of the “violence continuum” and “authoritative knowledge”
Social Science and Medicine 97 75-81

Gamlin, Jennie B. (2023)
Wixárika Practices of Medical Syncretism: An Ontological Proposal for Health in the Anthropocene
Medical Anthropology Theory 10 (2) 1-26

Gamlin, Jennie B. (2020)
“You see, we women, we can’t talk, we can’t have an opinion…”. The coloniality of gender and childbirth practices in Indigenous Wixárika families
Social Science and Medicine 252, 112912

Jennie Gamlin and David Osrin (2020)
Preventable infant deaths, lone births and lack of registration in Mexican indigenous communities: health care services and the afterlife of colonialism
Ethnicity and Health 25 (7)

Jennie Gamlin and Seth Holmes (2018)
Preventable perinatal deaths in indigenous Wixárika communities: an ethnographic study of pregnancy, childbirth and structural violence BMC
Pregnancy and Childbirth 18 (Article number 243) 2018

Gamlin, Jennie B. and Sarah J Hawkes (2015)
Pregnancy and birth in an Indigenous Huichol community: from structural violence to structural policy responses
Culture, health and sexuality 17 (1)